March 2012 Open Thread

March is upon us, and that means another Open Thread.

  • In the middle of the month, we’re sitting down to interview TriMet GM Neil McFarlane. Submit your questions here.
  • If you live in Oregon City, your very own Carmageddon will be coming in about three weeks, as ODOT closes OR213 at I-205 for four days as part of the Oregon City Jughandle Project. ODOT is going to rip out the existing overpass over the UPRR tracks, widen the undercrossing (by removing the fill), and install a new overpass, currently sitting adjacent to the existing one, over the wider chasm, so that Washington Street may cross underneath the highway, and the existing intersection simplified. Given that the OR43 bridge is closed, the OR99E exit will be the only way to reach Oregon City and points south, unless you care to drive to Carver or Wilsonville. Try to avoid the area and expect delays. (No TriMet bus lines use the affected road, but several may be impacted by detour traffic)
  • The Willamette Week reports that the Oregon Supreme Court has an interesting take on the CRC–in its ruling approving the siting of the CRC under a statute crafted for N/S Rail, the Court ruled that the $2B+ highway portion of the project was a necessary project element due to political considerations–the involved government agencies in Washington would not support a standalone light-rail project–a state of affairs which WW has spun as a “bribe”. While Metro did indeed make the argument that the freeway component was necessary to build light rail–it was a light-rail statute being invoked, after all, the suggestion that TriMet and light rail is the dog and the state DOTs and the freight and construction lobbies are the tail, strikes me as flatly ridiculous. (I only wish TriMet and Portland transit activists had that much political power–and speaking for myself, I’ll happily take the Yellow Line extension off the table if the rest of the project goes with it). But what activists want and what other public officials want are frequently two different things…
  • Metro is planning some community outreach for the East Metro Connections Plan, a planning activity that looks at transportation in the Gresham and Troutdale area, with some focus on the issue of connecting US26 with I-84. (Current thinking involves targeted improvements to local streets, including transit service, not any new highways).
  • Gas prices are going up, which means more incentive to use transit. However, last year Neil McFarlane noted that “fifteen cents on the price of diesel is a million dollars a year for us”, so whether this will hurt or help TriMet’s shaky bottom line is an interesting question

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