Category Archives: Media

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!


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.”


“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.” 


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.”


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.” 



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.

Bridge talks take hit; no light rail, no way!

TWO great columns on Oregon’s tolling & light rail demands

The Columbian published two great pieces on the same day. Their editorial and a letter from citizen Phil Haggerty. I sent the following letter to highlight this great “one-two punch”.

Oregon insults us

The Columbian published my letter here.

By John Ley, Camas

Published: November 8, 2018

The Oct. 21 Columbian had a wonderful 1-2 punch regarding Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s light-rail demands (“In Our View — Bridge Talks Take a Hit” and “No light rail, no bridge, no way”).

The $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing required Washingtonians to pay for a Steel Bridge upgrade, a new TriMet headquarters, an upgrade to their Gresham maintenance facility, and something in Hood River. Up to $2,000 in annual tolls to pay for borrowed funds was outrageous.

Forensic accountant Tiffany Couch issued reports laying out millions of dollars in questionable charges by contractors, misallocated costs and questions regarding the funding plan. Questions she raised led to a state audit raising multiple red flags and a state Legislature refusing to fund the project.

Citizens David Madore, Sharon Nasset and hundreds more spoke out. Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, earned the moniker “bridge killer.”

TriMet has an unfunded ($900 million) employee pension and retiree benefit obligation that we want no part of. They disrespect us, refusing to rescind the horrible C-Tran agreement that ceded eminent domain authority to TriMet and contained a $5 million penalty clause.

Oregon wants to pick our pockets with tolls. Demanding we accept light rail is an additional insult.


The Columbian editorial.

In Our View: Bridge Talks Take a Hit

Gov. Brown’s requirement for light rail moves discussion backward

The Columbian

Published: October 21, 2018, 6:03 AM


With multiple government entities calling for a new Interstate 5 Bridge, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has provided a reminder of just how daunting such a task will be.

“Before we move forward on the Columbia River crossing,” Brown, a Democrat, said recently during a debate with Republican Knute Buehler, her challenger in this year’s gubernatorial election, “I want to see Washington meet two criteria: That they are really serious about fixing the bridge and investing in that bridge; and secondly, that (the plan) includes public transit, particularly light rail.”

While Brown’s entire response to a question about the bridge took 60 seconds, it might have caused lasting damage. Rather than emphasize the importance of working with Washington residents and heeding the concerns of people who will pay for half the span, she drew a metaphorical line in the sand by insisting on the inclusion of light rail.

In case Gov. Brown requires a reminder, opposition to light rail was one of the reasons for the demise of the proposed Columbia River Crossing in 2013. After years of work by multiple government agencies, widespread input from the public and the expenditure of some $200 million on planning, the Washington Legislature scuttled the proposal. Clark County’s Don Benton, then a state senator, led the way in killing the plan, and lawmakers who stood in opposition often cited this region’s hostility to Oregon’s light rail system as the reason for their actions.

In various forms, Clark County residents have expressed opposition to light rail several times at the ballot box.

All of which leaves the two states at a standstill. Oregon officials are understandably gun-shy after having Washington back out at the last minute; Washington residents are reluctant to be bullied by their neighbors into welcoming light rail. Oregon’s recent plan for tolling along I-5 and Interstate 205, which would inequitably target Clark County residents, has only increased the divide. And yet that divide must be crossed.

That is the conclusion of the C-Tran Board of Directors, who last week passed a resolution urging Washington leaders to pursue solutions to congestion across the I-5 bridge. The board joined the city of Vancouver, the Clark County Council and all local port districts in supporting a replacement bridge. C-Tran’s board also specified bus rapid transit as its preferred form of mass transit across a new span.

Clark County Council members have supported bus rapid transit out of a dislike for light rail. C-Tran leaders did so out of a desire to provide bus service across the bridge. But regardless of the reason, bus rapid transit appears to be the more palatable solution for many local taxpayers. The Columbian editorially has recommended that the bridge be capable of carrying light rail in the future, but that the system is untenable for now.

Oregon leaders should pay attention to the recent resolutions, recognize Washington’s newfound willingness to engage in discussions about the bridge, and be willing to enter negotiations without preconceived notions or demands. Washington leaders should, well, be leaders. It is long past time for Gov. Jay Inslee to lead the discussion, and it is long past time for legislators to leave behind Benton’s confrontational style of representation.

