The Bizarro support for 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. Last July, he contributed "Will the city council make an informed decision on the MegaBridge?"

Truth can be stranger than comics.

I recently tried to save the comic strip Bizarro from being cut from The Oregonian’s comic pages. While I don’t yet know if I succeeded, maybe I needn’t worry -- last week’s news stories were a Bizarro moment in themselves.

On Tuesday, members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s authority on climate science, announced climate change is worse than previously thought, and that action was truly, truly urgent, and that five fossil-fuel heavy countries had managed to spike a key graphic in an earlier report. Significant temperature increases are highly likely this century, and gains of ten degrees or more “cannot be ruled out.”

See this coverage from The New York Times.

The very next day, the Portland City Council voted 4-1 to support a 12-lane MegaBridge to Vancouver, the region’s largest infrastructure investment in history – despite never having received an independent analysis of the impacts of the bridge on global warming pollution (thank you, Commissioner Fritz, for your dissenting vote). All four of the yes votes were from Council members who just last July had conditioned their support of a 12-lane bridge on receiving an independent climate change analysis, and a companion analysis of induced demand (increased traffic created by increased supply of roadway). While clearly important – 38% of Oregon’s global warming pollution comes from transportation – those analyses never materialized. And yet the Council signed off.

As part of supporting The MegaBridge, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard announced a new effort to cooperatively manage the bridge’s car traffic and transit, writing:

“We liken this new cross-river partnership to a thermostat. You would not build a home heating and cooling system without a way to regulate the airflow and control the temperature based on the time of day, outside conditions, and who is using what rooms. Nor should we build a new freeway bridge without a mechanism to adjust conditions for maximum efficiency. . . Before adjusting the thermostat, we need to build the house.”

A thermostat is an unfortunate metaphor for a Council that has just decided to not check the global warming impacts of building such a bridge. The earth’s climate, sadly, does not have a thermostat for us to simply move up or down at our will. More from The Oregonian:

“The proposed [cross-river] panel could recommend higher or lower toll charges, light-rail fares and bridge lanes over the years, just as a homeowner adjusts a thermostat to respond to changing environmental conditions.”

But what should the goals be? That hasn't been decided. And note the term “recommend.” Are we just going to fight over the thermostat on our new, $4 billion bridge, with one group turning it up, and another turning it down?

And if it’s such a good idea, why don’t we install a thermostat in our existing “home” bridge before we tear it down and build a $4 billion mansion bridge in its place? Are we supposed to be happy with the new mansion just because it has a thermostat, even if we could have renovated our existing home at one-third the cost?

Certainly, a cross-river partnership is welcome. But the benefits of such a partnership are entirely independent of building The MegaBridge – a project whose impacts on global warming and the region’s traffic levels remain unknown. For those interested, the Coalition for a Livable Future has more background on how we should approach the climate impact question.

I’m left with two questions: If Portland’s City Council is not going to lead the nation in holding its own region-changing decisions accountable for their climate change impacts, who will? And will The Oregonian keep Bizarro, so I can laugh instead of cry when I pick up the newspaper?

Comments

  • Brian C. (unverified)
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    Newsflash for Evan,

    Interstate 5 is a major transportation artery for truck cargo as well as daily commuter traffic. Viable alternative energy solutions are great & all, but lets face facts. The metro population has at the very least tripled since the current bridge was put in place and the existing infrastructure is long overdue for expansion. Carbon emissions increase exponentially with every 10 MPH traffic slows during congested hours. To make things work you gotta balance reality with goals Bro.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Short-term interests commonly trump long-term reality. Politicians habitually talk out of both sides of their mouths. They can understand construction of a bridge and the money it will bring to the area, but climate change bringing disaster to the planet is beyond their comprehension. The principles inherent in these points can also be found in the path to the present economic disaster, which suggests most people never learn.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Interstate 5 is a major transportation artery for truck cargo as well as daily commuter traffic. Viable alternative energy solutions are great & all, but lets face facts.

    Here are a couple of facts. US101 north of San Francisco and I-80 leading into Oakland and the Bay Bridge in California became congested so many people switched to public transportation rather than fight driving. Both highways had a couple of lanes added in each direction, and commuters abandoned public transportation and got back in their cars. Both highways are now as congested as they were before widening.

    Build a highway and people will get in their cars and drive it.

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    In a community that still takes credit for the fact that we made a decision 30+ years ago to not build the Mt. Hood Freeway and instead build light rail, it is beyond comprehension to me that we are now talking about spending more than $4 billion to build a 12 lane bridge across the Columbia. Bizarro indeed.

    We need a new bridge. Doubling capacity for cars is nuts. And then what? At Columbia Blvd, I-5 will still be six lanes. At Broadway, the I-5 will still be four lanes.

    It seems to me that what is being proposed here is spending $4 billion to move the morning traffic backups from Clark County to North Portland. All that pollution of slow moving vehicles moved across the river so that school kids in Portland can breathe it in rather than kids in Vancouver.

    This is a good deal for us? Really?

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    I have to note the similarity between the Conservative strategy of "Starve the Beast" (pretending that massive tax cuts will actually cut wasteful spending), and the misguided Green party strategy of "Starve the Infrastructure" (pretending that underfunding infrastructure will actually make the effects of population increases go away).

    Both are disingenuous strategies at their core, and only make things worse for everybody.

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    Brian and Steve, this article doesn't take a position on a new bridge (given the complexity of the issue, I can only cover a slice per article).

    I am calling for actually understanding the implications of building a new bridge, and its impacts on climate change and traffic. You can make all sorts of assertions, but they're just that -- assertions (and the current models show that a new bridge won't solve congestion by its sheer size - congestion gets worse).

    Given that it's the largest project the region's ever taken on, you would think we would want good data.

    Given that the Council had agreed to get that data before it made that decision, you would think they would have waited.

    Here's the question most of us ask, and answer in the affirmative: are there problems?

    Here are two questions MegaBridge critics ask: (1) are there smarter solutions? www.smarterbridge.org (2) what's the best use of $4 billion for the region?

  • chocobot18 (unverified)
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    If you toll it, lots of people will stay off of it. Just look at the numbers for the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

  • Andrea Broaddus (unverified)
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    How refreshing to see that SOMEONE remembers the promises of campaign season! Indeed, where is that analysis of induced growth effects and regional VMT generation?

    Another question I have my big question is exactly will control the "thermostat"? This wimpy political will and follow through on climate change concerns makes me nervous about the promised tolling. Why are we going to build a super-size, McMansion bridge that we have to pay for with high tolls which are politically tempting to reduce? Excess highway capacity is soooooo tempting. And so many are deserving of an exemption.

    I bet future residents of booming Vancouver will think it's Bizarro if every one of those 12 lanes isn't full of traffic.

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    I would echo and associate myself with Paddy McGuires comments above.

