Category Archives: Media

Washington is getting plenty of money from gas tax

Letter to the editor: Washington is getting plenty of money from gas tax

By John Ley/Camas — Jan 21, 2020 — The Reflector

The 18th Legislative District representatives recently held three town hall events. Sen. Ann Rivers and Reps. Brandon Vick and Larry Hoff pride themselves in the number of town hall events they hold for the people to make input and express concerns.

At the Jan. 4 Camas-Washougal town hall, taxes and transportation were at the top of citizens comments and concerns. One woman stated with I-976 ($30 car tabs), the government will lose money and needs new taxes to fund road and bridge repairs. She believed transportation dollars are declining due to cars getting better mileage and electric and hybrid vehicles not paying gas taxes.

Rep. Brandon Vick agreed responding: “We recognize the gas tax revenues will keep going down,” and, “the pots going to run dry sooner rather than later.”

Sen. Rivers and Rep. Hoff didn’t say otherwise.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Washington’s 49.4-cent gas tax is the third highest in the nation. Total transportation dollars the Legislature spends is at an all time high. So are gas tax revenues.

(Washington state document showing TOTAL transportation revenues)

Transportation revenues show roughly $2.5 billion from 1999 to 2001 and an estimate of nearly $7 billion in 2025 to 2027. More specifically, a separate Legislature document shows gas tax revenues at $1.23 billion in 2010 and $1.83 billion in 2019, with a forecast of $1.87 billion in 2021.

There is no “shortage” of taxpayer money.

The issue regarding poor road and bridge maintenance is how the Legislature allocates dollars. We pay double or triple the price for ferry boats due to a “must be built in Washington” requirement. We have the nation’s largest ferry system. The Legislature allocates significant money toward Puget Sound mass transit projects and flawed WSDOT designed projects like the 520 floating bridge pontoons that leaked. Prevailing wage and excessive environmental requirements add significant costs.

Rep. Vick later stated on social media: “Our forecasts clearly show that gas tax revenue will decrease due in large part to more fuel-efficient vehicles. A risk of a live event. What remains true is that the gas tax is not a viable long-term funding source for future transportation projects.”

Rivers claimed I was “cherry-picking data.” Not so — I use state data. Electric and hybrid cars are about 3 percent of vehicles.

One might be tempted to think inflation is the culprit. Nope. Inflation 2003-2019 means 28 cent gas tax becomes 39 cents; 1993-2019 means 23 cents becomes 43 cents; and 1981-2019 means 13.5 cents becomes 40 cents. Our 49.4 cent gas tax has more than kept up with inflation. The Legislature rarely hesitates to raise gas taxes when they need money.

The gas tax is the most efficient means of collecting transportation funds — a 1 percent cost of collection. Tolling on Seattle’s I-405 consumes 43 percent in collection costs.

The bottom line — our state is getting plenty of taxpayer money from gas taxes.

Our elected representatives need to communicate accurate information to the people. We don’t need new taxes!



The short version of Rep. Vick’s response to citizen — “the gas tax revenue will continue to go down”.

(Video excerpt from Lacamas Magazine video. Full length may be viewed here.

(Washington state graphic provided by Senator Rivers)

(Graphic WA State Auditor 2014 with added highlights/remarks)

NOTE: “basic road maintenance” spending declined over the 25 year period shown above.


(March 2017 state document showing gas tax revenues by source from FY 2010 to 2012)

The graphic below shows I-405 (Puget Sound) TOLLING has a 43% cost of collection. The graphic created by WSDOT in their 2018 Tolling Division Annual Report.

Lars: Doubling the price of the Rose Quarter project

ODOT increased the size of the “lid” being proposed at the Rose Quarter, to accommodate real estate

On Thursday, Lars Larson returned from his Christmas vacation. When he mentioned the traffic problems in the Portland metro area, that was my opportunity to call in.

Take a listen.


The original plan was going to waste about HALF the $450 million price tag to build TWO concrete lids over I-5, plus a $30-50 million bike/pedestrian bridge. Portland politicians talked about the project being “community redevelopment” when HB 2017 was passed. ODOT’s plan was also going to eliminate the Flint St. overpass & relocate an on ramp. See the ODOT graphic below.