This will require a willingness to compromise and a conciliatory approach from both sides. When one of the governors delivers a demand that is a deal-breaker for the other side, the process moves backward.


Phil Haggerty’s letter.

Letter: No light rail, no bridge, no way

By Phil Haggerty, Battle Ground

Published: October 21, 2018, 6:00 AM


Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, in a debate, echoed former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s famous words once again — “no light rail, no bridge” — when it comes to considering a replacement Interstate 5 Bridge. Her insensitivity to concerns of Southwest Washington residents is outrageous.

We know it was “a light-rail project in search of a bridge.” An Oregon Supreme Court justice declared it so in a 2012 opinion.

Willamette Week reported the following: “Last summer, the governors’ review panel said that failing to address the Rose Quarter congestion would be like hooking a garden hose to a fire hydrant. Questions about the reasonableness of investment in the CRC bridge because of unresolved issues to the south (the Rose Quarter) threaten the viability of the project,” the panel wrote in July 2010.

Oregon refuses to add new capacity, new through lanes at the Rose Quarter. Oregon’s No. 2 bottleneck begins at Rosa Parks Way, continuing to the Rose Quarter.

The residents of Clark County have spoken on this issue, loud and clear: no light rail, no bridge — we say “no way.” Light rail does not serve us well, is too expensive and pushes Portland into our county. Stop the proliferation of Portland’s bad ideas up here.

RTC: A $3.3 Billion replacement bridge?

No answers to RTC including a $3.3 Billion Interstate Bridge replacement in our Regional Transportation Plan

Is this simply a resurrection of the CRC, or is this a new proposal?

My comments to the Nov. 6, 2018 RTC Board. You can view them on CVTV here.

Just 2 ½ months ago, the RTC Vice Chair began an “Apology Tour” in Oregon. She said she wanted to “start a conversation” with Oregon over transportation. My, how quickly the conversation seems to have morphed into a specific project.

Was the fix in?

How can we go from “starting a conversation,” to our RTC magically proposing a $3.3 Billion Interstate Bridge replacement, in less than 3 months? The bridge replacement triples the price tag of the RTP!

Is this simply a resurrection of the CRC, or is this a new proposal?

Can you tell the citizens of SW WA the details of this $3.3 Billion project?  Will it include TOLLS? How many lanes in each direction are you talking about for cars and trucks? Where will it begin and where will it end? Will this project include light rail? What’s the price tag of the light rail? If not, are you including a “dedicated lane” for transit? What’s the price tag for that? How many vehicles will it serve? Most importantly, how much will it reduce traffic congestion?

Where are the details? Why hasn’t the Board had an extensive briefing on this proposal?  It makes up TWO THIRDS of the price tag of this RTP? Will this require TOLLS or new taxes? If so, how much? Don’t the people deserve answers before you endorse adding such a HUGE project?

The CRC’s $3.5 Billion price tag included $850 million for light rail, a $1 Billion new bridge, and a ton of special interest, pork barrel projects. That included a new TriMet HQ in Portland; a “fix” to Portland’s Steel Bridge”; an over-priced upgrade to TriMet’s Gresham “bus-barn” maintenance facility, and even something in Hood River. Can you assure SW WA citizens there are no pork barrel projects in this $3.3 Billion proposal?

If it’s possible for this body to go from nothing to $3.3 Billion in just 3 months, then why don’t you also ADD two projects to your 20 year “wish list” of transportation projects?

In your 2008 “Visioning Study”, you properly identified the need for TWO new transportation corridors across the Columbia River. Why not add TWO new projects to your RTP? Is anybody here willing to offer an amendment?

How about $1 Billion for an East County Bridge! Figg Engineering made an offer of $800 million in a “fixed price” contract.

Next, add a $1.2 Billion to $1.5 Billion bridge connecting I-5 to US 30 in Oregon. You’d be moving forward following a DECADE of “conversation” about the need for two new transportation corridors.

We have the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation. The only real solution is to add vehicle capacity, including building new transportation corridors. Your 2008 Visioning Study a decade ago proved that. When will you take action on the new transportation corridors your visioning study recommended?


