Will the city council make an informed decision on the MegaBridge?

By Evan Manvel of Portland, Oregon. Evan is a long-time alternative-transportation advocate and the legislative director for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.

The largest public works project proposed in Oregon history has thus far been little discussed on BlueOregon. Why aren’t we discussing the $4.2 billion mastadon in the room?

I refer, of course, to the Columbia River Crossing. Or as I prefer to call it, the Columbia River Megabridge.

We must ask ourselves: is a huge new I-5 bridge the most important project in our region’s history, the best way to improve safety, or the best way to move freight and people? And is it responsible to fuel suburban sprawl and increase climate change, given our collective goal to decrease global warming emissions by 80%?

In short, is the bridge worth $4,200,000,000?

In case you can’t get your mind around that, it’s $2,000 for every resident in the region – roughly $8,000 for a family of four.

When the City Council is struggling to decide whether we can afford the $463 million Safe, Sound, and Green Streets effort, or the $50 million Grey to Green Initiative, and decided the $5 million I-405 bike-pedestrian bridge was too expensive, it seems foolish to sign off on a $4.2 billion bridge. While not all the pots of money involved are perfectly fungible, project backers avoid the fact that there are real trade-offs, and building this project means many, many, many others go un-built.

Given the project’s scale, we deserve better data about it. As The Oregonian recently reported, the project models presume an expanded new bridge would have no land use impacts.

Forty percent more cars, and no impact on land use. That’s not the sort of model I’d bet $4.2 billion on. Would you?

Tomorrow, the Portland City Council will vote on whether to sign off on the project (the LPA, or locally preferred alternative), based on scant and sketchy information about global warming impacts, financing, and bridge design. If they do, their role becomes advisory. They no longer have any decision-making power on the project. They can ask nicely for the bridge to look pretty, to have bike lanes of a certain width, and so forth. But they can’t make it so. So make no mistake – once local governments sign off, they’re done.

The responsible alternative? Require an independent study on the land use, transportation, and global warming impacts of the project before making a decision. It would be foolish to rush the decision about the largest public works project in our history.

Commissioner Saltzman has started to consider asking for such action, and he needs to be encouraged. Now’s the time to contact your City Commissioners and the Mayor and ask them to not sign off on the LPA until we can make an informed decision, including information about global warming impacts.

Call 503-823-4000 for the City Council switchboard, or click here to send an email.

  • Mike (unverified)

    Just out of curiosity, isn't there already a dedicated bike/pedestrian lane on I-205? I think I rode across it years ago...

    Good post. I'm inclined to think they need to replace the I-5 bridge anyway and the project would probably create a lot of jobs so at this point I'm kind of for it (in spite of the eye-popping cost), but I do think that if they build a new one, it should be prepared from day one for bike/pedestrian use as well as have space for a light rail line to be installed.

  • (Show?)

    There are dedicated bike/ped lanes on both the I-205 and I-5 bridges. Neither are high quality, but both are functional, and better than the Ross Island, Sellwood, St. Johns, Morrison, Fremont, or Marquam bridges.

  • (Show?)

    Evan, I meant to post on this and ... forget. Glad you got to it. I'm totally with you. The Portland tram got a lot of heat for being a boondoggle, so why aren't we really examining this? Fun fact: we could by 737 trams for one new megabridge.

    Put another way, if we offered someone to design a better solution to a new bridge, on that brought alternative transportation and land-use planning into the picture, could they come up with a better solution for $4.2 billion?

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Issues of scale are always hard to tie down.

    Over here in Crook County, our key bridge is the one over the Crooked River at the western edge of Prineville. It was replaced (Thanks Gov.!) during a couple year period from 2006 to 2007 at a cost of $4,315,000. It is a four lane bridge with pedestrian walks on both sides - that is in total including the approaches about 250 feet long.

    But, as the article above indicates, we should think of these things in terms of cost per person. The region this bridge serves is primarily Crook County. Like the mega-bridge noted, this bridge also serves as a major transit point between (in our case) places east to places west. In other words, others use the bridge, but we use it most. There were about 24,000 people in Crook County when the construction started, or a cost of $179.79 per person for the bridge.

    So, with a couple million people in the Portland/Vancouver metro area, you need a longer, wider, more versitile, and generally more expensive bridge. But at $2,000 per person, your mega-bridge will be 11.1 times more expensive per person.

    So much for economy of scale.

  • Matthew (unverified)

    Mike: We could also create more jobs for the same amount of money by hiring 60,000 people to sit around to drink beer and eat pizza for a year. We'd end up employing a lot more than 60,000 that ways, although many of the jobs would be in the heart attack wings of local hospitals.

    Not that that is a good idea, but if creating jobs in your only standard for good vs bad projects, then the pizza and beer project is much better than one that involves large amounts of imported steel and concrete...

