Friday, January 2, 2009

LRT into Vancouver

Thank you Anonymous for your comments and questions (previous post) regarding the Columbia River Crossing.

As you know, the CTRAN Board of Directors and the Vancouver City Council (as well as the other participating public agencies), voted on a 'locally preferred alternative' for improvements in our nearby Interstate 5 corridor.

Our vote at CTRAN came with siginificant deliberation and consideration of the data, alternatives and estimated costs of the project. I was extremely pleased, as Chair of the Board, that 8 of the 9 elected officials arrived at a conclusion that they could support. It wasn't easy, that's for sure! As a Board, we supported (in general terms) a replacement bridge with light rail transit. However, we did place conditions on our approval; most of important of which (in my opinion) is that a) CTRAN won't ask the voters of Clark County for additional tax to pay for light rail construction, and b) additional tax to support the operation/maintenance of light rail in Clark County would require asking the voters to approve. I believe those are reasonable caveats for the high capacity transit component of the project, that provide our citizens protection from higher taxes (construction) and provide a say in whether or not they will support the operation/maintenance. I feel the CTRAN Board truly worked in the best interest of our community.

The challenge now for the CRC Staff and the Project Sponsors Council is to design a project that stays within funding limitations, meets the criteria of the CTRAN Board resolution (and other agency resolutions), and doesn't have detrimental impacts on Vancouver neighborhoods, businesses and commerce.

Contrary to some of the other blogging I've recently read, this project will indeed have positive impacts on traffic congestion in the future. The data supports this, and more fundamentally, common sense supports this. Our population in Clark County alone is anticipated to baloon by another 500,000 around the 2030 timeline. South of the River, the population is expected in increase another 1 million. Freight/truck traffic alone is estimated to increase by 77%. Of course the traffic congestion is going to get worse! Currently, there is about 3.5-5 hours of congestion (35 mph or less) during the AM and PM rush hours. The project will MAINTAIN that level of congestion for the next 20+ years. Otherwise, if nothing is done...and population contiues to grow...and businesses continue to grow...and demand for goods and services continues to grow over the next 20+ years, congestion is expected to last 15 hours per day.

I won't even talk about the ridiculously unsafe interchanges we have now on both sides of the bridge...

I've also been reading on other blogs that the people want more bridges. Well, I'd agree with that wholeheartedly. We should have additional crossings over the Columbia River. Unfortunately, there are two problems with jumping to that step: #1) Building a new bridge now still doesn't take care of the problems in the INTERSTATE 5 corridor; and 2) A long time ago, powerful and still elected officials from Oregon told leadership in Washington that if there was an attempt to build another bridge, we might as well put a U-turn on it, because they won't allow another landing in Oregon. Sounds pretty clear to me that until there is new leadership in Oregon, there won't be any new bridges...

Yes, I intend to attend the Light Rail Walk on Saturday, January 10th from 9-Noon.
Aftewards, there is a workshop at Hudson's Bay High School, probably to discuss what was observed and potential issues/options/alternatives. I will be around for part of that session from Noon-3pm, but cannot stay for it's entirety.

Thanks for contacting me.