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,’’ OregonLive.com 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.
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.
Some history of the past decade is extremely important!
Willamette Week and other “non-traditional” news sources did some excellent reporting on the flaws of the Columbia River Crossing. Quoting 1,000 Friends of Oregon in 2008 they report —
“Liberty argues against demolishing the existing bridges, which were built in 1917 and 1958. A 2006 ODOT inspection found the spans to be in “fair” shape.
“Those bridges are worth $1 billion,” Liberty says. “Why would we just throw them away?”
and highlighting the fact that politicians took control:
“[The CRC] can’t be left in ODOT’s hands or we’ll get a disastrous product,” says Metro Council President David Bragdon.
Last Tuesday, May 27, Bragdon moved aggressively to reduce the Oregon Department of Transportation’s sway over what could be the most expensive public works project in Northwest history.
Rather than letting the two state highway departments manage the project, Bragdon wants local governments to have equal say going forward.
Besides traffic congestion getting worse, the price tag gone up. Portland Metro’s JPACT has $4.1 Billion allocated for the revived CRC in their 2028-2040 plan.
There’s another $80 million for a 2nd bridge, connecting Expo Center with Hayden Island, bringing the total to $4.1 Billion.
Back to Willamette Week’s excellent reporting. Overall, their “$2.5 Billion Bribe” focused on the fact that this was about nothing more than “a light rail project in search of a bridge“.
Oregon’s Supreme Court says light-rail politics drove plans for a new I-5 bridge
The massive Interstate 5 bridge and freeway project is a “political necessity” to persuade Clark County residents to accept something they previously didn’t want—a MAX light-rail line from Portland to Vancouver. (To read the Feb. 16, 2012 Oregon Supreme Court decision regarding the Columbia River Crossing Project, click here (PDF, 18 pages))
Metro had used a law originally intended to site light-rail lines to justify the project. (Only 27 percent of the project’s cost—or about $950 million—will go to building the light-rail portion of the CRC.)
Here’s the complete story including the Oregon Supreme Court Justice’s comments.
More importantly are numerous FACTS that were misrepresented in the debate. Again, Willamette Week produced a superb graphic detailing the various misrepresentations.
To highlight this 2012 report:
“A new bridge does little to relieve congestion in the Vancouver-to-Portland commute.”
“Other stretches of I-5 are more dangerous. Seismically, the Interstate Bridge is sturdier than others, including the Marquam.”
“Realigning a downstream railroad bridge would eliminate 95% of the Interstate Bridge lifts.”
“Even with proposed tolls, traffic projections show the bridge will not cover its own costs.”
A Bridge Too False
Turns out most of the case for the $3.6 billion Columbia River Crossing Isn’t true.
Again, excellent reporting by Willamette Week in this story. Their Pinocchio graphic was completely appropriate.
“Eyre Brewer, 45, is also a CPA for Harsch Investment Properties—the Schnitzer family real estate empire—and has plenty of experience analyzing complex financial deals.
Yet Eyre Brewer is saying no to the state’s single biggest job-creation plan: the proposed $3.6 billion Interstate 5 bridge project between Oregon and Washington, known as the Columbia River Crossing.
The state’s most powerful interests want the project: big business (including Eyre Brewer’s top campaign donors), labor unions and Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Eyre Brewer is standing up to the project’s backers for a simple reason: She thinks the arguments for the Columbia River Crossing are flimsy, ill conceived and often untrue.“
“She is not alone. More than 20 lawmakers—Republicans and Democrats—have raised hard questions about the project. They say Oregon hasn’t taken a serious look at the project’s risks or at cheaper ways to fix the traffic problems at the Oregon-Washington border.”
“We’ve had no substantive debate on the project,” says State Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), a CRC critic who calls the project “a steamroller headed off a cliff.”
Neither Eyre Brewer, Greenlick nor any of the growing number of CRC opponents deny there is a traffic problem between Portland and Vancouver.
But the specter of the CRC brings Oregon to a defining moment. If built, it would be the biggest transportation project since the 1966 completion of I-5 and—in modern terms—would rival the construction of Bonneville Dam.
Yet Oregonians have failed to grasp the possibility its leaders might dump billions on a massive road project that emphasizes cars over mass transit and, as the state’s own records show, relies on faulty assumptions and won’t fix the traffic problem.”
Here are the major myths Willamette Week exposed.
Myth No. 1:
Spending billions on a new I-5 bridge project at the Columbia River will solve congestion.
The congestion is real. But Garrett and Kitzhaber are wrong.