  • jonno (unverified)

    Just to put things in perspective, check out this link:


    California is planning to spend an estimated $40 billion to build a high-speed rail system linking up 2/3 of their state. The project aims to reduce pollution, cut air traffic congestion, provide hundreds of thousands of construction and permanent jobs, finally re-connect long-neglected urban centers and show the world that they're ready for the 21st century.

    And for $4 billion, we'll get a monument to the finest of Eisenhower-era thinking, which will fuel sprawl, induce demand and clog the rest of the city grid, all to shave a couple of minutes (maybe) off the commutes of Portland-bound Clark County residents. At least until it's congested and obsolete again around 2030.

    Will "green" Oregon ever live that down? Contact the City Council and tell them to get out in front on this!

  • (Show?)

    Stories I've been reading have been saying even with this new expensive bridge, there will still be big congestion problems at that location. Maybe we need to look at some alternatives.

    Something I've been hearing out in east county (which I've posted here before) is this:

    • move truck traffic onto I-205 so that it goes around the city instead of through it. Houston did something similar when I lived there - it helped with congestion. It would also help with the number of accidents on I-5 with trucks near the curves.

    • do some much smaller upgrades and such to the I-5 bridge.

    • look at the I-205 bridge and see if it needs some work.

    • look at building a bridge in the Troutdale area going across - nothing big, maybe 2 lanes each way.

    It just seems if they're going to spend that much money that we should look at some alternatives for the area. That's a heck of a lot of money for Portland to spend on something that isn't used by large number of its residents.

  • Jim H (unverified)

    My thing with the bridge is that there hasn't been much resistance to the idea of charging a toll on the bridge. In fact, I've heard several proposals to charge a toll on the I-205 bridge as well.

    I'm generally against the idea of tolls, especially in the cases where the government leases out what should be public infrastucture to a for-profit business. Usually for excessively long contracts (75+ years). It's bad enough in normal situations where the most efficient highways are tolled. In those cases you can at least avoid the tolls with an alternate route. But to toll the only two crossings across the river is not right.

    I like the idea of California's high speed train. That should be expanded all the way up through Portland, Seattle and to Vancouver, BC (as has been proposed in the past I believe).

    I've also always liked this idea: http://thehighwayinthesky.us/

  • jaybeat (unverified)

    Great posts. My favorite line:

    "the finest of Eisenhower-era thinking"


    Newsflash to those who've had their heads in the sand for the last 40 years--you can't build your way out of congestion! Well, at least, you can't build your way out of automobile congestion by building more or bigger highways. Bigger highways, bridges, etc., attract more cars and quickly fill up to pre-build levels.

    Everyone has made great suggestions above; I'll add a few:

    -Keep the current bridges (same # of lanes as other choke-points along I-5, so you can't really say they "cause" any congestion that doesn't already exist somewhere else close by) and add a light rail/bike bridge. (Sure to cost WAY less than $4 billion, and will provide an alternative that uses less fuel, creates less greenhouse gases, and doesn't promote more sprawl and auto-centric development, which, last time I checked, they've got quite enough of in the 'Couv.)

    -Move long-haul through trailers onto rail. Not only more fuel and carbon efficient, but also increases safety besides reducing congestion. If necessary, put some public money into increasing rail capacity, because rail is better than roads anyway for both fuel and carbon and for land-use. (Less land has to be taken off the tax rolls for the same amount of through capacity.)

    -Encourage/fund commuter rail to supplement light rail, especially for north and eastern Clark County. More ways for people to leave their cars at home. (And with free WiFi on the trains, like in Washington County, folks can actually get work done during their commute, increasing productivity and reducing total time away from home.)

    -Put light rail on the Glenn Jackson Bridge. It is designed for it, and in combination with light rail into downtown Vancouver, would make a great many more transit options for folks in eastern Clark County (plus provide a way for reverse commuters going to jobs at HP, Sharp, etc. from Portland).

    -Consider congestion pricing for trucks, to encourage off-peak use and/or moving trucks to I-205.

    -What about ferries? Car ferries from Camas/Fischer's Landing/Vancouver and/or Kelso/Longview to either Jantzen Beach or Downtown PDX. Again, free WiFi encourages worker productivity during the commute. Sure'd take a lot less time than the ferries that feed Seattle!

    Any half-decent environmental study should show us just how bad the mega-bridge is compared to these and other alternatives, both from the "big-picture" standpoint (climate change, fossil-fuel use, land-use/growth, etc.), but also from the nuts and bolts standpoint ($ per commuter or per commuter-minutes saved, compliance with existing regional transportation and environmental plans, moving congestion to other choke-points, etc.).

    Oh, and whenever our dear elected representatives try to do something progressive with our tax dollars, someone on the take from out of state right-wing election buyers threatens to put the "boondoggle" on the ballot. If the City does approve, I say we do the same thing, replacing the $4 billion mega-bridge to the 1950s with a $1 billion (or whatever) set of improvements that will actually improve the situation.

