Archive | February, 2008

CRC Project Update

The latest informational update from the CRC mentions that the governors of both of the affected states have officially committed to building a new bridge across the Columbia. Additionally, the DEIS will be released in March on a date yet to be determined and, at the bottom of this post, some information and links about the tolling plan under consideration.

Washington and Oregon governors make commitment to CRC project

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire announced a bi-state commitment to replacing the I-5 bridge that connects Vancouver and Portland during a January tour of the bridge.

“We only have two choices. Do nothing and watch our economy sink, or invest in a multi-modal solution that strengthens our economy and enhances this region’s quality of life,” said Kulongoski.

[snip]

Gregoire said neither state can afford to do nothing while the problem continues to grow.

“Delays are intolerable, as are potential dangers to public safety,” she said. “We need to find solutions, and find them soon.”

Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be released in March

The Columbia River Crossing project will reach a major milestone next month when it releases its analysis of the environmental and community effects associated with each of five alternatives.

[snip]

The following issues will be addressed in the Draft EIS:

  • Public transit (route, stations, and park and ride locations)
  • Freight improvements for connections and safety
  • Traffic efficiencies (such as ramp meters, incident response, ridesharing and telecommuting)
  • Pedestrian and bicycle improvements
  • Effects to air, soil, water, wildlife and noise
  • Cultural and historical resource protection
  • Tolling
  • Bridge type, appearance, and alignment

During the public comment period, the project will host two public hearings to allow people to give input. Comments also will be accepted by e-mail and mail. All comments received during this time are considered and responded to in the Final EIS.

The alternatives under consideration include:

  • No build (included for comparison purposes)
  • Replacement bridge with bus rapid transit
  • Replacement bridge with light rail
  • Supplemental bridge with bus rapid transit
  • Supplemental bridge with light rail

The exact publication date for the Draft EIS and the schedule of public hearings will be identified in late February.

Bridge tolls part of finance plans

Finance plans for the Columbia River Crossing project currently assume that the I-5 bridge will be tolled using the latest electronic tolling technology. Additional funding will come from federal, state and regional sources.

The toll amount has yet to be decided. More information is needed on the total cost of the chosen alternative and available revenue. However, project staff analyzed the four Draft EIS build alternatives assuming a one-way toll ranging between $1 and $2.50 in 2006 dollars (or $1.31 – $3.28 in 2017, the year the bridge is expected to open).

CRC is assuming the use of an electronic toll collection system so that toll booths and traffic slow downs can be avoided. Such technology is currently being used at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington.

More information about the project’s tolling plans can be found in the project’s Tolling fact sheet.

Clever Commute Beta Test

The cat’s out of the bag now. The transit tool we’ve been recruiting beta testers for is Clever Commute, which I posted about last month. It’s a peer-to-peer information sharing tool, by which transit users can inform each other about up-to-the-minute conditions. They are evaluating Portland for expansion of their service to the West Coast and Portland Transport is helping with local contacts and by recruiting testers.

We’ve got a core group of beta-testers, but we’d like to expand it. To join the test, go to www.clevercommute.com and click ‘find your line’.

On the page that comes up, select Portland as your region and Light Rail / PATH as your provider type. You should then see the Blue Line as an option. Select it and fill out the rest of the form.

We’ll look forward to your feedback.

CRC meets with project area neighborhoods

The Columbia River Crossing project has plans to meet with many neighborhood association and community groups after the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is released to give an overview of the information and conclusions contained. These meetings will provide community members with an opportunity to discuss the contents of the document before submitting comments.

The schedule of upcoming meetings can be found on the CRC Web site.

The community meetings that are scheduled for the next two weeks include:

  • 2/20/2008 12:00-1:00 PM, Rotary Club, Longview Chapter, at Monticello Hotel
  • 2/21/2008 7:00-9:00 PM, Arnada Neighborhood Association at Vancouver Housing Authority
  • 2/28/2008 5:30-6:30 PM, C-Tran Citizens Advisory Committee at C-Tran
  • 3/6/2008 7:00-9:00 PM, Shumway Neighborhood Association at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics

Columbia River Crossing contact information
Email: feedback@columbiarivercrossing.org
Mail: 700 Washington St, Suite 300
Vancouver, WA 98660
Phone: 360-737-2726 or 503-256-2726
Fax: 360-737-0294

www.ColumbiaRiverCrossing.org

StreetFilm: BRT in Bogotá

A few weeks ago we posted a link to a video of the Eugene EmX bus rapid transit line. Today, courtesy of Streetsblog, we have a seven-minute video of a much more expansive BRT system, the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia. During peak hours their control center coordinates up to 1,000 buses an hour. This is an interesting video to watch and gives us pictures of a mature and efficient BRT operation serving a large city.