In December, the local press reported that ODOT had a revised proposal. This time the estimated cost is $795 million. They would significantly increase the size of the concrete lid, making it one, very expensive piece of real estate.

Here is ODOT’s graphic.

Note all the multiple story “glass” proposed or possible buildings on the right side (east) of I-5.

At a community Open House over a year ago, an ODOT engineer told me they needed to do the two lids (versus one) because of federal highway air handling requirements. One large lid would create a “tunnel”, and therefore require expensive air handling equipment to be added.

So now, the politicians have persuaded ODOT to modify the $450 million proposal, to build a $795 million piece of real estate.

Understand that in the original proposal, only about HALF or $225 million, was the cost of the auxiliary lane extensions on I-5, that were going to improve vehicle safety and reduce accidents. Citizens should be outraged that their gas tax dollars and vehicle registration fees are going to create real estate, in lieu of improving congestion and reducing commute times.

ODOT has told citizens this project will NOT improve traffic congestion. That is because they are not adding new through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter. They’re simply extending “auxiliary lanes” and relocating on/off ramps. They are adding zero new capacity for vehicles.

Willamette Week reported the increase on Christmas day here.

They did a follow up story, (here) interviewing ODOT officials where ODOT blames “inflation”. I throw the BS flag on “inflation” because (1) inflation was figured into the original project, and (2) no way would inflation DOUBLE the cost in the next 5 years.

A “data-driven” response to Governors Inslee & Brown

The “data” shows people want and need traffic congestion relief and improved freight mobility

(My thanks to Clark County Today for publishing my piece here).

At their Nov. 18th signing ceremony, Governors Jay Inslee and Kate Brown told citizens that the Interstate Bridge “must” be replaced. Inslee said there is “no other option”. Furthermore, they said the new replacement bridge and infrastructure must include high capacity transit. Both assumed part of the financing would include tolling. Finally, both Governors promised the solution would be “data-driven”.

From a KIRO news report (here):

The only condition set in the paperwork signed by both governors on Monday is that the new bridge must have high capacity transit. Gov. Inslee said that doesn’t mean light rail, but that would be his first option.

“We’re not setting pre-conditions of type of high capacity systems,” he said. “We’re going to be driven by data, it will be a very thorough analysis of the alternatives, and we’ll have a vigorous discussion in our constituencies to see what their thoughts are.”

While most commuters in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon want congestion relief, the priorities for both governors put congestion relief last on their lists.

“The number one priority has to be seismic resilience for this particular project,” Gov. Brown said. “Secondly for me it would include high capacity public transit. Hopefully that would move us toward reducing congestion.”

“Hope” doesn’t solve anyone’s traffic congestion problems, Governor.

KIRO news reports an important fact.

Gov. Inslee has no idea how much it will cost to replace the bridge. It would have cost over $3 billion in 2011, but Inslee said there is no other option but to replace it.

“The first order of business is to have a bridge that is not going to fall down tomorrow,” he said.

The bridge is considered safe, but it is in need of a seismic upgrade.

As reported in Clark County Today:

“My answers would be largely the same,’’ Inslee said. “I think the reality of this is, sometimes we sort of forget the purpose of this. This bridge could fall down any day, with a small seismic event. We do not have a choice, we have to replace this bridge.”

Gov. Inslee’s hyperbole is wrong. The bridge won’t “fall down any day.” The Interstate Bridge is NOT listed as “unsafe” by either ODOT or WSDOT. KIRO accurately reports there is no need to replace the two structures; they just need a seismic upgrade. One bridge was new in 1958; it’s only 8 years older than I-5’s Marquam Bridge which carries more vehicles than the Interstate Bridge. The original bridge received a significant upgrade in 1958. Both could serve as a viable “local” connection to Hayden Island and Marine Drive, removing significant numbers of vehicles off I-5. See articles here and below.

Furthermore, ODOT told the community (here) during the CRC debate that “with ongoing preservation, the bridge could serve the public for another 60 years”. 

In Sept 2012 during the CRC debate, both ODOT and PSU seismic experts told us “we do know how to retrofit bridges if funding were available”.  We do have choices other than replacement.

Clark County Today had the best, most revealing reporting. Ken Vance shared in a column (here) the question asked by reporter Chris Brown:

Brown asked the governors to state what the most important element of the I-5 Bridge replacement project should be? Brown offered choices of decreasing commute times (reducing congestion), adding a mass transit option, or safety.