    Who's with me??!!

  • Kev M (unverified)

    The Columbia crossing plan has been beaten to death by the different governments pondering it. There are basically three options, in order of cost: expand the 205 bridge, modernize and/or replace the Interstate Bridge, and build a new bridge connecting the ports of Portland and Vancouver to handle truck traffic.

    We probably need to do all of them. I don't see how it's "environmentally conscious" to let hundreds of thousands of cars and semis burn gas and diesel crawling along in rush-hour gridlock. If we're going to limit growth and sprawl, that is most appropriately achieved through zoning and land use regulations instead of tolerating a crumbling infrastructure and the increased carbon emissions (not to mention inconvenience and adverse economic effects) caused by gridlock.

  • (Show?)

    There's the rub -- it's a false choice between building the MegaBridge and doing nothing. Did you see the article showing we'll have more congestion despite the new bridge?

    To get traffic moving smoothly, either with or without the new bridge, will require tolls or congestion pricing. See triple convergence, here.

    And when it comes to limiting sprawl, Clark County is not very good at it, as this map shows. So by encouraging growth there, we're giving up our best land use tools.

    So, yes, it would be responsible to do something. Spending $4.2 billion on a megahighway bridge to the past is not it.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)

    The Monster Bridge has been discussed extensively over at Portland Transport.

    One of the problems with this project is that numerous less-expensive alternatives were rejected out-of-hand so the project planners could create the false choice between this 12-lane $4.2 billion freeway project and doing nothing.

    There probably are alternatives closer to the billion-dollar range that do nearly everything the mega-bridge is supposed to do at a fraction of the price ... alternatives that might be funded entirely by tolls with no trade-offs required.

    The California high-speed rail project is a great comparison. California is planning to spend $40 billion to create almost 1000 miles of high speed rail. We're looking at $4.2 billion for a new bridge (bearing in mind the existing once can be repaired and upgraded for a fraction of the amount), some remodeled freeway ramps, and about 3 miles of light rail line.

  • (Show?)

    It would take a good amount of traffic off roads in Portland if those of us in east county could cross the river out this way. It would also come in handy during the times when there are major accidents in the gorge.

    I can't tell you how frustrating it is to need to cross over and go to somewhere that is just north of where I live - but I have to drive out to I-205 (about 90th or so and I live at 257th) and then drive east to get where I need to go.

    Adding a bridge out this way takes traffic off I-205, which makes it easier to move truck traffic onto I-205.

  • Ted (unverified)

    The Interstate Bridge problem is one that has been put off for too long. The Eisenhower comment isn't really accurate, because this bridge is unique for I-5 and much of the U.S. in that it is a bridge that is altogether (1) in the middle of a major U.S. metro, (2) supporting a busy sea port, (3) one of the major U.S. interstates, (4) connects Oregon and Washington, (5) spans one of the most significant rivers in America. In addition it is a critical piece of I5 which (6) runs most of its distance through the most populous state, (7) runs right through the city centers of five of Americas biggest cities (and one of the world's biggest). Other locations where similar conditions exist, such as I95 in Boston, skirt the city limits. I80 connects LA and NYC at bridge points, but those are beginning and ending points where the congestion accumulates in almost exclusively industrial areas.

    The congestion that occurs at the Interstate Bridge quickly backs up into heavily residential areas. Air pollution from an idling vehicle is 100% greater than a vehicle at a cruising rpm. Fuel consumption is also much greater. Interstate Bridge congestion is contributing to global warming and air pollution in these heavily residential areas.

    Even the most conservative (in a liberal way) estimates are in the area of $1 billion in lost productivity annually due to the congestion. On the far fetched, pro-bridge side, it is estimated at around $7 billion.

    Also, the current cantilever bridge dates back to the 1958 upgrade and is not earthquake safe based on what we now know about seizmic activity in the NW. Essentially, it's the same time bomb that existed with the east span of the SF Bay Bridge that failed in the 90s. And what would the cost be if a major quake did hit and render the I5 crossing impassable for months? What price do you put on the lives that would be lost?

    I think that if you want to be progressive on this issue, you should join the fight for carpool lanes and light rail crossing. Fighting for an aging, pollution causing, fuel wasting, economy retarding, potential death trap is regressive.

  • (Show?)

    While I am totally open to alternatives that will make our transportation solutions more green, the part of the discussion here that I don't see addressed is that this is not just a bridge for us folks in Portland and Vancouver. It is a key ground transportation link between LA and Seattle. That is why the federal government will pay a big portion and your $ per head is grossly misstated. I wish those who oppose this specific option would discuss how we address the broader traffic solution for this interstate traffic. I am concerned that a city and county that can't get its arms around solving the Sellwood bridge is going to try and decide a key bottleneck for the entire west coast.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    The chances I'd ever use this bridge are small but this should be a consideration; tolls are horrid for wasted fuel and the inefficient burn at idle as well as for creating huge back ups. You have to strip the energy off a vehicle at highway speed to stop for the toll and then accelerate it back to highway speed, not considerable for a single vehicle, multiplied by the users - horrific.