    But, also: I’m an advocate of a substantial, revenue neutral gas tax now. Preferably national, but this session of the Oregon legislature should put such a measure out to the Oregon voters if Obama has not proposed a national one by the end of our session. Gas tax or no gas tax now, we know the price of gas will go up significantly someday as demand again rises and cheap supplies diminish. We know will need alternative energy forms of cars and trucks. How can we now confidently predict the future demand for the interstate bridge in such a radically different energy environment.

    I’ve other priorities for the $4 billion: fund more Mandarin programs to connect our next generation to the biggest global market; fund railroad transportation upgrades (as more cost competitive and energy efficient than trucking); and upgrade broadband internet services.

  • Nick Christensen (unverified)
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    The problem is that the Interstate Bridge has two distinct purposes and just can't meet them both at the same time, not at 6 or 8 lanes.

    Freight traffic, and through traffic, needs three lanes in each direction to avoid congestion on mainline I-5.

    And commuter traffic — traffic bound for other parts of Vancouver — needs the other three lanes in each direction to get to where it's going (SR 14, Mill Plain, SR 500). If we can get SR 14/SR 500 commuters to use I-5 instead of I-84/I-205, we can free up the logjam for the region.

    As for those who argue that I-5 is too much of a bottleneck in downtown Portland, I think they need to think of the broader picture — yes, I-5 is 4 lanes at Broadway. But I-405 — parallel to I-5, and the roughly the same distance for southbound drivers — is six lanes. And a fair amount of that truck traffic is headed to Swan Island anyway.

    Saying the bridge will cause sprawl is a slippery slope. Being against sprawl is a reason to be against sprawl, not to be against bridges. And saying the Glenn Jackson Bridge is proof that it'll happen again is comparing apples and oranges — different bridge, different people, different time period.

    Lastly, the wide-bridge naysayers ignore the realpolitik of Clark County. They simply aren't going to foot the bill for a new bridge that's more of the same. And they will not allow light rail over the river if they don't get their wider bridge. They want transportation options, and simply replacing the bridge or giving them LRT with no new lanes is not an option anymore.

    We're all going to have to close our eyes and think of Oregon if we want to move forward in a way we can find partially acceptable. There is no solution that makes everyone happy — the best we can hope for is an alternative we all hate the least, with something for each of us to like in the plan.

  • Biker Ted (unverified)
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    Nice post Evan. The megabridge would not benefit freight, except during peak commute hours for trucks moving with the flow of car commuters. Smart freight operators avoid these choked times and routes.

    The chief beneficiaries would be Clark County commuters, real estate speculators, and the politicians and local governments that would benefit from expanded property tax rolls in outlying communities.

    I work in Clark County, WA with local governments on land use policy, and I can tell you that they do not have the growth controls that we do in Oregon. They regularly rezone farmland for new subdivisions, and are not keeping up with their own infrastructure improvements. Nothing short of commuter congestion will slow this onslaught. It is a powerful machine.

    Real reform could come with federal legislation that would enable Clark Co and its member cities to join the Metro regional council and commit to shared decision-making on infrastructure spending, UGB expansions, and the like. The idea of a bi-state transportation commission just focused on I-5 and I-205 does not go far enough, and I am worried that Clark Co interests on this decision-making body will diffuse our ability to impose tolls.

    I commute daily by bike across the I-5 bridge. Much has been made of the lack of capacity for bikes & peds on this route. The actual route is confusing to a lot of folks and the approach on the Oregon side is downright dangerous. If Portland was serious about supporting bike transportation, they would not wait for the megabridge to improve this route. There is a lot that could be done with improved signage and visibility at very minimal cost. Call me a conspiracy theorist but I am convinced that PDOT's neglect of this route is part of a larger strategy to recruit the BTA and other interests to support the megabridge.

    -Ted

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    Sure we need a new bridge over the Columbia. Unfortunately, it's the railroad bridge about a mile away from I-5. If we spent that $4 billion on rail improvements between Seattle and Portland (or maybe Eugene), we could get those fancy Acela trains up to speed, making the trip from Portland to Seattle less than two hours. That would also eliminate the need to expand PDX (probably also SEATAC). Then add more freight capacity to the rail lines and/or give freight its own lanes on I-5.

    By the time the Mega-Bridge is completed, tolls and high gas prices will probably make it unnecessary.

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    ...Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s authority on climate science, announced climate change is worse than previously thought, and that action was truly, truly urgent, and that five fossil-fuel heavy countries had managed to spike a key graphic in an earlier report...

    eh... this would be the same 52 member Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 'authority on climate science' whose claims have recently been challenged by over 650 scientists from around the world - many being current and former UN IPCC scientists. It seems that the vast majority of scientists contributing to the infamous 2001 Third Assessment Report (TAR) played virtually no role in preparing the unscientific yet principally cited Summary for Policymakers -- nor were they given the opportunity to review and approve its contents. The 2001 TAR was the report that reignited Al Gore's warming obsession, predicting average surface temperature would increase by 1.4 to 5.8 Celsius degrees over the period of 1990 to 2100.

    There may indeed be legitimate reason to question this bridge, I don't know... but I don't find citing the IPCC angle compelling.

    That the IPCC is now coming out and saying 'a key graphic' was 'spiked' just shows how much political agendas come into play here. And now we're supposed to believe the IPCC when they say 'significant temperature increases are highly likely this century, and gains of ten degrees or more “cannot be ruled out.' - despite the fact that not one member of the IPCC predicted the past 10 year 'cooling trend' (until after the fact, of course...)

    Bizarro indeed...

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    "not one member of the IPCC predicted the past 10 year 'cooling trend"

    What 10 year cooling trend? Are you smoking George Will's special cigarettes again?

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    Once again I concur with Steve Maurer's post.

  • billy (unverified)
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    What 10 year cooling trend? Are you smoking George Will's special cigarettes again? NO, he's just looking at the data instead of the popular, scientifically illiterate, press. (Although I would argue for a shorter downtrend after several years of stasis - there are several major data sources which differ. The most accurate, the USHCN actually shows 1998 tied with 1934 for the warmest year in.)

  • sohbet (unverified)
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    Thankss you..

  • sohbet (unverified)
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    Thankss you..

  • Jim Edelson (unverified)
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    Bizarro indeed!!

    Sam Adams, who weeks ago would "go to the mat' with Leonard about supersized bridge, now is so weakened that he is content with installing a thermostat that doesn't connect to anything meaningful.

    The Portland City Council, 4 out of 5 who conditioned their approval of 12 lanes on an independent GHG analysis now says "never mind" - we didn't really mean it.

    Governor Kulongoski who is staking his legacy on getting Oregon to an 80% reduction in GHG by 2050 backs building a bridge to guaranteed masssive GHG emission INCREASES.

    Todd Litman of Vancouver BC described the DEIS very accurately: a political document. Never did it analyze the real alternative to mitigate GHG emissions: a modified plus supplemental local access bridge, with tolls and transit. It only compared the supersized '12 lane bridge with Tolls & Transit' to the 'no action' alternative.