“There’s no question for me that our absolute No. 1 priority has to be seismic resilience for this particular project,’’ Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said. “Secondly, for me, it would include high capacity public transit hopefully that would move us toward reducing congestion.’’

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee virtually repeated Gov. Brown’s answer.

In Dec 2019 (after the Governors press conference), an ODOT spokesman told KATU news: “The bridge is currently safe; however, we need to replace this piece (trunnion) before it becomes unsafe and there is an emergency,” said Kimberly Dinwiddie, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation.”

Why do Governors Inslee and Brown ignore the data, as reported by their own departments of transportation?

What does the data say people want?

First — 94 percent of people want to use their privately owned vehicles according to the 2018 PEMCO transportation survey (viewed here).

When you are commuting to and from work or school, or out doing errands or other activities, what form of transportation do you most often use?

(PEMCO graphic)

Second — 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.

Third — 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.

As reported by the Cascade Policy Institute (here): “More than 75% of residents in the Portland tri-county region commute to work by car. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a similar percentage of voters surveyed by Metro consider traffic congestion a serious problem (73%) and say that improving roads, bridges, and highways to ease traffic should be a regional goal (78%).”

Fourth — a new study reports Portland has the seventh worst traffic congestion in the nation.

Portland took seventh in a new ranking that looked at the average drive times for people in large cities across the U.S.

The study, published by Apartment Guide, found that drivers in the Portland metro lost about 116 hours each year from congestion on the roads.It also said that the cost of congestion per driver was $1,625 a year.

The CRC traffic data

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson has designed and built transportation systems all over the world. He scrutinized all the CRC traffic projection data and reported that in 2030, the I-5 corridor would need six lanes in each direction crossing the Columbia River. Furthermore, the I-5 corridor would need 9 lanes in each direction by 2060.

Most importantly, Peterson reported those lanes are “valuable only if three to four additional lanes (are) added into downtown Portland. This is a 12-14 lane freeway passing through the Rose Quarter”.

He summarized his finding by publishing the following graphic.

(graphic from Keven Peterson)

The question for Governor’s Inslee and Brown — are you committed to building a 12-14 lane freeway through the Rose Quarter?

That is what the data shows according to transportation architect Kevin Peterson. If you’re not going to demand more through lanes at the Rose Quarter, then you’re not serious about what the data shows is needed to reduce congestion. Sadly you’d be wasting scarce transportation dollars.

Peterson — new transportation corridors are needed.

Peterson reported that new east and west transportation corridors are truly what’s needed. He acknowledged Portland’s unwillingness to add that many lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter, but called it “the bull in the china shop”. Peterson was well aware of the data when a new transportation corridor was built.

It’s been almost 40 years since I-205 was built. opening in Dec. 1982. Regional population (and the number of cars on the road) has doubled. The new transportation corridor provided a decade of congestion relief on I-5 and the Interstate Bridge.

(Ley graphic from RTC data)

If politicians had followed through and built a western bypass corridor (planned to open in 1990), the I-5 corridor would have enjoyed even longer congestion relief. (Map here.)

Washington County would not be “gridlocked” today, as Commissioner Roy Rogers told the tolling PAC in 2018. Former Oregon Rep. Rich Vial would not have had to propose his “northern connector” in 2017 (here). The people recently told the Washington County Commission (here):

For a new (southern) route linking the Sunset Highway near Hillsboro to I-5, 68 percent of those sampled strongly or somewhat favored it; 23 percent opposed it.

For a new (northern) route linking the Sunset Highway to U.S. 30, 60 percent strongly or somewhat favor it; 24 percent opposed it.

Peterson also estimated an east county bridge (east of I-205), would provide 15-20% relief to the I-205/I-84 interchange from Airport Way south. See his July 2014 presentation to our community here.

The Seismic Issue

Both Governors said their top priority was “safety” due to alleged seismic concerns. But neither ODOT nor WSDOT say the two interstate bridges are “unsafe”. As KIRO reported: “The bridge is considered safe, but it is in need of a seismic upgrade.

The Interstate Bridge is not the “oldest” bridge in the region. In fact EVERY light rail train line crosses the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge, built in 1912.

