DJC Compares CRC to Vancouver Bridges

And somehow Vancouver B.C.’s economy has continued to thrive without a wide new span.

29 responses to “DJC Compares CRC to Vancouver Bridges”

  1. ..of course it would help here if FHWA would approve true contraflow lanes on freeways like Vancouver has on narrow sections would help in places like the Interstate Drawbridge and the Sunset Freeway…maybe sections of 205…

  2. There are a few differences between the Portland/Vancouver (USA) crossing, and the Vancouver (BC)/N. Vancouver crossings, worth considering:

    1) Access to the Columbia River is difficult to come by on both sides of the river, with industrial terminals, a railroad mainline, a golf course, flood control viaducts, and other such stuff making river access problematic for pedestrians and such; thus the road bridges are the only crossings. Oh, and vast stretches of the Columbia (particularly the slough) have toxic waste issues.

    Quite a few ferries provide pedestrian access across Burrard Inlet, and there are significant places where pedestrians can (and would want to) approach the river.

    2) Freight mobility across the Columbia is a bigger concern; far bigger in BC. What’s north of Vancouver across the inlet? Access to one of the two principle ferries to Vancouver Island, at Horeshoe Bay (the main ferry crossing is south of Vancouver, out of Tsawassen), and the highway to Whistler. Important for the Canadian economy, but probably less so than I-5/I-205.

  3. ..of course it would help here if FHWA would approve true contraflow lanes on freeways like Vancouver has on narrow sections would help in places like the Interstate Drawbridge and the Sunset Freeway…maybe sections of 205…

    You really think having freeways with no median or even spacing between oncoming lanes is a good idea? With movable barriers the FHWA allows contraflow lanes, but without them it’s just too unsafe at freeway speeds.

    That and I’m not sure I-5 southbound in the evening could afford to lose 1/3 its capacity. It already gets backed up fairly often reverse direction. Same with I-84 and the Sunset.

  4. I=90 in Seattle had contraflow lanes across the floating bridge for years, although we never called them that at the time. It was quite a relief when they got rid of that scheme when the new bridge was built.

    They would be called the death lanes when it was time to reverse them. Some drivers would inevitably try to use the lane in transition to get ahead in traffic, then jump back when they saw an oncoming car.

    I would say something like a Canadian would never do something that stupid, but I’m sure ther emight be one out there….

  5. BC solved the problem with contraflow enforcement cameras. Every contraflow signal has cameras, and you get dinged for a closed lane violation for every signal you pass now. If you’re a BC driver, this means major points on your license for each one, and if you have an L or N restriction (Learner or Novice, identified by large magnetic red L or green N tags on the tailgate), you’ve probably just blown your chances of getting a full license anytime soon.

    Port Mann Bridge used to be a notorious head-on deathtrap before the cameras because DWC seems to be an international phenomenon…

  6. Dave H: Yes, yes I do, because I’ve seen it work successfully. And, given that the vast majority of traffic on I-5 is one person in a five-seat vehicle, basic math dictates that you can reduce vehicle counts by 80% before it impacts capacity. Remember, transportation is about how many butts are in seats, not how many vehicles are in lanes.

  7. Another critical difference between the two bridges is that the CRC directly serves the ports of Vancouver and Portland and provides the primary access for our region’s trade economy — which employs about 1/8 of our workforce — and of course, brings money to the region rather than recirculate it within.

    Trade and freight mobility is also important to the Vancouver, BC region which is designing the $3-$4 billion Gateway Program of roads and bridges to connect the Deltaport container terminals and the Fraser Surrey docks. Those highway facilities don’t pass through the CBDs as I-5 does.

  8. The Lower Columbia ports, including Portland, export a huge amount of grain…most of it getting to the docks via barge or rail. Bulk minerials are also big. Container traffic is insignificant, 1% of West Coast traffic. Auto’s dominate on the import side; they move inland via rail for the most part. Portland’s maritime facilities are over rated for their economic impact; only 10% of the employment on Swan Island has anything to do with the River. Most high tech exports go out via PDX which is where the Port of Portland is relocating their HQ. Not sure what freight traffic there is between the Ports of Vancouver and Portland; the Governors’ I-5 TF offered NO data on truck movement of any kind. Thru truck traffic is free to use the I-205 bypass, but rarely does as I-5 and the Columbia River Bridges are fine 90% of the time and offer a faster route.