    Everyone knows this is a shell game on meeting Oregon and Washington's GHG goals.

    Fortunately, it appears that Metro knows better and will not vote to throw $4 billion into a 1950s solution to a 21st century problem until they get real information.

  • Blaine Palmer (unverified)
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    Evan -- Good news: Bizarro has been spared! http://blog.oregonlive.com/oregonianeditors/2009/03/were_not_dropping_comics_after.html

    And, oh, yeah, the substance. The "thermostat" analogy is evidence of the tortured logic our leaders are using to justify the mega-bridge even though they know it's not good planning.

    A thermostat is not a device you adjust to changing conditions. You program a thermostat to the conditions you want and it accordingly adjusts behavior -- of a heating/cooling device or of commuters.

    Determine what mix of cars, commercial traffic and mass transit using the bridge would generate an acceptable amount of carbon output, then design a bridge and toll structure to achieve that under changing conditions.

    Our City Council members know they should make decisions that reduce greenhouse gasses but they can't resist the enormous pressures advocating for the mega bridge. So they twist reality to make their actions look like the goals they want to justify, and then change the definition of a thermostat to match their bizarro world.

    Keep laughing.

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    Apologies -- for those who wanted to actually read The New York Times news story, it's here, instead of just the graphic.

    And Yay! We saved Bizarro.

  • Jeff (unverified)
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    I second Jim's post. As scandalous as Portland's bizarre flipflop on the lane issue is, it has more to do with the corrosive effects of Mayor Adam's scandal. He's a tinman in a monsoon.

    You want a real-lie Bizarro cartoon? How about the fact that the men's room of City Hall is a growing tourist attraction -- coming soon, keychains with a urinal.

    The importance of this flop throws doubt on all of his initiatives -- and Clark Couny homebuilders and Realtors are crowing: "They regularly rezone farmland for new subdivisions, and are not keeping up with their own infrastructure improvements."

  • Jeff (unverified)
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    Evan, Whatever happened to "regional leader" David Bragdon on this?

  • mara (unverified)
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    Thanks, Evan, for an excellent post.

    As we're slashing budgets all across the board, the legislature is seriously considering spending $30 million on this project in the upcoming budget.

    That's $30 Million for a project that does not help us meet our climate change goals. The project’s own projections show GHGs increasing 32% over today’s levels, and that likely significantly underestimates the increase. Any funding should be conditioned on a plan to stabilize GHGs. All of our investments need to help us reach our global warming goals.

    And what are we buying for $30 Million? The privilege of moving forward plans for a mega-bridge that we have no way to pay for. At over $4 Billion, the bridge would be the most costly capital project in the state’s history.

    The $4 Billion bridge will require massive borrowing. Oregon will likely need to pony up around $600 Million (project staff estimated $1.2 Billion between Oregon and Washington), money we would have to borrow. Is this our Oregon's best use of $600 Million, plus interest?

    A lot of people are angry about how this is going down, and group of citizen activists is organizing a rally to fight the CRC. Noon, Waterfront Park in Portland, April 5th.

  • Jeff (unverified)
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    Bragdon was last seen in "Non Sequitor" but he may have skipped over to "Aces on Bridge" to drop the king of hearts.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    We're all going to have to close our eyes and think of Oregon if we want to move forward in a way we can find partially acceptable. There is no solution that makes everyone happy — the best we can hope for is an alternative we all hate the least, with something for each of us to like in the plan.

    I once worked on a ship that sailed from San Francisco to Portland in the early 1970s. After arrival in Portland I spent the evening ashore and was impressed by how relaxed life appeared to be in Portland compared with the San Francisco Bay Area. It reminded me of how pleasant San Francisco used to be in the early 1960s, though at the same time I suspected San Francisco was on its way to becoming another Manhattan. In Portland in the 1970s I had a hunch it was following in San Francisco's ominous footsteps. Before anyone supports this monster bridge, take a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and get an idea of what Portland could be in for.

  • Joe Cortright (unverified)
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    Evan's exactly on the mark. The Columbia River Crossing is ground zero in the debate over global warming.

    The City Council seems to be living in a Bizarro world where they can commit to reducing carbon two or three decades from now, and spend billions taking us in the opposite direction today.

    If our leaders can't say "no" to a 12-lane multi-billion dollar freeway and bridge project, exactly what is it that they will stand up against in order to fight global warming?

    It's also discouraging that the tough rhetoric about conditions--something as basic as an honest, independent analysis of greenhouse gas emissions--has simply evaporated. If our leaders can't stick up for the conditions they "imposed" six months ago, why should anyone believe promises that their successors will do something to reduce carbon emissions twenty or thirty years from now.

    Better, cheaper alternatives--including fixing the existing bridge, installing the transportation demand management "thermostat" now, and just doing the transit portion of the project--have been ignored.

  • Steve G (unverified)
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    I and many other CRC critics have repeatedly asked the project's proponents -- including the entire City Council -- to require an independent(i.e. by a transportation demand management consultant that doesn't have a interest in building the megabridge) analysis of the CRC's assumptions. And I've been stonewalled over and over and over.

    The project's boosters apparently know that, once subjected to the light of day, the CRC's assumptions will be exposed as circular reasoning, and this $4.2 boondoggle will meet its rightful fate.

    I'm all for solving the bottleneck, but the megabridge is simply the wrong solution. A HOT lane or two, with dynamic pricing that varies to maintain traffic speeds of around 45 MPH at all times could be used to fund construction of a modest auxiliary bridge to accommodate light rail and local traffic to/from Hayden Island -- and to shore up/improve the existing bridge.

    Since City Council apparently won't stand up, let's hope Metro will. And in case they, too, buckle under, contact your Senators and Congressmen!

    Thank you Evan!

  • Shubel Morgan (unverified)
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    Though I'm not for it, holocaust deniers are held to criminal prosecution in most countries. Most countries allow prosecution for interfering with police and firefighters in the performance of their duty. We talk about yelling "fire" in a crowded auditorium, but would not manslaughter charges be brought against a person successfully counseling persons to return to remain seated in the burning room?

    We need healthy scientific debate. It is only politicized because that's what Baby Bush did with science, and this is why. Many profiting from the delay are just crooks. The time has come to make a statutory definitions that bracket the debate. Past a certain point, as Fidel Castro would say, "being a member of a free society doesn't mean being free to gratuitously destroy it". Continuing to debate pedantic points that allow the corrupt to continue to profit tars all of us. Speak with foreign nationals. They don't distinguish between Cheney and you. It's all "US policy and behavior". They do not read this discussion and say, "look, folks that think like us". They assume that. They read it and say, "look, crazy Americans that will kill us all".