What are the seismic hazards? Both Governors allege concern over the Cascadia Subduction Zone and its potential for a 9.0 earthquake. The Oregon Department of Geology (DOGAMI) issued a report in 2018. They shared:

Earthquakes come from four different sources: crustal, subduction zone, intraplate, and volcanoes. The most common are crustal earthquakes, which occur along faults, or breaks in the earth’s crust, at shallow depths of 6-12 miles (10-20 km) below the surface. The two largest earthquakes in recent years in Oregon, Scotts Mills (magnitude 5.6) and the Klamath Falls main shocks (magnitude 5.9 and magnitude 6.0) of 1993 were crustal earthquakes.

Great subduction zone earthquakes occur around the world where the tectonic plates that make up the surface of the earth collide. When these plates collide, one plate slides (subducts) beneath the other, where it is reabsorbed into the mantle of the earth. This sloping boundary between the two plates is the site of some of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, often having magnitudes of 8 to 9 or larger.

More specifically, we’re 320 years into a 190-1200 year Cascadia risk cycle according to DOGAMI (here).

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia and is about 70-100 miles off the Pacific coast shoreline. There have been 41 earthquakes in the last 10,000 years within this fault that have occurred as few as 190 years or as much as 1200 years apart. The last earthquake that occurred in this fault was on January 26, 1700, with an estimated 9.0 magnitude.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has calculated a risk as high as a 37% chance of a major Cascadia Subduction earthquake occurring before 2065, according to a Multnomah County report.

Their data shows the entire I-5 corridor from the Oregon border to south of Tualatin are “at risk” in a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. That means to solve potential seismic problems, the Marquam Bridge, the Fremont Bridge, the Rose Quarter for both I-84 & I-5 and ALL the dozen bridges crossing the Willamette River must be replaced or significantly upgraded. I-205 needs upgrades as well at both the Glenn Jackson Bridge and Abernethy Bridge.

Here’s a graphic DOGAMI created showing “at risk” transportation networks. Dark red and brown highways have the highest risk.

(graphic from DOGAMI – Oregon Dept. of Geology)

You’ll note I-5 is worse than I-205, but both are at risk in a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The red is 1-2 meters of ground movement, and the darker brown is greater than 2 meters (6 feet) of ground movement. There are no major highways in the region that don’t “move” at least 3 feet — can you say unusable!

Portland’s Bridges

Portland has a dozen bridges across the Willamette River, some older than the original Interstate Bridge. If the Governors are correct in saying our 50+ year old bridges “must be replaced”, then what is Portland doing with their bridges?

In 2015, Multnomah County issued its Capital Improvement Plan for the Willamette River bridges.

The centerpiece of the CIP is the collection of four downtown Portland bridges:   HawthorneBroadwayBurnside and Morrison. All four are listed on the National Historic Registry, and the first two are more than a century old. Additionally, they are all mechanically-complex bridges that open for river traffic. These iconic engineering marvels proudly grace Portland’s skyline, but they are also costly to maintain and repair by current standards. They are also highly susceptible to failing in the event of a major earthquake.

Doesn’t that sound like our Interstate Bridges — on the National Historic Registry, mechanically-complex that open for river traffic, and one more than a century old? Is Portland replacing these bridges? No. Their plan calls for seismic upgrades. Their plan omits the Steel Bridge, apparently allowing the MAX light rail bridge to be destroyed in an earthquake.

“In the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0, all of Portland’s bridges in or around the downtown core are expected to be unusable for weeks, if not months or longer” Multnomah County Commissioners told the Oregonian in Dec. 2019.

Proving this point, Multnomah County released the following video in 2017 showing the destruction of not only the Burnside Bridge, but the closure of I-5 and the east end of I-84, and the impact on east-west MAX light rail service. The section of I-5 closed carries over 130,000 vehicles a day, almost as much as the Interstate Bridge. Again, the Rose Quarter will be shut down, the region’s real #1 bottleneck.

The simulation only looked at the Burnside Bridge which received an “upgrade” in 2002, prior to this simulation. But as the Multnomah County Commission reported, all Portland’s bridges (except the Tillicum Bridge) would be damaged or destroyed in a Cascadia 8.0 or greater earthquake.

