The Yin and Yang of the CRC

Updated 7/14/12

Hayden Island neighbors have joined the lawsuit party…

Updated 7/3/12, 7AM:

Apparently today is the deadline for filing NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) suits for the project. Thompson Metal Fab has joined the party, suing over the height of the bridge.

Original Post

Looking a recent developments for the Columbia River Crossing:

  • The project is suggesting that the recent conference committee compromise on the Federal Transportation Authorization is good news for the project:

    Congress has authorized a surface transportation bill that includes continued funding for the Federal Transit Administration New Starts program at current levels, and substantially expands the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program to $750 million next year and $1 billion in 2014.

    The CRC project is seeking construction funding from three major sources: the federal government, the states of Washington and Oregon and tolling the I-5 bridge.

    Expansion of the TIFIA program means CRC may compete for a federal loan that will offer more favorable financing terms, thereby allowing the project to better leverage toll revenue. The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated that the CRC will be a priority for receiving TIFIA support.

  • A coalition of local organizations has filed a federal suit challenging the project under environmental laws.

28 responses to “The Yin and Yang of the CRC”

  1. How the reauthorization could be good news for CRC is a mystery. The transit funds through New Starts weren’t gutted, but the bill contains no earmarks and only $500 million in Projects of National Significance. CRC was hoping for $400 million from that pot, which would be 80% going to one project in one region of the country. CRC isn’t even pretending they’re going to get anywhere close to that.

  2. This whole CRC thing is sickening, making millions of dollars for ‘consultants’ who seem to be doing a very good job of getting nowhere….


  3. “Can we kill this boondoggle already.”

    I would call the Democratic representatives and senators to the Oregon Legislature, especially Portland area ones..

    As long as the CRC is touted as a job “creator” it will be hard to shake off the true believers. Most of the jobs have gone to consultants who aren’t concerned whether this project is achievable; just whether the hope is kept alive that it is. And when the CRC goes into property acquisition phase it will start wiping out full time, permanent jobs.

    Why not voice support for the N/NE Quadrant project, instead? It’s hard for me to see how ODOT could spend more money on the CRC if it commits to the N/NE Quadrant.

    As far as I know, most conservative politicians in the area are opposed to it. The support is coming from businesses who are desperate for a solution for their lost time, from certain Democratic Party leaders, and from angry, stuck-in-traffic commuters. I think items 1 and 3 are solvable; somebody needs to work on the politicians.

  4. What’s frustrating is that there have been multiple *good* alternatives to the CRC proposed. (Mostly involving multiple smaller bridges, separating the island-access problem from the Columbia-crossing problem.) Instead, the really crappy roadway-expansion plan keeps getting pushed.

  5. I’ve been saying all along during the past few years that this thing is never going to be built in our lifetimes.

  6. Did you also say that the 1.5B MLR would never get built? Or any new MAX line for that matter? SW MAX, Vancouver MAX. I guess you don’t believe anything will EVER be built again in Portland unless you actually see it under construction.

    Despite the shortcomings of the current CRC proposal, I find it hard to believe that the existing I-5 drawbridge won’t be replaced in our lifetime. I guess I just can’t be that pessimistic.

    “The support is coming from businesses who are desperate for a solution for their lost time, from certain Democratic Party leaders, and from angry, stuck-in-traffic commuters. I think items 1 and 3 are solvable; somebody needs to work on the politicians.”

    I’m curious how 1 and 3 are solvable when you have the bridge going up twice a day on average. How can you prevent thousands of hours lost daily? The bridge goes up for 15-20 minutes and the resulting backups last over an hour.

  7. In the “Common Sense Solution” you invest a few hundred million in the railway bridge and move its span so barges don’t need to make the “S-curve maneuver” and that reduces the number of freeway lifts considerably.

  8. Or you just switch the numbers on I-5 and I-205 and have a lift free route from Canada to Mexico for about a dollar 98!
    A third of the traffic on I-5 is local and should not even be on the freeway; how about a “frontage road”? You see them all over between freeway interchanges. True, this one will have to be on its own bridge, but throw in light rail and good bike/ped facilities, and it works. Then make the inside lane on I-5 HOV in the peaks and “freight only” in the non peaks. Pay for it all with tolls; $5 southbound; free northbound.

