Life After the CRC, What Now?

The Columbia River Crossing in its current form is dead (maybe). What happens now? The 2015 Legislative Session has been touted to be the next opportunity for a big transportation package. What might that look like absent the CRC? Here are a few possibilities:

  • An urban transportation agenda. Mayor Hales has suggested that perhaps now the conversation could shift to the “orphan highways” – ODOT facilities in our cities (Powell, Barbur, Sandy and 82nd for example in Portland). These should be transferred to city ownership and management, but someone needs to pay to upgrade them to current standards.
  • The NE Quadrant/Rose Quarter “safety” project. A $400M freeway widening in the name of safety. But one that unlocks a lot of good land use policy in the process, so the City of Portland might get behind it.
  • The beginnings of the “common sense alternatives” to the CRC, including potentially rebuilding the Marine Drive Interchange to provide Hayden Island access from that interchange, solving a lot of problems with the current ramps on the island.
  • Nothing at all. After all, the $450M in bonding that the Legislature promised for the CRC didn’t actually have a repayment source identified.

What do you think? What do you hope for?


8 Responses to Life After the CRC, What Now?

  1. The Other Jimbo
    March 12, 2014 at 9:26 am Link

    The CRC has long been popularly known as a full-employment act for planners (witness the cash that’s already been squandered) and a potential public-money bonanza for construction companies with political connections. The political climate in Oregon generally and the Portland area specifically all but guarantees “cost overruns” into the hundreds of millions to satisfy the greed of the various entities that would be clamoring for an ever larger piece of a very expensive pie.

    Having said all that, and assuming a certain level of graft and corruption has to be accepted to get anything done, here’s a brief, modest proposal:

    — I-5 should be widened to 6-10 lanes from the Marquam Bridge north to the Interstate Bridge to eliminate the bottlenecks resulting from an already woefully underbuilt Portland freeway system. I’m sure there are people who will argue that widening the freeway would only be a band-aid on the traffic issue, would be obsolete before it was completed, would increase smog to unacceptable levels, would burn unacceptable quantities of fossil fuels and would just plain offend their delicate sensibilities, etc. etc. All arguments easily rebutted, but let’s move on here. The reality remains that a vast majority of people still drive cars to work and shop and do business and a city supported by taxpayer dollars owes its patrons an efficient street and highway system rather than foisting another “change your mindset” transportation “alternative” on a citizenry that just wants to get to work on time..

    As for the bridge itself, do it right

    — make it high enough that businesses upstream aren’t put out of business.

    — build it wide enough to handle peak traffic loads. The bridge itself should have at least 8 lanes. Make it a double-deck if need be.

    — Kill light rail. If you want Washington’s cooperation (and financing) ditch the trains. Clark County hates them (for good reason) and has demonstrated it won’t support a bridge that includes light-rail tracks. If, at some future date, that situation changes, you can build a rail-only bridge alongside.

    — Keep the bike lanes and erect barriers between the bike lanes and traffic lanes for the safety of all.

    — Ignore the partisans who want some sort of “iconic,” “post-card.” or “signature” bridge. The idea here is to move traffic. The Fremont Bridge is a good example of combining aesthetics and efficiency (btw, note that the Fremont has four lanes in each direction). The notion that you’re somehow going to have throngs of pedestrians soaking up the view as they romp in a park-like median or walkway is too ridiculous to contemplate. You’ll note how many folks hang around the Interstate’s sidewalks. Besides the road noise created by thousands of passing vehicles, that particular leg of the Columbia is none too scenic and too remote to be a “destination.”

    Unfortunately, a Fremont-like superstructure would likely make the bridge too tall to satisfy air traffic requirements.

    Such a bridge (sans light rail) would be plenty expensive but, one would expect, considerably less so than that which was proffered by those with much to gain from such an elaborate cash vampire.

    • Anandakos
      March 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm Link

      It’s not clear where specifically each part of “widen the freeway to 6-10 lanes from the Marquam Bridge north to the Interstate Bridge” would be six, where eight and where ten, but it’s already six north of the I-405 wishbone, so that’s likely to be the ten-lane section envisioned. A good engineer could squeeze one pair of lanes into the existing trench, but then the on- and off-ramps would have to be removed. That’s not likely to happen of course.

