Category Archives: Media

Resurrecting the CRC continues

New bridges, vehicle capacity and transportation corridors needed

Clark County Today published this letter.

The Vancouver City Council recently passed a resolution supporting a replacement of the Interstate Bridge. The Clark County Council is considering a similar resolution. This effort is simply a means to resurrect the flawed Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Bringing Portland’s bankrupt light rail into Clark County remains part of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Commission’s (RTC) 20-year transportation plan, and Portland Metro Area Joint Policy Advisory Committee’s (JPACT) regional transportation plan.

John Ley
John Ley

The current “focus on I-5” discussions are triggered by Oregon’s outrageous efforts to toll both I-5 and I-205. Southwest Washington leaders know part of people’s outrage is “we’re getting nothing in exchange for the tolls we’ll pay.” These leaders are hoping to piggyback on Oregon’s efforts, by tying a replacement I-5 bridge to Oregon’s tolls. “For just a little higher toll, you’ll get a new bridge” is what they’ll ultimately claim. Their replacement bridge will be light rail ready – “high capacity transit” is what they’ll say.

The real “bottleneck” on I-5 is the 2-mile, 2-lane section of I-5 at the Rose Quarter. It has the highest accident rate of any section of road in Oregon – three times the accident rate of the Terwilliger curves. Even after Oregon spends $450 million on the Rose Quarter under HB 2017, (half of which will be wasted building two concrete “lids” over I-5), the Rose Quarter will continue to have the highest accident rate in Oregon.

What is needed are new through lanes at the Rose Quarter. What is needed is a new transportation corridor, reducing traffic on I-5. The creation of the I-205 corridor reduced I-5 traffic by 18.5 percent (1982 vs. 1983).

Until the Rose Quarter is fixed by adding new through lanes, any money spent on a replacement Interstate Bridge will be wasted, delivering negligible results. The CRC’s $3.5 billion “fix” provided only a 1-minute improvement in the morning, southbound commute.

Some will say the Interstate Bridge is “unsafe.” That’s not true, as both WSDOT and ODOT report the bridge is safe. See article here.

Again, this effort is simply a means to resurrect the flawed CRC, including bringing Portland’s bankrupt light rail into Clark County. Mass transit is not a solution to resolving traffic congestion on I-5. Presently only 1,499 people ride C-TRAN’s “express” bus service to Portland. That’s a rounding error of the 300,000 average daily Columbia River crossings. Light rail would merely take some of the 1,499 people off buses, putting them on light rail. It will attract no new riders.

Portland has the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation because its leaders and officials have refused to add vehicle capacity for nearly four decades. They have refused to build new transportation corridors.

We need new 3rd and 4th bridges across the Columbia River. The southwest Washington RTC’s 2008 “Visioning Study” identified this a decade ago. Oregon Representative Rich Vial has courageously proposed a much-needed western bypass. Something similar was part of a 1970s regional transportation plan.

Regional population has doubled since I-205 opened. Another 750,000 people will be here in 20 years including a half million new jobs and cars. Adding new vehicle capacity and new transportation corridors is the only solution that will solve traffic congestion problems.

John Ley

Camas

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REFERENCES

1 – our RTC’s plan for 2035 includes bringing Portland’s light rail into Clark County.

Here’s the map from their website. The YELLOW on the map is the extension of MAX light rail into Vancouver.

The RTC describes the RTP this way on their web site:

The current RTP was adopted by the RTC Board of Directors in December 2014. The RTP is part of the required federal metropolitan transportation planning process. The 2014 RTP has 2035 as its horizon year 

2 – The Portland Metro JPACT plan includes bringing light rail into Clark County.

Their website states: “Transportation shapes our communities and our everyday lives. From summer 2015 to fall 2018, Metro will work with local, regional and state partners and the public to update our region’s shared transportation vision and priorities for the next 25 years.”

The “draft” 2018 plan is here.

More importantly, not easily found but embedded in the Portland Metro JPACT plan are the following graphics. They show that by 2040, they propose spending $3.1 Billion on a new bridge across the Columbia River. On top of that, they plan to spend $850 million for some form of “mass transit” that can only be light rail. And then the plan is to spend another $80 million on a new bridge from the Expo Center area of north Portland connecting to Hayden Island. See graphics below.

The time period is 2028 to 2040. The estimated cost (2016 dollars) is $3.169 Billion.

The “transit” project cost is $850 million. The time period is 2028 to 2040. Only one form of “transit” can cost $850 million — and that’s light rail.

A new bridge is proposed connecting the Expo Center at the Marine Dr. area of north Portland with Hayden Island. The time frame is 2028 to 2040, and the estimated cost is $80 million.

#3 – a recent meeting at the Red Lion, hosted by Identity Clark County and several other special interest groups highlights the “focus on I-5” mantra.

Two separate news reports of the event and presentations. It’s worthy to note that many elected leaders from SW WA were in attendance, but specifically NOT invited were Representatives Vicki Kraft and Liz Pike.