  9. The back-and-forth on this project has been going on for years. I remember following threads on this blog a few years ago when nobody could make up their mind about what form it was supposed to take.

    Now you have lawsuits and other delaying tactics going on. You’re right: I’ll believe it when it see the construction cranes.

  10. Aaron, as far as businesses losing money we already have a solution on the eastside—I-205. Something has to be done on the west side for businesses in Washington Co. that need to connect with Washington state. I guess the ones in Portland will have to suffer. Long distance freight can use I-205 or chalk the time loss up as a business cost. Didn’t say I-605, but a Ring Road is fundamental to planning all over the world—and Portland will need one at some time, why not now?

    As far as lifts, there are ways that these can be regulated, and they already have been to a degree. It takes congressional action. The Columbia River is a federal highway and states don’t have a right to do with it whatever they want.

    Sure, the I-5 bridges are a pain, but I think we have greater needs. I think a NW route—that shortens travel distance from Clark Co. to Washington Co.— would appeal to many modes of travelers, simply because of the shorter distance. Sure it would be nice to live close to your job, but how feasible is that for families, over the course of a long period of time?

  11. What about connecting NW Newberry Rd. and HWY 30 across the river to Lombard, then across the Columbia to River Rd? This project is for freight movement after all, right? Couple this with a local access bridge, and the fixes to the rail bridge, and you now have a route from Beaverton to Vancouver, near elimination of bridge lifts, access to Hayden without disrupting the flow on I-5. We need more small bridges, not fewer large ones.

  12. So much fodder in this thread already, and I thought this had all been hashed out over and over…

    “I’m curious how 1 and 3 are solvable when you have the bridge going up twice a day on average. How can you prevent thousands of hours lost daily? The bridge goes up for 15-20 minutes and the resulting backups last over an hour. ”

    Really? Twice a day? There are more than 700 lifts a year? Outside of flood conditions where the river is high enough that more lifts have to happen, how many lifts actually do occur?

    700+ seems high.

    The Columbian says:

    “There are an average of 425 bridge lifts every year, with about half of those being for bridge maintenance. ”

    But they don’t cite their statistics in that article…

    “a Ring Road is fundamental to planning all over the world—and Portland will need one at some time”

    Really? Fundamental to planning all over the world? That is a pretty bold statement. And exactly *why* will Portland “need” one at some time? As far as I can tell most “ring roads” are simply taxpayer funded gifts to property developers who want to build sprawl at the fringes of a city, and ring roads encourage a massively de-centralized development pattern which does nothing but encourage automobile usage. Does anywhere in the world actually “need” that? And is that actually fundamental to planning – or is it simply a failed methodology that was tried out but now decades later communities are finding out the true costs of these “ring roads”…

    “Sure it would be nice to live close to your job, but how feasible is that for families, over the course of a long period of time? ”

    Very feasible, I have been doing it for 14 years now. What does having a family have to do with making it hard to live close to your job?

  13. Ring roads/bypasses do have one beneficial use: permitting through traffic to bypass a city without damaging the urban core. A big problem, of course, is that they encourage development along the ring road/bypass; which both can be damaging to the city core, and undermine the functioning of the ring road as a bypass.

  14. Ring roads are a disaster. Local rural property is developed into tract housing and the new ring roads fill up with local traffic. Remember when 205 was put in through farm land ? Ring roads are a public subsidy for carpet-bagging construction companies and land speculators , Just say NO.

  15. As far as ring roads, how effective is I-205 as a bypass at this point? Because every time I’m on that highway, the congestion is worse than I see on I-5.

    I grew up in the Eugene area, where Belt Line Rd. serves as a “ring road” for that city. All we’ve seen in the last 20 years is development along the ring road–way out W. 11th, Barger, Santa Clara, Delta Oaks, and Gateway, that we largely facilitated by presence of said ring road.

  16. That is precisely the lesson that most places have learned about ring roads (or bypasses).

    Ten minutes after you build a ring road or bypass – developers start building stuff along the ring road or bypass and 30 minutes later it is no longer a ring road or bypass. Then you start planning for the next one farther out…

  17. I could see a valid argument being made for a ring road or similar bypass linking Clark and Washington Co. (in fact, I’m even using my ancient version of CorelDraw to hash out a multimodal concept that includes commuter rail and bypasses Forest Park and Sauvie Island), but the concerns about said bypass becoming a magnet for more development/congestion can’t be ignored. In fact, has there ever been a bypass in any major metropolitan area that’s retained its original purpose of keeping traffic flowing and NOT morphing into an overdeveloped bottleneck of its own?

