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.

The Morning Ride In… and a few thoughts…

I’ve written about my commutes over the years, from transit to walking to cycling. Today is one of those cycling stories. Today is what I’d call a “Cheers Episode on Bikes”! It’s been a great ride into the city today.

I departed on Alberta and headed to breakfast first. It has been a foggy morning, so visibility is limited. Well, it’s limited in the sense that I hope drivers are being careful, because their speeds need to be dramatically limited in the fog. Thus I was bumping up my normal cycling hyper vigilance even more so today. If you’re unfamiliar with this level of hyper vigilance, here’s a quick refersher http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypervigilance care of wikipedia. All cyclists need this, all the time. Motorists should have it, because it is they who by multiple orders of magnitude kill their fellow friends, road users, pedestrians and others. I could go on, needless to say, I was watching out hard core, fog does that.

As I headed down the road though, I noticed something. This could be a Portland thing, it might be an Alberta thing, it may be that everybody was just doing right by each other today. People were actually taking a chill pill and watching out for each other. As I rolled onward down the Going Street Bike Boulevard, I came to the 15th street crossing. This is one of the many crossings that make neighborhoods better for children, easier to cycle commute, and keeps cars where they’re supposed to be – on the thoroughfares. The crossing diverts the cars off of the neighborhood slow speed streets onto the higher speed arterial of 15th street. Still a neighborhood street but dedicated to getting cars to more primary arterials. While cyclists are able to cross this redirection straight on Going to continue as a primary bike arterial into the city.

Currently Going street is nowhere near bike capacity. But think about that for a second. This is a neighborhood street that has the potential to carry the equivalent, on single occupant bicycle vehicles, of about an 6 lane Interstate highway. In addition this street has thousands of people living along the road, children and parents, grandparents and young professionals. They all live along and enjoy this street. They’ll never have a capacity issue getting into the city to get to work.

Meanwhile anyone that wants to drive is screwed, because there can NEVER be enough capacity to get everyone to their employ. Again, cars – automated google cars or human directed – will NEVER be able to meet capacity in a high standard of living environment. There isn’t enough space. As the population increases this becomes even more and more apparent, in spite of the arguments that it’ll work out somehow.

Back to the Ride

As I arrived at 22nd I turned toward Alberta and pulled into a bike corral. There were already 6 other bikes in the corral. I immediately thought, “my I do love Portland and its people!” I dismounted, locked her (the bike) up and headed inside Pine State Biscuits for a hearty breakfast.

After a biscuit the size of my head, a piece of chicken the size of a tire, and other assorted ingredients I was ready to tackle the day. Pine State Biscuits is always a great way to start the day with a truly proper biscuit. None of this crappy non-buttermilk biscuit nonsense that is available all over.

After that I headed out for the actual inbound route. Off back down the Going Bike Boulevard. Across MLK, and then on to Williams. Currently Williams is under study to make a better corridor out of this roadway. The primary reasons are it’s a little unsafe at rush hour, with buses and bikes doing a leapfrog for the whole route. With three bus routes on part or all of the street corridor, plus it being a major biking corridor along with more than a few bars, restaurants, studios, art displays and more, there’s a ton of pedestrian activity mixed up in all that too. Needless to say, there can be some dramatic improvements by a redesign.

…I do worry though what the new mayor’s viewpoint is on this, he might put a wrench in it since it’ll cost money. I say create a TID and let’s get this done! People’s lives and well being are worth more than twiddling around wasting about a budget. The area is well beyond able to pay for it through a TID or something.

While I’m heading down Williams I come upon a bus, and prepare to leap frog. But then the yield sign comes on and the re-merge in traffic blinker. Now a lot of people don’t realize this, but ALL TRAFFIC is supposed to let the bus back onto the roadway. Usually though bus drivers cautiously let everything pass before pulling back into the road. Today however there seemed to be an abundance of competence among drivers and cyclists alike! The truck beside me came to a stop, I came to a stop and signalled for the bus to pull ahead and the driver took the #4 into traffic ahead of us. We all, the cyclists behind me, the truck beside me and car traffic behind the truck all continued on. A 2-3 seconds slow down to allow for the smooth and SAFE operation of traffic into town.

Things like this, where people respect the rules to encourage a good, positive commute among everybody, brings a bit of a smile to my face. I like the idea that I’m being respected on the road, and am very happy to let others know I’m aiming to respect others the same.

A little further down the road the same truck driver courteously let myself and several other cyclists take lead when leap frogging around the bus when it went back to the curb for a stop. We were actually travelling faster than traffic at this point, since the auto lane had several people turning that slowed their forward momentum. After that all traffic resumed a steady 28-30mph (yes, if you’re not sure, some cyclists can go this fast on flat or declining ground). We came to a red light together, I peeled off to the right to get entry to the road that would provide easier egress onto the Broadway Bridge.

Once on the road down, a tractor trailer (i.e. 18 wheeler) was attempting to turn right, with blinker lit. Myself and another cyclist slowed and signaled to oncoming traffic that the truck needed to turn. It appeared our auto followers weren’t immediately aware of this. At this point we all cautiously slowed to allow the 18-wheeler to turn. Once it made the right hook we all carried onward onto the bridge.

On the bridge I actually received a verbal callout “to the left” which I realize is often used less than it ought to be. That gave me the umpteenth smile at the thought we Portlanders were looking out for each other today. Getting things done, getting into work, and being good people about it all!

After the Broadway Bridge decline into town on Broadway, again pacing along beside traffic I finally cut off on to the Stark Street Bike Lane down and right onto 3rd. With a final stop at what would be my morning office for the next few hours, Barista. I went in, thinking, today is definitely like an episode of Cheers, except on bikes! A fun commute indeed. Until later, cheers.