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.