A 2012 KATU news report covers all the Willamette River bridges into downtown Portland. It shows significant degrees of damage or destruction to all the bridges except the Sellwood and soon to be completed Tillicum Crossing bridges.

Consider building in a lower risk zone

If you look at the regional map below, the area of Wood Village and north Gresham have significantly reduced “risk” according to DOGAMI.

Why not build a new, 3rd bridge across the Columbia River in an area that has reduced risk in east Clark County and Multnomah County? If the Governors are truly concerned about seismic risk then building in an area with significantly reduced seismic risk is logical.


And “yes” the area around downtown Vancouver is also “at risk”. A western bypass would be “best” if built crossing from Woodland to St. Helens or Scappoose.

(Graphic from WA Dept. of Natural Resources)

Here’s a map showing more of the SW WA region in a Cascadia 9.0 earthquake.


(graphic from WA DNR)

Another light rail project in search of a bridge?

In the previous battle over the CRC, an Oregon Supreme Court Justice correctly labeled the project “a light rail project in search of a bridge”. Read “A Bridge Too False” here. As Willamette Week reported:

A 2010 governors’ independent review panel found the massive project will shave exactly 60 seconds off the peak morning commute.

And here’s why: The Interstate Bridge and nearby interchanges are just one bottleneck. The project does nothing to fix the choke point at the Rose Quarter, five miles south, where I-5 narrows to two lanes.

Today, the bridge actually serves as a traffic-control device by slowing the flow of cars headed toward the Rose Quarter. A wider bridge with streamlined interchanges will simply create a bigger jam down the road.

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.

The 2010 Oregon Governor’s panel found the Rose Quarter must be addressed. More importantly, government bodies have repeatedly found there was a need for more bridges across the Columbia River.

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.

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.

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.

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

1980 Oregon & Washington 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.

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.

That’s seven government studies since I-205 construction began that data showed the need for more bridges and transportation corridors across the Columbia River.

The Rose Quarter

ODOT reports there are FOUR bottlenecks on I-5 in the region. How many will be eliminated? Not the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter.

Understand that Oregon’s current plans for the Rose Quarter will NOT add any new through lanes. The $500 million project simply extends existing “auxiliary lanes” and moves on/off ramps. ODOT reports: “the auxiliary lanes will not provide long-term capacity relief to congestion problems.”

The Rose Quarter has the highest accident rate of any section of road in Oregon. It is three times the accident rate of the Terwilliger Curves.

Oregon will spend HALF of the $500 million on what politicians have labeled “community redevelopment”. They will build two concrete lids of I-5 and a very expensive bike/pedestrian bridge.

(ODOT graphic)

Oregon will spend HALF of the $500 million on what politicians have labeled “community redevelopment”. They will build two concrete lids over I-5 and a very expensive bike/pedestrian bridge.

Willamette Week reported:

ODOT’s designs include highway lids — which would connect existing bridges to create one large, continuous cap for parks and new building to be built on.

The Rose Quarter improvement plan includes lids that might support two-story building, and advocates for the neighborhood are pushing for stronger caps that cover longer segments of the highway.

The Rose Quarter I-5 bottleneck and associated safety issues will not be solved with current Oregon plans. ODOT hopes accidents will be reduced by 30-50 percent. The Rose Quarter will still have the highest accident rate in the state.

Mass transit won’t solve the problem

At present only 1,422 SW WA citizens ride any of the seven CTran Express bus lines into Portland on an average day. Five travel the I-5 corridor and two travel the I-205 corridor. This is about 203 people per express bus line daily. That’s a rounding error of the 310,000 vehicles WSDOT reports cross the Columbia River daily.

Furthermore, mass transit use is DOWN from its peak nearly a decade ago in the region. TriMet’s MAX light rail ridership is down in spite of adding TWO new light rail lines in the past 10 years. The MAX Yellow line travels at an average speed of about 15 MPH, with 17 stops from the Expo Center to PSU.

(FTA graphic with start dates of MAX line additions)

TriMet bus ridership is down 14%, or 9.4 million annual passenger boards according to their annual report. And while CTran has recently reported a slight increase in bus ridership, it is still 1.25 million passenger boardings below the 1999 peak ridership, an 18% decline.