  9. Yes, yes I do, because I’ve seen it work successfully.

    On a freeway, without separation? The closest I can think of are either the Lions Gate or the Golden Gate, and neither of those are or have been built to freeway standards. The Golden Gate is currently studying adding a movable barrier though, in large part due to safety issues with having undivided reversible lanes. There’s also the international bridges in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area, but with customs on either end of the bridge you’re not going to get up to speed to cause a significant collision anyway. (And again, there’s a study that’s been active to replace one of them for 20 years, and the communities on both sides have been bringing up replacing the other with reversible lanes as well.)

    I wouldn’t want to drive the wrong way on one lane of the Interstate Bridge with 9′ lanes, and I can see why there are rules in place not to switch it over.

    Besides throwing away the safety of separated roadways, where do we connect the NB/SB lanes to make this possible? How much will it cost to rebuild I-5 to allow for traffic to move from one side of the freeway to the other? If it was one single bridge deck it would be a lot easier to try to make it happen.

  10. They had those moveable barriers for when they did the I-5 bride work in the late ’90s. What happened to them? Did they get buried in the same whole as the tunnel boring machines that were used to build the MAX tunnel or were they rented by the state for the project?

  11. Truckers have lots of incentive to take I205, and they do when possible if they’re paid by the mile. I205 is slightly longer and tends to be more of a sure bet for through truckers than I5 is; this is typical of most cities to the point that most truckers are aware that three digit interstates starting with even numbers are loops back to the last two digits, and even ones are spurs (205 loops back to I5, 705 leaves I5 never to return…)

  12. It’s important that we not be cavalier about how important trade is to our regional economy, and how congestion directly impacts the productivity of the carriers moving goods — as well as the commitments and obligations of the shippers they serve. E.g., FedEx employs multiple redundant strategies to allow it to meet its commitments – i.e., next day delivery — even when highway conditions are congested to and from PDX. It’s one reason why shipping overnight costs so much. Silicon Forest manufacturers using air freight provide a two-plus hour standard between Hillsboro and PDX in order to meet departing Asian flights in the afternoon. Not every carrier/shipper can afford those contingency costs.

    If I-205 was the shortest and fastest route in our region to and from destinations, truck drivers, whose pay is based on productivity, would be using it. Those bypassing the region have I-205 as an option; but we see 6%-15% truck traffic on I-5 because most truck traffic has origins and destinations to and from I-5…and they seek to avoid peak period travel, but their customers cannot always move or receive goods during the off-peak.

    Our traded-sector economy provides well-paying jobs, and also provides opportunities for those without an advanced education. And as long as we continue to consume products and demand that they be delivered to us (or from us) in an efficient manner, and have the expectation that goods will be available when we want them, we will need an efficient system to move them.

    Just because our two ports aren’t as large as others, doesn’t mean that what we do have isn’t critically important to regional businesses. And while grain and soda ash and other bulks are not moved along highways, metals, machinery, components, agricultural and forest products, apparel, groceries, household goods, beer and wine, all do. Also, the two ports are only part of the picture…we still depend on a large number of privately operated facilities adjacent to port properties, and otherwise scattered throughout the region.

    And it’s not only trucks — which move +70% of our region’s tonnage — that need an efficient system. Goods traveling on rail and marine modes arrive at and are distributed from terminals via truck, and operate on a schedule…and many shipments miss those ship/barge/rail schedules because of congestion in the highway systems.

  13. The tunnel boring machines weren’t TriMet’s, they belonged to a tunnelling contractor, if I recall correctly. The zipper machines were loaners from another state, IIRC, and aren’t desirable because of the wear and tear on the roadway surface. Not long after they started using the movable barriers, the lane lines wore off.

    The George Massey Tunnel is an example of a freeway operating with reversible lanes. During rush hour, only one lane is open in the off-peak direction, all other lanes operate in the peak direction. The reversible lane that crossses over uses a short third one-lane roadway, similar to the terminus of the Seattle express lanes (in that it’s controlled by signals and gates), before joining the opposing roadway a short distance later (I recall encountering one other freeway like this in Canada, but I cannot recall exactly where I was at the time as I slept through most of it). Lane changes are prohibited on reversible freeways, and have antiglare flaps on the lane lines to help protect driver’s low-light vision from opposing traffic in the same tunnel and help reinforce the no-lane-change message of the solid lane lanes between lanes. Overhead signals every 100m remind drivers which lane is open for their direction of travel or alert of a wreck they may have to detour around or stop for ahead (yellow flashing X signal).

    Despite this seemingly crazy system, the George Massey Tunnel has a low accident rate, comparable with the rest of the 99 freeway. Most accidents happen in regular (both lanes same direction) traffic, and they’re usually rear-enders due to congestion backing up out of Vancouver into the tunnel.

