At last Thursday’s JPACT meeting, ODOT and TriMet presented their thinking about projects for the RTP update (PDF, 559K).

ODOT expects about $710M to be available for highway modernization projects (in the period from 2011 through 2035) and sorted out their priorities for those funds. They also presented ‘Ilustrative’ and ‘Refinement’ project lists for what they might do with funds beyond that.

It’s worth noting that only the first phase of the Sunrise corridor fits within the expected funds, and the only contribution to the Columbia River Crossing is for engineering. That would suggest that ODOT expects the CRC construction to be funded from something other than the usual flow of funds (perhaps a combination of tolls and special appropriations?).

TriMet was not so restrained. They put together a long wish list, far beyond what the anticipated $1.1B in transit funds is likely to pay for. I’m sure some of our readers will be interested to note that the wish list includes potential Commuter Rail and Bus Rapid Transit projects.

31 responses to “Aspirations”

  1. the wish list includes potential Commuter Rail and Bus Rapid Transit projects.

    I see it also puts on the radar some things that have been argued for here in the “Bottleneck” category: Rose Quarter grade separation, Steel Bridge work…and even a subway.

  2. Hahaha! What a joke.

    Seattle is going to pass a $14.5 billion budget for their transportation projects. Toronto is going to spend $17 billion on their transit projects, including 200+ km of streetcars and 8 km of subway.

    California transportation bond… how much did they pass? $20 billion?

    Oh well. Little backwater Oree-gone will always be a third-tier lifestyle city.

  3. California transportation bond… how much did they pass? $20 billion?

    California has 10X the population of Oregon, and the document Chris referenced identifies about $2bn of Oregon spending, so that seems proportionate to what California is doing.

    But your points about Toronto and Washington are well taken (although the Washington funding measure faces serious opposition.)

    – Bob R.

  4. …. more talk…. more studies. Are they actually going to DO something substantial or just waste more time and money thinking to do something?

  5. Don’t get too excited over the Toronto package yet, though; it’s highly theoretical. While Portland hasn’t aimed as high as it could, it has always seemed to do a relatively good job of making its modest goals into reality. In the five years I lived in Portland, two LRT lines were built, and a third entered the planning stages, as did the region’s first commuter-rail line. Even with fewer anti-tax, anti-government types up here, only the more useless projects ever seem to come to fruition (e.g., a two-billion dollar subway extension to a suburban office park).

    Having ranted about that, Portland, Tri-met, Metro, et al do seem to lack a grand scheme. Too often it seems as though each project is thought up piece by piece, rather than as part of a connected whole; and the anti-tax mentality is a problem, too, as a large, united system would be difficult to get funded. Having said all that, most of the places in North America which have recently started large transit plans are only playing catch-up to Portland.

  6. “No, just the logical path to a truely balanced transportation system.”


    98% or so Oregonians drive as their primary mode of transportation. The other 2% take transit (or walk, bicycle, skateboard, cartwheel, etc).

    100% of Oregonians rely on the roads every day.. including most transit.

    So how is it ‘balanced’ to spend over half of that budget on transit?

  7. So how is it ‘balanced’ to spend over half of that budget on transit?

    Many people have few choices other than to drive. We have a fully-built-out road network, but incomplete transit, bicycle and pedestrian networks.

    It seems pretty balanced to me to complete the incomplete networks before you spend money widening the network that is already complete.

  8. A fully built-out road network?

    There are a few freeways that I can think of that were never completed [but are still much needed] such as the Mt. Hood Freeway, the I505, and the west side bypass.

    Many through-streets abruptly end [such as Hawthorne Bl, Belmont St, 122nd, 148nd, 162nd, Holgate], some go from being major arterials to narrow “Main St.” type configurations [see Division St, Burnside St, Stark St, Holgate Bl, even Front Av does so for a short stretch by the Broadway Bridge] or unimproved rural roads [see Powell Bl, Foster Rd], and many make major diversions adding several miles to a trip [see Powell to Division @ I205]

    I wouldn’t say the road network is fully built out.

    Oh, and by the way, people drive because they want to, not because they are forced to.

  9. Anthony –

    By “fully built-out”, it means that anyone may safely journey from/to nearly any commercial, government, or residential address by private automobile.