“Business leaders push for I-5 bridge replacement” from the Portland Tribune. (here).

“The I-5 bridge is an aging bottleneck,” Ron Arp, president of Identity Clark County said at the beginning of the summit. Identity Clark County is a business organization whose number one priority is the replacement of the I-5 bridge.

And “Summit sounds alarm on I-5 bridge, traffic congestion” from the Columbian. (here).

#4 – my original piece “Resurrecting the CRC” was published in the Reflector.

(here).

#5 – the RTC 2008 “Visioning Study” map.

The RTC identified the need for TWO new bridges and transportation corridors across the Columbia River. One corridor west of I-5, and one corridor east of I-205. They offered two separate options for each new transportation corridor.

#6 – The Rose Quarter’s “highest accident rate” in Oregon.

#7 – Only 1,499 people use CTran’s mass transit into Portland.

Portland’s TriMet does NOT offer bus service on ANY Interstate freeway. Nor does it offer service to Clark County. CTran offers the only mass transit service across the Columbia River.

#8 – Portland building two concrete lids at the Rose Quarter.

#9 – I-205 reduced I-5 traffic by 18.5% the first year.

Here’s a column from Clark County Today (here). This graphic showing the details including traffic data from 1981 to 1995.

#10 – Portland has the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation.

The Oregonian in Feb. 2018 (here), says:

“Portland traffic got worse in 2017, leaving the average driver stuck in congestion another three hours a year. 

A new report from the Kirkland, Washington, data firm Inrix found the average Portland driver spent 50 hours in rush-hour crawl in 2017, compared with 47 a year earlier. About 20 percent of driving commute times are spent in congestion during peak hours, the company said.

That would make Portland traffic the 12th worst in the nation, and Inrix says the resulting delays collectively cost $3.9 billion in fuel, lost time and freight delays. That comes out to $1,648 a year per metro resident.”

#11 – The 1970’s regional plan for a “ring road” around I-5 in the downtown Portland area.

Oregon and Washington officials built the eastern half of the “ring”, I-205, which opened in Dec. 1982. Sadly, they abandoned efforts to build the western half of the “ring”. No new transportation corridors have been built and almost no new vehicle capacity has been added in over 35 years.

#12 – The real I-5 problem is the Rose Quarter. “Rush hour no more”.

From this Aug. 2017 Oregonian news report. (here). It shows that the real “southbound” problem on I-5 is NOT the Interstate Bridge, but from Rosa Parks Way through the Rose Quarter. It was #2 of the 9 bottlenecks in the region.

Furthermore, sending all traffic through the 3-lane Vista Ridge Tunnel in downtown Portland causes the #1 bottleneck in the region on Hwy 26. It’s congested 13 1/2 hours a day.

2. Interstate 5 Southbound 

Rush hour: 7:45 to 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

The 3 miles from the 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. That means prime drive time has grown two full hours, or 27.5 percent, since 2013. 

Furthermore, the biggest bottleneck in the region is Hwy 26 eastbound. Again demonstrating there are much more important areas to spend transportation dollars to solve congestion. Oregon’s HB2017 allocated ZERO transportation dollars to fixing Hwy 26 from the Vista Ridge Tunnel to the Hwy 217.

3 minutes trying to stop TOLLING

Ley’s “citizen comments” to the Oregon Transportation Commission trying to stop the current tolling proposal

The OTC allowed citizens 3 minutes to share thoughts and concerns.

After OTC Commissioner Sean O’Halleran made an earlier comment about Oregonians paying Washington state sales tax while visiting our state, I opened by setting the record straight.

Here are my remarks.

Inslee’s wimpy words on tolling

Letter: Inslee wimpy, meaningless on tolls

By John Ley, Camas

Published: August 11, 2018, 6:00 AM in The Columbian

Gov. Jay Inslee says he wants to ensure our “voices are heard” regarding Oregon’s outrageous tolling scheme on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. (Here). Oregon did hear many voices from Southwest Washington citizens, then promptly ignored them. Inslee’s words are wimpy and meaningless.

I want a real leader, one who will fight Oregon’s pocket-picking scheme. Tolling all lanes of the two interstate freeways is a “war on the poor,” as citizen Steven Wallace told the county council. Oregon is adding no new through lanes to either interstate. New vehicle capacity is the only real solution to relieve the nation’s 12th-worst traffic congestion.

If approved, Oregon would be the only location in the nation to toll all lanes of an interstate freeway without adding new capacity. Existing lanes are already paid for. This is simply a money grab.

Tolling is hugely inefficient for raising transportation dollars. In Seattle, on Interstate 405, 35 percent of tolls go to the cost of collection. On Interstate 66 in Virginia, fully half the tolls go to collection costs. That’s outrageous.

In the past two years, Washington citizens paid over $600 million in Oregon income taxes. We’re paying more than our “fair share.” We need real leadership fighting for Washington citizens’ interests, not wimpy words.