(CTran Annual Report)

In transit friendly Seattle, Uber and Lyft now carry more people than Sound Transit’s light rail.
The Seattle Times reports the reality here.

TOLLING — 43% vs. 1%

In the failed CRC, the plan called for borrowing up to $1.5 Billion from Wall Street. The financial analysts expected to collect $3.3 Billion in tolls to pay back the $1.5 Billion borrowed money. That nearly doubled to cost of the project.

In the current plan, both Governors assumed part of the financing would include tolling. That might be appealing as a “user fee”, but horrible in terms of the efficient use of the people’s money for funding transportation projects.

Reema Griffith, Executive Director of the Washington State Transportation Commission recently told the Tacoma News Tribune: “There may never be a tax that is as cheap to collect as the gas tax”. The cost of collecting the gas tax is about 1 percent. That means 99 percent of people’s money goes to fund transportation projects.

Whereas tolling is hugely inefficient. The “cost of collection” can run from 25% to 50% of tolls.

In Seattle on their new I-405 HOV-Toll lanes, fully 43 percent of drivers tolls went to the cost of collection, according to WSDOT.

The Tacoma News Tribune recently quoted Washington Senator Phil Fortunato:

“After a 21-month study of tolls – which are, in truth, a tax on a road you already paid for – transportation planners decided State Route 167 and Interstate 405 should be tolled permanently, even though doing so won’t ease congestion.

The third party collecting the toll will get a 30-percent cut, double the original projection.

To make things worse for commuters, WSDOT officials recently revealed they altered tolling algorithms to allow more congestion and therefore boost toll-lane revenues.”

Tolling is hugely inefficient, and it harms the poorest the most. A recent Portland Bureau of Transportation report indicated:

“Portland’s challenge is intensified because unlike many other larger cities, the bulk of commuters who drive alone into downtown and close-in neighborhoods for work in the Rose City aren’t wealthy. PBOT officials said 65% of peak car commuters in Portland are medium or low-income, so finding out how to charge users to drive is a tricky issue.”

Tolling also causes vehicles to divert off tolled roads and on to side roads. ODOT told citizens at the 2018 Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings:

50,000 vehicles presently divert onto side roads (due to lack of vehicle capacity).

If they TOLL all of I-5 & I-205 – an additional 80,000 vehicles divert!

That is 130,000 vehicle diversions; or the number of vehicles that cross the Interstate Bridge every day!

How many vehicles will divert to I-205 to avoid the bridge tolls? I-205 is already “at capacity” many hours of the day. How many more drivers might pay a bridge toll, and immediately divert onto side roads because they can’t afford the rest of Oregon’s planned tolls for I-5?

How much will the tolls be? The CRC estimated $8 tolls each way or $2,000 per year. That’s a huge financial hit to the working poor. How much will Oregon’s proposed tolling of all I-5 add to the $8 CRC toll?

There are presently in excess of 70,000 SW Washington citizens commuting into Oregon. They are already paying Oregon income tax. In 2017, (the most recent data available), over 74,000 citizens paid $221 million. Another 43,000 residents from “other” counties paid $104 million, according to the Oregon Treasurer. That $325 million would pay for a huge amount of transportation projects.

(snip from Oregon State Treasurer 2019 report)

Furthermore, Oregon’s present TOLLING proposal will add no new lanes to either I-5 or I-205 in the metro area, and yet drivers will be forced to pay for existing, fully paid for roads. What will people get in exchange for their money? You can’t look at bridge tolls in a vacuum.


Clearly, the “data driven” past studies indicate the region needs more than two bridges and transportation corridors across the Columbia River. Clearly the data shows the entire I-5 corridor including the Marquam Bridge, the Rose Quarter, the Fremont Bridge and much more of the region’s highways are “at risk” in a Cascadia Subduction Zone event. The data shows an east county bridge connecting in Gresham or near Wood Village would have the least seismic risk. The data shows we are only 320 years into a 1,200 year “risk” time frame with up to a 37% chance (guess) of a quake happening before 2060..

Both Governors push mass transit, but that won’t solve the traffic congestion problems. Declining numbers of people ride it. It doesn’t go where they want, and it goes too slow. Furthermore, with all MAX light rail trains crossing the 1912 Steel Bridge, a seismic failure would also shut down much of the MAX system. Only new road and bridge capacity will reduce traffic congestion.

