Category Archives: Media

Two new bridges and corridors needed

RTC’s 2008 Visioning Study highlights the need for two new transportation corridors and bridges across the Columbia

My comments to the RTC Board meeting can be viewed on CVTV here. Their main agenda item was reviewing their 2008 “Visioning Study”, which identified the need for TWO new transportation corridors, one west of I-5 and one east of I-205. They also identified other needed Clark County transportation corridors.

“The Portland metro area has the nation’s 10th worst traffic congestion.  The main reason for that sad reality, is we have failed to add new transportation corridors in 40 years. The I-205 corridor and Glenn Jackson Bridge opened in 1982. Regional population has DOUBLED since then.

Last year’s PEMCO transportation survey indicates 94% of people prefer to use their cars. You need to respond to the reality on the ground, and actually serve the people.

Mass transit won’t solve the problem. In Seattle, Uber and Lyft carry over 17% MORE people each day than Sound Transit’s light rail. TriMet buses carry 9 million fewer passengers today, compared to 2009.

Your 2008 “Visioning Study” highlighted the need for TWO new bridges across the Columbia River, and the construction of two new transportation corridors – one WEST of I-5 and the other EAST of I-205.

Your goal AFTER today’s review of this 2008 study must be to not only plan for both 3rd and 4th bridges and transportation corridors, but actually be seeking funding and taking action!

In a 2003 Portland/Vancouver I-5 Transportation & Trade Partnership, ODOT Director Bruce Warner offered the following comparison of river crossings.

Portland had two highway crossings and one rail crossing.

Norfolk had 4 highway crossings & zero rail crossings. Cincinnati had SEVEN highway crossings and 2 rail crossings. Kansas City had TEN highway crossings and 3 rail crossings. Pittsburgh had over 30 highway crossings and 3 rail crossings. St. Louis had 8 highway crossings and 2 rail crossings.

By any measure, the Portland metro area was behind 16 years ago. We’re further behind today.

The CRC demonstrated why “focusing on I-5” will not solve traffic congestion problems. With Portland’s refusal to add new through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter, the CRC provided only a ONE-minute improvement in the morning, southbound commute.  It simply got people to the traffic jam slightly faster.

I-5 is a FUNNEL. Widening the mouth of the funnel does nothing with only 2 through lanes at the Rose Quarter.

Washington County is BEGGING for a new transportation corridor. Commissioner Roy Rogers tells us Washington County is gridlocked. Here you will find eager partners in discussing a western bypass.

Several years ago, the Mayors of Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village signed a letter supporting an eastern bridge and crossing.

Portland doesn’t want more cars and trucks in the downtown area. It makes sense to build bypasses, allowing cars and trucks to go around the congestion.

When I-205 opened, it provided a DECADE of congestion relief to I-5. New corridors and bridges work!

Portland has a dozen bridges across the Willamette. We need more than two bridges across the Columbia!

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REFERENCES

The 2008 RTC “Visioning Study” identified the need for two new transportation corridors across the Columbia River, one WEST of I-5 and one EAST of I-205. It provided two options for each bridge and corridor. Here’s their map.

A new transportation corridor and bridge (I-205) created TEN years of traffic congestion relief on I-5. Here are the numbers.

In the fall of 2018, WSDOT Regional Manager Kris Strickler told the RTC we now have 310,000 vehicle crossings on an average day.

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

PEMCO’s 2018 survey indicates 94% of people prefer their cars.

The 2003 Portland/Vancouver I-5 Transportation & Trade Partnership, ODOT Director Bruce Warner offered the following comparison of river crossings.

2015 letter from Mayors of Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village supporting an east county bridge.

TriMet ridership is down. Bus ridership peaked in 2009. From their 2018 annual report.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson scrutinized all the CRC traffic projection data. He indicated more lanes on a replacement I-5 bridge would only be effective if 3-4 additional lanes were added to I-5 at the Rose Quarter.

 

A $2 Billion light rail tunnel serves whom?

TriMet pushes for a $2 Billion (or more) tunnel under the Willamette River

In the battle for more bridges and transportation corridors across the Columbia River, we often hear “experts” and politicians say, “there isn’t enough money” to do two bridges. They insist we must fix the Interstate Bridge first.

The newest bridge in the region is the $1.5 Billion Tillikum Crossing Bridge for light rail, bikes and pedestrians. Now, TriMet and Metro are putting a $2 Billion plus light rail tunnel on the table, in addition to the $2.9 Billion Tigard/Tualatin light rail extension.

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.