    They're right. Unless we codify the bounds of this kind of discussion, we will be burdened with a constant erosion to our basic lifestyle and freedoms, from Terry Shiavo to the morning after pill to climate change, whatever enlivens the reprehensible right. The time is here to codify and bring prosecution against Cheney, JK, et al. If Dems continue to dither, an environmental John Brown can not be far off. If you continue to allow "free debate", as you did with slavery, you will achieve the same results. Make no mistake. Climate change deniers and slavers work off the exact same assumptions.

    The Dems of the 19th century weren't up to the challenge and we spent 5 years trying to kill each other. The Dems of today aren't up to the challenge. Can you not see that by avoiding unpleasantness today, you are guaranteeing despair tomorrow?

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    The city, county, Metro and other regional planners--including Vancouver--should put together and implement a plan on how to double the local population with zero energy increases from homes, cars, trucks, industry and other sources.

    Concerning current commuting, when I worked in Battle Ground, WA (a suburb of Vancouver), one of my co-workers relied on the bus to get to the office from inner Portland. The trip required him to first go to the main Portland bus station, then go to main Vancouver bus station, then transfer to another bus to the office. His average commuting time each day was about 3 hours, often more. Drive time except on the worst traffic days was about 30 minutes each way in rush hour. So being environmentally responsible cost you about 2 hours a day--ten hours a week--sitting on buses. That's absurd. Few people can afford losing that kind of time out of their lives, regardless of good intentions. Any new bridge discussion needs to include a larger discussion of bringing down the time lost in using mass transit after you cross the river in either direction.

    Trains, buses, and bikes are the way to go (Vancouver has some very good bike routes once you get to them) because increasing energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to decrease energy needs. In addition to making effective mass transit--especially connecting Portland & Vancouver--we should also be looking requirements that only energy efficient homes and office space be added, and that existing structures be renovated to maximize efficiency. The bipartisan Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Technology Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) and Rep. Tim Freeman (R-Roseburg), with support from national leaders, is a very good step in the right direction, but we need more. (Demanding more energy efficient computers & monitors is another step in the right direction.) If we say right now--we don't want more dams, nuclear plants, LNG depots, etc.--then we need to figure out how to allow growth with a zero increase in energy needs.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Per the comments by alcatross and billy AKA Kaarlock, you can look at the IPCC reports yourself RIGHT HERE. No need for a filter.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
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    The lame "thermostat" analogy ...

    We liken this new cross-river partnership to a thermostat. You would not build a home heating and cooling system without a way to regulate the airflow and control the temperature based on the time of day, outside conditions, and who is using what rooms. Nor should we build a new freeway bridge without a mechanism to adjust conditions for maximum efficiency. . . Before adjusting the thermostat, we need to build the house.

    Evan's response:

    Are we supposed to be happy with the new mansion just because it has a thermostat, even if we could have renovated our existing home at one-third the cost?

    That's exactly the problem with the dumb "thermostat" argument. We already have a six-room house there, albeit a run-down 1920s home with tiny rooms that get pretty crowded when guests show up. The issue here isn't the thermostat; the issue is do you rehab the existing home to fix the roof, patch the foundation, add some insulation, and maybe convert the attic to add a couple more rooms? If necessary, we can build a separate guest cottage in the back yard. This would require a series of incremental projects over several years, each of which will be well within the family budget.

    But no. We're being told that the ONLY thing the family can do is spend a couple of million bucks we don't have (financial plan: max out all the credit cards and count on a huge pay raise to pay them off) to demolish the existing home and build a luxurious twenty room mansion with spacious bedrooms and high ceilings, on the assumption that someday we'll have enough guests to fill the place up a couple nights out of the month.

    But don't worry. The new home will have a real fantastic HVAC system, promise. (And yeah, we could put the same system into the existing home and get the same benefits ... but let's just ignore that, because we're really really supposed to WANT the twenty-room mansion we're pretending we can afford.)

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    The investment of this size, and the life-span of this structure will carry into the next 50+ years. Overbuilding it now is precisely what needs to be done. Removing, converting lanes to other uses, to bike, car-pool lanes, walk-paths, etc. can be accommodated by over building capacity now within the basic capacity of the structure inherent with a 12 lane structure vs. lower lane count options.

    The "if you build more lanes more people will drive" arguemnt is a dubious at best.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    So, if they want to reduce auto traffic across the bridge, why build a bridge that has increased capacity for auto traffic? They want to toll drivers and have high-occupancy lanes to reduce traffic. Why not just do that right now with the existing, structurally-sound, bridge?

    Amy J. Ruiz should resign from Adams' employ. Not because she may know something about the sex scandal, but rather because she's hired as an urban planner and, while at the Mercury, she wrote scathing (and very persuasive) columns against the stupid bridge! I remember a great one entitled "We Don't Want It!".

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    @lestatdelc, who wrote: "The 'if you build more lanes more people will drive" arguem[e]nt is a dubious at best.'"

    The phenomenon of induced demand is one of the best empirically supported observations in engineering. If you lower the cost of driving -- either in time or money, or both -- expect more driving until the supply-demand equilibria is restored.

    Absent economic collapse (e.g., Detroit), I daresay that you would be hard pressed to find a single example in America where induced demand has not occurred.

  • mara (unverified)
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    "If you build more lanes more people will drive" is a well-documented and widely accepted phenomenon. It's called induced demand, and it happens in several ways. Check out this excellent paper by Todd Litman from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

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    George Anonymuncule Seldes The phenomenon of induced demand is one of the best empirically supported observations in engineering. If you lower the cost of driving -- either in time or money, or both -- expect more driving until the supply-demand equilibria is restored.

    Except the Washington-Oregon bridge is not the main (or even peripheral) aspect of whether people decide to drive. It constitutes an almost infinitesimal fraction of the overall demand equation.

    Further, this rather simplistic analysis entirely ignores the externalities of failing to deal with the problem.
    Economic studies show that people value their free time in dollars per hour at approximately the same rate as their work time. So until the cost of automobiles gets so overwhelmingly high that it is worth putting up with inherently slow, out of the way, intermittently scheduled, public transit, you will never get them out of their cars - no matter what the traffic is over a short section of bridge. For every driver who uses the - now nonexistent - commuter rail option across state lines, you'll have hundreds simply burning literally tons of gas in the constant traffic jam.

    And that doesn't help fix global warming one bit.

    Again, there are ways of fixing our environmental crisis that have an actual realistic chance of gaining public acceptance. A market in small electric commuter cars is already beginning to emerge, despite massive resistance of the Big 3. But that still requires actually investing in public infrastructure, the lack of which (under Republican rule) is one of the many reasons why our economy is in such bad shape.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    There is no problem -- there are hundreds of thousands of drivers, mostly alone in their cars, choosing to live in Washington and work in Oregon, and whining about all the other people just like them who are doing the exact same thing.

    The bridges are structurally sound now and can be retrofitted for far less than replacement cost. Vehicle miles travelled are dropping dramatically in the US.