Want to learn more about Bus Rapid Transit? Watch this StreetFilm and let Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek show you how BRT works in Bogotá, Colombia. Take a gander and you’ll see an efficient, modern and — relatively speaking — inexpensive way of moving 1.3 million people per day.

In Bogotá, where the BRT system goes by the much more sexy name, TransMilenio, you’ll travel almost three times the speed of the typical New York City bus. The average TransMilenio vehicle travels at 17.4 mph. In New York City, buses poke along at 6.2 mph. Some TransMilenio routes average nearly 25 mph!

Watch the video: BRT in Bogotá

Eastside/Westside Portland…since 1890!

Portland has been trying to tie itself together across the Willamette River for a long time. East Portland, Albina, Sellwood and St Johns were separate cities until voters approved mergers in the years between 1890 and 1915. Geography drives this…its tough to expand to the west over mountain range with heights over 1,000 feet and only a handful of passes (Cornell Rd., Burnside, Canyon Rd., Slavin Rd). But the River is a challenge as well…wide, deep and swift…only Pittsburgh comes to mind when I try to think of American cities that span large rivers (OK, New York too), and the model of how to do this is Frankfurt am Main…but more of that later. To make matters worse, to get anywhere on the opposite side of the Willamette in Portland, there is not just the River, but also a freeway and a rail line that makes the crossing feel twice as long.

Things started with the bridges of course, but the first effort to establish a “second downtown” or to extend the City’s downtown to the eastside was Ralph Lloyd’s vision. A wealthy California oilman, he started buying property on the inner NE side, proposing in the 20’s a grand hotel. The Depression killed that, but later a plan was hatched for a new civic center, which also came to nothing. The first “stake” on the eastside was Memorial Coliseum, approved by voters in the 50’s, and sited by City Council in the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Area (more accurately Negro Removal Area). Voters rebelled and moved it across the river (it became the City’s second Negro Removal Area, which was later followed by “I-5” and Emmanuel Hosp. “NRAs”…read more about all this in E. Kimbark MacColl’s The Growth of a City).

In 1961 the Lloyd Center Mall opened, offering drive-in shopping and a hotel right off the new Banfield Expressway; downtown retail began to shrink as it was more of an “us & them” in those days than a “we.” In the years since, the Lloyd District has added a few high-rise office towers, public agencies (State Office Building and Metro followed the BPA). More pieces were added in the 80’s…MAX, the Convention Center and in the 90’s the Rose Garden, but its been a long slow process…unlike the almost overnight creation of the Pearl District and so far, South Waterfront.

Will the Eastside Streetcar Loop “close the deal?” Maybe. A lot of “smart money” is betting it will, but there are huge barriers to really tying this town together. First the River…we can’t do much there, but we can improve the approach from the westside by removing the floodwall and replacing it with a sloping lawn/meadow, so at least you can see that there is a river there. The new “improved” Naito Parkway, is actually worse for ped access than the old version due to wider pavement thanks to the so called “freight interests.”

But the real barrier is that once across the River, you are only half way there, you still have the freeway and railroad to cross, a substantial distance if you are on foot. The Eastbank freeway (along with the Marquam Bridge) was a mistake that even the head of the Oregon Transportation Commission recognized the day it was done. (Vancouver…beware of a massive freeway/bridge right next door you may live to regret.) It covers the most valuable land in the City, devalues the second most valuable…on the westbank… cuts east side residents off from the River, and offers westside residents who venture to the River a trashed view…the Marquam approaches cutting through the center of Mt. Hood. Views are valuable, and we have sacrificed many to save someone passing through five minutes.

The only benefit of I-5 along the River is that it keeps the Central Eastside cheap and gritty when combined with the UPRR mainline and the approaches to the bridges, and there is something to be said for that. And assuming that in my lifetime we will never have to two sides of the River within reasonable walking distance of each other, the Streetcar becomes the key…a walk surrogate. It really does go faster than a walk…I ran the other day pretty hard for several blocks in a race to the next stop…it was a tie. Adding Streetcar to the Broadway, and later Burnside Bridges will bring the two sides that much closer; it may be that the Hawthorne Bridge might be better in this regard than the eventual light rail bridge further south, as it would link already active areas on both east and west sides.

So we have an urban fabric that has a huge tear…a river, a freeway, and a rail line…that can’t be sewn with walkable stitch, though we are due for a world-class pedestrian bridge. Streetcar has demonstrated its ability to weave together urban fabric from NW to SoWa, so it’s worth a shot across the River.