    Engine idle is the dirtiest use of fuel, followed by hard acceleration and both are real bad for milage.

    Trains are a realistic trailer transport for long distance, short distance they're not happening. Trains work because there are a lot of cars and those cars have to be loaded and unloaded - doing short hauls negates their advantages both in fuel and delivery time. Materials sitting for days in a marshalling yard have to be paid for, somebody's money is out there - your's in the end.

  • Luddites or Greenies??? (unverified)

    The CRC directly serves those of us who live in the Portland/Vancouver metro area. It also serves the millions of people (and billions of dollars worth of freight) that transit up and down the I-5 corridor for business and pleasure: Americans from all 50 states, Canadians, and Europeans benefit from the CRC.

    How about all the freight that transits beneath the CRC? Eliminating "bridge lifts" on the Northwest's longest navigable river will benefit river commerce. It will also remove the only red-lights on the entire length of Interstate 5.

    Steve Bucknum's "$2,000/person" calculation is incorrect, because it assumes the costs/benefits are only shared by those who live in close proximity to the bridge. And federal tax dollars will certainly cover a large portion of the total cost: local residents will not be responsible for bearing the construction costs alone.

    When (not if) we have a significant earthquake, the timber pilings on the current Interstate Bridges are at risk of failing: we need to expedite the replacement of these bridges, not add another decade of "studying" the myriad options. Further delay serves only to increase the risk of catastrophic failure; it does nothing to restrict the future traffic flows.

    If you hate cars, don't drive one. The rest of us don't want to go back to using a rope pulled ferry to get from one side of the river to the other.

  • (Show?)

    Chuck, I'm not sure that tolls would have the effects you cite because of the level of congestion that arises currently, producing similar effects (see pro-bridge argument above to that effect). In addition, for regular commuters there are automated toll systems that you don't have to stop for that are widely used in the more toll-road dependent eastern U.S.

    On the congestion and pollution issue, one of the key factors for me is that this bridge proposal will not eliminate the bottleneck or the congestion, just move it into North Portland on the southbound morning trip, in addition to what N. Portland gets in the evenings.

    Shifting truck traffic to I-205 would probably just exacerbate congestion issues that affect I-205 via the junction w/ I-84.

    I-95 in & around Boston (i.e. Rte. 128) gets plenty congested, and runs through densely populated parts of a much larger urban area. Think making 217 into an interstate. The idea that the interstate system avoids downtown Boston is also mistaken; that's what the whole "Big Dig" was about, which involved Rte 1 (to I-95 as 101 is to I-5) and I-93, (plus some added complexities related to access to Logan International Airport).

    In fact most long-haul trucking that isn't serving the metro Boston area itself probably uses I-495, a second circumferential highway further out. When my brother, who lives in a town north of Boston close to I-95 & used to commute to a job southwest of the city used to take 495 rather than 95/128 because the time was shorter though the distance was longer.

    It seems to me that the long-haul trucking piece of this might be benefitted from considering ways to separate it out from the metro commuting piece. I don't know if this would be a dedicated truck bridge with electronic tolling, either near the current bridge, or near 205, or like what Jenni has suggested, or what.

    You can look at it from the point of view of "selfish Portlanders" (or whomever you want to demonize) obstructing interstate commerce, or you can look at it from the point of view of why should Portlanders be sacrificed on the altar of interstate commerce?

    But the point is, the special features of I-5 that Ted identifies may all be true, but are they good things, such that we should look to plans that preserve them? Or are they problems, such that new plans should move us away from them, for our metro region (including Vancouver)?

  • Mara (unverified)

    The federal government will not pay for most of this project. Even if federal dollars are available in the amounts the project hopes (a big if), we're still looking at mostly local dollars for the highway, money we don't have and even if we get it will come at the cost of other needed projects.

    I'm looking at a budget right now. The feds are being asked to pay for all the $750 Million light rail line, but just 18% of the freeway cost (using mid-range numbers - $500 Million of $2.8 Billion highway costs). The rest comes locally, mostly from the gas tax and tolls.

    While it's true that idling is a poor use of fuel, expanding the freeway is not the answer. A study by the Sightline Institute shows that "building new additional highway lanes increases total global warming emissions over the long term -- even if the project reduces congestion and emissions over the short term."

    We need to make sure people and freight get where they need to go, but a 12-14 lane bridge just doesn't make sense.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)

    Will the Portland City Council make an informed decision?

    First of all, the $4.2 billion price tag is for more than just a bridge. It includes a new highway interchange for SR500 (which is needed) and other highway interchange modifications within the bridge influence area that may not be needed. It includes a lot of unnecessary bicycle infrastructure and a lot of extra unnecessary spending claimed to be environmental justice. The price tag also includes extending the chosen transit option into Clark County.