We should spend scarce transportation resources to add new bridges and transportation corridors. That is what the people want. As PEMCO showed, 94 percent of people prefer to use their cars. Why not keep the Interstate Bridge? ODOT says it is “safe” and could serve the people for 60 years. Build a new, 3rd bridge connecting Oregon and Washington.  We need more vehicle capacity to reduce traffic congestion and improve freight mobility.

Just the “facts” and data driven solutions!


Nov. Bi-state Bridge Committee

Giving them answers & challenge the assumptions

“John Ley of Camas said more bridges and corridors are needed to solve the bistate transportation issues. “If you change the assumptions,” Ley said, referring to the six questions, “the answers change.”

My remarks to the Bi-state Bridge Committee can be heard below.

In Dec. 1982 we opened our newest transportation corridor, the I-205 and the Glenn Jackson Bridge. Since then, regional population has doubled. So has the number of cars.

From the Cascade Policy Institute saying “Commuters need cars” here:

“Over the past five years, the region has added nearly 180,000 more commuters. Most of them drive to work and they’re congesting our roads. In normal times, transportation authorities would add capacity to the road network and improve streets for safe and speedy commutes.”

The following was reported by the Columbian on the November Bi-State Bridge Committee meeting.

“John Ley of Camas said more bridges and corridors are needed to solve the bistate transportation issues. “If you change the assumptions,” Ley said, referring to the six questions, “the answers change.”

What were the 6 questions/assumptions?

From the story.

“A concept failed if it did not yield a “yes” answer to these six questions:

• Increase vehicular capacity or decrease vehicular demand?

• Improve transit performance?

• Improve freight mobility?

• Improve safety and decrease vulnerability to crashes and other incidents?

• Improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities?

• Reduce seismic risk to the I-5 Bridge?”

Chris Brown in Clark County Today had the most thorough news report, including the following:

“The CRC Task Force, a group of 39 stakeholders, started in 2005 with a list of 76 potential solutions. The process of whittling that list down included looking at the options in light of whether they answered six questions. Did they increase vehicular capacity or reduce vehicular demand, improve transit performance, increase freight mobility, or address the seismic safety concerns for the century-old existing span. 

The new span also needed to sit within a narrow window of height, to allow river traffic beneath and air traffic from PDX and Pearson Airpark above. Then, there were environmental concerns for the river, as well as numerous historic landmarks and city parks on the Vancouver side.”

The CRC Task Force voted 37-2 in favor of the proposed bridge in June of 2008. It would have included three travel lanes each direction, same as the existing bridge, with up to three auxiliary lanes. Most controversially, at the time, it would have also included an extension of light rail from Portland into Clark County.”

While Brouwer and Francis maintained that the CRC was the only option that satisfied the bulk of the questions the project needed to answer, they admitted that things have changed in the six years since its demise. 

“The bridge having lift span, and the hump in the middle of it, those things don’t change,” noted Francis. “But there are the performance factors that are important to update.”

Those would include a new traffic analysis, including where crashes are happening in the corridor and how frequently, along with new population density studies to see how much has changed in terms of where people are coming from and where they’re going during their daily commute.”

From the news report:

Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) spoke to the concerns of many gathered in the room, noting that a new bridge, even with added capacity, would do little to fix the bottleneck on I-5 northbound at Columbia Boulevard, or southbound at the Rose Quarter.

“Despite the idea that we would do something at the bridge with the crossing itself,” said Frederick, “it was going to stall and continued to have congestion until you got to the new improvements.”

“That problem, noted several lawmakers, meant that the committee may need to adjust its perspective. If replacing the bridge can do little to address problem spots elsewhere on I-5 in Portland, then perhaps the goal needs to be safety or mass transit, rather than relieving traffic congestion.”

John Ley of Camas noted that ridership for both C-TRAN and Tri-Met have continued to decline, despite new light rail lines, bus lines, and increased population growth in the region.

“If you take transit out of the questions, you get a whole lot of different answers,” said Ley, recalling the issues over a 5-mile bridge influence area created by the inclusion of light rail. “And that’s what the people want. Focus on congestion.”