    If there is a congestion problem on I-5, then a speedpass electronic tolling system would be the fastest, cheapest, and most environmentally sound way to deal with that congestion problem. (Although it's funny, why are crowded busses and light rail lines considered the minimum needed to even think of putting more money into mass transit, while crowded roads are considered a problem?)

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    It seems like folks are having an argument over how big the induced demand from the bridge would be - which is EXACTLY a piece of information the Council last July said they would need to move forward. Now, no information - but moving forward anyway.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Re: "...the best we can hope for is an alternative we all hate the least..."

    That's a new and improved statement of DP progressivism. First it was less evil, then less insane, and now less hateful. Shall we go for less nauseating? (This bridge makes me want to puke less.)

    Shubel Morgan is correct. John Brown come back.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Although it's funny, why are crowded busses and light rail lines considered the minimum needed to even think of putting more money into mass transit, while crowded roads are considered a problem?

    I suspect this is just another manifestation of that old saw "it depends whose ox is being gored." My interpretation, admittedly speculative: There are a lot more people crawling along on their cross-bridge commutes than there are people crowded into busses and MAX trains. And said commuters likely view their transportation expenses as unavoidable at the same time as they gripe about taxes to subsidize public transport for "those other people". Thus the driver/taxpayer demands maximum value for his transport taxes, meaning he implicitly wants to see the buses and trains be very crowded, AND nice, wide, uncrowded roads. It's a nice example of how behavior that at the individual level seems entirely rational can lead to overall consequences for society that are not necessarily the best. Tragedy of the commons....

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Thanks to Evan for injecting some good sense into the cognitive dissonance of the bridge discussion. Our leaders talk about sustainability and environmental stewardship, then support expensive projects that damage the environment and move us farther from sustainability.

    Vancouver and Clark County have exploited Oregon's landuse planning by promoting sprawl on their side of the Columbia. Servicing the transportation of sprawl dwellers promotes more of the same as it promotes fossil fuel use and wastes money that could be used for responsible infrastructure projects.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    I really love the comment about having to "close our eyes and think of Oregon" --- was that actually intended to suggest that we should think happy thoughts while we're being screwed, just as the advice to brides was that, on the wedding night, they should close their eyes and think of England?

    If we want to think of what's best for Oregon, then spending money to promote more autosprawl will quickly drop from our minds.

  • billy (unverified)
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    George Anonymuncule Seldes The phenomenon of induced demand is one of the best empirically supported observations in engineering. JK: Can't you guys get anything right?
    The basic laws of physics are the "best empirically supported observations in engineering", not some crackpot postulate about traffic that most have now abandoned, except the rabid car haters. See: fhwa.dot.gov/planning/itfaq.htm

    B

  • billy (unverified)
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    joel dan walls: Per the comments by alcatross and billy AKA Kaarlock, you can look at the IPCC reports yourself RIGHT HERE. No need for a filter. B: Here is nice presetation of the facts that the IPCC doesn’t want you to know:

    1 The greenhouse signature is missing. Weather balloons have scanned the skies for years but can find no sign of the telltale “hotspot” warming pattern that greenhouse gases would leave. There’s not even a hint. Something else caused the warming.

    2 The strongest evidence was the ice cores, but newer, more detailed, data turned the theory inside out. Instead of carbon pushing up temperatures, for the last half-a-million years temperatures have gone up before carbon dioxide levels. On average 800 years before. This totally threw what we thought was cause-and-effect out the window. Something else caused the warming. 3 Temperatures are not rising. Satellites circling the planet twice a day show that the world has not warmed since 2001. How many more years of NO global warming will it take? While temperatures have been flat, CO2 has been rising, BUT something else has changed the trend. The computer models don’t know what it is. 4 Carbon dioxide is already doing almost all the warming it can do. Adding twice the CO2 doesn’t make twice the difference. The first CO2 molecules matter a lot, but extra ones have less and less effect. In fact, carbon levels were ten times as high in the past but the world still slipped into an ice age. Carbon today is a bit-part player.

    From: The Skeptics Handbook downloaded from: joannenova.com.au/global-warming/

    B

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    George Anonymuncule Seldes: There is no problem -- there are hundreds of thousands of drivers, mostly alone in their cars, choosing to live in Washington and work in Oregon, and whining about all the other people just like them who are doing the exact same thing.

    The problem is that those bridges were built for the population of when they were built. Not the population of today. Just being proportional, you'll find the bridge size should come in at about 10 to 12 lanes.

    You can't just wish away the needs of a growing population. In doing so, all you end up doing is sounding like classic GOP idiots whining about government growth, while conveniently ignoring the effects of growth and inflation.

  • Frenridge (unverified)
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    If we really want to do something about induced demand, why aren't we tearing out existing infrastructure?

  • Clark (unverified)
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    Yes, lets support state tax evasion. We don't need any more revenue. (Sarcasm fyi)

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
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    Whether GHG is a problem will be debated for years I am sure. However, if it is and if politicians really wanted to reduce GHG, and slow growth in the suburbs, they would take a serious look at opening the transportation business to other providers. There is some work to suggest that doing so might reduce GHG by as much as 30% and some suggest that it can be reduced by as much as 50%. But that would allow some freedom of choice and far too many are against that idea.

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    The Libertarian Guy: if politicians really wanted to reduce GHG, and slow growth in the suburbs, they would take a serious look at opening the transportation business to other providers

    Last time I checked, TLG, there is no law against starting up your own bus service. If you don't believe me, go check out the Greyhound website. Same thing for cabs.

    The reason why we have public transportation is because of the externalities involved. You get fewer cars on the road, especially during periods of peak congestion, which means less build out (not to mention less need for eminent domain actions to widen streets). But all those benefits can't be paid for just by the riders, so we support the system using public money to give an incentive to take transit that isn't as fast as driving a car.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    Since it is easy to limit traffic with lane configurations and tollbooths, the idea of limiting traffic by building a small bridge seems to have un-green potential ramifications. Given the large investment and iconic potential of a bridge, I feel bridges should be build with additional room to handle future unforeseen needs and assure as long a lifespan as possible.

    If we had to replace this new bridge in a couple decades because of addition mass transit or pedestrian needs, it would be a huge waist of resources and loss of what could be an iconic structure representing Oregon and Washington.

    Now let’s work to make this an iconic structure in which we can take pride.

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    Posted by: Steve | Mar 6, 2009 4:40:36 PM

    Bingo. Well said.

  • JR Merrick (unverified)
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    The thermostat idea is way off the mark. To make this idea work on the "aircraft carrier" parked in the river would require a toll so high that there would be a revolution.
    Twelve lanes of shame will be the legacy of Portland City Council decision to approve the mega lane solution for the Columbia River Crossing. The decision could not even wait for Metro to conduct the congestion modeling study it approved just two weeks ago. The appended "management plan” offered by the two mayors is a panacea for avoiding the hard choice to limit freeway sprawl. And it is sprawl -all 460 feet of concrete deck over the Columbia River- 2.5 city blocks!.