REFERENCE — In total, the plan asked for $1.79 Billion in “regional” projects.

Included is a request for DOUBLE the CTran spending on capital projects.

CTran is also seeking TWO new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects, and will seek to add two new Bus on Shoulder programs.

The 2008 RTC “Visioning Study” map shows the need for TWO new transportation corridors and offers two options for each corridor.


A ‘dedicated lane’ ignores thousands of drivers

John Ley: ‘No private business would pay for an asset that is used at just 1 or 2 percent of its capacity’


John Ley
John Ley

C-TRAN says they want a “dedicated lane” for their buses. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle has been pushing a new, replacement Interstate 5 bridge, with a dedicated lane for high capacity transit. Both the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and Portland Metro’s JPACT have a light rail extension into Vancouver in their future plans. But taking the Vancouver mayor at face value, that she’d be happy with just Bus Rapid Transit, let’s take a closer look at dedicated lanes and the ramifications.

C-TRAN’s Express bus service to Portland carries only 1,499 people on an average day (2016 numbers). Ridership peaked and has been in decline for several years.

The 1,499 people who ride C-TRAN’s Express buses are a rounding error of the 310,000 vehicles that cross the Columbia River on an average day. Increasing mass transit (of any type) will not improve traffic congestion. People don’t want more mass transit.

A recent PEMCO survey indicates 94 percent of people prefer their cars. (Reported here).

The real bottleneck on I-5 is the 2-mile, 2-lane section of I-5 at the Rose Quarter. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) reports the No. 2 bottleneck in the region is I-5 Southbound beginning at Rosa Parks Way and continuing through the Rose Quarter.

Replacing the existing bridge(s) will not improve traffic congestion. An Oregon Governor’s panel told citizens in 2010 that the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) would improve the morning, southbound commute by one minute. Spending several billion dollars for a one minute improvement is not worth it.

Back to the “dedicated lane.”

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reports that one freeway lane can carry between 1,800 and 2,400 vehicles per hour, depending on vehicle speed. Over 24 hours, that lane could carry between 43,200 and 57,600 vehicles each day.

C-TRAN (and others) are asking for a “dedicated lane.” How many buses would C-TRAN put on that “dedicated lane” each hour? How many buses would C-TRAN put on that dedicate lane each day? Nobody is asking that question.

C-TRAN has 7 Express bus lines into Portland, five of which use the I-5 corridor. (Those 7 lines carry the 1,499 people each day). Most people will want or need to commute from 7-9 a.m., returning home from 4-6 p.m. The rest of the day, there is minimal “demand” for express bus service into downtown Portland.

If the five C-TRAN Express bus lines run every 10 minutes from 7-9 a.m., how many people will the buses carry, and more importantly, how many vehicles will be driving in the dedicated lane?

If the Express buses run every 10 minutes, that’s six buses each hour. (Present service is five per hour maximum.) There are five separate Express lines using I-5, meaning 30 Express buses would use a “dedicated lane” each hour. But only during the hours people are commuting to and from work. Most likely 2-3 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the evening.

Ignored in the discussion is the question — how many vehicles are not able to use the new lane?

If 30 C-TRAN buses use a new “dedicated lane” each hour, that means 1,770 to 2,370 vehicles are stuck in the other congested lanes. Creating a “dedicated lane” hurts 1,700 to 2,300 cars and trucks each hour. That’s 20,400 to 27,600 vehicles over a 12-hour period — 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. when people are most likely to use the road. It doesn’t make sense to harm 20,000 vehicles, simply to benefit 30 C-TRAN buses each hour, or 360 (mostly empty) C-TRAN buses over the same 12-hour period. It’s not efficient use of a new freeway lane.

We see what happens with a “dedicated lane” in Portland on the only HOV lane in the state. In the evening, just before 3 p.m., traffic gets jammed up on I-5 north as vehicles are forced to merge into the two lanes general purpose lanes. Vehicle speeds slow to just 13-15 mph. That is half the average speed of the morning southbound commute which doesn’t have an HOV lane.