    If you mean that “fully built-out” should represent being able to travel between any two points at 65mph without slowing or stopping, then no, no amount of money will ever make the road network that “complete”.

    Currently, even in metro areas with bicycle programs such as Portland, Eugene, Corvallis (and others), it is impossible to safely travel between any two points by biking, and there are also numerous gaps in the pedestrian network. Much of the reason that it is not safe to travel the entire network via bike or walking is because development since the 1950’s has focused primarily on the automobile to the detriment (and even banishment) of other modes.

    – Bob R.

  10. Anthony,

    I agree with you on one of your points. The existing street grid is missing some key connections. For example, SE 39th Street in Portland literally dead ends just a few blocks from Johnson Creek Boulevard. This forces thousands of commuters to then cut through established neighborhoods in order to connect to Johnson Creek Boulevard or another major street.

    The main problem here is that each neighborhood will complain about connections, but very few people are going to willingly sacrifice their quiet corner of the city to see a new road built. Most people out there, even in transit loving Portland, want their dream road built so long as its somebody else that has to give up their home or business for “fair market value”.

    And then you have the issue of finding the money to pay for those property aquisitions. The system currently doesn’t even have the resources to maintain the existing streets. This means that new roads translates into new tax revenue. In a state that hasn’t raised the gas tax in nearly 15 years, the odds of building a new road then drop to nearly zero.

    And I’m only talking about small bottleneck removal projects. Talk of a new highway or freeway will generate laughs at most policy group meetings and threats of violence at most neighborhood association meetings.

  11. “Many through-streets abruptly end [such as Hawthorne Bl, Belmont St…]”

    good point. why isn’t sam adams proposing to build two tunnels through mt tabor, so we can keep these streets from abruptly stopping? all those street signs that say where to turn are a major pain.

  12. …or better yet, just take Hawthorne up and over Mt Tabor. It’s no steeper than some of the roads in SF.

  13. … in fact, just extend the grid all the way over Mt Tabor so ALL of the roads are continuous. We could probably fit, what, 10,000 people on the hill? 20,000 if they’re in towers.

  14. or better yet, just take Hawthorne up and over Mt Tabor. It’s no steeper than some of the roads in SF.

    Who needs those pesky reservoirs anyway?

  15. Many people have few choices other than to drive. We have a fully-built-out road network, but incomplete transit, bicycle and pedestrian networks.
    It seems pretty balanced to me to complete the incomplete networks before you spend money widening the network that is already complete.

    100% agreed. As for the comment that ‘people vote with their cars everyday,’ that’s because for lots of people, the only “choice” on the “ballot” is “drive.” Yes, there are employers that prohibit employees from setting up carpools even if they want to; then out of “choice” move to the middle of nowhere with either no transit at all, or to an area where the only route runs every hour and 17 minutes and only works if you’re going to the unemployment office (I sometimes wonder if some employers do this intentionally and for no reason).

    There are a few freeways that I can think of that were never completed [but are still much needed] such as the[:]
    Mt. Hood Freeway…

    Never gonna happen. Southeast Uplift, the neighborhood coalition, was formed specifically to fight the freeway. They succeeded, and we instead have the original MAX line.

    NW Portland, right? the US 30 freeway-like extension from 405 to Yeon Ave. is as close as that ever got to the light of day. I think the main opposition for that one was that it would’ve cut too far into the neighborhood.

    …the west side bypass.
    Allright. I somewhat agree with you there. But, where would it go? How many houses would be knocked down? Would it also include a bike/pedestrian path? Parallel LRT/BRT line? That would probably be what you’d need in order to get that to fly.

    From the PDF:
    Downtown Portland (subway) – East-West subway to speed up operations
    Wow, Jim and the AORTA folks are gonna have a field day on this one…

  16. I would be all for a subway. Make one stop at Old Town, one stop at pioneer square and then “surface” right at goose hollow to go into the tunnel. The MAX is horribly inefficient. What were they thinking?!? They should have thought about this when they originally built it. If people are too lazy to walk then they should drive instead.

  17. “The MAX is horribly inefficient.”

    >>>> Even if a subway was built (and it just ain’t going to happen), MAX would still be inefficient, with its all-stop, inflexible design. Trimet would probably operate a subway like “snail rail,” and there would probably be loads of security problems.

