Category Archives: Media

Questioning the Camas Roundabout

Cost Considerations Ignored — Questioning the $8 Million Camas Lake Rd/Everett Roundabout

Clark County Today published this here.

In a previous column regarding government spending in the era of COVID-19 and the shutdown of our economy, I asked why state and local governments weren’t cutting costs? We knew taxpayer “revenue” aka taxes paid to government, are in decline. I offered praise for the City of Camas that “put on hold” the construction of an $8 million roundabout. I hoped it was a first step in fiscal prudence, with more belt tightening to come. Sadly, I was wrong. By April 15th, the  construction was allowed to proceed.

So much for fiscal conservatism and prudence.

This caused me to dig deeper into the Camas roundabout. What I have learned is stunning. Consultants are getting 25 percent of the $8 million total cost. A $2 million roundabout was recommended as a cheaper alternative to a $5 million lane addition. A half dozen other roundabouts have been built for $2 million to $3 million in the area.

Vetting the proposal

A review of city documents provided an amazing discovery. In 2012, a taxpayer funded consultant analyzed the Lake-Everett (SR 500) intersection. It was part of a broader 2035 transportation needs study for the city, in preparation for the development of the Northshore of Lacamas Lake. DKS recommended a $2 million roundabout as the cheaper alternative for Lake-Everett.  They indicate a $5 million lane addition option was “extremely costly”.

On page 35 of the 58 page DKS document was the following. DKS indicates a new 3rd lane on Everett would address the capacity deficiency. However it would be “extremely costly, potentially more than $5 million.” Instead, DKS recommended a roundabout for $2 million.

“Due to a bridge immediately north of the intersection, the addition of an additional southbound lane (which would address the capacity deficiency) would be extremely costly, potentially more than $5 million.”

Yet today Camas is spending $8 million for a roundabout. Sadly the bridge just north of that intersection hasn’t been addressed. The city expects replacing the bridge will cost over $9 million. That 2-lane bridge (without shoulders), is the real bottleneck and limiting factor on Everett St. (SR 500).

What is the cost of a roundabout?

During a citizen town hall and open house, staff mentioned Camas had spent $2 million on the roundabout at 6th and Northwood. This is the entrance/exit to SR-14. Roundabouts can be done inexpensively.

Washougal recently built two roundabouts on SR-14 for $4.4 million, or $2.2 million each. Camas city staff provided me a cost comparison of various roundabouts.

You’ll note the $2.3 million for a 2017 roundabout and $4.4 million for two roundabouts in 2019.

One year earlier

At a February 19, 2019 city council workshop, PBS consultant Greg Jellison laid out seven options for the intersection. There were three “signal” options, three “roundabout” options, and a “no-build” option. The consultant told the city council his firm had not yet finished their cost estimates. Yet the next week, Camas was hosting their first open house for citizens.

During the presentation the consultant asked the council “do any of these criteria have a higher priority than others?”  He went on to ask: “maybe safety, the schedule, the impact to the existing bridge, the cost? Is there anything that stands out to you that maybe is a higher priority?” He later added: “we want to hear if anything is a higher priority”.

Three different times he solicited the council’s “higher priority”. Unbelievably, there was no response by the Mayor or city council. One member wanted to know what the people thought before she went public with her opinion.

 

Don’t forget that in the middle of this process, the Camas City Council made a hasty decision to put a $78 million pool bond on the ballot. In Nov. 2019, the outrageous proposal was rejected by nearly 90 percent of Camas voters. Additionally, a write in candidate unseated the incumbent in the Mayoral election.

Three open house events were held over the next 11 months. I attended the final one on January 23, 2020. Costs of the various options was never mentioned, as the city and their highly paid consultant presented their final choice. Citizens had to ask about the funding, i.e. how much was borrowed, and what the terms of the loan were.

At the March 16, 2020 meeting, the Camas City Council approved a contract for $5,269,528.33 to construct a roundabout at Lake Rd & Everett. Included in the council resolution, was approval for “up to 10%” in cost overruns — $526,952.

The staff document dated March 2, 2020 showed total cost of $8.1 million.

More amazingly, staff recommended the “consultant” firm PBS Engineering be awarded a 75% increase in their fee, adding $848,374 to the cost of the project. Not a single question was asked by the Mayor or a city council member regarding this huge increase.

