Tuesday, May 27, 2008

CRC -- A Fringe Agenda

As reported today in the Oregonion, three Metro Councilmembers are proposing a resolution to the Metro Board to oppose building a new, safe bridge. Citing increased congestion and development sprawl, they are instead proposing tolls, light rail and minor safety improvements.
Mind you, I have not personally seen the resolution...my rant here is based on the Oregonian article.

The new proposed bridge and adjacent interchanges will provide a continuation of the three (3) through travel lanes that now presently exist on the Washington side of the Columbia. Ironically enough, Oregon is presently fixing their freeway bottleneck at Delta Park by constructing an additional lane. I don't know for sure, so I ask....Did those Metro councilors oppose that action?

The additional lanes beyond three on the new bridge are provided to help with the merging and weaving of traffic on an off the freeway between Vancouver and Delta Park. Indeed, these new merging lanes will help decrease the growing congestion (associated with the growth of our community) through the bridge influence area, as will some form of high capacity transit.

Some important 'big-picture' aspects of this project seem to be missing from the thinking of such a resolution:
  • Let's not forget that, as noted in the Oregonian article, that the I-5 bridge is considered one of the worst bottlenecks on the west coast.
  • Let's not forget that the population of the Portland Metro Area is anticipated to double in the next 30 some years.
  • Let's not forget that any project to improve the bridge influence area should allow for the freedom of the citizens of Clark County and Portland to either drive their own vehicle or ride high capacity transit.
  • Let's not forget that one of the primary goals of this project is to improve the mobility of freight and goods, so as to improve our business climate in our region (e.g., create more jobs!)
  • Let's not forget that Europeans have been paying high gas prices for a long time now...and they seem to have adjusted their driving habits accordingly. Having been across the Atlantic Ocean several times over the past couple years, I'll attest there are many cars still on the roads, paying the high gas rates. The suggestion that driving here will drop dramatically, thus no need for improvements to the bridge, doesn't appear to have merit.
  • Let's not forget that moving vehicles release less greenhouse gas than vehicles stalled in traffic jams.
  • Let's not forget that reducing pollution of all forms is a laudible goal. However, utilizing the Interstate freeway system as the guinea pig for the mother of all environmental projects is short-sided. Those Metro councilors should work on something more feasible...like removing all the asphalt paved roads in Portland and planting grass like the Lewis & Clark Trail...note the sarcasm here, please. Social engineering, of the magnitude suggested by the proposed resolution is simply irresponsible.
  • Let's not forget that some 60,000 residents from Clark County commute to Portland businesses every day, and pay an Oregon income tax of which they realize less benefit than those living in Portland.
  • Let's not forget that the Portland housing market could not realistically house all those citizens and families that would need to move to Portland to get to work, if no improvements are made in the bridge influence area. Given the housing prices in Portland, I don't believe citizens in Clark County would desire to live in "affordable" subsidized housing.

Corky Collier, E.D. for the Columbia Corridor Association responded brilliantly, "For Oregon to say Clark County needs light rail and not a bridge is just a little bit on the arrogant side," Collier said. "This is teamwork. We're trying to put this project together as a group."

If we don't move forward, we fail our region and the west coast. All the more reason that our federal delegation (Oregon and Washington) as well as California, and representatives from Mexico and Canada must be outspoken advocates for the CRC project. Our local communities should not carry the burden of this project (read: no tolls).

Thank you for your proposed resolution....Liberty, Collette and Hosticka. Your idealism is intoxicating. Once practical heads prevail and our community moves forward with a reasonable project, I hope you will be able to look back in comfort that you did your best to represent the fringe thinking. I hope you will then be able to look forward, for the future of our region and the west coast.


Bob Koski said...

"Those Metro councilors should work on something more feasible...like removing all the asphalt paved roads in Portland and planting grass like the Lewis & Clark Trail..."

Sounds like you're channeling me a little here Tim...well said.