      So what in effect this proposes is to remove either the north-south row of blocks between Minnesota and Montana to the west or between Missouri and Michigan to the east and then rebuild the whole damn highway with its median a half block east or west of its current center. And this is all for the convenience of Clark County commuters, the majority of whom sneer at Portland.

      Tthe CRC as designed was to have been twelve lanes in width, but only striped for ten. So the bridge would have provided all the capacity for cars you demand above, and more — unless you mean that it should be eight lanes IN EACH DIRECTION.

  2. 3E
    March 12, 2014 at 10:39 am Link

    Has anyone thought to try reversible lanes on the existing bridge? Like, if peak-flow traffic is really the problem, why not use a zipper barrier and use four lanes peak and two lanes non-peak? It might be a bit weird to drive on the “wrong” bridge, but that plus a seismic retrofit would seem to make more financial sense than building a whole new anything.

    I’ve been following the CRC discussion for a long time, but I’ve never heard this discussed as part of the “no-build” options, which always seemed curious to me.

    • Anandakos
      March 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm Link

      One thing to remember is there is limited room on either end of the bridge to allow for the merge from four to three lanes. Granted, it’s better to the north; the roadway is wider and about 2/3 of the right-hand lane traffic exits to SR 14. That right-hand lane could just be made right turn only at the peaks allowing the reversed lane from the southbound span to become the left hand lane in I-5 northof the bridge. Since the afternoon congestion is a lot worse than the morning typically, that might be worth a try. But in the morning there’s really nothing similar. Only about 1/3 of the southbound traffic exits at Hayden Island and half of that is replaced immediately by the matching on-ramp, so there would have to be a pretty dangerous merge with a Jersey barrier to the left just south of the bridgehead.

      For the afternoon idea also, it’s a lot of forced weaving. This is a good thought experiment, but I expect the highway safety experts would nix it. The GG Bridge works because to the south the old toll plaza offers a long merge opportunity and to the north the Sausalito exit functions much as SR 14 in Vancouver: a good portion of the right lane traffic exits. Still, there’s always a jam up where the left two lanes merge for the climb up to the rainbow tunnels.

  3. John Powell
    March 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm Link

    @The Other Jimbo,

    If Clark Co. residents working in Portland “just [want] to get to work on time”, maybe they should live in Portland.

    Why on earth would Oregon support the project you propose?

    • Chris I
      March 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm Link

      Because we love spending $8 billion of our tax dollars (that would likely be the Oregon share of the monstrosity he is proposing) to subsidize the commutes of people that choose to live in a different state to save a few bucks on housing costs.

      Absolutely absurd.

  4. Dwaine Dibbly
    March 12, 2014 at 5:39 pm Link

    I agree that asking Oregon taxpayers to fund a project that by far benefits Washington taxpayers is absurd. Let them stew in their own traffic jams for a few more years, then see how they feel about the next proposal (which should include everything that Oregon wants). In the meantime, let’s spend money on this side of the river and fix infrastructure problems here.

    I want pedestrian infrastructure throughout Portland. That’s where people are dyeing. Saving lives is more important than enabling Washington developers to create sprawl.

    • Wells
      March 14, 2014 at 10:57 am Link

      What are the people dyeing? Tied T-shirts?

      Wsdot is mostly to blame for this fiasco. ODOT finished the Oregon side design work in 2010. Their new Marine Drive interchange is desparately needed and can be built with or without the bridge. The local road bridge Expo-to-Jantzen Beach is also shovel ready. Finally, ODOT’s Concept #1 Off-island Access alternative is a fine alternative to the spagetti ramp death trap that Wsdot miscreants prefer. In Oregon, Port of Portland heads are lodged firmly up behinds. West Hayden Island is NO PLACE for an oval track rail facility tying up the BNSF RR bridge for hours around the clock and risking complete closure in predectable derailments with its stupid 90 degree spurs just because Warren Buffett wants to be a dictatorial railroad tycoon hauling coal, oil, fracked gasses and automobiles to the world’s end. He who dies with the most money wins! must be his motto.

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