Rep. Vicki Kraft (R-Vancouver), of Clark County’s 17th District, said the committee needs to determine its top priorities before it gets too far along.

“Vehicle capacity, transit performance, freight improvement, safety, bike and pedestrian, and reducing seismic instabilities,” listed Kraft. “Those are vastly different things, and whichever one you prioritize is going to drive a very different outcome.”

Kraft urged the committee to put commuters first, including the 70,000 or so who commute to and from Clark County every day for work, as well as the businesses wasting money stuck in traffic.”

TJ Martinelli reported the following in The Lens a statewide online news source.

“Oregon Sen. Lew Frederick (D-22) remarked that “with the folks that I talk with… they do not sit back and try to count the numbers of cars. They count how much time it takes for them to get from one place to the next. As much as I like light rail, they are not necessarily excited by the idea of light rail…it’s not an express (bus) situation; they are moving at a very slow pace.”

Connected to that debate is the purpose for the new bridge. “The question is if we make improvements…to cross the river – is that going to move traffic faster or not, or is it not going to make a difference at all?” Co-chair Sen. Lee Beyer (D-6) said.”

On one hand, the bridge is more than a century old, though it remains safe. Yet the I-5 corridor also has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country, a problem highlighted by truckers and regional business groups. In 2018, 138,374 daily crossings occurred on the existing I-5 bridge’s three northbound lanes and three southbound lanes. Just six years prior, the daily crossings had been 128,373: the same volume as in 2002. That traffic congestion continues into Portland.

Frederick said that “the previous proposal…. might move traffic slightly more at the crossing itself, (but) when it reached Columbia Boulevard it was a bottleneck again.”

Although the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) Transportation Corridor Visioning Study recommends new river crossings, a committee staff member said an analysis was “agnostic about whether the region should consider other corridors. You would still be stuck with congestion frame mobility issues and all the other issues with that.”

Other practical considerations stakeholders must eventually decide on is where to place the new bridge, whether the existing bridge should be removed and how to mitigate the impacts to river traffic.”



TriMet bus ridership is DOWN by over 9 million annual boardings, compare to their peak ridership a decade ago.

MAX light rail ridership is down over the last decade, in spite of adding TWO new MAX lines. Here’s a FTA graphic with the dates of light rail line additions added.

Total Columbia River crossing traffic on the two bridges.

When the I-205 transportation corridor opened in Dec. 1982, there was an immediate 18.5% drop in vehicles using the Interstate Bridge. Over 20,000 vehicles were using the new transportation corridor. That’s congestion relief!

It took a decade before vehicle levels returned to pre-I-205 levels. If transportation officials had followed through on the original plan to finish the “ring road” building the western bypass (I-605), more vehicles would have stayed off the Interstate Bridge, using the western bypass to get to Washington County. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Here’s the planned “ring road” allowing vehicles to bypass the crowded inner core of Portland. It was to be completed by 1990, but was sadly abandoned.

Six Weeks

Just six weeks to expose the facts on the $78 Million Camas pool & rec center bond

From Lacamas Magazine.


Six weeks.

That is the amount of time it took citizens to inform each other, via social media, email, and neighbor-to-neighbor conversations.

Six weeks to rally around Aster Davis & her desire to remain in her home, rather than being forced to sell to the city’s eminent domain demands.

Six weeks to rally around Barry McDonnell as a local citizen willing to stand up for the people and common sense.

Six weeks to raise just under $5,000 to buy yard signs, a few banners, put together a web page. Six weeks to have Lars Larson spread the word on his radio show, and three local TV stations do news reports exposing the real nature of this overreach.

Six weeks for citizens to find new friends from a very diverse set of backgrounds, all sharing similar concerns over the outrageous nature of this overreach.

Six weeks to expose the facts — spending 30% of your local city taxes on a pool and rec center. Six weeks to expose $850,000 annual operating losses. Six weeks to expose $800 per year fees for a family to use a pool they are paying for with their property taxes, but don’t own.

90 percent rejection — history in the making in Washington state. All in just six weeks, by citizens having to dig to expose details city staff and city councilors hoped would remain hidden from public view.

Six weeks to shine the light of truth and expose legitimate facts.

Thank you to my fellow citizens for all the amazing work you did! All in just six weeks.

By John Ley