The biggest issue with all of this mess with Metro, is that they fail to acknowledge that Clark County has also been underwriting Trimet's costs for years.

Every employer in Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties pays a Trimet Tax on the wages of their employees, including those from Clark County. The Employers all pay approximately $6.82 per thousand dollars of wages paid to every employee, and remit directly to Trimet via the State of Oregon.

That funding machine has been in place since the mid-70's and is the reason why Trimet can build and operate and expand light rail the way they do, without any significant Federal funds. The Portland streetcar operates in much the same manner.

The fact is, Clark County citizens contribute significantly to the economy in Portland, and the cross-river traffic is not just the responsibility of Clark County commuters. A lot of the morning truck traffic heading into the Port of Portland with containers crosses the I-5 spans as well.

But in light of Robert Liberty's idea, why bother with tolls? If you want to solve the congestion on the crossing in the spirit of Metro, then just weld both lift spans up, and be done with it! Voila! No more congestion on the Columbia Crossing!

Makes as much sense as anything coming out of Metro these days...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I can only hope that the councilors are successful in their efforts.

You see, the people of this county do not want a bridge replaced. We want an additional bridge.

Before you waste any more than the $90 million you've already wasted for a study with a pre-ordained outcome, you should have asked us what WE want.

There's a fringe here, all right. But it ain't the majority of us who do not want the bridge replaced; who do not want loot rail; and who do not want tolls.

It is sheer idiocy to replace an otherwise safe bridge. It is nonsensical to cite fear of earth quake as a reason to replace this perfectly functional unit, particularly when replacing that bridge will do nothing to solve the real transportation problems confronting us every day.

The Willamette Week said it best when they referred to the real costs of this colossal waste of money thusly: "The $4.2 billion he wants to spend could buy a $21,000 Toyota Prius hybrid and a year’s worth of gas, four new $1,000 bikes, and an annual $1,260 C-Tran pass to Portland for each of Clark County’s 150,000 households."

No reason. No excuse... and no need.

tim leavitt said...

Thank you ANONYMOUS for your comments.

Having been involved with the project through my various "hats" and having many conversations with citizens throughout our community, I'm not hearing that "the people of this county do not want a bridge replaced."

In fact, over the past few years, I've heard quite the opposite. A vast majority, and in particular those that have to drive the crossing every day, are in favor of new interchanges and bridge...I suppose because they are daily experiencing the ridiculuously unsafe and outdated layout of the existing infrastructure.

In fact, over the past few years, I've heard many in agreement with your assessment (as am I), that another crossing is needed.

However, a third crossing is another community discussion, another NEPA process, and another billion dollars+ to construct.

I don't like it any more that you do about the cost to complete the NEPA process. That is an issue that should be taken up with the federal government...no need to point the finger at me about that. Another bridge crossing will require another DEIS (if we want federal dollars, which I'm guessing you'd be supportive of rather than us paying for the whole cost). That DEIS will cost millions to complete also!

Most certainly, the outcome of the DEIS is not pre-ordained. There is no 'conspiracy' here to get a certain project. Fact is that the FEDS require this highly detailed NEPA assessment to study the alternatives and determine if those alternatives meet the STRINGENT criteria to receive BILLIONS of federal dollars. If the alternatives don't meet the criteria, then there's no project...simple as that. There are many other cities/states around the US of A that would be very thankful if the CRC just went away, so that their projects might have a better chance to receive the federal dollars.

There just comes a point when pouring money into an aged, inadequate and unsafe structure doesn't pencil. A new crossing and new interchanges will help defer the congestion created by a burgening population. No, congestion won't go away...but it won't be quite as bad, allowing for our region to remain competitive economically.

Unfortunately, the Willamette Week quote is inconsequental. The CRC project is about an infrastructure investment to accommodate the next 50-100 years of growth and commerce in our region and along the west coast. Their example of spending the $4 billion does nothing for reducing congestion after the one year expiration of the annual C-TRAN bus pass!

Regards --