Archive | Columbia Crossing

It’s All in How You Frame the Question: Columbia Crossing Open House

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I attended the Columbia River Crossing open house on Saturday (Oct 22, 2005). For those who may be interested, there are two more open houses scheduled on October 25th and 27th (details).

My first impression was that the sign you first encounter framed the question as one of congestion (“What’s Your Opinion of I-5 Congestion”) and that I had never seen congestion celebrated with balloons before!

With that framing, it seems pretty hard to get to a conclusion other than “let’s widen the I-5 bridge.” This is classic “predict and provide” thinking.

If we started with “what’s the best way to move people and goods across the river?” I wonder if we might get to a different answer?

I arrived about an hour after the event started, and it appeared that the rail advocates may have been there in numbers before I got there based on the comment charts. Lots of references to MAX and commuter rail.

Staffers from WDOT, ODOT and their consultants were out in force with very smart matching polo shirts (it was a little Stepfordish actually).

The project is now entering the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) phase, which is the planning effort required to select a “locally preferred alternative” prior to applying for federal funds.

My personally preferred alternative is not on the main list of options being studied. I’d like consideration of an arterial bridge with light rail, rather than an expansion of the freeway. This would help move people and goods and services, but not necessarily a lot more passenger cars.

Just as the Willamette has 2 freeway bridges and several arterial bridges (Broadway, Morrison, Hawthorne, Ross Island), isn’t it time the Columbia got an arterial bridge designed to move traffic between the districts immediately on each side of the river? Why do we force relatively short trips onto the freeway?

You can follow the project at its official web site http://columbiarivercrossing.org/.

4-4-2 Columbia Crossing

Columbia River Crossing … a tunnel, a “Burnside Bridge” with MAX, and a freight arterial with added passenger rail capacity … Let’s call it the “4-4-2.”

Deliberations have begun on different options for a Columbia River Crossing. A tunnel under the Columbia River (including Oregon Slough/Portland Harbor) may offer a simple – even elegant, data based and cost effective solution to this transportation challenge – separating through trips from local ones. Then the fun begins…

The I-5 Task Force recommended 10 total lanes – freeway/auxiliary/arterial – and a pair of lightrail tracks between Oregon and Washington; data shows that at least 1/3, if not more, of all trips across the existing Interstate Bridges are of local origin with local destinations. “4-4-2” addresses the growing demand for local access across the Columbia River by creating a variety of options for those trips:

  • Four (4) through freeway lanes in a tunnel, going to six (6) lanes at Columbia Blvd. in Portland and Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver. (Columbia and Mill Plain are key E/W freight arterials)
  • Four (4) arterial lanes for local traffic on existing twin Interstate Bridges with dedicated light rail alignment in what are now the inside lanes.
  • Two (2) new arterial lanes designed for freight on upgraded railroad bridge – new lift and possible 3rd track for passenger rail.
  • Boulevard type arterial with traffic signals and/or circles for traffic distribution replaces existing freeway between River and Mill Plain; redevelop old freeway right-of-way between downtown Vancouver and Historic Reserve.
  • Boulevard type arterial with traffic signals and/or circles for traffic distribution replaces existing freeway from River to Denver Avenue/MLK and Marine Dr; redevelop vacated right-of-way and adjacent property between Columbia and bridgehead.
  • Upgrade & widen sidewalks on Interstate Bridges; add bike bridge in space between bridges supported by existing structures.

The Tunnel option simplifies construction logistics, has fewer impacts on river traffic, water quality, fish or air traffic. The conversion of the existing Interstate Bridges, retains historic structures, re-using them in new ways to accommodate local vehicle and transit trips. Removal/conversion of existing freeway segments captures valuable land adjacent to transit, arterials and the River for re-development…commercial, industrial or residental/retail.

The original Interstate Bridge, built in 1917, had four traffic lanes with streetcar tracks – you could take the Union Avenue streetcar to downtown Vancouver! With the construction of I-5 through North Portland and across the River, a second bridge was built and together the twin bridges became I-5 – the arterial and transit connections were lost!

“4-4-2” restores the arterial/rail connectivity between Portland and Vancouver.