Metro and TriMet are now pushing for two tunnels under the Willamette River and under downtown Portland. It is one of four possible solutions under consideration, but by far the most expensive. At a Metro “open house” in July, a TriMet staffer told me the $2 billion price tag would be significantly higher.

The alleged “need” is saving time. Current MAX trains cross the Steel Bridge every 90 seconds during rush hour, 40 trains per hour. TriMet can’t expand current service and meet their 2040 expected demand of 64 trains every hour, using the current Steel Bridge.

One rightly should question the underlying assumptions – is there a legitimate need for a 60% increase in the number of MAX trains crossing the river?

TriMet reports bus passenger boarding’s peaked in 2009 and are down 14%, a decline of over 9 million boarding’s by 2018. Furthermore, light rail ridership peaked in 2012 with 35.2 million originating riders, losing 11% or 4.2 million originating riders by 2018.

More importantly, the decline in MAX ridership has occurred in spite of TriMet starting the Green Line in Sept 2009 and the Orange Line in Sept 2015.  Today, ridership numbers are below the Sept 2009 level according to a Federal Transit Administration graphic, demonstrating that the addition of TWO new light rail lines added no new passengers.

The bottom line – will there be a need for 60% more trains crossing the Willamette River in 2040, given that MAX ridership has declined by over 10% in the last half decade? Probably not.

Time saved by eliminating stops

One of TriMet’s selling points for the expensive tunnel option is it will save “about 15 minutes” for riders using the tunnel. But how does the tunnel save time when it follows a similar winding route through downtown as the street-level MAX? By eliminating a dozen light rail stops in downtown Portland! How does that serve the people? MAX passengers with a downtown destination between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow, will have to get off the “express” train and transfer to the “local” light rail train, adding time to their travel.

An honest, unanswered question is how much time would passengers save if TriMet eliminated those same stops on their surface light rail system? More importantly, is TriMet being truthful to taxpayers about “all” their future plans? The tunnel following existing MAX routing suggests future plans will add back stops (and travel time) at various downtown locations. How much more will that cost?

If TriMet had originally created a subway, or an elevated rail system like Chicago, they would not be limited to just two cars in a train. They would be able to expand passenger capacity by simply adding new cars to each train. Now that roughly $5 Billion has been expended on light rail, they hope citizens won’t mind doubling down. $2 billion or more for two light rail tunnels under the Willamette, and $2.9 billion for the Tigard/Tualatin light rail expansion.

Taxpayers should put this in context. Last fall PEMCO reported 94% of Northwest citizens desire to use their privately-owned vehicles.

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

A January 2019 Metro poll showed the number one priority was roads and highways. They reported 31 percent of citizens want “widening roads and highways” as their top priority. 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.

The $2 billion tunnel dollars would pay for widening I-205’s Abernethy Bridge and adding 6 miles of freeway lanes to Stafford Rd – $500 million. It would rehab the Morrison Bridge – $48 million, the Hawthorne Bridge $24 million, rehab the Burnside Bridge – $80 million, The funds would pay to widen US 26 from 4 to 6 lanes (Brookwood to Cornelius Pass) $26.5 million, and add auxiliary lanes to Hwy 217 in Beaverton $152.5 million. It would pay from an east country bridge crossing the Columbia River — $800 million, and add a lift-span to the BNSF rail bridge, eliminating 95% of Interstate Bridge lifts –$35.5 million. It would pay for a separate bridge from Delta Park to Hayden Island – $80 million; and much more in needed road and bridge repairs. (Data from Metro 2018 RTP).

The full $5 billion for the two projects would cover a significant part of a much needed westside bypass. Commissioner Roy Rogers says Washington County is “gridlocked” and needs a western bypass, first identified in 1970’s transportation plans.

Citizens want point-to-point service in either privately owned vehicles or Lyft/Uber vehicles. Regional transportation planners have failed to change citizens behavior with mass transit service, which continues its national decline.

Use the $2 Billion MAX tunnel money to expand metro area roads and freeways; use it to build new transportation corridors including new bridges across the Columbia River. It’s been 40 years since a new transportation corridor was built – I-205. Serve the people and their transportation needs and desires.

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REFERENCE

TriMet graphic showing the 14 light rail stops from Lloyd Center to Goose Hollow

The Tunnel proposal eliminates the 12 stops between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow, saving about 14 minutes.

TriMet Bus ridership drops.

Uber and Lyft carry a significant number of people in Seattle. Much more than taxis and Sound Transit’s light rail. People “vote” with their money for point-to-point, convenient transportation service.

The Seattle Times reports in this Nov. 2018 story:

“Every day in the Seattle region, Uber and Lyft provide more rides than:

  • Sound Transit light rail (77,576 rides on a typical weekday).
  • The population of Bellingham (89,045).