    Will the Portland City Council make an informed decision?

    One estimate has the cost of constructing light rail on the CRC at $9.00 per transit passenger using the crossing. Will transit fares be implemented to cover and reflect those costs?

    Will the Portland City Council make an informed decision?

    As it now stands, the price tag to provide bicycle infrastructure on the crossing along with any authentic numbers of projected bicycle crossings using the bridge has been concealed from the taxpaying public. This undoubtedly is a politically motivated cover up that is catering to the special interest bicycle agenda because it is highly probable that any bicycle infrastructure constructed will not pencil out as actually being cost effective. Furthermore, any posh ultra expensive so-called world-class bicycle facility must NOT be subsidized by motorists or taxpayers and is totally and functionally unnecessary.

    From my prospective, a better overall option to what is currently on the table would be a compromise that adds new and combined infrastructure only where it is essential, and reuses many of the regional assets already in place. This compromise would include constructing a new freeway bridge for I-5 through traffic with all the necessary safety requirements while reusing the existing historical landmark bridges, for slower local and interchange traffic, bicycles and pedestrians, and possibly transit, instead of just demolishing them at the same price tag it would cost for seismic modifications and upgrades. Additionally, the choice of transit mode running in Clark County must be for the Washington side of the river to decide, not for Oregonians to dictate. A compromise that combines modes into the same and existing bridge structures makes the project far more eco-friendly by lessening the construction disruption as compared to total replacement, lessening the amount of energy needed for construction, lessening the footprint of the project and preserving a historical structure that also equates to a SAVINGS for TAXPAYERS while still building a project that will meet the needs of the region, interstate commerce and the West Coast international I-5 Highway corridor.

    Sustainability also starts with financial self-sustainability. Singling out motorists only for tolling as proposed is socialistic profiling based the vehicle of transport, therefore discriminatory. With the sky rocketing costs of motor fuels, NO outdated, dictatorial and subsidized incentives are needed to promote alternative forms of transport. A real bridge in a reality check world necessitates an equitable cost sharing financing plan.

    Therefore, “IF” tolling is implemented for any kind of motor vehicles, then the users of ALL modes of vehicular traffic MUST be required to pay a toll or a user charge. Transit passengers must be obligated to pay any proportionate local share of the transit infrastructure costs with a surcharge on transit fares – and instead of just providing lip service and freeloading, bicyclists too must be expected to pay their own way with a bridge toll to cover any local match monies spent on providing bicycle infrastructure.

    As for the eco-critics that suggest the number of lanes on an expanded motor vehicle crossing will lead to more sprawl, a bigger carbon footprint, etc - get real, quit living in a bubble. It is population growth that is doing that – address the bigger picture – it’s not the bridge. Furthermore, it is not truly known what the fuel source will be or how the next generation of cars and trucks will be powered. All that is still in development Consequently, for all those reasons, it must not be the Portland City Council that has control over the project and is allowed to has power over the decisions of other jurisdictions. The council obviously lives in that bubble too and has a bias one-sided agenda that seeks to dictate lifestyle; housing and transport choices to the people .We live in a democratic society with freedom of choice, not the socialistic republic that some people want to turn Portland into.

  • jonno (unverified)

    What gets me most about this proposal and the arguments that center around the goal of reducing congestion is that they consistently fail to identify the key factor that causes this congestion: Oregon-bound Clark County commuters.

    The hours during which I-5 is most heavily congested are the morning inbound and evening outbound commute times. During all other times, it's smooth sailing. Why is this not more frequently discussed? If we reduced the volume of commute traffic, the level of congestion, pollution, idling time, lost productivity, etc. would all drop as well. And at a significant savings, most likely.

    I can't shake the feeling that this bridge will only feed the sprawl that has created the congestion in the first place. Building it bridge will be like rewarding an addict with heroin.

  • (Show?)

    The earthquake argument is an incomplete justification. We could upgrade the bridge's seismic standards for $130-$230 million, and save the remaining $4 billion. And why do we upgrade only this bridge, instead of the Fremont, Marquam, or 205? Or some dangerous buildings? It's not the most vulnerable earthquake infrastructure in the region.

    Those who argue we're part of a national system of I-5 are right -but I think upwards of 75% (85%?) of the traffic on I-5 in the area is local traffic. The through traffic should be using 205 - that's what it was designed for. Adding more lanes will encourage more local traffic, and not solve the freight issue (as previously noted, a new bridge has higher levels of congestion than we have today).

    Finally, those who argue that the feds will pay for some of this remind me of a teenager with their parents' credit card -- it's still money, regardless of whether you have to pay for it directly or not (it'll come out of your college fund). Taking on a project like this encourages other areas of the country to do poorly designed projects and have us pay for them -- that's how Washington, DC works. If we're cashing in our federal political capital, let's do it for a better project.

