CRC Mutiny Against the DOTs

The local government representatives on the Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council are in open rebellion, fighting for control of the project.

In a letter to Governors Gregoire and Kulongoski, Metro President David Bragdon, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, new Vancouver Mayor TIm Leavitt and Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart are calling out the project:

…we believe that the cost, physical and environmental elements of the project as currently proposed impose unacceptable impacts on our communities.

And they go on to ask for more local control, citing the way some large transportation projects around Seattle have been managed.

My favorite passage:

Provide project funds for the local governments represented on the Project Sponsors Council to hire and supervise independent experts to verify critical project assumptions and help evaluate the performance of proposed refinements.

It appears to this observer that the local players have essentially said the current vision is bollocks and either they should be allowed to fix it or it’s going to die.

11 responses to “CRC Mutiny Against the DOTs”

  1. This will add 5 years and millions of dollars in
    ‘studies and planning’ to a Bridge we need NOW. Does anyone look at the news of Haiti and think that an earthquake like that , will destroy the existing columbia river bridges. This is a critical Life-Safety Issue. Do you look at a house on fire and need to do a study to see if water will put out the fire.

  2. The existing Columbia River bridges should be able to withstand a 7.0 earthquake. Not that it wouldn’t do lots of damage, of course; but far more structures here are designed to survive earthquakes.

  3. The largest recorded quake in the Portland area has been a 6.7 Richter. The relatively recent understanding of the potential of a larger earthquake, from the Cascadian Subduction zone, has led, IMO, to hysteria. These don’t occur every 300 years, but every 300 to 800 years. And the zone in which they can occur is about the same size as the state of Oregon and mostly offshore.

    True, a Richter 9 quake could conceivably happen under Vernonia, in which case not only would Vernonia be reduced to rubble but Portland would be severely affected. But the Subduction zone extends from Crescent City, CA all the way to the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and also goes about 150 miles offshore. That’s a pretty big area for the epicenter (or multiple epicenters) to occur.

    Portland and the Columbia-Willamette basin also rest on a lot of gravel and sediment that would certainly liquefy in a big quake, and there are significant faults underneath us. But to liquefy there also must be something that triggers it. I bet that there are a lot of other highway structures that are much more vulnerable to damage than the I-5 bridges. I’ve noticed that the southbound ramp from I-5 to I-84 is resting nearly seventy five feet in the air on six foot diameter columns. The six lane Morrison bridge is supported on 36 by 42 inch columns. The piers of the Interstate bridges, however, are 150 feet wide, across both spans. The big concern is with the counterweights swinging back and forth in a prolonged quake. But what is the likelihood of that happening anytime soon?

    Neither do I have a lot of confidence in the mostly concrete CRC replacement design. Metal truss bridges seem to hold up better in most cases. And if the Columbia River sediments did liquefy I would question how well the 300 ft long steel pilings would fare, with various sedimentary layers shifting around below ground.

  4. Bill, if life-safety is your big concern, we should be focusing on the Marquam, not the CRC. It has a lower structural sufficiency rating that the Columbia bridges and is the same basic design as the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis.

  5. This is good. And Bill, we don’t need the CRC “now.” It’s still an open question whether we need it AT ALL. Most likely, we’ll need the overbuilt twelve-lane monstrosity sometime that’s “never”.

  6. Its just a peak hour problem on the bridges and traffic counts are down. If the big TDM plan being cooked up by the CRC for the construction phase were launched NOW, we would be done.
    Then we could talk about $4 Billion for a world class research university, the missing link in Portland’s economic future

  7. Is $4 billion all it takes to get a world-class research university?

    And do you think such a project involves (or requires) crippling the two major research universities (world-class or otherwise) we presently have in Cowvallis and Yoogene?

    Most of the plans I’ve seen for improving PSU (which I assume is where you would start–building a “world class research university” from the ground up is probably not a tractable thing to do) involve either a) merger with OHSU, which might not be a bad idea, or b) diversion of resources from OSU and/or UO. While an argument can be made that it’s more important to have a WCRU™ in Portland than it is down in the valley, the politics of that are dubious.

    But still, I’m curious–what are you thinking?

  8. I think $4 billion would do it, although clearly you need to spend the money carefully. Conceptually, you could put $1 billion into new and/or upgraded physical facilities and $3 billion into a variety of endowments (say, $1 billion each for a scholarship fund to bring in top students; a number of generously endowed academic chairs to attract the world’s best teaching talent; and a perpetual operating fund that could continuously upgrade labs and equipment for decades to come).

    Of course, building PSU into a top research university would not, could not, and probably should not happen overnight. That $4 billion could be brought in over years or decades; no need to burden the whole city, region or state with a mountain of debt to do the entire project all at once.

    However done, it’s definitely a far better use of money than an overbuilt freeway bridge with some extra lanes that will probably cause more problems than they solve.

  9. Lenny,

    Where can we learn of this Traffic Demand Management plan? I’d be 500% for it if some of the toll revenues go to increased transit capital and operating support.

    More hybrid CruiseMobiles for C-Tran! You don’t know what you’ve been missing until you ride one. They even have reading lights! Now that’s a commute.

  10. All I would be looking for is something comparable to U of W in Seattle. OHSU covers some of that need, and PSU has great ambitions, and of course there is “Intel U.” But we keep spending our money on the wrong things in this state, thinking that moving commodities is our future. That is our past yes, but not the future.
    Last Sunday’s “O” had a piece on Portland, its contribution to urban progress, etc., but noted the lack of job creation (of course in the last decade there was little job creation anywhere under the Rs.) What he failed to note was that the cities he compared Portland to in that department all have large, if not great, universities…Austin (U of T), SF (Berkeley, Stanford), Chicago (U of C), Twin Cities (U. of Minn). We fool ourselves if we thing we can grow and prosper without new ideas, cutting edge research and the rest. Otherwise we are fishing in dark waters for plant expansions a la the developing world.
    We get by OK by importing talent, attracted by good old quality of life, but you don’t get the intense clusters of ideas that a university brings that create whole new industries out of thin air.
    re TDM on the CRC…there should be something on their website about the work of the TDM group.

  11. There was a feasability study done a few years back on the prospects of merging OHSU and PSU… the short take is that it COULD work, but there would be little opportunity for cost savings (to the extent that’s important) and lots of organizational difficulty in doing so.

    A major stumbling block at this point is that neither university’s administration is interested in a merger at this time–a second stumbling block is that one is a quasi-public corporation, while the other is under the auspicies of OSSHE.

    An interesting point is that while PSU has the vastly larger student body (in enrollment it’s the largest uni in Oregon, larger than either OSU or UO), it’s budget is far smaller than OHSU–the report noted that a merger wouldn’t really be a merger but an “acquisition” of PSU by OHSU.

    The combined result would still be smaller than UW or UC San Diego; two other West Coast urban unis with attached medical schools.

    Still, it would be interesting to think about… especially if MAX runs down Barbur and has a Marquam Hill stop; then at least three of the campuses (downtown, SoWa, and Pill Hill) would be connected with a one-seat transit ride. One transfer to the Blue would be needed to reach the Walker Road campus in Hillsboro.

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