Inrix is a Kirkland, Wash., firm that collects and studies traffic data. In 2010, Inrix ranked the Interstate Bridge 214th in the nation for congestion. On the I-5 corridor alone, the bridge trailed far behind five Los Angeles bottlenecks.
How much time would those Clark County commuters save each day heading to work across this $3.6 billion highway project?
That’s right: 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.
Myth No. 3:
The current bridge is too dangerous.
As any parent knows, when logic fails, try fear.
The Interstate Bridge was built in 1917. The second set of lanes was added in 1958, when the older one was refurbished. So you might think the Interstate Bridge would be the first to go.
Not according to ODOT’s own reports. The agency’s data show there are more than two dozen I-5 bridges in Oregon in worse shape than the Interstate Bridge, including the Marquam Bridge over the Willamette River.
The Marquam is rated a lot lower for its ability to withstand a big quake, despite being built in 1966. No one seems in a big rush to claim that bridge is unsafe or to replace it.
Another claim CRC backers like to make is the number of crashes on either side of the Interstate Bridge. They often exaggerate here as well.
“Currently, the I-5 Columbia River bridges have the highest incidence of crashes of any highway segment in Oregon,” Portland Business Alliance lobbyist Bernie Bottomly told lawmakers in written testimony on March 28. ODOT’s Garrett supported that claim with a PowerPoint presentation that included slides claiming that the Interstate Bridge had the “highest crash locations on I-5 in Oregon.”
Again, false. ODOT’s own stats show that both the Marquam and Fremont bridges have higher crash rates than the Interstate Bridge, and other stretches of Oregon highways see far more crashes per mile traveled.
Myth No. 4:
We have a plan to pay for it.
CRC supporters think they’ll get $1.4 billion from tolls, about $1.3 billion in federal money, and $900 million from Oregon and Washington.
The money from the feds and the states is far from certain. But even if the money comes through, projected toll revenues are shaky.
Both states would borrow heavily to pay for construction and use toll revenue to repay their lenders.
As noted earlier, traffic projections are already way off. Cortright says that creates two kinds of risk.
First, it may make potential lenders skittish—and they might demand higher interest rates. Second, if traffic is less than projected, then the states may not have enough toll money to make their interest payments and would have to look elsewhere to cover the costs.
What’s the answer?
In April, Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire resolved what at first seemed to be the remaining big CRC question: What’s the bridge going to look like? Should it be a Golden Gate-like landmark, or a utilitarian slab like the Glenn Jackson Bridge on I-205? (They chose the latter.)
That debate was in some sense a misdirection—like a street-corner game of three-card monte. By focusing on aesthetics, the public missed the real question: Is the project as currently conceived worth doing at all?
Many CRC critics want Oregon to look at smaller, less-expensive steps that could accomplish more for less.
“This project has just spiraled out of control,” says George Crandall, a Portland planning consultant who has urged CRC proponents to reconsider the plan. “Are we really looking at the real problem and the right solutions?”
“We need to ask the overarching questions,” Eyre Brewer says. “Have we identified the problems we are trying to solve, and are we proposing the best solutions? I just don’t think they’ve made that case.”
Finally one last reminder from Willamette Week as we once again “start a new I-5 conversation”.
No More Bridge to Nowhere
Blind faith in the fatally flawed—and now dead—CRC starts a new I-5 conversation
Now comes a test for Oregon and Washington: If leaders are serious about dealing with I-5 congestion, will they turn to less expensive but more creative solutions?
Crandall and Jim Howell, a rail advocate, drew up an alternative to the CRC two years ago called the “Common Sense Alternative.”
Crandall says a phased approach would have cost half as much as the CRC, addressing congestion by first reducing how often the Interstate Bridge lifts to allow shipping traffic through. And the plan targets a chief cause of congestion—traffic from Hayden Island—with a new, local-service-only bridge.
Or a second, common sense option.
King thinks the answer is a new interstate vehicle bridge with more capacity. “At some point in the future, if light rail is the answer, let’s do that,” King says. “But right now it’s not the answer.”
Not everyone is hopeful.
“It takes so long to get where all the interests are aligned,” says Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), chairman of Oregon’s House Transportation and Economic Development Committee and a sponsor of the CRC funding bill. “We are likely to get to a similar place again with a proposal that is more expensive.”
The port’s Wyatt says smaller projects could address trucking bottlenecks and congestion on I-5 south of the existing bridge.
But he too is pessimistic about Oregon and Washington getting on the same page soon, given that the states can’t agree on two major issues—tolling and light rail.