    There's no doubt that the traffic on I-5 is a problem. The question is whether it's our highest priority with $4.2 billion. And the other issue is that this bridge simply doesn't solve the problem.

    Finally, remember the cost estimate is just that -- imagine this bridge may cost $6 billion or $7 billion in the end.

  • Oddsygirl (unverified)

    "And why do we upgrade only this bridge, instead of the Fremont, Marquam, or 205? Or some dangerous buildings? It's not the most vulnerable earthquake infrastructure in the region."

    Since the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco/Oakland, Oregon has been upgrading all of the bridges. To my knowledge there are only two bridges left to upgrade, they are the Sellwood and the I-5 bridge. The Sellwood has yet to have a final renovation/replacement plan created, although it has been debated since an evaluation was completed in the 1990s of its condition, which led to it being closed to buses and trucks. During this same time frame, the debate has been ongoing on the renovation/replacement of the I-5 bridge.

  • Ecoturds (unverified)

    And why do we upgrade only this bridge...

    How about because the northbound span was built in 1917? And lift bridges are inherently more prone to fail than non-lift bridges (moving parts = weak links).

    And what makes you think you could replace timber pilings with steel/concrete FOR $230 MILLION? Let alone all the other upgrades that would be required to make it last half as long as a new bridge. All without adding ANY additional capacity.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    Terry Parker said: This undoubtedly is a politically motivated cover up that is catering to the special interest bicycle agenda

    Yes those terrible bike lobby activists. They've got such deep pockets and carry so much influence...

    What an idiot.

  • Justsomemethadone (unverified)


    All those "Oregon bound Clark County commuters" are paying boatloads of Oregon Income Tax while receiving almost no services in return.

    Think of it as methadone, not heroin.

    And progressives love methadone!

    Certainly you can't believe it makes sense to punish an addict?

    More to the point, if it wasn't so expensive to live in Portland (more expensive housing, property taxes, and crime rates), people wouldn't be volunteering to sit in traffic for two hours (or more) each day to live in WA.

  • Doug Allen (unverified)

    I hope the City Council is more informed than some of the commenters. Evan's price for a seismic upgrade is from the panel of expert engineers who were hired by the CRC.

    Whoever thinks that the I-5 and the Sellwood are the only seismically vulnerable bridges should withhold their ignorance from a forum like this.

    Those who argue that congestion causes more pollution are also not arguing from science, but from their own incomplete reasoning process, that ignores the traffic increases that result from "eliminating" congestion.

    Finally, the Columbia River Towboat Association has declared that all lifts of the I-5 spans due to towboat traffic (all but fewer than two dozen a year for yachts and special equipment) could be eliminated by modifying the downstream railroad bridge, to align with the higher middle spans of the existing I-5 bridges. The estimated cost about a decade ago was $20 million.

    Why do people want to spend $4 billion when $1 billion will do the complete job, including light rail and additional separated lanes for local traffic? Has the war in Iraq fooled us into thinking we can just charge it?

  • Garrett (unverified)

    More to the point, if it wasn't so expensive to live in Portland (more expensive housing, property taxes, and crime rates), people wouldn't be volunteering to sit in traffic for two hours (or more) each day to live in WA.

    That's their right isn't it? I'm sure sick of their tailpipe emissions. If they want to live there on the cheap then they can keep their tailpipe emissions there too. Unfortunately that stuff blows back over the border and into my ozone layer.

    Until the city of Vancouver is going to confront urban sprawl I'm also no in favor of creating a bigger bridge that will do nothing but facilitate their sprawl and increased car traffic. Plus I hate staring at strip mall after strip mall after strip mall for 20 miles if I have to go to Seattle. I don't want to have to look at that crap for 30 or 40 miles in 10 years.

  • mssr. t (unverified)

    You might save $3 billion, but you don't add any capacity.

    Upgrading the same capacity that was acceptable in 1957 won't suffice in 2057, and the new bridge will last at least that long.

  • roxanne bruns (unverified)

    I still don't understand the anti-bridge crowd. Every plan I've seen has light rail and vastly improved bike and ped capacity. You can't just not build infrastructure and have that mean that our population will quit growing. I am so sick of the privilaged few who can afford to live in the urban core talk about how the rest of the world that can't afford to live in the city center are the ones who are responsible for carbon in the air. You think people want to live in Vancouver?

  • randy (unverified)

    It doesn't really matter what people in Portland or the Portland City Council has to say about the bridge. The bridge is part of the Interstate freeway system and that system is more important than the NIMBY's in Portland.

    If every little town along the way had a say in the system then nothing would get accomplished. Every self important official in every podunk town would hold the process hostage until he got what he wanted.

  • Douglas K (unverified)

    I still don't understand the anti-bridge crowd. Every plan I've seen has light rail and vastly improved bike and ped capacity.

    It's not a question of being anti-bridge. It's a question of being anti-12-lane-freeway-bridge. If the CRC process had put several reasonable options on the table, most of us would be arguing in favor of one option or another.