How on earth can a consultant be paid nearly 25 percent of an $8 million construction contract?

Here is the graphic of the Lake-Everett roundabout proposal.

(Graphic from City of Camas)

During the March 16th City Council deliberations, there was almost no discussion about the project before the council unanimously approved the $5.2 million contract with Clark and Sons of Battle Ground. Fortunately, council member Bonnie Carter asked that the agenda item be removed from the Consent Agenda. Otherwise, it would have been approved in a single vote covering multiple items. You can view the entire discussion here.

During the discussion, Councilor Carter didn’t say anything. That is curious, as one would normally assume the person making the request had questions to ask, or comments to enter into the public record, before the vote. Councilor Don Cheney indicated he’d never seen anything “vetted as thorough” as this project.

Funding issues

How does the city council expect to pay for the $8 million roundabout? Other than a $3.3 million grant from the state, they borrowed all the money! They haven’t saved any funds to pay for the project. They didn’t have a “down payment”, which is what citizens generally do when buying a home or a new car. The taxpayers portion is all on a credit card.

From the handout offered at the January 23rd open house.

“The City received a $1 million low-interest loan from the Public Works Board for the initial design and pre-construction. For construction, approximately $3.3 million in funding comes from a Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) grant, and the remaining approximately $3.7 million from a low-interest loan from the Public Works Board.”

Yes, that totals $4.7 million in borrowed money our taxes will have to pay back.

Fixing the bridge is too expensive?

Just north of the Lake Rd/Everett intersection, is a 2-lane bridge crossing the water connection between Lacamas Lake and Round Lake. The state has mandated it be raised by roughly seven feet to better allow floating debris to pass under the bridge during high water situations.

So why not one, complete project?

From the city’s FAQ document at the January 23rd open house.

“Why was replacement of the existing bridge north of the Lake Road/Everett Street intersection not included? It should all be fixed now, not later. It comes down to funding and timing. A bridge replacement is anticipated to more than double the construction cost and construction time of the project. Per the community survey, a timely remedy for the congestion problem is strongly preferred by the community. The City has acquired the funds for the intersection improvements. However, the City anticipates that it would take much longer to acquire funding for the bridge replacement, which would stall the entire project significantly.”

That means the city currently expects to have to spend roughly $10 million to elevate and replace the bridge! They said: “double”.

Camas citizens and taxpayers need to understand that the $8 million roundabout is just one part of a much larger transportation issue on Everett — SR-500. Replacing that bridge will likely be a 4-lane wide bridge, potentially with sidewalks and perhaps bike lanes. It will not be cheap. While we would hope the state would pay a portion of the cost, (since it is State Route 500), Camas taxpayers could be on the hook for the majority of it.

The city has chosen to take two bites of the apple. Fix the Lake-Everett interchange now and replace the bridge choke-point  later. What is the cost of that decision? We don’t know. We don’t know the cost of each of the six options shown on a city handout. It may or may not be a smart choice. But we do know we are now on the hook for an extremely expensive $8 million roundabout, with a consultant getting nearly $2 million for this boondoggle.

Camas citizens need cost-efficient transportation solutions, first and foremost. Taxpayer transportation dollars are scarce and getting scarcer. Our community has many transportation needs.

The city is pushing the development of the Northshore of Lacamas Lake. They propose closing Leadbetter Rd. which traverses the north side of the lake. How much will a new series of roads and infrastructure cost? The 2012 DKS planning document estimated $62 million for roads. With the city spending four times the DKS suggested $2 million on the roundabout, it is likely the Northshore development could cost over $200 million taxpayer dollars.

The citizens should be told and fully understand the complete picture, including the costs and ramifications of those choices. Especially in the COVID-19 era, when our economy has ground to a halt, with record levels of unemployment.

For now, it appears the “extremely costly” $5 million added lane would have been a bargain compared to the $8 million roundabout. Of course if the city hadn’t paid consultants nearly $2 million, this outrageously expensive project might only be ridiculously expensive. Especially when the city had designed and built several other roundabouts in the recent past.

 

What is the government doing in the face of a significant drop in revenue?

Citizens face enough financial hardship trying to pay their bills, how is government cutting their spending of our tax dollars

The Reflector published my letter here.

