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.