  14. Interstate Bridge has 9′ lanes? Sure they’re not 10′? I’ve seen trucks stay between both lines, and the DOT minimum is 10′

  15. The George Massey Tunnel, eh? It looks like they’re looking to expand that one. (Easiest source.)

    On February 16, 2006, it was reported that the provincial government had plans to expand the tunnel’s capacity, from four lanes to six. This change is becoming increasingly necessary, as traffic jams occur frequently, especially if there is an accident inside the tunnel. The “H99” project is the name of the expansion.

    Also, that’s barely anything like I-5. It’s not a through route, it’s basically a terminus spur. From the airport to the US border it works, but north of it, there’s little chance you’ll get the amount of traffic you will on I-5. Yes, it does tie into other freeways, but it ultimately ends into a downtown area.

    It’s not a good long term solution. I find it hard to imagine most people in the region thinking it would be an acceptable long-term solution.

  16. Interstate Bridge has 9′ lanes? Sure they’re not 10′? I’ve seen trucks stay between both lines, and the DOT minimum is 10′

    From my experience it’s comparable to 9′ lanes found in both downtown Portland and Seattle in downtown than the University areas. Trying to get a truck across there was not a great idea. (Oh, and taking I-205 would have lead to something like 10-15 miles extra travel.)

    I thought the CRC docs stated the existing lane width, but I can’t find it right now, so I’ll admit maybe I’m off. 9 feet seems right compared to all the other freeways/roads I’ve driven though.

  17. Re: 9′ lane widths…I find that dimension suspect. 8′ is the usable width of a buffered bicycle lane or a bicycle track. The Interstate Bridge lanes are substantially wider than that. Indeed, the minimum allowed on an interstate is 12′, and I haven’t noticed lanes on the Interstate Bridge to be particularly cramped even when I was trucking across it regularly.

    The bridge itself feels rather clausterphobic due to the girder arrangement overhead, particularly at night, though…

  18. Oh, I should also mention that the minimum allowed lane for a low-volume or low-speed street is 10′. You can find the standard minimum 10′ lanes on most downtown Portland streets; 10′ is also the minimum width including buffers for a buffered bike lane (8′ usable width between buffer zones).

  19. The traded sector, indeed, drives our economy. This entire conversation about transportation should have begun with an analysis of that sector, its needs, where it is headed. Had that happened, we might have discovered that Education…pre K thru post Doc…is much more critical to a 21st century economy than Transportation…saving Clark county commuters five minutes. Fed Ex or UPS will not leave this market no matte what we do, they will innovate and compete.

  20. OK, so the Interstate Bridge meets an older version of the standard that would have applied when it was built. 11′ isn’t that bad. Could it be wider? Yeah, by a foot, and it should be. But if you can’t stay in a 11′ foot lane at 50 mph in a vehicle up to the size of a U-haul truck, I question whether you should have a driver’s license at all.

  21. Re: education…not sure how a freeway solves the education problem. Most people on financial aid run into problems when home and/or work life begin encroaching on school life, which by federal law requires a full time schedule to keep funding. A freeway won’t fix that. Universal education through post-doctorate will.

  22. Just lower the speed limit to 45mph…you get more throughput at that speed as well. Then shut down the substandard Hayden Island ramps during peak hours, except for transit and emergency vehicles. Re-stripe the HOV lane in Clark county southbound and run Limited type bus service from WSU, Salmon Cr., 99th, and Downtown Vanc. to MAX at Delta/Vanport. Already, the old bridges are doing better.

  23. Then shut down the substandard Hayden Island ramps during peak hours, except for transit and emergency vehicles.

    How could that work? People who live on Hayden Island aren’t allowed to leave or go home during peak hours? Businesses there should just shut down for those hours?

    Re-stripe the HOV lane in Clark county southbound and run Limited type bus service from WSU, Salmon Cr., 99th, and Downtown Vanc. to MAX at Delta/Vanport.

    Unlikely to get the feds to allow that in the first place. Oregon and Washington would likely be punished in the form of losing other federal funds if we start reducing capacity on the structures the feds already paid for, unless we can get an exception which is very unlikely.

  24. I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume that Lenny meant that his suggestion about time-based ramp closures be combined with a new local arterial crossing, which he has favored in the past. If I’m wrong about this, Lenny, please let me know.

  25. Hayden Island today has add-lanes on I-5 for access to and from the south. Yes, people would have to plan ahead, but it could be done until an arterial bridge is built to Hayden Island and across to Vancouver.
    What is more important…access to Jantzen Beach Mall 24-7, etc. or keeping I-5 working by restricting the use of a very substandard ramp (n.bound)in the pm peak and reducing incidents…which account for 50% of the congestion.

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