By

Taxpayer money going to the government is dropping significantly.

What are elected leaders doing in response?

COVID-19 has caused the government to shut down the national economy. Governors have created lists of “essential” businesses that are allowed to continue. Everyone else is asked to stay home. Our economy has ground to a halt.

Families are making very difficult decisions. How will they pay bills and meet financial obligations? First and foremost is buying groceries and paying for true necessities. Food, shelter and healthcare are their top priorities. The unemployed are wondering if they can find another job. Others wonder “if” or “when” they might be laid off.

The mid-April news was stunning — 22 million Americans are unemployed. In Washington, 585,000 people are unemployed. “The highest on record” was The Reflector’s headline. The Washington’s Employment Security Department warned of a “tsunami” of new jobless claims in coming weeks.

All those unemployed people are not spending money on anything but necessities. The result is declining sales taxes, 46 percent of state revenues.

On April 1, The Seattle Times Editorial Board called for Gov. Jay Inslee to make “painful cuts” to state spending. “Coronavirus necessitates painful cuts to Washington state budget,” reads the headline.

“He must not hold back. That requires political courage, but there is simply no choice. State and local governments cannot commit to higher levels of spending going forward until the economic effects of coronavirus measures are better understood. That may take months.”

Two days later, the governor vetoed a small amount of state spending, $445 million through mid-2023.

From a report by The News Tribune in Tacoma:

“Bracing for a potential massive decline in revenue because of COVID-19, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday vetoed dozens of items. The need to put the brakes on new spending comes as state budget officials prepare for what could be a $4 billion to $5 billion decline in state revenue through mid-2023. If the economy fails to rebound quickly, the revenue drop could balloon to $8 billion to $9 billion, according to David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management.”

While $445 million is a good start, it’s a drop in the bucket. State budget officials indicated the shortfall could be $8 billion to $9 billion — 20% of the state budget!

The February 2020 revenue forecast was $1.5 billion above the Legislature’s 2019 two-year budget, according to the Washington Research Council:

Why wouldn’t Inslee cut spending by $1.5 billion, matching the 2019 budget? That’s 30 percent of what’s needed and 15 percent of what “might” be needed, according to his own budget director.

Understand that 46 percent of Washington state revenues come from sales and use taxes. Another 17.4 percent comes from business and occupation (B&O) taxes, and 16 percent from property taxes.

Where are the members of the state Legislature demanding cuts in state spending? During the Great Recession, total state revenues declined by around 20 percent over three years. National unemployment has already exceeded that of the Great Recession, and in only one month!

Citizens are making difficult financial decisions, cutting spending and reducing their family budgets. Our government should be doing the same.

 

Cutting costs due to declining taxpayer revenues

Taxpayer money going to government is dropping significantly

What are elected leaders doing in response?

(Clark County Today published my piece here).

The Covid-19 Coronavirus from China has caused government around our nation to shut down the national economy. People are asked to stay at home. People are “social distancing” when they are out in public getting groceries or going to the doctor. Governors in many states, including Washington, have created lists of “essential” businesses that are allowed to continue. Everyone else is asked to stay home. Schools are closed. Our economy is grinding to a halt. Restaurants and bars are closed, unless they can provide “food to go” while complying with “social distancing” rules. Beauty salons, health clubs and gyms are closed. The construction industry in our state has ground to a halt, unless they are working on an Inslee-approved government job site.

Families are making very difficult decisions. How to pay bills and meet financial obligations? First and foremost is buying groceries and paying for true necessities. Food, shelter, and healthcare are their top priorities. The unemployed are wondering if they can find another job. Others wonder “if” or “when” they might be laid off.

The early April news about our economy was stunning. Fully 10 million Americans are unemployed. There were 6.6 million people filing for “first time” unemployment the last week of March. That was double the number expected, and double the number from the previous week. The LA Times reported:

“a growing number now say the downturn will probably exceed the Great Recession of 2008-09.

U.S. economic output, which has grown without interruption for a record 10½ years, could fall as much as 9% in 2020 — more than three times the sharpest drop during the Great Recession, according to some predictions. At the height of the Great Depression in 1932, the economy shrank a record 12.9%.”

