CRC: So ODOT, how about keeping that promise you made?

Carla Axtman

Willamette Week:

In the wake of a recent letter from the governors of Oregon and Washington urging the project proceed despite a variety of concerns, David Osborn at the Stop the CRC Coalition has now produced this brief video. It should serve as a reminder that the Oregon Department of Transportation told both City of Portland and Metro officials the project would not move forward unless local concerns were addressed.

Click on Osborn's video below to watch it:


  • (Show?)

    The current CRC proposal is simply a classic boondoggle, which wikipedia defines as a "term for a scheme that wastes time and money." Yes, exactly! The region has many higher priorities that are going unfunded. The behavior of both governors in continuing to promote this scheme and in trying to push it forward over local objections is outrageous!!!

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    I do not see how the competing interests of Washington and Oregon (and specifically the competing interests of Portland Metro and Vancouver) can be reconciled. Notwithstanding all the blather from the former Vancouver mayor, Vancouver and Clark County are essentially a bedroom community to Portland. Portland has the higher paying jobs, and Washington based commuters are generally happy if their daily commute is as fast, cheap and simple as possible. For a high percentage, that means Single Occupancy Vehicles moving at the higest possible speed limit across the river and into Downtown or over to Beaverton or whatever. Portland Metro has its own concerns regarding the environmental consequences of all those Washington cars, not to mention a certain level of hostility toward all the "lost tax revenue" that has moved across the river to Washington, and not to mention the cowboy-style land use planning (or non-planning) that has gone on in Clark County for the past 20+ years and which is beyond the reach or control of Oregon planners and land use laws.

    Unless the Feds step in and force something through on the threat of withdrawing federal funding - which might be starting to happen - I just don't see how anybody comes to an agreement on any of this.

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    If only the engineering firms had offered a Mandarin option.............


    Hey, we need to upgrade the bridge crossing the Columbia.

    The longer we dither, the more it costs. I had not realized until recently that a lot of the people opposing the bridge are the ones supporting every light-rail project that comes down the pike. Light rail, of course won't really begin to pay off for another 50 to 100 years, so if you think we might need a better bridge sometime in the next 50 years, the time to do it is now.

    No large public works projects will ever be cheaper five years from now than they are today.

  • tom in portland (unverified)

    ODOT certainly needs to keep it promises and deserves criticism for not doing so, but political leaders like Bragdon and Adams deserve almost as much criticism for approving this grossly incomplete proposal and the environmental "analysis" that ODOT offered to them in 2008. Many witnesses pointed this out to them in 2008 and noted that they had no way to enforce ODOT's promise or the "conditions" that they attached to their approvals. Bragdon, Adams and most of their colleagues on the City Council and Metro Council nevertheless voted "yes". If they are looking for someone to blame for the situation they and the city of Portland now finds itself in, those elected officials should just look in the mirror.

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    There is a lot of room between doing nothing and building a 12-lane megabridge. Spending all of this region's transportation money for the next twenty years to make it easier for Vancouver residents to drive alone to work in Portland or get across the river to avoid paying sales tax is pretty low on my personal list of priorities.

    What can we do now to alleviate the congestion? Toll the current bridges (205 too) for one thing. That will do a lot to change the economics of driving alone to work and will ease congestion and pollution. Yes we will have to ask the feds for permission to do so, but do you really believe that asking for permission to toll is going to be more difficult than asking for $1 billion for a bridge?

    We could also redesignate I-205 as I-5 to encourage through traffic to go around downtown rather than through it. This would probably require some interchange construction at the north and south ends, but again it's no $4 billion.

    We can also eliminate something like 95 percent of the bridge lifts by rebuilding the railroad bridge downstream, so that its lift aligns with the high point of the Interstate Bridge and not the lift section of it.

    There's three things. And I don't want to hear the argument that the current bridge is going to fall down in an earthquake. The fact is that the Marquam Bridge is much more susceptible to quakes than the Interstates and is of the same basic design as the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis.

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    I don't disgree with any of your points Paddy. Some of them I obviously agree with and some are beyond my knowledge base.

    If your conclusion is that we can do workarounds such that we don't need to do anything at all, then great. But I'd still restate my previous point. Will we need either a new bridge or an extensive remodel on the existing bridge in the next couple of decades? If so.....etcetera.

    Justifications for the bridge or for any random light rail project ought to fall under mid to long term planning for the region, and if they are in competition for the same money, I'm going to have to go with the bridge upgrade as offering useful results a hella lot sooner than any trunk lines in the offing.