“The ride-hailing giants provided more than 91,000 rides on an average day in the second quarter of this year, according to ridership reports the companies filed with the city of Seattle. They are on pace to provide more than 31 million trips this year.”

Addressing yesterday’s congestion today

Addressing yesterday’s congestion today

 

Addressing yesterday’s congestion today
Regional transportation planners say it may take another 40 years to add a third crossing over the Columbia River from Washington into the Portland metro area. However, one former legislative candidate says the region can’t wait that long. Photo: freepik.com

As a new interstate work group continues to look at replacing the century-old I-5 bridge spanning the Columbia River from Vancouver to Portland, some residents and former political candidates are emphasizing the urgent need for additional crossings previously recommended in a 2008 study that regional transportation planning staff say is another 40 years down the road.

“Citizens are begging for a third bridge and traffic congestion relief,” former District 18 legislator candidate John Ley said at the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) July 4 meeting.

The RTC acts as the metropolitan planning organization for Clark County, which aside from Vancouver includes Camas-Washougal, Ridgefield and Battle Ground. The RTC’s 2018 Congestion Management Process concludes that the region needs to “address strong demand for bi‐state travel” and lists recommended corridor improvements such as intersections and interchange improvements.

However, at the RTC’s July 2 meeting Ley told the council that a regional solution to congestion requires more crossings.

“Portland’s got a dozen bridges across the Willamette river,” he said. “We need more than two bridges across the Columbia.”

The RTC’s Transportation Corridor Visioning Study recommends four possible locations for two new, non-tolled “parkway” crossings located west of I-5 and east of I-205 that would have four to six lanes. At the RTC’s June 4 meeting, Senior Transportation Planner Dale Robins said that a new bridge is “probably 40 years out. It’s really probably something that we have discussed in the past as a land use issue that the county needs to tackle.”

Clark County Councilor and RTC councilmember Gary Medvigy said “if we look to a future planning, look at another 40 years down the road, today’s the day. We need to get another corridor as one of your long-term strategies to encompass the future of congestion in this region and add that as a planning guideline. Hopefully it won’t take another 40 years to build another corridor.”

At the July 4 meeting, Ley argued that crossings can’t wait another 40 years. “In Milwaukie, the I-35 bridge was replaced in one year. What’s it going to take for this Board to show some leadership? When will the RTC take action on a 3rd bridge?”

He also argued that the problem has been identified for decades. A 1988 state legislative study noted that “the increase in traffic volumes are causing major congestion problems on I-5 during the morning and evening peak travel hours. The traffic volumes on I-205 are not causing immediate congestion problems but are increasing at a very rapid pace. Depending on the travel forecasting technique, traffic volumes on the I-5 bridge will reach or exceed capacity within the next 3 to 10 years” (page 50).

Ley told Lens that “for 40 years, they’ve kicked the can down the road.”

Limited corridor capacity is one of the chief reasons that stakeholders are eager to replace the I-5 Bridge. The bridge now has three northbound lanes and three southbound lanes that as of 2018 has 138,374 daily crossings. Interstate 205 crossing the Columbia River east of I-5 in 2018 had 165,097 daily crossings – a figure that has increased from 145,927 in 2005. The Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee is tasked with coming up with a process to examine the future of the bridge. One of the challenges are conflicting priorities regarding the bridge and whether it should be tolled and include a light rail line from Portland into Vancouver.

One thing that has changed since the 1980s is that “inside Portland they’ve hardened their mindset against cars.”

If agreement can be reached on a new bridge, Ley says one option is to simply leave the current bridge intact as a crossing for local traffic and use the new bridge for cargo freight. Two years ago he notedthat the bridge remains safe, despite concerns about its age.

“That makes huge sense to me,” he said. “Why not make I-5 the current I-205…and get the interstate travel off it?”

Rose Quarter plan is boondoggle

Letter: Rose Quarter plan is boondoggle

My response to a Columbian editorial, here. They say the Rose Quarter plan is no boondoggle.

By John Ley, Camas

Published: July 1, 2019 (here).

If you actually look at the details of Oregon’s proposed $500 million spending on the Rose Quarter project, it truly is a “boondoggle.”

Fully half the spending will go to creating real estate — building two concrete lids over Interstate 5. They will do nothing to significantly improve traffic congestion or safety. An additional $30 million to $50 million will be wasted building a bike/pedestrian bridge over I-5 the bicycle community does not want.