This graphic shows how dramatic the unemployment numbers were, from a historical perspective.

Boeing, our state’s largest employer, is offering “voluntary” layoffs. I don’t know how many Camas residents work at the Gresham Boeing plant, but I know there is a sizeable number of Clark County residents who work there.

A different Seattle Times report indicates gas sales have plummeted by two thirds for one Seattle area gas retailer. Clearly gas tax revenues going to the state transportation fund are plummeting as well. A different Times news story reported that 44% of global airplanes are parked. It highlights there will not be a quick “recovery” for our state’s largest employer, Boeing.

Some economists, including the people at the Federal Reserve, are predicting a recession with the potential for 32% unemployment and 47 million unemployed Americans. The CNBC report: “previous Fed research showing 66.8 million workers in “occupations with high risk of layoff.” They are sales, production, food preparation and services. Other research also identified 27.3 million people working in “high contact-intensive” jobs such as barbers and stylists, airline attendants, and food and beverage service.”

All those unemployed people are not spending money on anything but essentials — groceries and paying utility bills, rents or mortgages, and necessary medications, etc. Others worried about layoffs, and those working from home, are cutting spending as well. The result is sales tax revenues in Washington state are in significant decline. This is the major source of revenue to cities, counties, and our state, in addition to property taxes.

Washington’s Governor has asked citizens to stay home. He has extended his Executive Order asking people to stay home through May 4th. But he has been mostly silent about cutting state spending. While national leaders including the President and Congress have been addressing the economy, in part by printing more money and distributing cash to a majority of Americans, cities and states don’t have that option. Their only option is to cut spending.

The Seattle Times editorial board acknowledged this in a much needed April 1 editorial. They called for “painful cuts” to state spending. “Coronavirus necessitates painful cuts to Washington state budget” reads the headline.

“Despite the pain, Gov. Jay Inslee must make deep cuts to the supplemental budget Washington’s Legislature finalized just a few weeks ago.

Inslee is expected to veto some new spending before signing the budget into law on Friday. He must not hold back. That requires political courage, but there is simply no choice.

State and local governments cannot commit to higher levels of spending going forward until the economic effects of coronavirus measures are better understood. That may take months.”

Finally, on Friday April 3rd, the Governor did veto a small amount of state spending. From a Tacoma News Tribune report:

Bracing for a potential massive decline in revenue because of COVID-19, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday vetoed dozens of items in the state budget to reduce spending by about $445 million through mid-2023.

The biggest spending reductions triggered by the Governor’s veto pen are $115 million to hire 370 more guidance counselors at public schools, $50 million for projects to enhance mitigation and resiliency in response to climate change, and $35 million for paraeducator training.

The need to put the brake on new spending comes as state budget officials prepare for what could be a $4 billion to $5 billion decline in state revenue through mid-2023. If the economy fails to rebound quickly, the revenue drop could balloon to $8 billion to $9 billion, according to David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management.

While this $445 million in cuts over the next few years is a good start, it’s a drop in the bucket to what the Governor’s own budget officials predict a $4 billion to $5 billion decline in tax revenues. It could be double — an $8 billion to $9 billion drop in taxpayer “revenue” to the government. $9 billion is 20% of the state budget!

The February 2020 revenue forecast was $1.6 Billion above the legislature’s 2-year budget passed in 2019.

From the Washington Research Council:

“An increase in state taxes and a jump in property taxes increased the projected forecast to $606 million over what the economic forecast projected in November, putting the total estimated revenue gain at a total of $1.5 billion since the end of last year’s legislative session in April.”

Why wouldn’t Governor Inslee roll back spending by $1.5 billion, simply to match the 2-year budget passed by the legislature a year ago? That’s 30% of what is needed and 15% of what “might” be needed, according to his own budget director! Governor Inslee failed the Seattle TImes call for political courage. Again, they said Inslee “must not hold back. That requires political courage, but there is simply no choice.”

Where are our elected members of the legislature, calling for more dramatic cuts in state spending? Are there local governments making cuts?

The Mayor of Camas, Barry McDonnell, put five separate construction projects on hold on April 1st. He and the city council will further discuss the issue on April 15th. This is a good first step to preserve cash!