WSDOT: “Congestion is a problem we can’t solve”

Is it time for a new state transportation agency? WSDOT says they can’t solve traffic congestion.

KVI‘s John Carlson reveals a great deal about Seattle’s traffic congestion and why it has the 10th worst traffic congestion in the nation. They say they can’t (or won’t try) to fix the problem.

John Carlson explains how WSDOT got the legislature to approve TOLLS on I-405, including eliminating 2-person car pools from being able to drive in the HOV lanes. This ADDED to the traffic congestion in the other, general purpose lanes of I-405.

WSDOT was supposed to build a new general purpose lane on I-405 to relieve traffic congestion. Instead, Carlson says WSDOT found a way to make money — it’s “larceny” says Carlson.

WSDOT says our gas tax is too low. John Carlson points out that Washington has the 2nd HIGHEST gas tax in the nation.

He reveals that bicycling in Seattle is DOWN for the past 3 years, and more.

Start listening at the 3:35 minute mark, and go thru 15:58.

Seattle’s KOMO news reports the following.

More and bigger highways won’t cure Washington state’s growing traffic woes and preventing congestion is an impossible goal from a financial standpoint.

That gloomy assessment comes from Roger Millar, the head of the state Department of Transportation, according to a report in the AASHTO Journalpublished by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

At a meeting of the association last week, Millar said building more highways “isn’t the answer,” and congestion “is a problem we simply cannot solve.”

Incredibly, WSDOT Secretary Millar attempts to blame affordable housing. How incredibly sad.

He says burgeoning traffic on the state’s roads is actually a symptom of a much bigger problem – that people can’t afford to live where they work, so they spend hours on the road in vehicles that many times are not in very good condition.

“Washington state family after Washington family keeps finding out that the only house they can afford is miles away from where they work,” he said. 

His job isn’t HUD Secretary. “Affordable housing” is much more often caused by government over regulation, development rules and costs that are too high, and our state’s Growth Management Act and improper imposition of Urban Growth Boundaries. But in the Seattle area, it’s also due to the unprecedented success of Amazon that has added roughly 50,000 jobs in the Seattle area.

Citizens need a Transportation Secretary who will work to ADD new vehicle capacity, working to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on our roads.

Where’s the Value?

SW WA citizens will find no “value” in TOLLING proposal

My letter to the editor published in the July 2nd issue of The Reflector.

A review of the past eight months of Oregon’s “Value Pricing” Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) should begin and end with the question — “where’s the value?”

Oregon’s house bill HB 2017 created the possibility of tolling, beginning with I-5 and I-205, but expanding to other state roads as well. It was introduced in the spring of 2017 and passed into law in July. Our own Regional Transportation Council (RTC) refused to engage on behalf of Southwest  Washington taxpayers. The Clark County Council was the only government body expressing strong concerns about the tolling.

Portland has the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation. It has 35 bottlenecks. I-5 is congested over 15 ½ hours a day; I-205 congested over 12 hours a day according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The Rose Quarter has the highest accident rate in Oregon, besides being the major bottleneck for regional transportation. ODOT still hasn’t told us how their proposal will fix all these problems.

Why do we have so much traffic congestion? It’s simple. Oregon refused to build new vehicle capacity and transportation corridors for the past four decades. Yet regional population has doubled.

Oregon’s HB 2017 said the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) will submit a tolling proposal to the Federal Highway Administration. It was required to focus on I-5 and I-205. There was no requirement to add vehicle capacity or build anything. It was simply a mechanism to raise money. None of the $5.3 billion package of transportation projects relied on tolls.

The “Value Pricing” PAC was created by ODOT to evaluate the various issues and make a recommendation to the OTC. Two members of the OTC co-chaired the PAC. Very quickly, it became apparent the ODOT staff and their paid consultants were in charge, rather than the PAC members.

Eight “options” were introduced with surface level evaluations of impacts (positively or negatively) on traffic congestion, tolling revenue, and traffic diversion. One, Option 4, clearly had the most favorable impact on traffic congestion, with the least amount of diversion. ODOT staff rejected this option due to its “astronomical cost” which was not disclosed.

Two big questions remain. Will the OTC choose a project that actually builds new vehicle capacity, with tolling revenues, or will they simply create a new “transportation” slush fund to be divvied up later by bike and mass transit interests?

While not optimistic, I hope the five members of the OTC act on the fact that we have the 12th worse traffic congestion in the nation because they have refused to add vehicle capacity. I would hope they choose to spend the tolling dollars to add vehicle capacity.

The second question is will the federal government approve any request that does not add vehicle capacity? Oregon could be the first and only place in the nation, to request tolling on an existing, paid for, interstate highway, and add no new lanes and vehicle capacity.

Let’s hope the federal highway administration, under President Trump, says “no” to any project that does not add legitimate new vehicle capacity.