    The “management plan” creates a crossing authority established by two cities in charge of a Federal Highway over which they have little jurisdiction. It is like the City of Portland approving a Port masterplan to double the size of the airport conditioned on managing the number of flights (and attendant noise and pollution) by a committee overseeing the airport tax. Game over.

    But worse, in 5 or 10 years, City Council chambers and Metro Chambers will again be packed with roadway interests insisting on widening the I-84 interchange and then all of I-5 through the central city. Repeating the same canard that between the Canadian Border and the Mexican border the flow of freight is tied up in the Rose Quarter- (except, by the way, LA and Seattle), they will insist that safety, congestion, and commerce depend on a bigger highway – bigger shoes for a bigger tommorrow. The fable resonated this time for the Columbia Crossing and it will be much harder to resist in future as the congestion moves south.

    Vancouver, BC recognized the challenge and proposed the obvious and simple if politically daring solution. They control freeway sprawl and health impacts by limiting bridge lanes and excluding freeways in their city. Meanwhile Portland plays sucker for hardball highway interests that threaten our core livability goals by accepting faulty analysis and failed vision that mock our “green” livability goals.

    Portland’s reputation is rooted in limiting freeways and calming streets. Tolling won’t stop the southbound flow or northbound sprawl or the shameful legacy of failing to learn from the mistakes of the past. "Oregon" solution? – 1950s style.

  • Nick Christensen (unverified)
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    @George Anonymuncule Seldes:

    If we want to think of what's best for Oregon, then spending money to promote more autosprawl will quickly drop from our minds.

    Are you willing to sacrifice Vancouver LRT for a narrower bridge? Because just I don't think Portland can win this game of chicken with Vancouver drivers.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    @ Steve Maurer: "The problem is that those bridges were built for the population of when they were built. Not the population of today. Just being proportional, you'll find the bridge size should come in at about 10 to 12 lanes.

    You can't just wish away the needs of a growing population."

    But apparently you believe we can just wish away the needs of a dying planet to satisfy the wishes of sprawl builders and the fantasy of constant paving to satisfy constant sprawling. Good luck with that.

    If we're going to talk about needs, people need a stable climate a lot more than more auto lanes, and they need for their governments NOT to spend money on projects that will undermine their stated commitments to reversing the ever-increasing climate emissions.

  • Joe Rowe (unverified)
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    A 12 lane jumbo bridge means a 12 lane interstate freeway. The 12 lanes will fill up in just a few years. The the overflow will then spill into and destroy what is left of the neighborhoods. All of this because people who live in Washington feel entitled a 30 min commute to their sprawl 30 miles away. This insanity is why commercial trucks are stuck.

    What problems are we trying to solve here? a) single passenger vehicles get stuck in traffic b) trucks get stuck in traffic c) we have no alternative to driving alone

    You can't solve problem A. No matter what size bridge or regulations, single car drivers will spend just about anything and pack all the freeways you can build. Even if the earth was cooling, our communities and commerce need solutions that are designed to solve an actual solvable problem.

  • Doug Allen (unverified)
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    Thanks, Evan.

    Now we need a column that analyzes the psychology of the bridge supporters, who think that spending $4 billion on a new Columbia River Crossing is somehow the top priority for spending all our region's political pork chits in Washington.

    This CRC is like a Ponzi scheme. A lot of people seem to have a need to believe in the necessity of a new bridge, and the need to tear down two perfectly acceptable, if somewhat outdated bridges. Rex Burkholder, in particular, talks about how the current bridges are "broken" in contradiction to the engineering facts.

    In 2004, the Columbia River Towboat Association went to Metro and JPACT with a plan to eliminate all bridge lifts due to commercial towboat traffic, by a then $60 million retrofit to the downstream railroad bridge. This modest proposal was pushed aside by regional "leaders" who were greedy, like Madoff's investors, for a big win.

    If we had proceeded with the CRTA proposal, and had a "shovel ready" design, we would now be spending stimulus money to eliminate bridge lifts on the existing I-5 bridges. There would be Union employees going to work.

    Instead, we have the CRC "pie in the sky" bye and bye (hopefully never). Wake up people! You wouldn't spend your own money this way, tearing down your house and putting up a McMansion, when all you need is a new roof.

    And thank you Amanda Fritz, for saying that the CRC Emperor has no clothes.

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
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    Steve you might want to check the Portland city code. They only issue so many licenses for cabs and the rules are pretty strict as they are in most American cities. We might call it a racket.

    And it has been a few years, but last time I checked it was pretty tough to start a bus company, if not impossible in Portland. And by the way Steve there is a big difference on inner city transit and that transit that runs between cities.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    @ Nick: "Are you willing to sacrifice Vancouver LRT for a narrower bridge? Because just I don't think Portland can win this game of chicken with Vancouver drivers."

    I'm not the one sacrificing anything. Clark County overwhelmingly rejected light rail in 1995. Stupid move. No reason to destroy perfectly functional spans because people want to live in Yacolt, Battle Ground, Ridgefield and beyond while working in Oregon.

    There's no reason light rail isn't running across the Columbia now except for Clark County. They made their bed. When they are ready to toll the existing bridges (using a fastpass system so that there's no toll booths) then they are indicating some readiness to deal with reality.

    The bridge closure for the trunnion replacement during the 90s showed that there are plenty of ways to manage the demand for crossings with even LESS lane capacity than is present now. The only thing lacking is the will, because the road gang and the sprawlbuilders lobby want Oregonians to pay through the nose to make property in North Clark County more profitable to develop. Meanwhile, the hated bottleneck simply moves into North Portland.

  • (Show?)

    I understood that the bridge will NOT have 12 thru lanes, as Evan implies, but that there will be three thru lanes in both directions, precisely the current capacity (thus responding to Paddy's comment), and other lanes will be for mergers / exits.

    It is not necessarily incompatible with greenhouse gas targets to build a bridge with sufficient capacity for freight and passenger vehicles for a fifty or hundred year timelines.

    I have no idea what we will be driving 50 years from now. I am pretty sure it is not going to be powered by fossil fuels. I would rather err on the side of over capacity and limit capacity by tolls than purposely strangle traffic and freight.

  • billy (unverified)
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    Steve Maurer: Last time I checked, TLG, there is no law against starting up your own bus service. B: Hey Steve, don't you ever check you facts? There IS a law that, at least, prevents competing with TriMet. I know people who have tried to get it repealed. (I do not know its specifics.)

    B

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
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    Steve you may wish to take a look at the City code. Here's is part of it below. Reads kinda like you'd need about a quarter of a million to start to get in the taxi business. That kinda of regulation puts a damper on any idea of a mom and pop business. Certainly many low income people will never get a chance to own and operate one.

    So if I want to use my Prius part-time in the evening or on weekends to make a few extra dollars that will not be allowed.