    Personally, I like a modified version of their "supplemental" bridge idea: put seven or eight freeway lanes on a new freeway bridge, and then renovate the existing bridges for two arterial lanes, a light rail line and a much wider sidewalk for bicycles and pedestrians. Other people have other preferences.

    For some reason, though, the folks guiding this process are dead set on a "freeway only" crossing, and are adamantly against providing an option that includes any arterial lanes from Vancouver to North Portland. They demand that any Portlander who wants to visit Jantzen Beach or Vancouver must use the freeway. This makes no sense to me, but when they added in a "supplemental bridge" option they chose one that makes no sense whatsoever.

  • (Show?)

    I'm having trouble squaring a 12-lane replacement bridge with Portland's own Global Warming Action plan. That plan--first created in the 90s and being updated right now--states that to meet the legislatively adopted greenhouse gas emissions cuts of 75 percent by 2050, each and every one of us needs to cut our vehicle miles traveled by two-thirds.

    Yet in a presentation I heard by CRC staff, I was told that the 12-lane bridge increased greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.

    The whole thing just defies logic.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    You think people want to live in Vancouver?

    Yes I do. They could live in Gresham, Beaverton or Hillsboro for roughly the same price and roughly the same drive.

    This isn't about where people want to live. It's about my city that's right in the middle of this and where we all want our city to go. Just because Vancouver is across the river doesn't mean they don't affect us. Their backwards city planning affects us greatly.

  • Jim Edelson (unverified)

    Logic, Leslie?

    but the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy

    Sound familiar, from the Downing Street menu? Could just as easily describe the CRC process.

    Were reasonable alternatives put on the table? NO Will CRC reevaluate the assumption of $53 per barrel of oil in 2030 ? NO Will CRC reexamine the assumption of no global warming regulation for the next 30 years? NO Will CRC do an actual analysis of CO2 emissions - rather than a simple assumption based on no data? NO

    Well, it's a shame they want to get this process to a preconceived end - and waste much of our time and planning resources.

    Council has the chance to get these answers now - better now, I say to them, than wait for all of the delay for a court to order it.

  • Doug Allen (unverified)

    Oops, I meant $40 million, not $20 million, to fix the railroad bridge swing span, which incidentally is also vulnerable to an earthquake, with the next closest rail freight bridge past The Dalles. See Bridge Lifts for an explanation of the role that the railroad bridge plays. And yes, saving $3 billion can still add an extra lane of capacity each way (33% increase) for local traffic. Time to face the inconvenient truth.

  • (Show?)

    as previously noted, a new bridge has higher levels of congestion than we have today.

    Evan, I don't like the mega-bridge proposal, and I think it is a scandal that the planners were directed to assume no land use impacts -- meaning more specifically the kind of sprawl that will increase traffic.

    But the sentence quoted above seems disingenuous, at least in part. If the current structures remain in use, will the congestion stay the same, or get worse? I assume the latter.

    Personally I don't think congestion should be the primary criterion, much less the only one. And for $4.2 billion I think we should ask for better results, which is where the quoted point is fair. But if the projected future "same level as now" result is nonetheless lower than the projected level without changes, we need to say so, or if it it's not, explain how that can be.

  • (Show?)

    Hmm, let's see, if Portlanders object to paying boatloads of money for moving a bottleneck a few miles south into the city without actually solving to problem, with a monstrous highway interchange footprint and huge air pollution costs, and bad projections based on wilfully faulty assumptions, we're NIMBYs whose views should be overridden by a righteously powerful federal government.

    This from supposed anti-government conservatives?

    But if Vancouverites object to building light rail as part of putting together a mix that could actually improve the situation, well, that's democracy and those big bad Portlanders shouldn't force what they don't want down their throats.

    What's wrong with this picture?

  • Terry Parker (unverified)

    “Finally, those who argue that the feds will pay for some of this remind me of a teenager with their parents' credit card”

    And where does all that Federal money come from? The Federal Highway Trust Fund that only motorists pay into with the Federal tax on motor fuels. Therefore when the Fed contributes to a transit project or subsidizes bicycle infrastructure such as on the Columbia River Crossing, it is more like transit activists and bicyclists raiding funds from the motorists credit card account - and just another reason why transit passengers need to be paying a surcharge on transit fares to pay for the transit infrastructure on the crossing and why bicyclists need to be tolled to pay for any bicycle infrastructure included with the crossing project. .

  • Garrett (unverified)

    Introducing Terry Parker the bike Nazi: Therefore when the Fed contributes to a transit project or subsidizes bicycle infrastructure such as on the Columbia River Crossing, it is more like transit activists and bicyclists raiding funds from the motorists credit card account

    Is Detroit paying you Terry? It's like you're really bitter or something. Did a bike messenger cuss you out last week for cutting him off in your SUV? I'll show you what the liberal bike leaning left looks like. God with all those lobbyist dollars us bike advocates get I'll treat you to dinner at like Ringside or something...