  • mara (unverified)

    There are real problems in the I-5 corridor, but the megabridge proposal doesn’t address many of the problems and leads to a whole bunch of others. The negative impacts, coupled with a poor public process and very high cost, have eroded public trust and created an extraordinarily expensive project while leaving many essential transportation needs unmet.

    As currently designed, the CRC is likely to increase traffic and congestion; foster poorly planned sprawl development; exacerbate bottlenecks in the Rose Quarter, on I-205, and on local streets in Portland; and lead to at least a 32% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, making it much more difficult to meet Oregon and Washington’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and requirements.

    Plus Oregon’s Environmental Justice Task Force is presently investigating the failure of the CRC project to provide the community with meaningful opportunities to participate in the process.

    The CRC would be the most expensive public works project in our region's history. Whatever we build will impact the region for generations. Rather than make the mistake of building the wrong thing quickly and at great expense, we need to design investments that support our economy, our communities, and the environment.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    We could also redesignate I-205 as I-5 to encourage through traffic to go around downtown rather than through it.

    Maybe I haven't had enough green beer, but doesn't "205" mean "loop on I5 that bypasses downtown"? It was always my understanding that three digit numbers mean that the interstate is a spur off of the last two digits, and if the first digit is odd, it means the spur goes into the city center. But if it is even, it means it goes around it, with greater numbers indicating greater distance from the city center.

    The premise would be that there are people using I5 that should use 205. Either that's quicker or it isn't. If it isn't quicker, why should they use it? My favorite low cost, high yield traffic measure is simply to put little displays next to the exits, on the distance signs, that tells the estimated time to the exit (like Paris does). It is amazing how dead you will happily sit in the middle of the freeway, if you know it is 12 minutes to your exit, and you have 30 minutes to get to your appointment. Very cheap, reduces road rage, and it's just smart. You don't need to build a major system to conduct traffic around. Just let people know how long the various options will take and the demand will flow to where there's capacity.

    Implement a sales tax and you won't need a new bridge. And if you're going to build a new bridge for people in Washington to take advantage of our lower taxes, I have an idea for funding it. Make it a toll bridge, south bound only (always good civic policy to not impede people getting out of dodge- SF got that right), and waive the toll if they pass a written exam on Oregon's pedestrian crosswalk laws. Dieing under an Oregonian's SUV has some meaning, but if it's just someone from Vancouver shopping that doesn't know our arcane crosswalk logic, it takes most the fun out of it.

  • Doug Allen (unverified)

    If Pat Ryan wants something done, then he should realize that the CRC proposal is the "dog in the manger" preventing progress.

    Back in 2004, the Columbia River Towboat Association and Identity Clark County got together with a proposal that would have eliminated all I-5 bridge lifts due to commercial barge traffic. Their plan? Fix the downstream railroad bridge to allow barges to go under the high (non-lift) span of the I-5 bridge without making a dangerous S-curve movement.

    What they didn't know was that at the same time, Neil Goldschmidt was meeting with Ted Kulongoski on behalf of Bechtel and Parsons Brinkerhoff, two of the biggest engineering firms around, to promote a big new I-5 bridge. The Towboat Association plan was shelved in favor of the big bridge.

    That is just one example. Doing a seismic upgrade of the existing bridges is another. Building a non-freeway supplemental bridge at much lower cost is another example of what the CRC is now costing us. We could have been receiving "stimulus" money for some of that work right now, if not for the CRC plan.

    Trying to mix bridge opponents and light rail supporters is just an ignorant attempt at ad hominem argument. There are just as many connections between light rail supporters and bridge supporters, if you think that is somehow relevant. The truth is that light rail was made an integral part of the CRC for the express purpose of trying to gain support from Portland.

    There is an excellent case that a separate light rail bridge, or a combined light rail, local street, and pedestrian/bicycle bridge would be much cheaper, and would provide relief to the existing I-5 bridges without further jamming the freeway system with commuters.

  • Brian C. (unverified)

    Seems like a simple case of a long overdue infrastructure update to me. The current bridge is woefully inadequate for current population levels. Bigger picture, it also happens to be a major artery for interstate commerce. Build a damn bridge already.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Carla and all our northern firends. Where has ODOT said those statements before? Why, I'm sure that Paulie and few of the rest of us remember them telling Medford the exact same convenient tale 8 years ago regarding the north interchange, and then again 5 years ago regarding the south interchange.