Photo courtesy John Ley
Photo courtesy John Ley

Furthermore, Oregon’s HOV lane began in 1998. Data from 2001 shows the HOV lane plus the other two lanes moved 5,887 people per hour. But over the years, the number of people getting through northbound I-5 has plummeted. In 2002, it moved 5,482 people; 2007 it dropped to 4,719. In 2013, data shows 4,527 people got through per hour, a drop of 24 percent. (KOIN new report here.)

No private business would pay for an asset that is used at just 1 or 2 percent of its capacity. The taxpayers are not well served by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new freeway lane, only to have it rarely used, and only used by buses that carry so few (1,499) people on an average day.

John Ley


“No light rail, no bridge” – Again!

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown officially resurrects the CRC, uttering it must include “public transit, particularly light rail”

In a primetime debate (Oct 9th) with challenger Knute Buehler, Oregon Governor Kate Brown echoed the demands of disgraced Gov. John Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Before we move forward on the Columbia River Crossing, I want to see Washington meeting two criteria.  That they are really serious about fixing the bridge and investing in that bridge.  Secondly, it includes public transit, particularly light rail.”

Here’s the Governor in her own words:

Lars Larson’s take!

I called the Lars Larson radio show on “1st Amendment Friday”!

I spoke about Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issuing a demand — “no light rail, no bridge”.

She was echoing John Kitzhaber and Jay Inslee on this, proving it was and is, a “light rail project in search of a bridge.”

Furthermore, Oregon wants to TOLL drivers on both I-5 and I-205 to help pay for this light rail extension.

Kate Brown’s statement is an affront to the citizens of SW Washington who do not want or need light rail.

Take a listen to Lars here.








Oregonlive reported the debate discussion this way.

I-5 Bridge: Both candidates said they support a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River. Buehler said he supports tolls to expand highway capacity but not to change driver behavior. Brown said she won’t move forward on the project until Washington, which scuttled the last coordinated attempt at an interstate bridge, commits to a funding mechanism for the project and accepts light rail as a component of the project.

Clark County Today reported it this way.

“Buehler said he supports tolls to expand highway capacity but not to change driver behavior,’’ reported. “Brown said she won’t move forward on the project until Washington, which scuttled the last coordinated attempt at an interstate bridge, commits to a funding mechanism for the project and accepts light rail as a component of the project.’’

The comments, especially those by Brown, don’t come as a surprise. But, I’m glad the conversation has finally re-emerged enough that elected officials are participating and stating their positions on the subject publicly. That’s the only good news.

The bad news is there is a great divide between lawmakers in the two states, much wider than the Columbia River itself. As a result, efforts to replace the I-5 Bridge or to address the need for additional lane capacity or corridors are likely headed to the same inevitable conclusion of the failed Columbia River Crossing.

Each time we’ve been asked, a majority of Clark County citizens have said we don’t want light rail. Oregon’s governor just reminded us this week that she “won’t move forward on the project until Washington … accepts light rail as a component of the project.’’ There’s plenty of our elected officials who are prepared to ignore the fact that a majority of their constituents oppose light rail but thankfully enough of them will dutifully represent the will of the majority of us.”

So far, absolutely NO reporting on this by The Columbian.

Citizens understand that the real bottleneck on I-5 is NOT the Interstate Bridge, but the Rose Quarter. Sadly, Oregon refuses to add new, through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter. Therefore any new Interstate Bridge will simply hurry people (momentarily) to the scene of the traffic jam. The main thing that has happened is traffic congestion and bottlenecks have gotten worse.

From ODOT – there are 35 bottlenecks in the region:

From the Federal Highway Administration, with my comments & ovals in RED.

Get rid of the only HOV lane in Oregon and evening northbound speeds improve overall!

KOIN TV offered a news report in Feb. 2015. They report the following:

“The HOV lane began in 1998. Data from 2001 shows the HOV lane plus the other two lanes moved 5887 people per hour. But over the years, the number of people getting through northbound I-5 has plummeted. In 2002 it moved 5482 people. 2007 it dropped to 4719.

In 2013, data shows 4527 people got through per hour, a drop of 24%.”

Oregon’s #2 bottleneck

The #2 bottleneck in the Portland metro area is on I-5 southbound, beginning at Rosa Parks Way through the Rose Quarter. Oregonlive reports it in 2017 this way.