The City of Camas put five projects on hold. The $7-$8 million roundabout was the newest, scheduled to start construction on April 1st. Four additional public construction projects currently underway are also being halted: improvements to Brady Road, construction of the 18th Avenue Reservoir, construction of the Lacamas Creek Pump Station and improvements at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

What is the Clark County Council doing? What are the other small cities in SW Washington doing to cut spending?

KOMO news reported the city of Tukwilla is considering 10% pay cuts for all employees, among other measures to prevent layoffs.

In a document shared with KOMO News, city officials outlined a response that calls for a reduction in pay of 10 percent for all employees, including union and non-union.

According to the proposal, the wage cuts would be effective May 1 and are designed to preserve jobs and avoid layoffs.

The city spokesperson stressed that the wage reduction is just one potential course that City Hall is considering.

What can county and local governments do? As reported by Glen Morgan:

One silver lining on the dark cloud of Washington State Governor Inslee’s emergency declaration was that it empowered the elected county treasurers to delay the due date for paying property taxes.

this is one of the rare situations where they can unilaterally make a decision which has a real positive impact on the lives of local property owners.

As of April 1st, seven county treasurers (out of 39) had formally made the policy decision allowing property owners to postpone the due date in paying property taxes. They extended due dates to June 1st or June 15th.

Clark County Treasurer Alisha Topper said in a press release: “I will be in close contact with statewide and district leaders to determine the best way to ensure our critical services, like first responders, are funded while providing temporary flexibility to tax payers,” said Topper.”

She also indicated: “Business owners impacted by the recent closure orders due to the novel coronavirus will have the option of paying their business personal property taxes over time with no penalties or collection fees.”

Clark County business owners get a reprieve. Homeowners maybe? Keep in mind delaying the property tax due date doesn’t eliminate the property tax itself. The delayed payment (without assessed penalty) can make a huge difference for some homeowners.

Back to the state level discussion. Glen Morgan makes a great case for selectively cutting the state budget. Using a scalpel rather than across the board cuts.

Understand that 46% of Washington state revenues come from sales and use taxes. Another 17.4% comes from Business & Occupation (B&O) taxes, and 16% from property taxes.

(Source – WA state Department of Revenue)

Glen explains in greater detail in this video.

Where are the members of the state legislature, demanding cuts in state spending? Glen Morgan reports that during the Great Recession, total state revenues declined by around 20% over 3 years. National unemployment has already exceeded that of the Great Recession, and in only one month!

How much is the City of Vancouver cutting their spending? How much are Ridgefield, Battle Ground, and Washougal cutting their spending? How much more will Camas cut its spending?

Citizens are making difficult financial decisions, cutting spending and reducing their family budgets. Our government should be doing the same.

Mass Transit Is Making Gridlock Worse

Mass Transit Is Making Gridlock Worse says nationally known economist Stephen Moore

Lars says it’s part of the “war on cars”

Local conservative radio host Lars Larson teed up the topic of mass transit making traffic congestion worse. He based his remarks on a great column by economist Stephen Moore.

“The scandal here is that mass transit is adding to traffic congestion problems across America. It is also blocking mobility as we divert billions of gas tax dollars, which are supposed to get spent on road repairs and expansions, to white elephant transit projects with minuscule ridership that, in most cities, is shrinking.

Meanwhile, the public is increasingly infuriated by traffic gridlock. In 2018, the average driver lost $1,348 by sitting in traffic.”

Sounds like the Portland metro area, right? One recent study indicated Portland has the nation’s 7th worst traffic congestion. Furthermore, polling by both the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) and Portland Metro indicate the number one prior citizens want fixed is traffic congestion.

Moore adds:

Even the urban myth that billions of dollars of big-city transit subsidies are needed to help the poor and minorities is fatuous. The percentage of Hispanics using transit has fallen 21% since 2000. Over the last two decades, almost 1 in 5 black commuters has stopped riding transit. The percentage of people with incomes below $30,000 who use mass transit fell over the last 20 years, while those with incomes above $75,000 has risen.

Ironically, the most significant change in transportation over the past several decades is that millions more poor people and minorities can afford to own a car and drive where they want and when they want. For low-income households, transit is something not to aspire to but to be liberated from. Studies show conclusively that owning a car is literally and figuratively a road to higher incomes for those at the bottom.