    Chapter 16.40 Taxicab Regulations

    16.40.510 Minimum Standards for Taxicab Service Companies.

    (Amended by Ordinance Nos. 177794, 178526 and 178705, effective August 25, 2004.) Any taxicab company operating under permit to do business issued under this Chapter, shall comply with the following minimum standards:

    A. An office open and staffed for a minimum of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    B. A dispatch system in operation 24 hours each day capable of providing reasonably prompt service in response to requests received by telephone.

    C. Facilities and personnel sufficient to insure that every taxicab operated by the company complies with the requirements of this Chapter.

    D. Not less than 15 taxicabs, with two thirds of the fleet to be operational at all times, to provide service on a City-wide basis in accordance with the Supervisor’s regulations adopted pursuant to Section 16.40.120.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)
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    One of the goals that needs to be established is that transit passengers and bicyclists, through higher fares and tolling, directly pay for the infrastructure they are using on the CRC, That needs to be accompanied by the passage of House Bill 3008 that would establish a $54.00 registration fee every two years for adult bikes so that bicyclists begin to pay for the what want. Moreover, the dollar amount of the registration fee also needs to be tied to any increases that might occur in the dollar amount of the registration fee for motor vehicles.

    There is more than an excessive amount of hot air bicycle babble demands being made as long as somebody other than bicyclists pay for those demands. Bicyclists are your basic freeloaders many times over expecting somebody else to fund their lifestyles like mommy and daddy did before they reached puberty. If icyclists want specialized infrastructure, including on the CRC, they need to be willing to open up their wallets and actually fund it instead of just providing lip service. As for the BTA suggesting they are willing to discuss whether bicyclists should help pay for bikeways that must also include starting with the bicycle infrastructure on the CRC, that is just a deceitful humbug diversionary tactic and more two-faced false piety

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Kaartalk, your skills with cut-and-paste continue to amaze everyone.

    Just wondering, who is NOT part of the Vast Climate Fraud Conspiracy?

  • Nick Christensen (unverified)
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    @George - and meanwhile, if I want to go camping in Washington or visit friends in Seattle, I should just continue to drive through St. Helens because the Interstate is just slammed?

    We're acting like the mother of a teenage boy who won't eat his peas. "No pizza for you until you eat your peas!" we say, not noticing that our boy is an adult and has the right to make his own decisions, irresponsible as they may be.

    I'm tired of waiting in traffic to get across the river. I'm tired of waiting in traffic to go east on I-84 any given afternoon. I'm tired of waiting in traffic to go to the airport. The bridge is the lynchpin for all of that.

    And eventually, I do believe that Vancouver will come to embrace its LRT line, just as Washington County has. But we have to have options first — and a century-old drawbridge with no LRT/BRT, no commuter rail, no ferry, nothing — it's crippling the entire region because Vancouver won't eat its metaphorical peas.

  • jim (unverified)
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    Hey Oregon Stooges (Mayor Adams included),

    I hope you took note of what George wrote above:

    The only thing lacking is the will, because the road gang and the sprawlbuilders lobby want Oregonians to pay through the nose to make property in North Clark County more profitable to develop. Meanwhile, the hated bottleneck simply moves into North Portland.

    Are Sam A. and Ted K. looking out for us? We will have spent the bulk of our region's transportation funds to move the congestion and pollution exactly a few thousand meters from the River to North Portland. Travel times will increase. And we will have walked over the carbon precipice with no chance to meet OR and WA GHG goals.

    Ah, maybe we should build a Mt. Hood Freeway through East Portland.......................

  • different Ted (unverified)
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    What I find alarming is that no matter how many lanes we're talking about or what kind of alternative transportation the new bridge will support, we seem to always be talking about $4 billion! Why did we go from six lanes to twelve, but we're still stuck at $4B???

    The new Hoover Dam by-pass bridge goes 2000' across the Colorado River, 4 lanes, spanning 1000' deep canyon near Hoover Dam where you have multiple Homeland Security concerns, interstate traffic, etc, etc, etc. It came in under $300 million . Different sets of challenges, but come on! These braniacs have to spend $3.7 billion more than than it took to build that bridge?

    Let's just put a primarily freight traffic bridge down river to connect the industrial areas of the Ports of Portland and Vancouver and Astoria. We fire all the retards at ODOT and WADOT and hire some guys from Arizona and Nevada to build us a bridge that will alleviate much of the problem for 5% of the cost.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    "I'm tired of waiting in traffic to get across the river. I'm tired of waiting in traffic to go east on I-84 any given afternoon. I'm tired of waiting in traffic to go to the airport. The bridge is the lynchpin for all of that."

    Oh, well then, pave away. It's never reduced traffic congestion before, but no doubt it's different this time. After all, if you're tired of sitting in traffic then all other considerations disappear.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    The "if you build more lanes more people will drive" arguemnt is a dubious at best.

    Ever been to Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Houston much?

  • billy (unverified)
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    Steve Maurer: Last time I checked, TLG, there is no law against starting up your own bus service. B: Hey Steve, don't you ever check you facts? There IS a law that, at least, prevents competing with TriMet. I know people who have tried to get it repealed. (I do not know its specifics.)

    B

  • (Show?)

    to discover how more lanes = more congestion, check out the Feb Scientific American (or look through Loaded O's archives...)

  • Nick Christensen (unverified)
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    @George - If we built more lanes, then yes, congestion would ease for now. At that point it's incumbent upon Vancouver to get its house in order to prevent future congestion for its residents. But these are separate arguments. Should we also stop widening the Sunset Highway because we want to encourage more people to use the Blue Line? No. We give them the option and try and make both run as easily.

    @Ted - A few key differences with the Hoover Dam bypass. That $300 million went to bid in 2000, before the price of concrete really soared. (Consider that $300m is the estimated cost for the Sellwood Bridge) The HDB project is about 2.5 miles long, compared to the CRC's 5 miles. HDB is 4 lanes, CRC is, well, 12 today, we'll see what it is next time, plus CRC's light rail. HDB has about 5 vehicle overpasses, CRC will have to have around 10. The Colorado River isn't a navigable, important shipping. Lastly, HDB construction doesn't really disrupt US 93 traffic, whereas CRC needs to be built around the existing I-5, not over it.

    But FWIW, $300m2(twice as long)6(six times as wide) is $3.6b.

    A final point and then I'm going to go back to my moderate den and hide... These GHG emissions are assuming that vehicles are going to spew GHGs well into the future. Isn't it safe to assume that cars 10, 20, 30 years from now will emit very low CO2? Just a thought.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    @ Nick: "@George - If we built more lanes, then yes, congestion would ease for now. At that point it's incumbent upon Vancouver to get its house in order to prevent future congestion for its residents. But these are separate arguments. Should we also stop widening the Sunset Highway because we want to encourage more people to use the Blue Line? No. We give them the option and try and make both run as easily."

    No, it wouldn't, not for long, because simply moving the bottleneck down towards Portland will do very little to speed passage across the bridge.

