Pressure for “Plan B” at the CRC

I clearly missed an important meeting at the Columbia River Crossing Independent Review Panel yesterday.

Metro President David Bragdon gave this testimony (PDF, 112K), with a clear call for “Plan B”:

Moreover, we need an expedited process to get us to Plan B quickly, through a collaborative governance model which makes the highway divisions participants in the process, a role for they are qualified, rather than being the manager of the process itself, a role they have shown they are not qualified for.

I’m told that Catherine Ciarlo of Mayor Sam Adams’ office made the same point.

I also understand that technical analysis of project data re-analyzed by a consultant funded by the City (can someone who was at the meeting confirm this) appeared to demonstrate that the project was over-built.

And of course, I suspect everyone there was mulling over last night’s election results in which Councilor Rex Burkholder, one of the architects of the process that led to the current design, placed third in the race to succeed Bragdon, behind Bob Stacey, a harsh critic of the current design (not forgetting of course that Mayor Tom Hughes, who placed first a couple of points ahead of Stacey, has supported pretty much any design that gets the bridge built). The fall runoff will almost certainly feature the CRC as a key issue.

We live in interesting times.

19 responses to “Pressure for “Plan B” at the CRC”

  1. “The fall runoff will almost certainly feature the CRC as a key issue.”

    I doubt it. The CRC was an issue that divided Burkholder and Stacey. I think his championing the bridge cost Rex the election.

    In the general election, the votes for people who have strong opinions about the bridge are set. I suspect the fall campaign will be focused on people who don’t have strong opinions on that issue. I think there are broader issues around jobs, new development and UGB expansion that will be the focus of the fall campaign.

    I think the real transportation issue is going to be the balance of investments between Clackamas and Washington Counties. The CRC costs will be more a sideshow of that debate.

  2. +1 for Just Saying. I was struck by the CRC being a non-issue at the City Club debate. It wasn’t mentioned, wasn’t even alluded to. And that was with Rex participating. In the bike bubble and transpo-activist community, it’s all about the CRC. Everyone else is worried about the economy, our region’s perennially high unemployment, and what roles Metro does, can, or should play in those spheres.

  3. That money saved by reducing the megalitic design could be used to address some of those other issue’s MM. I see this from a far obviously, but can’t help but see the huge amount of capital being expended on this that could be better spent on other issues. Good luck Portland

  4. I think if you look at the numbers, you will find the Portland region has done pretty well at creating jobs over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, it has done an even better job at making itself an attractive place for people to move to.

    Metro’s decisions certainly play a role making the region attractive. How big a role they play in the number of jobs that get created is arguable, but I think the debate will still focus on what they can do. And I doubt anyone will argue the solution is for Metro to drive people away (other than maybe the anti-immigrant crowd.)

  5. Version B really needs to expand the view of the bridge to a more holistic approach. I mean why couldn’t we change I-205 to I-5. Add a lane to the New I-5 to the Glen Jackson Bridge. Then make the old I-5 bridge a local connector with local freight only lane, MAX and only 6 total lanes at most. The problem all along have been the way the process has set up engineers to HAVE to design a mega bridge.

  6. Craig,

    I heard a similar idea from the “Crossing the Columbia” panel at PNCA. I believe it was Robert Campbell who was saying that in Boston there had been a proposal to slam I-95 right through Cambridge. There was substantial pushback, so what they did instead was rename some other connecting beltway I-95; essentially they just re-routed I-95 around all of Boston instead of letting it ruin Cambridge.

    Why wouldn’t something similar work here? Are we really that enamored of a massive freeway plowing through our city?

  7. Switching the signs on I-5 and I-205 would demolish one of the most preposterous arguments for the CRC — that we need to get rid of the drawbridge/bottleneck on this major North-South arterial between Canada and Mexico. Re-route that traffic by having I-5 run over the Glenn Jackson Bridge, and you can solve the problem tomorrow.

    According to Google Maps, Clark County Fairgrounds to Wilsonville is 34.6 miles (41 minutes) along I-5, and 43.7 miles (51 minutes) by I-205. Thus, switching the I-5/205 designations means adding nine miles and about ten minutes to the trip for through traffic.

    But I suppose if you’re hauling freight from San Francisco to Seattle (13 hours, 40 minutes per Google maps), that extra ten minutes wouldn’t matter all that much.

