Ten years since RTC’s “Visioning Study”

RTC — Don’t waste scarce transportation dollars on something that won’t fix the traffic congestion problem

My comments to the Oct. 2, 2018 Regional Transportation Council Board.

Click here to watch via CVTV.

Ten years since RTC’s 2008 “Visioning Study”

Later today, this body will consider a resolution, calling for a replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge. With transportation dollars extremely scarce, this is a misplaced use of taxpayer money.

The Portland metro area has the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation. ODOT reports there are 35 major bottlenecks in the region. If you truly want to solve traffic congestion problems, you would NOT spend scarce resources on replacing the existing bridge.

#1 – Both ODOT and WSDOT report the current bridges are SAFE.

#2 – the SECOND worst bottleneck in the region BEGINS at Rosa Parks Way on I-5 and continues through the Rose Quarter. #1 is Hwy 26 from the Vista Ridge Tunnel to Hwy 217.

The Interstate Bridge is not the problem – it’s the 2 mile, 2-lane section of I-5 at the Rose Quarter.

Oregon will waste HALF of the $450 million allocated in HB2017 for the Rose Quarter, to create real estate. They’ll build two concrete lids over I-5 and build a bike/pedestrian bridge. This will do nothing to improve traffic congestion nor vehicle safety.

Metro’s JPACT in their 2040 plan has $4.1 Billion indicated to replace the I-5 bridge, including $850 million to bring Portland’s light rail into Clark County. Yet mass transit serves less than 5% of daily trips regionally, and only 1,500 people use CTran’s express bus service to Portland.

What should YOU here at our RTC be doing? The answer is easy.

It’s been a DECADE since you produced an excellent product – the 2008 “Visioning Study”. It looked at population growth & transportation needs for both 2030 and 2050. You identified the need for TWO new bridges across the Columbia River. You provided TWO separate options for each of the proposed new bridges and transportation corridors.

A decade has passed. Clark County has grown by 50,000 people, with SW WA adding even more new residents. Regional population has DOUBLED since the I-205 bridge and transportation corridor opened in December 1982.

Most importantly, you should be focusing on the number of vehicles crossing the Columbia River. In 1982 there were 109,000 vehicles on an average day. By building I-205, the number on I-5 dropped 18.6% the next year, as over 20,000 vehicles switched to the new corridor.

Today, we have 310,000 vehicles crossing the Columbia River on an average day. That’s almost TRIPLE the number from 1982. Clearly, a new bridge and new transportation corridor is needed.

Just because Oregon demands a new light rail project in search of a bridge, doesn’t mean you should spend our transportation dollars on something that doesn’t fix the problem.


Addressing the Clark County Council on the same topic.

Following the RTC meeting, I attended the County Council meeting. My remarks to the Councilors are here.



A recent Columbian news story highlighted the fact that 94% of citizens will NOT use mass transit. They prefer their cars. The news story indicated that there are 310,000 people crossing the Columbia River on an average day.

Therefore the government should be spending our scarce transportation dollars on improving traffic congestion by ADDING new lanes and building new transportation corridors. Here’s the story.


The RTC in their 2008 “Visioning Study” identified the need for TWO new bridges across the Columbia River. They provided two “options” for each new bridge crossing. Here’s their map.

Only 1,500 Clark County residents use CTran’s Express bus service to Portland on an average day. This number has been declining for years. In 2017 there was a further decline to 1,437 riders on CTran’s express buses.

Portland Metro’s JPACT has in their 2040 Plan, identified $4.1 Billion to replace the Interstate Bridge AND includes $850 million to extend Portland’s light rail into Vancouver – Metro master graphic here. Here are the graphics with the numbers, taken from the Metro 2040 Transportation Plan.

There’s $3.1 Billion to replace the bridge.

There’s $850 million for light rail, hidden as “transit”.

There’s another $80 million to build a new bridge from the Expo Center (terminus of the Yellow Line of MAX light rail), to Hayden Island.

Both ODOT and WSDOT indicate the current Interstate Bridge is safe. I wrote a piece in Clark County Today that lays out the details — here.

Here’s the ODOT graphic showing the various parts of their Rose Quarter upgrade. The two concrete “lids” over I-5 are shown in yellow.

Here’s an updated ODOT graphic.

Historical traffic crossing the Columbia River.

The drop in I-5 bridge traffic as a result of I-205 opening.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson studied the traffic data and projections in the CRC. He made two major points in his report to the citizens of the region, regarding the I-5 transportation corridor.

#1 – In 2030, we would need 6 lanes on I-5  in each direction, crossing the river. By 2060 it would increase to 9 lanes in each direction.

#2 – Kevin Peterson pointed out that widening the Interstate Bridge would be “valuable only if three to four additional lanes added into downtown Portland. This is a 12 to 14 lanes freeway passing thru the Rose Quarter . . .”

Because of that important second point, Kevin advocated for a west side transportation corridor to divert traffic off I-5 and provide relief. Portland would never accept a 10-12 lane freeway (in each direction) through the heart of downtown Portland. Therefore the only practical solution is alternate transportation corridors.

ODOT says there are 35 major bottlenecks in the Portland Metro area.

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.