    Moreover, if you are sure of your arguments, then prove out those ideas for getting Clark County's "house in order" now, before we make a $4B blunder. Otherwise, you're just calling for more of the same, at a higher level of congestion.

    As for the vehicle fleet of the future, given that it takes 17 years for the fleet to change over in GOOD economic times, I think we can pretty much say the burden's on you to show that the transportation contribution to greenhouse emissions is going to go down (right now it's about 1/3).

    One thing we can say is that the Great Recession will do more to reduce congestion and greenhouse emissions than any amount of roadbuilding (roadbuilding is itself very greenhouse intensive, since it uses lots of concrete and steel). Vehicle miles travelled are falling --- which is why the build the megabridge drumbeat is so misguided. It may well be clear in a few years that the "problem" is resolving itself.

    The Goal One Coalition has a good piece on why the megabridge is a bad idea whose time has already gone: http://is.gd/mlqp

  • Douglas K (unverified)
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    Are you willing to sacrifice Vancouver LRT for a narrower bridge? Because just I don't think Portland can win this game of chicken with Vancouver drivers.

    We don't need to sacrifice Vancouver LRT for a narrower bridge. Period. We just need to keep the existing bridges instead of tearing them out. Build a new eight-lane freeway bridge, three thru-lanes and one merge lane each way. No LRT bridge and no pedestrian or bike facilities on the freeway bridge.

    But instead of tearing out the existing bridges, we keep them and rehab them. Two arterial traffic lanes and one transit (bus and light rail) lane each way, and built-out sidewalks for pedestrian and bike traffic. The arterial lanes could run from Interstate and Denver Avenues and N Marine Drive in Portland to Main Street and Washington Street in downtown Vancouver.

    Simple. And achievable at a significantly lower cost than the mega-bridge. Light rail, in particular, could be installed at a small fraction of the cost of the current proposal.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    A similar situation and debate has been ongoing in Louisville, KY for at least 15 years. Like Portland, the other side of the river (in this case the Ohio) lies another state, but I-64 is integral to transportation interstate just like I-5. Like the Columbia, the Ohio is also a commerce river with tugs and traffic of its own.

    Unlike the Portland situation, Indiana and Kentucky have very similar taxing authority. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is a perfectly legal tax dodge to live on the Washington side of the river and work on the Oregon side and avoid the Oregon income tax. You then commute over to Oregon for shopping and avoid the Washington sales tax.

    If this is true, then perhaps this is just another argument for scaling back the personal income tax significantly and replacing it with a sales tax. Of course I could be compketely wrong as well!

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    @Kurt: Except for the part about avoiding the income tax. Work in Oregon, pay taxes in Oregon, resident or not. (True in most states. Only a big deal here because the Washingtonians gripe about it so much, being that they only live in Washington because someone held a gun to their head and forced them to do so.)

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Steve Maurer wrote:

    The problem is that those bridges were built for the population of when they were built. Not the population of today. Just being proportional, you'll find the bridge size should come in at about 10 to 12 lanes.

    You can't just wish away the needs of a growing population.

    This is wrongheaded oversimplification. First, another freeway with a Columbia River crossing has been built since the Interstate Bridge. Second, more than population changes over time. Economy, technology, and culture change as well. Notice that the number of whale-oil lamps, watering troughs, and ice houses have not kept pace with population growth since the nineteenth century.

    Long distance auto commuting and truck freight will decrease over time, not increase, in reaction to global warming and high energy costs. We need to use resources to build infrastructure for 2050, not 1950.

  • (Show?)

    Folks arguing that more capacity will lead to less peak congestion would do well to read up on the Law of Triple Displacement.

  • (Show?)

    Sorry, that's Triple Convergence...

  • Nick Christensen (unverified)
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    Kari - Of course, we all saw in Los Angeles that you can't keep adding lanes until your problems are solved. But the CRC is not the Santa Monica Freeway. It's a freeway interchange that happens to be next to a river. For all intents and purposes, it's not much different than I-5 in Tigard (10 lanes) or I-205 in East Portland (8 lanes). Six lanes is not wide enough for an approach to A) a major freeway interchange, or B) a significant suburban business district, much less throwing in C) a key regional freight link and D) one of two crossings between the nation's 22nd largest city and a suburb with 20 percent of its residents.

    More broadly — a lot of the arguments I'm seeing here hail from the same school of logic the Dittohead dolts in my home state are using against Harry Reid. He's either a tax-and-spend porker or not doing his job by not bringing home enough pork.

    We shouldn't build a bridge because it won't solve congestion. But if we do build a bridge it will encourage more sprawl (because people will suddenly enjoy the congestion on the 12-lane bridge vs. the congestion on the 6-lane drawbridge?)

    CRC is the last hurrah. We can't add more lanes, we can't build a third road across the river (the Westside Bypass might have averted this argument for a lot of people at a much lower cost, but it got spiked, so here we are). If it opens and is crammed with cars, then Vancouverites will have a light rail option to choose and maybe Clark County planners will finally start thinking differently about transportation planning. And if it works for a few years before they sprawl out, at least we gave them a light rail line for the day they decide to plan somewhat responsibly.

    It's expensive, but so is every major road project on the books right now (see: Alaskan Way, Evergreen Point, Bay Bridge partial rebuild). Portland commuters are tired of their freeway system being crippled by cars trying to get over that bridge (for the record, I'm a TriMet rider who drives to work periodically, and most of my delays revolve around dealing with Washingtonians trying to get home), and the only realistic solution — short of banning cars with Washington plates at the border and sending everyone in Clark County a free C-Tran pass — is to replace the CRC.

  • ClarkCountyIsTooDumbToBuyLR (unverified)
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    Posted by: George Anonymuncule Seldes | Mar 7, 2009 10:08:02 "I'm tired of waiting in traffic to get across the river. I'm tired of waiting in traffic to go east on I-84 any given afternoon. I'm tired of waiting in traffic to go to the airport. The bridge is the lynchpin for all of that."

    Do you mention that during the interview, or just wait to be instructed to drop your pants? 99% of the time the company chose a location that exacerbates the problem. Let them know that you notice. Curse them. Nominee of the week: US Bank in Gresham. These companies locate for a few bucks rent savings and force the bike commuters to use auto traffic as a result. The City seems to only want to give them more tax breaks. Only you can bring pressure.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Nick Christensen wrote:

    We shouldn't build a bridge because it won't solve congestion. But if we do build a bridge it will encourage more sprawl (because people will suddenly enjoy the congestion on the 12-lane bridge vs. the congestion on the 6-lane drawbridge?)

    Exactly. Twelve lanes of congestion hold twice as many cars and people as six lanes of congestion.

    Sending $4 billion down a rathole to give residents of Clark County another opportunity to become enlightened about landuse and transportation is about as dumbassed an idea as I have heard. It's not unlike starting a war to teach people the horrors of violence.

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