  • edison (unverified)

    Isn't it time we started thinking about a future different from one that simply encourages more traffic and more pollution (especially for north Portland)? To believe we have unlimited growth potential and have an obligation to the I-5 corridor ignores some basic truths and sadly perpetuates the shortsighted view that got us here in the first place. We can do better than the plan offered.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    Environmentalists too often shoot themselves in the foot with perfect-enemy-of-good pie-in-the-sky hokum (think Kyoto).

    Portland won't survive with most jobs coming from the likes of, say, Voodoo Doughnuts, RiverCity, OLCV, and Audubon Society. Most economic drivers are farther afield and poorly suited for mass/bike transit.

    There's nothing left to "save" in Clark county. It is all sprawl, anyway. The only land use impact will be to increase density in the many useless 5 acre homesites all over that dreadful place. Frankly, we might as well shunt it all up there than wreck Oregon's better land use system.

    All of the proposed options are far, far better than the existing bridge, which spiderwebs congestions for miles and miles. (And the argument that a better bridge = less congestion = eventually more commuters "lured" to commute = the same congestion... is specious and poorly evidenced.)

  • (Show?)

    (And the argument that a better bridge = less congestion = eventually more commuters "lured" to commute = the same congestion... is specious and poorly evidenced.)

    I don't think that the principle of induced demand is either specious or poorly argued. It seems well documented to me by many sources.

  • Sean Casey (unverified)

    Another bridge option?


  • TR (unverified)

    The principal of induced demand will not take place by increasing the number of highway lanes – making babies is the cause of that. Maybe now we know where to place the tolling transponders and thereby collect the taxes for a new bridge on actions of making whoopee.It would be paid for in short order!

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    Leslie: I don't think that the principle of induced demand is either specious or poorly argued. It seems well documented to me by many sources.

    It may be well-documented, but the theory is controversial. Check out the TRB's Expanding Metropolitan Highways which studied this issue extensively. Some observations from that study:

    Finding: Highway capacity additions that provide relief from heavily congested traffic by smoothing traffic flows should initially reduce emissions of all three pollutants from vehicles traveling on the improved facility.

    Finding: The greatest effect on travel demand from added highway capacity is to shift traffic from other routes and other times of day to the newly expanded facility at peak travel periods. [...] When capacity additions reduce only peak-period travel times, most of the perceived increase in highway use is the result of shifts in traffic from other times of day or other routes rather than a net increase in highway system use.

    Finding: Highway capacity additions will not greatly increase the amount of truck travel in metropolitan areas.

    Finding: State-of-the-art operational land use models, assuming current land use policies and controls, predict small changes (i.e., plus or minus only a few percentage points) in regionwide locations of employment and households in built-up metropolitan areas over a 20-year forecast period, even from systemwide changes in travel times of as much as 20 percent. The results reflect the stability and massive investment implicit in current metropolitan spatial patterns in developed areas. The use of such forecasts in air quality calculations will yield changes in calculated air quality so small as to be well within the error range of model predictions. The models corroborate empirical evidence that the effects of highway capacity expansions take years to accumulate and significantly affect regional land use patterns and air quality.

  • jaybeat (unverified)

    As for the eco-critics that suggest the number of lanes on an expanded motor vehicle crossing will lead to more sprawl, a bigger carbon footprint, etc - get real, quit living in a bubble. It is population growth that is doing that – address the bigger picture – it’s not the bridge.

    Population can still increase while carbon emissions, developed land area, and fossil fuel usage all decrease. This has been documented over and over. The impacts of population growth are a function of the choices we make. Yes, Virginia, HOW we grow matters. If we choose to live like it is 1955 in America, then, yes, everything will get worse.

    The Portland area has led the way for those who say we CAN do things differently and that we must try. This bridge sure looks like $4 billion in the wrong direction.

  • Boondoggle (unverified)

    It's a boondoggle and the City Council got hoodwinked by wanting to impress big business and the folks who will profit from the build.

    The megabridge could destroy Portland as we know it. So very sad. The City Council after Erik Sten looks to be a very different thing. Advantage: Portland Business Alliance. Disadvantage: the public, regular folks, and the future.

  • Boondoggle (unverified)

    The small government conservatives don't really exist in power. They are a mob owned by business, even though most of the members of that mob aren't aware of their pawnhood.

    Will business want to pay for it? No, they will want to put the costs on working class people with gas taxes and tolls. Will the conservatives want the gas tax this will require? No.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)


    ...but I do think that if they build a new one, it should be prepared from day one for bike/pedestrian use as well as have space for a light rail line to be installed.

    Bob T:

    Space for those non-car modes are fine, but if the bridge does not have more capacity for cars/trucks than the current bridge then it's a waste of money.

    <h2>Bob Tiernan</h2>
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