    Even Randy Gragg complained recently that the WHOLE system was too slow. To me, part of it is just the way Trimet operates its trains. Another part is the way all those trains join up at the Steel Bridge (and just wait for the Green Line!) Feels just like the BMT subway I grew up with in NYC.

  18. We don’t even need a long subway. Just a short one under Morrison. We really need to get rid of a lot of stops between Goose Hollow and Lloyd Center to speed up MAX. But going underground through downtown is the only way to let 4-car trains operate, and the shortest possible tunnel would be a ten-to-twelve block stretch under Morrison Street. Get rid of all the stop&starts and average speed should jump dramatically.

    I do agree that we need to connect up the street grid, particularly on the west side. There are way too few arterials collecting all that traffic.

  19. “Oh, and by the way, people drive because they want to, not because they are forced to.”

    Not me.

    I hate driving for every day mundane tasks. When I drive I want it to be for road trips for recreational purposes.

    But I am forced to drive every day because:

    1. Transit does not do suburb service in any reasonable amount of time. The line that I need has a 1.5 hour GAP in the morning between 7:30 and 9am. Other routes require 3 or 4 transfers.

    2. I cannot bicycle during the school year due to school drop and pick up constraints.

    I live in the inner city. I would bike and take transit exclusively if I could get to children’s school or my work in less than 1.5 hours.

    Tri-Met knows it has suburb problems. Mine specifically is that there is no reasonable service that parallels Kruse way / 217. To get from the Sunset Transit Center area to Kruse Way in Lake Oswego takes HOURS unless I do multi-modal biking, training and bussing where I can use my bike to cut between some lines and avoid some connection delays. Which I can’t do during the school year. During the summer I can and do bike as much as possible depending on childcare schedules…

    But even then, my 12 mile one way bike ride covers several miles in various sections on roads with no shoulder or bike path or bike lane. Not exactly the best way to bike, but due to rivers and mountains I don’t have any alternative.

    So I can either risk my neck in SW Portland with non-existent bike ways OR use transit and waste 4 hours a day OR drive my car which takes 15 minutes in the morning and 25 minutes in the afternoon.

    However this summer we are using our bikes as a family for most of our neighborhood transportation, like recreation, shopping, etc etc…

    But in any event, I would LOVE to only use my car for recreation instead of every day transportation.

    But the fact that our entire system is built for cars and not bikes or transit – I am forced to use a car.

  20. “From the PDF:
    Downtown Portland (subway) – East-West subway to speed up operations
    Wow, Jim and the AORTA folks are gonna have a field day on this one…”


  21. such as the Mt. Hood Freeway, the I505, and the west side bypass.

    Who needs them?

    The problem with e west side bypass was that the answer to that question was hardly anybody. There are very few trips from Wilsonville and Southern Washington County to Hillsboro.

    But this sounds like a throw away line. I would love to here both what the “need” is for the Mount Hood freeway and why a freeway through Southeast Portland neighborhoods is an appropriate answer proportional to that need given its cost in both dollars spent and damage done. Given the recent studies on the health effects of freeways, the effect of the Mount Hood freeway would be mile wide epidemic.

  22. “Who needs them?”

    I will answer this with a little personal commentary:

    The west side bypass would have provided connections between major economic centers and cities in Clackamas, Washington, and Clark Counties. It would have completed the I-205 loop [suburban ring freeways are common for regions of Portland’s size]. It would have provided a second alternative to I-5 [possibly lessening the need for a interstate mega bridge], and it would have opened up development and economic opportunities in large chunks of under-utilized land. There is nothing “prime” about farmland that would be subdivided at the first chance by most landowners.

    The I-505 would have provided a faster link between Portland, the NW Portland industrial areas, Columbia county, and all the areas linked by the west side bypass if completed. The major beneficiary would be truckers– who get paid by the mile, not the hour. The faster someone can move freight from point A to point B means the more money they make. As it sits, HWY30 is a mess, and truckers dread trips through there.

    The Mt. Hood Freeway would have connected downtown Portland with the downtown area of Oregon’s 4th largest city, provided an alternative to the dangerous I84, lighten the heavy freight traffic from 223rd, 242nd, and 257th, possibly lessen remove the need for the “Mt. Hood Parkway”– A N/S freeway expected to cut down one of Gresham’s commercial corridors, provide economic investment in east Portland’s most “blighted” corridors– Powell Blvd [between I205 and Gresham], and given residents and businesses along the heavily congested Powell Blvd corridor another option for travel. The Mt. Hood Frwy would have also had one of the most extensive BRT system and carpool networks in the nation [at the time it was to be built].

