The Washington State Legislature and the Oregon State Legislature have finally closed the door to the Columbia River Crossing light rail tolling project. This fatally flawed and failed project cost taxpayers $190,000,000. We can never allow this to happen to our citizens again.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
One thing we do know — the citizens of SW Washington do not want light rail. Through their votes, they have repeatedly rejected it.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a graphic of the November 2013 “advisory” vote. The blue precincts voted to reject light rail, and to consider a new east side bridge. Only 5 precincts in red in Vancouver voted in favor of light rail; 223 of 228 precincts rejected light rail.
It’s a safety issue
The Rose Quarter has the HIGHEST accident rate of any section of road in Oregon — three times the accident rate of the Terwilliger Curves, according to this 2012 City of Portland report.
How many SW Washington citizens are involved in these accidents? We don’t know. Sadly, our own Regional Transportation Council (RTC) doesn’t track this information.
Oregon needs to address this vital safety issue!
WHAT ABOUT THE I-5 BRIDGE?
Studies show that the current I-5 bridges will last for another 5-6 decades. A seismic upgrade to current standards of the two I-5 bridges could be done for a maximum of $200 million. The bridges would then have a very long life.
So now is the perfect time to build a third bridge. When that third bridge is complete, we then look at upgrading the I-5. The 10 years of disruption to our communities that would have occurred with the old CRC can be mostly avoided.
THE RAIL BRIDGE
Working with Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNSF), we could put a “lift span” on the rail bridge one mile west of the I-5 bridge. This was done on the Willamette River about 1980. The cost was $30 million at the time, and would eliminate 95% of bridge lifts. In today’s dollars, that might be $100 million.
See the following video for possible solutions and cost references via the “Common Sense Alternative(s)”.
For a different “alternative” on fixing the rail bridge by adding a “lift span” see this video.
Why should we be limited to only two ways to cross the Columbia River? (There are about a dozen ways to cross the Willamette River in the Portland area.) A west side option has been considered and studied for some years now.
Taking traffic heading to Hayden Island and SW Portland OFF the I-5 and giving them a bypass highway & bridge to the west has had considerable support. How much, and where should it go? Let’s get some experts to make some proposals. Here is one possible option >.
A different option would be a “west side bypass“. This was studied and discussed in the late 90’s and the first few years of the last decade. It would take traffic heading to the Beaverton-Hillsboro area and the Oregon Coast off I-5 north of Vancouver, cross the Columbia River and Portland’s west hills, and connect with Highway 26.
It “might” look something like this.
In fact as recently as 1990, a regional transportation plan showed the following additional highway options, including a specific west side bypass freeway. The red line is the freeway running from the junction of I-5 & I-205 in the Salmon Creek area, southwest across a new bridge crossing the Columbia River, over Portland’s west hills, connecting Highway 26 in the Beaverton-Hillsboro area, and then heading south to the west and south of Tualatin and reconnecting with I-5 at the I-205 interchange. This completes a “ring road” used in hundreds of metropolitan areas around the world.
In the recent Advisory Votes, the citizens said they liked this idea:
A bridge east of the I-205. This would connect 181st in east Portland with 192nd in east Vancouver/Camas. It’s a work in progress, with lots of discussion going on. You can find specifics by clicking here.
Our citizens paid a $190 million dollar tuition payment to learn how “not” to build a bridge. We can do better. We must do better. With honest, transparent discussions by citizens on both sides of our great and glorious Columbia River, we can get it right this time and have something we can all be a part of and be proud of for generations.
This map from the 2008 RTC Transportation Corridor needs study shows 6 ways to cross the Columbia River. Why did we abandon any discussion of adding one or more new bridges, and instead focus on replacing a current bridge that is good for another 50-60 years?
One of the problems causing traffic congestion on I-5 is the ONLY HOV lane in the State of Oregon. This reduces lanes available by 1/3 in the afternoon (3-6 pm), instantly creating a nightmare in the other two lanes.
Furthermore, almost one quarter of the traffic using the HOV lane are cheaters.
Beyond the Oregon Myth
Watch the first 6 minutes of this excellent video, to understand Portland’s aversion to building roads, reducing congestion, and improving freight mobility. It’s superb history. (You may want to watch the entire 30 minutes which cover other subjects as well.)