For TriMet, light rail ridership peaked over a decade ago. Furthermore, in spite of adding TWO new MAX light rail lines, total ridership today is below numbers prior to the expenditure of several billion transportation dollars to build two new MAX light rail lines. Here are the numbers from a FTA (Federal Transit Administration) graphic.

And that is just the light rail ridership. Bus ridership for both TriMet and CTran are down significantly as well.

Here is TriMet bus ridership — down 9.4 million passengers from a 2009 peak. That’s a 14% decline.

Here is CTran ridership numbers. Total ridership peaked two decades ago in 1999 and we’re down roughly 1.5 million passengers.

Stephen Moore comments: “The latest transportation data underscores the futility of transit as a solution to inner-city gridlock. Today, fewer than 1 in 20 commuters take transit to work.”

The 2018 PEMCO survey validates Moore’s comments, here in the Pacific Northwest. 94% of people prefer to use their private cars for transportation.

Stephen Moore added:

Yet urban planners arrogantly refuse to listen to what commuters want, as they pour money into fashionable light rail systems that people use the least. Transportation expert Wendell Cox has noted that for the exorbitant cost of transit subsidies in many cities, “It would be less expensive for taxpayers to purchase every transit rider a brand-new Prius.”

Take a listen to the commentary and discussion on Lars!

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ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

Uber & Lyft carry more people in Seattle than Sound Transit’s light rail carry, the Seattle Times reports.

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TriMet Drops Ridership Estimate by 13% for Tigard Light Rail

Cascade Policy Institute  (here)

By John A. Charles, Jr.

After eight years of bragging that the proposed light rail line to Tigard would result in average daily ridership of 43,000, TriMet has quietly dropped the estimate to 37,500.

This “bait-and-switch” was totally predictable. At the start of every rail planning process, TriMet creates a high ridership estimate to get local politicians excited. Once the politicians agree to help fund the project, ridership forecasts are revised downwards. Eventually construction begins, and just before opening day, ridership estimates are lowered again.

At that point, it’s too late for politicians to back out.

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Frustrated with Traffic? According to PBOT, That’s Your Problem

Cascade Policy Institute (here)

By Rachel Dawson

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the agency charged with building and maintaining the city’s transportation system, is shifting the responsibility of improving traffic congestion away from itself and onto individual residents.

This was made apparent in a recently released 2018 report provided by Bloom Communications that surveyed Portland residents’ attitudes and perceptions of the Bureau. The contents of the survey are unsurprisingly critical of PBOT and demonstrate Portlanders’ increasing frustration with the region’s transportation system.

Of the themes that emerged, survey participants were generally concerned with safety on public transit, potholes and degrading roads, increasing traffic congestion, and PBOT’s lack of vision.

People want safe and efficient commutes. 81% of participants said that driving their car was the safest way for them and their families to commute, as they have greater control over who they come in contact with and what happens to them.

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TriMet’s plan for a $2 Billion tunnel under the Willamette River will eliminate a dozen downtown light rail stops

TriMet’s MAX light rail system has two huge weaknesses. One is the Achilles heel – all MAX light rail trains use the 117-year-old Steel Bridge. The other – they can only put two cars in a train, due to the length of a downtown Portland city block. Both weaknesses were known and ignored in the original creation of Portland’s light rail system.

Read about their plan to spend over $2 Billion on a tunnel that will eliminate a DOZEN light rail stops between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow on the west side of downtown. (here)

Portland expands “Road Diets”

PBOT’s “Rose Lanes” project will add to traffic congestion

Eliminating vehicle lanes on already overcrowded arterials

Portland has had a “war on cars” for a long time. After killing the Mt. Hood Freeway, activists stopped a planned western bypass (“ring road”) to compliment I-205. They have successfully fought much needed expansions of I-5 at the Rose Quarter, and a host of needed improvements to major arterials.

The last major addition of vehicle capacity was I-205. It opened in Dec. 1980. That resulted in a 10 year reduction in the number of vehicles using I-5 via the Interstate Bridge and reduced traffic congestion. Regional population has doubled since 1980.

Recently, Portland has begun reducing the number of vehicle lanes on several regional arterial streets and eliminating parking. Here’s a news report highlighting a 50% reduction in vehicle lanes on 2 miles of NE Glisan.