  23. So the question is…should we destroy neighborhoods in the City…NW Thurman/Vaughn corridor, Clinton/Division…in order for motorized vehicles to save a few minutes getting out of or thru town.
    Portland answered that question 30 years ago with a resounding NO, and all you have to do is look at the redeveloped communities in NW and SE to see that the citizens of Portland were absolutly right. And Portland is a better place for it.
    The tragedy is that Albina, East Portland, Goose Hollow and N. Portland were savaged by the freeway building of the 50’s-70’s. We should be looking at ways to restore these communities, to reduce or eliminate the impacts of redundant freeways. ODOT needs a budget item for removing I-5 from the eastbank of the Willamette River.

  24. I think we should declare the Pearl Projects District “blighted” and restore the lake that used to be there. Portland Green? What a joke!

  25. There are very few trips from Wilsonville and Southern Washington County to Hillsboro.

    Roy Rogers Road, despite being only a few years old, carries quite a bit of traffic between Sherwood and Beaverton/Hillsboro; much of the traffic out of “Sherwood” comes from Wilsonville by way of Tonquin Road.

    ODOT is (or has) spending (spent) a lot of money improving Highway 219, Farmington Road (Highway 10) and Scholls Ferry Road (Highway 210) in recent years as well, along with county improvements to River Road. If there wasn’t any demand, why would these roads all be improved, considering that Scholls isn’t a town?

  26. Remember. the list that you are talking about represents just the large mobility oriented projects that can be funded with reasonably expected revenues. Oregon’s voters defeated a gas tax increase in 1999; therefore, after paying to maintain the state highways, ODOT has about $18M a year for road expansion in this region.
    Trimet has about $1.1 Billion committed, in local and federal funds. Transit capital funding is not guaranteed like highway funding is, rather it is project specific.
    These project lists represent a fiscally realistic set of options.

    We still have to compile the local projects (excepting maintenance and preservation) that are funded by local funds (state gas tax share, local property tax–the lion’s share, other local fees and taxes).

    The next phase of the RTP (state RTP) will lay out the transportation system needs and costs necessary to support buildout of the urban area. The list will be longer but will be mostly unfunded. The real choice will be whether to pursue considerable new funding (maybe through System Development Charges that actually cover cost of growth) or to redefine transportation so it is affordable within budget the voters set.

  27. Thanks Rex for you time and posts to this site.

    Hopefully this list (majority of it) can be funded since it supports the region improving all forms of transit.

    Its only missing high speed rail investments for a separate CRC(since no one on CRC agreed with me on HSR being piggybacked onto the current planning and design/ROW purchases/Eastside Alignment to support separation in the industrial areas of PDX/VAN of passenger and freight rail demands. Metro needs to support WDOT investments even if ODOT will not. How much time/money could be saved if only that was accomplished? Maybe Amtrak cuts 30 minutes per round trip and with the current limited windows to exit and enter PDX to/from the North having a dedicated ROW for each doubles our capacity for throughput of both demands?

    Getting BRT (MAX ready) investments into the Powell and Foster corridors is a major, major need. Gresham has invested in Powell but Portland doesn’t seem to invest in Powell. SE/Sunnyside now and in the next ten years Pleasant Valley/Damascus will need more then just I-205 MAX and the Sunrise Corridor out to 122nd.

    Getting the N/S connector from I-84 to US26 is critical for Metro meeting their job creation numbers and improving job opportunities in East County and Damascus. The list does seem to be taking the first steps (US26E Springwater Intersection work and Sunrise Corridor investments). So people are listening to our issues. They finally understand that if you invest in transportation projects, then employers will be interested. Plus if FedEx/others do invest in Troutdale/Springwater/? they are going to demand these projects be supported.

    Plus all the MAX/Streetcar investments would be great (especially the main issue of the Central City bottleneck/capacity issues (BS Bridge, waiting for lights/cars/people, 200′ max. length, total number of stops).

    As most of us know, none of this matters without the funding questions being solved.


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