    Yep, they listened, patted local politicians and concerned groups on the head and then went out and did whatever they wanted.

    Oh, and their cost stimates tend to be off by 40%-60% to the low side as well.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Before supporting this megabridge, take a trip down to the San Francisco Bay Area to see what the four bridges connecting the San Francisco peninsula with its northern and eastern neighbors have wrought. Hundreds of miles of parking lots during commute hours. Build a bridge and connecting roads will follow. Build connecting roads and commercial and residential development will follow bringing congestion and polution to more and more square miles of once productive and scenic land.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)

    The current interstate bridges have withstood the test of time. The original bridge opened in 1917 when horse and wagons were still very much a part of the landscape. As the area population increased and the automobile grew in popularity, the need for more roadway capacity was realized. The original bridge, now over 90 years old, was augmented by a similar structure in 1958 over 50 years ago as part of the Interstate Highway System. Currently the Columbia River Crossing is the most congested choke point on I-5 corridor between Canada and Mexico. The crossing also serves as one of only two local roadway connections between Portland and Vancouver. With the projected increases in area population growth, once again more roadway capacity crossing the Columbia is desperately needed. It would be foolish to build a bridge too small that does not have enough roadway capacity to withstand the test of time.

    If cuts are being made to the project to lower the price tag, then balance and equity must prevail. The first cuts to be made must include cutting out all the unnecessary recreational bicycle trails that have hitched a ride to this project, eliminating the frills to the bicycle infrastructure such as turn outs on the crossing so bicyclists can stop and view Mt. Hood, and narrowing down the overly-wide, super-sized, bicycle crossing itself. The financially non-self-sustainable mega light rail component also needs to receive its share of cuts along with eliminating all the non-functional artsy add-ons to both the light component and the project as a whole.

    Additionally, any tolling, if implemented, must be minimal, affordable, not have a negative impact on local small businesses and not used for social engineering purposes. If motorists are charged tolls to use the crossing, then too must the freeloading deadbeat bicyclists and heavily subsidized transit passengers be required to directly pay for the specialized infrastructure they use - with bicycle tolls and transit fare surcharges respectively. Transit passengers must also be required to pay the majority of light rail operating costs. There must be no cross subsidies between the users of one mode of transport to pay for another mode of transport. Redistribution of wealth is specifically constrained in the US Constitution. If tolls are charged motorists to subsidize another mode of transport, that would be a redistribution of wealth in direct conflict with the common interpretation of the constitution. The term “wealth” here applies to the simple earnings of the working class who commute by driving.

  • Andrei (unverified)

    It's a little surprising to me that anyone here would not be opposed to the proposed mega-bridge.

    It represents more of the same thoughtless policies and practices stemming from hubris that we can do whatever the hell we want without thinking about the environmental and social consequences. what? It's a problem now? Just make it bigger, more noisy, more shiny!

    If it's a problem now (and we all admit that), and we expect population increases, doesn't the megabridge (a continuation of the flawed understanding that this is just a technical issue) mean, simply, that we are setting ourselves up for a bigger problem 20 years from now? Then 12 lanes won't be enough, so we'll need 18?

    This can no longer be treated as a simple fix to a "technical" problem. It's not a technical problem, rather one that has far-reaching implications and requires a change in behavior. Many of the suggestions here are quite good. It would be fantastic if NGOs and the local elected leaders would sit down and draft a coherent and viable alternative that incorporates those ideas. If this is already happening, apologies for my ignorance. But maybe that means you need to advocate more vocally.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)

    Doug Allen said, “There is an excellent case that a separate light rail bridge, or a combined light rail, local street, and pedestrian/bicycle bridge would be much cheaper, and would provide relief to the existing I-5 bridges without further jamming the freeway system with commuters.”

    Doug: A far more reaslistic, safety first and probably even less expensive option would be to construct a new six to eight lane freeway bridge, with all the safety features of a modern freeway, for through traffic only; and then use the existing bridges for local and interchange traffic, light rail (one lane on each bridge) and with wider sidewalks (like on the Hawthorne Bridge) for bicyclists and pedestrians.
    Additionally, selfish concern continues to be voiced that building more lanes will only fill up with cars in the future and how that will impact a variety of issues. It also has become a fact of life in a modern society that as the population grows; there will be more cars and more of a need for roadway capacity. It has been over 90 years since the first bridge was built and 50 years since the second bridge opened. The CRC must not be viewed as the end all of bridges over the Columbia in the Portland-Vancouver area. If projected population increases continue to grow, another new bridge will be needed in the next 50 years.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    This is strange:

    By Erik Robinson Columbian staff writer

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Portland and Vancouver political leaders plan to move behind closed doors today to chew over the fate of the biggest public works project in the region’s history.

