The Whole Columbia River Crossing, The Other Pending Financial Catastrophe

Dammit. I have things to do, but of all the issues facing Portlanders, Vancouverites and in some very indirect ways the general populace of California, Oregon and Washington, feel the need to inform & provide my frustration with the current state of the I-5 Project. The last few rants and ramblings on Facebook have been without much information, just “go call your senator” and what not. I’d mistakenly assumed that people knew the situation surrounding the I-5 Bridge Replacement.

First things first let’s talk about what the I-5 Project is. This project is generally referred to as the CRC or Columbia River Crossing Project. It is intended to replace the I-5 Bridge, add light rail, and dramatically change out and increase the interchange access for local traffic on Jantzen Beach, access to Vancouver, and a number of other interchanges in Vancouver and a few in north Portland. The total price tag is *estimated* at about $4 billion dollars.

Now a few facts that will not change.

  • Trimet == Tri-County Metropolitan Transit Authority. The transit service, that generally serves the three counties of the Portland Metro area excluding Vancouver.
  • C-Tran == Clark County Transit. The transit service that serves the Vancouver area, which generally equates to express service that travels into Portland and drops off people that work in Portland and live in Washington.
  • This project, overall includes Trimet, C-Tran, PDOT, ODOT, WADOT and other agencies working together, sort of. There’s a LOT of politics and disunion already. (and yes, I’m stating that as a fact, the fighting has become public several times.)
  • The project will cost at minimum $4 billion dollars. Not less.
  • The project includes a toll for traffic coming from Vancouver, because Vancouver doesn’t have the kind of money to build a project like this. The majority of funding, in order, will come from the Federal Government, Portland and then everybody else.
  • The project does include light rail, which Vancouver will INDEED fund part of, regardless of the recent vote because Vancouver/C-Tran has already promised this through other means.
  • The project includes pedestrian access.
  • The current design has to change for various legal, safety and regulation requirements around the airfield and river traffic. (The plan itself generally costs hundreds of thousands and includes millions of dollars of work)
  • The throughput lanes remain the same for the entirety of the bridge replacement.
  • The only net new throughput would be the light rail line into downtown Vancouver that would extend to the community college.
  • The rail bottleneck would remain untouched. This costs over a billion in delays and congestion every year to the metro area of Portland, the city of Seattle, and delays downline to San Francisco, Oakland and even Los Angeles. Yes, it is THAT big of a bottle neck and this project does nothing to change this.
  • The road based freight delays on I-5 are negligible by comparison and much of that freight traffic already diverts to I-205.
  • The majority of traffic that turns into stop & go and delays on I-5 between Vancouver and Portland is 70% local travel. The information available also points out that the majority of this traffic ends up exiting the Interstate within a few exist north or south of the Bridge. In other words, the traffic isn’t even into or out of Portland itself, but only to the immediate areas around the Columbia River. (One using deducation, might say we need a local arterial for this traffic)

So now that I’ve pulled together these facts, let’s look at a few other things not related to the CRC, or also known as alternatives. Here’s one that is really well put together.

This is one of the solutions, or alternatives, that has been put forth. But alas, I’ll include the proponents material too. It’s available via the Columbia River Crossing site that has been put up here: http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/ProjectInformation/ResearchAndResults/AlternativesConsidered.aspx

Yes, there is a website dedicated to the projects implementation. There’s also the Bike Portland blog that has a great write up on it (it’s not anti-car per say, just informative for the most part).  http://bikeportland.org/2011/04/27/video-explains-common-sense-alternative-to-crc-project-52147

Also, while we’re at it, give a listen to this individual. He points out the damage the Interstate has already caused and many of the related issues that we already have to deal with, without making the problems worse by building a massive bridge that barely resolves any of the traffic issues.

So anyway, go learn about it, and PLEASE take a minute or two and call your Senator about this. This project as it is will dramatically decrease what can be done in the future to actually deal with traffic, it will decrease the amount of funds for other things in the city budget too, such as schools, existing infrastructure, etc. This project is going to expand the debt burden for the next generation, i.e. your kids and teenagers you’re raising now will have a significant debt to deal with from this bridge. All of these debts and such and it will provide no new net capabilities.

I’m not against building something. We need to expand infrastructure capabilities and clean up our mess as a society in this area. BUT, this CRC solution as it is laid out adds more burden than it adds solutions. So get out and get vocal in your opposition.

Just call, leave a message, write, or whatever you feel like doing. It only takes a minute or three. They will not argue with you, they will not insult ya, they will take your opinion and then act upon however they see fit to represent us. It DOES influence things if you make your opinion and knowledge available.

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