Question: How much will the expenditure of a half-billion transportation dollars improve traffic flow? ODOT reports: “the auxiliary lanes will not provide long-term capacity relief to congestion problems.”

How many of the FOUR bottlenecks ODOT reports for I-5 in the region will be eliminated? As The Columbian quoted: “the three miles from Rosa Parks Way to the Rose Quarter mimics a parking lot much of the day, when you calculate for the morning and evening commute, for a grand total of 9 hours, 15 minutes.”

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson scrutinized the traffic projection data of the failed and flawed Columbia River Crossing. Peterson reported the new lanes across the Columbia River are “valuable only if three to four lanes are added into downtown Portland. This is a 12- to 14-lane freeway passing thru the Rose Quarter by 2060.”

The Rose Quarter project is a waste of scarce transportation dollars.

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REFERENCES

An ODOT graphic showing the Rose Quarter plan, including the two concrete lids over I-5.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson’s analysis of the CRC traffic data, showing the lanes needed on I-5 through 2060.

Metro President Lynn Peterson (former WSDOT Secretary), says the Rose Quarter project is necessary to “revitalize” the northeast Portland community here.

Former Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman says the Rose Quarter project is necessary “redevelopment project” here.

RTC says it takes 40 years for a 3rd bridge. Why?

Do you accept 40 years?

My remarks to the July 2, 2019 Regional Transportation Council Board meeting. There’s a lengthy history of efforts to create new transportation corridors and additional bridges over the Columbia River. Sadly our transportation planners on both sides of the river ignore these needs and historical facts.

You can view the CVTV coverage of my comments here.

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At last month’s Board meeting, an RTC staffer told us it takes 40 years to plan and create a new cross-river transportation corridor with a new 3rd bridge. Do you believe that? Is that an acceptable answer to this board?

In Minneapolis, the I-35 bridge was replaced in ONE year!

In the Portland metro area, both I-5 and I-84 were planned for in the mid 1950’s. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, I-205 was created in under 2 decades. At the same time, there were plans and routing created for a western bypass. Here is the map of that plan.

In 1977-79, a Washington legislature study found: “Without a new crossing, the I-5 bridge would be overloaded 30% beyond its capacity by the year 2000.” Their report included 5 possible locations for a 3rd bridge. (Here’s their map).

A 1979 Clark County Comprehensive Plan showed extending 179th St. across the Columbia River to US 30 near Scappoose.

A 1980 Washington legislature study concluded: “travel demand on the I-5 corridor beyond the year 2005 will require additional facilities”.

A 1980 OR & WA Governor’s Task Force said “a 3rd bridge would not increase the capacity for interstate travel unless it were accompanied by a new corridor north and south of the Columbia River”. The technical analysis concluded that “the region would not have to revisit the question of additional river crossings until 1990.”

Additionally, that same study recommended “bottlenecks north and south of the I-5 bridge were the limiting factors and not the bridge itself”.

The 1980 Bi-State Study forecast 185,000 cross-river daily vehicle trips in 2000.

A 1988 study show I-205 traffic had already exceeded the 2000 forecast. Today WSDOT reports roughly 310,000 daily crossings.

That 1988 study also discussed the benefits of TWO new bridge crossings, one west of I-5 and one east of I-205.

Finally, your own 2008 RTC “Visioning Study” offered FOUR options for two new bridge crossings and transportation corridors.

What’s it going to take for this Board to show some leadership? When will the RTC take action on a 3rd bridge?

The NEED for additional bridges and transportation corridors has been identified for the past HALF century! If the RTC staffer was correct about 40 years, you’ve owed citizens a completed 3rd bridge for a decade!

Citizens are BEGGING for a 3rd bridge and traffic congestion relief.

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REFERENCES

The Minneapolis I-35 Bridge replacement story. (Here.)

A 1966 map showing a significant number of possible freeways for the Portland area.

A 1980 Bi-State Governor’s Task Force report.

1979-1980 Washington State Legislature study.

Note the last paragraph. “implementation of TSM measures such as ramp metering, variable message signs and park-and-ride facilities in the I-5 corridor have not improved peak hour congestion levels as forecast in the study.”

A 1988 corridors study.

A 1992 Portland graphic showing a needed western transportation corridor from a Western Bypass Study.

 

WSDOT’s traffic across the Columbia River.

The 2008 RTC “Visioning Study” map, showing TWO options for a westside bridge and TWO options for an eastside bridge.

 

Washington County map showing two possible new western highway corridors named the Northern Connector and a South Parkway from current plans.

Oregon Representative Rich Vial proposed two options for a western bypass in the 2017 Oregon legislature. Here is a link to the news story, and the graphic of his proposal, below.