Bi-State I-5 Bridge Replacement Committee

Is this resurrecting the flawed CRC? Or will they actually attempt to fix the real traffic congestion problems?

What’s truly needed to handle traffic on the I-5 corridor.

The Washington legislature established and funded a “Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee”. The first meeting where Oregon elected representatives were present was held Dec. 12th in Portland’s Delta Park. They allege they are “promising to focus together on designing a sound process not a specific project”. (Senator Cleveland opening remarks.)

I hoped and planned to deliver 3 minutes of public comments. Over 20 citizens signed up to speak, so we were limited to just 2 minutes.

 

Members of the Bi-state Bridge replacement committee:

I would ask each member of this panel to be completely honest and candid with citizens and taxpayers. The question remains: Is this simply “a light rail project in search of a bridge?” That is how an Oregon Supreme Court Justice appropriately labeled the CRC.

There is minimal demand for mass transit between Clark County & Portland. CTran has 7 express bus routes that travel both I-5 and I-205. In 2017, only 1,437 people used CTran’s express buses on an average day. Furthermore, light rail on I-5 would simply replace existing transit service for SOME of these people, and it would take them LONGER to get to downtown Portland, compared to their bus service.

The citizens of Clark County have repeatedly said “no” to light rail. Where do each of you stand on the inclusion of light rail in this project?

Next – citizens need to know that both ODOT & WSDOT say the Interstate Bridge structures are safe.  Neither state lists the bridge as “structurally deficient”.

 

Are you committed to actually reducing traffic congestion and reducing commute times for motorists? If the answer is yes, then you cannot discuss a replacement bridge in isolation. The $3.5 Billion CRC offered an unacceptable ONE MINUTE improvement in the morning, southbound commute. It didn’t solve the I-5 traffic congestion problems.  Read the six Tiffany Couch reports on the pork-barrel spending & mismanagement of the CRC.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson scrutinized ALL the traffic projection numbers from the CRC. He told us an Interstate Bridge would need SIX lanes in each direction, by 2030. Are you committed to building that much and more? He told us in 2060, an Interstate Bridge would require NINE lanes in each direction.

Additionally, Kevin Peterson told us the new lanes across the Columbia River are “valuable only if 3 to 4 lanes (are) added into downtown Portland.  This is a 12-14 lane freeway passing thru the Rose Quarter” by 2060.

Are you committed to this amount of I-5 freeway expansion?

Sadly, Oregon’s present plans add ZERO new through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter. They waste HALF the $450 – $500 million to create real estate – building two new concrete lids over the top of I-5, which do nothing for traffic congestion.

If Oregon refuses to add through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter, will you remove your support?

 

The other option is the HUGE need for a 3rd bridge and transportation corridor across the Columbia River. Our own RTC identified this need, and provided TWO options for a west side transportation corridor in their 2008 Visioning Study. Tie an Interstate Bridge replacement to a 3rd bridge. You’ll get much more support and actually solve traffic congestion problems!

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As a legislator participating in the hearing, Oregon’s Representative Rich Vial echo’d the need for a new western bypass or alternative “north-south corridor” for Washington County. Here are part of his remarks, courtesy of TVW here.

I’m Rich Vial. I represent at least for another couple of weeks, the House District 26 which happens to be the fastest growing area in the metropolitan area. All five of the urban growth boundary expansions happen to be in House District 26.

I ran for the legislature originally because our transportation challenges particularly in Washington County have begun to become critical, and the I-5 bridge is a very significant part of that challenge. The safety and continuing ability of us to get folks and freight up and down I-5 is absolutely tied to the I-5 bridge. But it’s not solely the I-5 bridge. There is a West Side north-south solution that has been put off for roughly thirty eight years in Oregon.”

Furthermore:

“I (want) to make sure that this conversation about the I-5 bridge includes a larger conversation about a true solution that deals with the Portland area congestion. We can build that bridge, but then what happens when you go across it to the south? You run into the Rose Quarter. You run into the Terwilliger curves. Eventually you run into Wilsonville and the Boone bridge. We have not really solved that North-South congestion unless we include that as part of this conversation.” 

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Representative Ed Orcutt made the following remarks:

The people: “They didn’t like the process they didn’t like the product.  

They wanted something that they could support, something that would work, something that would solve the problems that they were facing on a daily basis. I think what we need to be looking at is a replacement of the I-5 crossing and looking at additional crossings. I think we need to be working on it as a package. I don’t think we should leave this process without a plan for additional crossings.

I look at the county that I live in, Cowlitz County,  It has a population of 100,000 people, it has five crossings across Cowlitz River, and has a total of eight lanes in each direction. So why seven lanes in each direction getting across the Columbia River from Clark County into Oregon, for a population five times the size? The math says that there aren’t enough crossings; there aren’t enough lanes.  

 “I am committed to working with our partners in Oregon but it’s got to be something that works for both sides of the river not just one.”

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John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute made the following remarks during citizen comments:

“I agree that the current I-5 bridge is perhaps functionally obsolete, but I don’t think replacing it or rehabing it is a huge priority now. It is functional.  I think it needs be part of a package deal. I simply reiterate the comments of Representative Ed Orcutt made and Representative Rich Vial – you need more capacity.  I would bump the I-5 replacement to maybe something you do after 2030 or 2035. No bridges are going to fall down . . . . .

You absolutely need a 3rd, 4th, and 5th bridge. You should think bigger. The same reason that we have about a dozen bridges over the Willamette River in downtown Portland. The St John’s bridge is not the same as a Sellwood or the Markham or the Fremont or the Hawthorne (bridges). They all serve different travel markets and they’re all really important.” 

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References.

How “safe” is the Interstate Bridge? Click here for a detailed report in Clark County Today.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson’s graphic, showing the need for SIX lanes on I-5 in each direction in 2030, and NINE lanes by 2060. Furthermore, the 3-4 additional lanes at the Rose Quarter in the footnote.

Here is an updated graphic by ODOT for their planned two concrete lids (the “cover”) over I-5 at the Rose Quarter. (There’s also a bike/pedestrian bridge). It will consume up to HALF the proposed $450 million to $500 million allocated.

The SW Washington Regional Transportation Council identified the need for TWO new transportation corridors across the Columbia River a decade ago. Their 2008 “Visioning Study” offered two options for each crossing, one west of I-5 and one east of I-205. Here’s their map.

CTran reports that in 2017, only 1,437 people use their “express” buses into Portland on an average day. Here is a Columbian graphic showing a decline from previous years.

When I-205 opened in Dec. 1982, there was an immediate 18% reduction in traffic on the Interstate Bridge. It took a decade before traffic levels returned to pre-I-205 opening levels.

Acuity Forensics provided citizens seven excellent reports on the flaws in the Columbia River Crossing. View the reports on the “Press & News” page here. They also link to the Washington State Auditor’s report on the CRC.