Thursday, July 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...

Finally have completed the decisions on the Locally Preferred least the Vancouver City Council, C-TRAN Board of Directors, Portland City Council and Tri-Met. This isn't the final decision step...but an important one to keep the process moving forward.

Our neighbors to the south are pressing hard on their positions. As I see it, there is both good and bad for Clark County in those conditions set forth by particularly by the Portland City Council.

The Good: As I've expressed previously, it's time to perform some 'reverse engineering' on the CRC project. For me, tolling is not an acceptable 'given' for the project financing. The feds need to step-up to the plate and recondition this derelict federal asset. In lieu of the feds coming to the table with the money they should, the CRC engineers then must revisit the proposed improvements and design a project that meets minimal, and likely not all the needed improvements in order to minimize (if not eliminate) the need for tolling. Simply put, tolling of the I5 Bridge is simply too much burden for Clark County citizens...paying Oregon income tax, paying Washington sales tax and commuting to Portland for work. Now, add a toll. Unfortunately, utilizing public transit (to avoid a toll) is simply not practical nor convenient for many who commute to Portland. So, the good in the Portland City Council message is that the project should be scaled back in size and cost. How it's scaled back is the question, and eliminating the tolls is a must.

The Bad: Portland really believes that light rail is the only option commuters should consider for getting to work in Portland. By proposing a scaled back bridge wiht only three lanes, the intended congestion relief is for all purposes removed. We have three lanes now, with no merging/weaving/acceleration/deceleration lanes...which results in much of the congestion. As most of you know all too well, rounding from SR14 westbound onto I5 south, you are dropped right into three fast-moving travel lanes immediately, with little distance to merge before hitting the bridge. Extremely dangerous. On the northbound commute, heading east on SR14, the exit is immediately off the bridge. Again, extremely dangerous. There are certain aspects of this bridge crossing and interchange improvements that MUST be completed. The rhetoric coming from the south side of the river doesn't seem to be understanding of this...but we'll see.

Much more dialogue and decision points remain. The LPA votes are another narrowing step in the process. I look forward to working with all the partners, both north and south of the river, to bring forward a viable project that meets the needs of our region, as well as assists in smooth commerce for the entire west coast.