    Members of a high-level committee advising Washington and Oregon’s governors on the multibillion-dollar Columbia River Crossing will try to work out their differences over lunch at the Portland law office of Henry Hewitt, who serves as chairman of the Project Sponsors Council.

    Confirmed participants include Paula Hammond, Washington’s transportation secretary; her Oregon counterpart, Matthew Garrett; Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt; Portland Mayor Sam Adams; Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart; and Metro council President David Bragdon. The one remaining council member, TriMet director Fred Hansen, announced he was retiring Wednesday and is not planning to attend.

    The public is not welcome.

    “It is not a Project Sponsors Council meeting, and it is not a lunch that is open to the public,” said Mandy Putney, a spokeswoman for the bistate Columbia River Crossing project office in Vancouver. . . .

    In the words of my mother, can they do that? Any of you highly placed folks have any "leaks" on what was decided?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexation (OCVA) has been very active in growth issues for several years. The OCVA web site has articles on growth and its costs that are related to this thread. Check especially the Executive Summary of Growth Subsides Report.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    Redistribution of wealth is specifically constrained in the US Constitution. If tolls are charged motorists to subsidize another mode of transport, that would be a redistribution of wealth in direct conflict with the common interpretation of the constitution. The term “wealth” here applies to the simple earnings of the working class who commute by driving.

    Citation please, article and section number. On this planet, where US means "United States," one of the key purposes of the Constitution was to force states to honor Revolutionary War debts that they had run up, effecting a huge redistribution of wealth away from the poor and into the hands of the wealthy who tended to buy up war scrip and other obligations at pennies on the dollar.

  • mara (unverified)

    A very interesting closed-door discussion yesterday, as reported by Sarah Mirk from the Portland Mercury, who got to listen in:

    A Fascinating Six-Way Phone Call About the CRC

    a snippet:

    “At what point do we as a community say a bridge this wide is too big or just right and how does that impact cost? It could be more expensive to do a single deck for all I know. We want to know the plusses and minuses of all ideas,” said Adams.

    “Obviously we can’t start over,” replied ODOT’s Matt Garrett.

    “Matt, come on,” snapped Adams. “The proposal on the table is for a 14 lane structure. Double decked… The agreement that was on the table was that we’d build it up to 12 lanes with federal standard shoulder. I need you folks to get out of sloganeering and into analyzing what’s actually proposed. Are we doing the best project possible?”

    “I understand what you’re trying to get at,” replied Garrett. “But because the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] process is such a disciplined process, if we start drifting away from what we proposed—”

    “The biggest vulnerability under a NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process is to exclude things too early,” interrupted David Bragdon.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    This has been an excellent analysis of what makes progressives spit.

    “I understand what you’re trying to get at,” replied Garrett. “But because the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] process is such a disciplined process, if we start drifting away from what we proposed—”

    How many times has the statement that progressive policies get implemented by conservative folks, bent on showing that you didn't want it? What a perfect example. And what a coincidence that you were told it's how things get done day to day. Listen in on ONE phone call, and surprise!

  • (Show?)

    i don't understand the premise of the posting. They promised to listen, they didn't promise to march lockstep.

    Careful listeners realize there is a difference.

  • Erik H. (unverified)

    It would seem that if the argument is to always listen to the locals: Does Vancouver want Light Rail?

    Vancouver voted "NO!" by a resounding number when they were last asked at the ballot box.

    The City Council is pretty well against it.

    Yet Portland and Metro seem to push it through against Vancouver's wishes. What goes around comes around; and if one is to criticize the Governors and their respective state DOTs for demanding too big of a bridge against local (Portland's) wishes; one must ALSO criticize Mayor Sam Adams, each member of the Portland City Council, the entire Metro Council, and Fred Hansen - the outgoing TriMet General Manager (and member of the CRC steering committee or whatever it's called) for their unwavering demands for light rail when Vancouver has shown strong reservation for it -- not to mention that under Washington law, Clark County residents MUST vote on it (again!)

    <h2>What if Clark County again votes "NO!"?</h2>

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