  18. When I say Ring Road. please don’t picture a freeway. We have a SW leg, already, with Hwy 217. And there is roadway in NW Portland, such as Cornelius Pass Rd, Hwy 30 and Columbia Bv. that provide the links of a northwesterly route.

    Now, any one heading out US HWy 26 towards the coast or Washington County, and coming from Washington state, practically has to use I-5 into downtown, at least to the Fremont Bridge. And how are you going to get all of the businesses in our area to use transit as part of their business plan? Plus there is more traffic coming off the Fremont Bridge in the afternoon, than through on I-5. I have photos :)

    Chris I, that’s almost it exactly. Most of the roadway is there. Needed: tunnel under Skyline Bv. and Bridges to Vancouver. There will also be trails that are part of the West Side Trail system, so I can see the possibility of a ten or eleven mile bicycle trip, or less, from downtown Vancouver to Cedar Mill or to the West side MAX. I figured about fourteen miles from Van. to West Union on the roads and proposed bridges. That’s better than the 20 miles now, via I-5 and US 26. This makes it more appealing to alternative modes.

    How do people get to downtown Vancouver then? I think the waterfront redevelopment project is a good idea, although the Republicans I know over there hate any kind of new development that costs any added tax. But if the waterfront project goes in, the people will follow. There’s lots of cheap, underused property on the western edge of Vancouver—-y’know close to the RR tracks. I suppose they might take AMTRAK into Portland, as you can from Oregon City. And if there ever were a light rail line in Vancouver it would make a lot more sense to sweep it across downtown, than go through the edge, as the present LPA does. And possibly, it would be cheap to go out to the Hwy 26 area, i.e West Union.

    I think the anti-development mode is pretty well entrenched in Portland, so I don’t think a four lane highway–similar to Hwy 43–spells runaway sprawl.

    As far as having a home proximate to your job, how many people stay at the same place of employment for so long these days? And two employed people in one home makes it more complex. Are you supposed to move when you take a better job, or get laid off and have to look for a new one?

    Also, I proposed a third bridge on the Columbia main channel with two arches and a large pier, dividing the dredged shipping channel from the non-dredged, natural channel. A pier can have recreation facilities, not just transportation purposes as the CRC project has. A double arch bridge is supposedly the best for sesimic; since it can have shorter sections, less prone to swaying. Seismic isolation is pretty well thought out in metal structures; Most of what has fallen down in California quakes has been concrete structures.

  19. Metro has a study done in 2004 by Urbantrans based 2000 census data that has analyses on where people live and where they work. The Hillsboro employment area which includes Intell has lots of dots in Wash Co; the clustering is dramatic. Each dot represents 50 people. It showed TWO dots in Clark county, meaning that about 100 people commute from Clark county to Intel. Hardly worth a new freeway!

  20. I’ve heard that 11% of the Intel workforce commutes through the Vista Ridge tunnel. I am curious where those numbers come from but that is in line with what you’re saying

  21. The 2000 census data showed 5604 people commuting from Clark Co. to Wash. Co. jobs (but 40,984 to Mult. Co jobs), and 2016 going the opposite way. That was 12 years ago.

    I don’t know how many were going to Intel. I am trying to get some more solid figures from Clark Co. on where their people go. I did have a METRO report from a few years ago, but there may be more recent data.

    I’m just saying that s shortcut should be able to attract other modes, too, since it is a long ride to go into downtown and then out hwy 26.

  22. Ron, just out of curiosity, where would this ring road cross the Willamette? Having it parallel the BNSF railroad tracks all the way to Hwy. 30 might be a possibility, but the width of the trench south of Columbia Blvd. might preclude anything wider than a two-lane arterial (especially if the railroad decides to add trackage along that stretch). One thought I had was a crossing downstream from St. Johns Bridge in the vicinity of N. Burgard/Rivergate T-4.

  23. S. of N. Ramsey Bv to Hwy 30. It would run right into the Marine Drive/Lombard/Columbia Bv. loop near Terminals 5 and 6.

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