Here’s the full KOIN news story.

That is just the beginning.

The Portland City Council recently approved a PBOT (Portland Bureau of Transportation) plan for major lane and parking reductions. They plan to start by eliminating one lane in each direction on the Burnside Bridge.

You can view the full plan here.

A look at the broader, city wide plan shows how far reaching the road diets may be. Lanes and/or parking will be eliminated near intersections. On many of these corridors PBOT will eliminate one vehicle lane and parking in each direction for several miles, creating a “bus only” transit lane. (Note the yellow line light rail extension into Vancouver at the top.)

With fewer lanes on all those major arterials, the other side roads and arterials will get even more congested. ODOT told the TOLLING Policy Advisory Committee in 2018, 80,000 vehicles are diverting off regional freeways and highways and on to side roads due to the lack of vehicle capacity. Once TOLLING is implemented on all of I-5 & I-205, ODOT estimates an additional 50,000 vehicles will divert! Where will they go, with even fewer lanes to handle the diverting traffic?

Portland now has the nation’s 7th worst traffic congestion according to one recent transportation survey. It’s that bad because regional population continues to grow, yet Portland refuses to add needed vehicle infrastructure. Instead they spend billions on light rail and transit which continues to have declining ridership.

The west coast city takes the No. 7 spot as one of the worst city for commuters. Studies have shown that the congestion comes from roads that haven’t expanded as fast as the newcomers who have moved into the city.

Willamette Week highlighted the plans effort to favor transit over cars.

While cars are stuck in traffic, buses will be able to cruise ahead on time. Eudaly and other city officials hope that will encourage more people to ride the bus in a city where transit ridership is flat.

and

The Rose Lane Project, while inexpensive by city standards, was initially seen as a radical move in Portland neighborhood politics—because it removes road lanes for driving and parking.

Transit won’t solve the traffic congestion problems. TriMet bus passenger boardings peaked in 2009 and are down 14%, a decline of more than 9 million boardings thru 2018. Light-rail ridership peaked in 2012 with 35.2 million originating riders, losing 11% or 4.2 million originating riders by 2018.

Portland’s “War on Cars” actually started in the 1970’s. Here’s some excellent history from Beyond the Oregon Myth created in 2014.

 

A 2018 PEMCO transportation survey of the Pacific Northwest indicates 94% of people prefer to use their private vehicles. Mass transit does not serve them well. In Seattle, more people use Uber and Lyft than ride the Sound Transit light rail.

An April 2019 Oregon Transportation Commission survey found 51% of citizens want to “expand and improve interstates and interstate bridges.” Another 14% want expanded arterials.

Metro’s 2019 poll showed people’s top priority is roads and highways. The Portland Tribune summarized: “On its own, improving public transit is a lower priority than making road improvements and the more overarching goal of easing traffic — voters still overwhelmingly rely on driving alone to get around,” reads the poll’s conclusions.

Elected representatives and transportation officials should be responding to the needs and desires of the people. That means creating new transportation corridors and adding new vehicle infrastructure.

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REFERENCES

The creation of the I-205 corridor which opened in Dec. 1982 created a 10-year reduction in the number of vehicles using the I-5 Interstate Bridge. The following is from a RTC graphic.

In 2018, WSDOT reported there were 310,000 crossings of the Columbia River daily, using the Interstate Bridge (I-5) or the Glenn Jackson Bridge (I-205).

Transit ridership continues its decline. TriMet total bus ridership is down by 9 million people.

TriMet’s MAX light rail ridership is down, in spite of adding TWO new light rail lines.

(Federal Transit Administration)

Another graphic from CTran here in Clark County. Ridership peaked in 1999.

More mass transit won’t solve interstate traffic congestion problems. CTran has seven “express” bus lines into Portland. Five run the I-5 corridor and two run the I-205 corridor. Total “express” bus line ridership is down. In 2018 CTran reported only 1,422 people used any of the seven express bus lines on an average day.

Uber & Lyft carry more people in Seattle than Sound Transit’s light rail carry, the Seattle Times reports.

The original Oregon plan for a “ring road” in the 1960’s and 70’s, allowing vehicles alternative routes to using I-5. It was to be completed 30 years ago, by 1990.