  8. I don’t think that the route designation matters much, Doug–truckers are gonna use what saves them the most time and money. The reason they prefer I-5 is because it’s usually quicker, not because they have to stay on I-5 because it’s the “primary” interstate.

  9. “I don’t think that the route designation matters much”

    In fact, there are signs at the I5-I205 junction south of Portland that direct through traffic to use I-205. I believe there are similar signs southbound in Washington.

  10. I don’t think it matters much either — but I keep seeing arguments for the CRC megabridge as being necessary to this vital north-south freight corridor. Well, if the north-south corridor runs across the Glenn Jackson bridge, that argument goes away. And the thing is, the corridor is already there — detour to 205 and you have the drawbridge-free corridor the megabridge is supposed to give us.

    This isn’t about practical function, it’s about symbolism. Take away the bogus “Canada to Mexico corridor” argument and then focus on the real merits of the project. This should be about regional, not national, travel.

  11. I really, really cannot take much more of this nothing happening to it. At this rate, I will be dead before something happens. Just saying (not the poster)

  12. Make 205 the new I-5 and then remove the Eastbank Freeway entirely, please. In my opinion that is step one in taking Portland to the next level as an urban place. We need to make the river the centerpiece of the city again and simply *removing* that stretch of freeway through the central city (as well as the Marquam) would be far cheaper than the tunneling proposals that have been tossed around. Stopping the mega-CRC from being ramrodded through by the DOT’s has to happen first, of course…

  13. Chris, to answer the question and comment on your original post: yes, it would be fair to deduce from the (truly) independent work the City of Portland commissioned by URS Corp that the bridge and approaches as currently proposed by the two state highway divisions would be overbuilt relative to the rest of the I-5 system directly south of the project area. That preliminary finding confirms the educated assumptions of many, but had not been proven because the two state highway divisions had refused to address the issue, forcing the City of Portland and its taxpayers to fund the analysis. It may also be that the Oregon highway division assumes they will also widen I-5 for the entire length of North and Northeast Portland, though for obvious reasons they do not want to reveal that intention yet. Secondly, one correction: I did not address an “independent” panel yesterday. While the Governors have appointed a panel, and their public relations staff have tried to call it an “independent” panel, the panel was in fact selected by the highway divisions, given a very narrow and generally self-fulfilling scope of work by the highway divisions, and is supervised and given most of its information by the highway divisions. In essence it is a new consulting team for the highway divisions, which doesn’t mean they might not prove to be useful, but does mean that they are not independent.

  14. I think David is correct, there needs to be some healthy skepticism of the DOT’s leadership. They seem to have figured out how to turn the NEPA process on its head. NEPA was designed to provide the opportunity for wide community input, but they have turned it into a public relations campaign for their preferred solutions. The DOT’s have an institutional interest in making this as big a project as possible. They have successfully avoided addressing issues which they know could be deal breakers.

    During the Delta Park process, ODOT’s modeling showed the amount of traffic on the Fremont Bridge declining once Delta Park is widened. It will be interesting to see if that happens.

  15. I think it is important to note that Metro Council President Bragdon’s position has been consistent from the start.

    Even though he has expressed an opinion that a replacement bridge is probably necessary, which I heard him state at a Council meeting in early 2007, he has held the position, since the 2006 letter from Metro to the CRC, that a low-cost alternative that keeps I-5 on the current bridges, and fixes the railroad bridge, must be seriously considered.

    Without such an alternative being costed out, there is no way to judge the cost-effectiveness of any of the more expansive proposals. My only disagreement with him is that I think the low-cost alternative would prove most beneficial, but how will we know until the analysis that Bragdon asks for gets done?

  16. Thanks to David Bragdon for finally speaking the obvious truth that the 12 or 10-lane CRC would clearly be the first step in a 10-lane freeway system throughout Portland.

    For me, this has always been obvious, and a primary reason to oppose the CRC as the DOTs have designed it.

    Any candidate who wants to bring the CRC up in a debate should bear this fact in mind: Not a soul living in Portland proper wants to see a 10-lane I-5 in the city.

  17. Not a soul living in Portland proper wants to see a 10-lane I-5 in the city.

    I think you’ll find a fair number who want that. But they certainly are nowhere close to a majority.

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