The CRC is Dead… Now How About A Real Option?

So the CRC is officially dead. At least in its present form. So the question remains, what to do about local traffic, pedestrian and cycle traffic and possibly even freight and transit options? What about Vancouvers dramatically lower standard of living than Portland’s? What about all of Vancouver’s problems, which are growing dramatically?

Maybe the politicians will actually look at some of the very real and vastly superior alternatives that so many had put forth.

I do have one other question… so if Trimet hired those guys that were supposed to work on the “CRC”, what are they doing with those people now?

I’m not sure, nor am I too concerned at the moment. But I’m really happy to see this project dead in the water for now (pun intended?). The CSA, or Common Sense Alternative still appears to be the most intelligent and useful in so many ways.

Either Way, Worst Case CRC Scenario…

Mark my words…

If the CRC does manage to go forward, it’ll get pushed out, delayed and cost more than it is estimated solely because it is too large of a project as it is. These are notorious for failing to meet the original goals. Here’s my estimations of what will realistically happen.

  • I’m betting it’ll bust budgets and probably spiral into the $4-6 billion dollar range. Currently it’s decreased by $100 million to 3.1-3.5 billion, which is weird since the original environmental assessment and other project work is easily $100 million dollars over budget (at least any reasonable budget for this type of work).
  • It will likely, even running over budget from the current, have to cut at least one of the corridor amenities. What I mean by this, is that they’ll end up dropping an exit or some other feature to save some money when things start to run over.
  • It is also likely, on big projects like this especially (see big dig as a prime example), that they’ll start to reduce the “niceties” of the bike, pedestrian and light rail features. Likely either cutting the distance of the light rail to just downtown Vancouver and not reaching the community college and also prospectively cutting the bike & pedestrian facilities.
  • Access to the bridge in anything but a car will be painful in various ways. With high speed auto & truck traffic above the pathway it will leave the pedestrian and bike travel exposed to the high decibal sounds of the traffic in addition to the uncomfortable lack of real light into the pathway. Maybe they’ll add lights, but more likely that’ll be cut to make sure they can cover the roadway costs.
  • Traffic will not increase to fill the bridge for years, namely because the three lanes in each state feeding the bridge will not increase anytime soon. At least they are basing this 10 lanes on the idea that the majority of traffic that causes congestion on the I-5 bridge gets on or off the bridge within 3-4 exist on either side of the state line. Which of course begs the question, why are we not building an arterial bridge instead of a multi-billion dollar Interstate Bridge that doesn’t really help local communities in a reasonable, healthy or effective way?
  • North Portlanders will get a 5-15% increase in preventable deaths from poisoning related to automobiles on the Interstate.

So that’s a few bets. So far, I’ve not been wrong about large scale projects like this. I started guessing when I first started studying the Boston Big Dig years ago. Sad to say I was off by a billion dollars on that final bill, but that was still less than 10%.  o_O

Anyway, we move forward toward the CRC Nightmare as it is…  but alas, I have some positives that might come out of this, and these are my estimates from that perspective.

  • If the bridge is built, light rail ridership on the Yellow Line will double. Win for Vancouver and Portland.
  • Vancouver will be the base of more trips from alcoholics, drug dealers, meth heads, heroine addicts and prostitution than Portland will be a base for trips to Portland. In other words, Vancouver can rest easy, their problems will come to Portland, not the other way around. (and yes, if you’re not aware of this fact, per capita Vancouver has vastly more drug, alcohol and related problems than Portland, fitting much closer to its conservative Republican voting base). Win for Vancouver.
  • Approximately 100-200 tax evading people will actually move to Vancouver to use the light rail but lower their cost of housing. Only to find their livability decreases and transport costs actually go up since they’ll only be able to use the light rail to get to Portland, where they really want to be anyway. Then they’ll just return to Portland 2-3 years after moving. Win for Portland over the long run, immediate win for Vancouver.
  • Vancouver will become the “gateway” city for people moving from the midwest and California thinking that it is actually part of the “Portland” experience when in reality it is much different. They’ll move at first to Vancouver, realize it is harder to live there and work in Portland, and then just end up moving to Portland after they realize the best way to live and work in Portland. Win for Vancouver & Portland.
  • Bicyclists in Vancouver will suffer less, even though the crossing won’t be dramatically improved. For bicyclists that use the light rail, it’ll be a dramatically improved crossing experience, getting them to the Kenton Neighborhood in quick fashion.  Win for Vancouver & Portland.
  • Traffic delays will stay relatively the same, and this project will kill off any attempt to spend money on and remedy any other Interstate bottlenecks for 10-20 years. Increasing congestion in other parts of the city and making it more troublesome to resolve traffic issues for the Portland metro area, making every other mode except the automobile more attractive. Win for Vancouver and Portland.
  • Getting the Lloyd Center area Interstate fixes built will likely be broken apart after the budget woes begin in earnest with the CRC. Which means we’ll be able to break apart the budget of the Lloyd Center area projects into reasonable chunks and implement the ones the communities in those areas care about, such as the Intersate cover, biking, and pedestrian safety improvements instead of cutting massive swaths into the I-5 to I-84 corridor to add lanes.  Win for Portland.
  • The roadway will be smoother with newer plates & roadway built. Win for Portland and Vancouver.
  • The bridge will make driving more expensive for Vancouver residents that hate Portland. More people that hate how Portland is run and it’s intent around building community will hopefully move away. Maybe to Houston or something, I hear almost every inch of that city is paved, it’d be great for Portland haters and automobile dependent people. Win for Portland and Vancouver.

So at this time, these are my estimates – or projections – for the future of the CRC. What are yours?

In one of my upcoming write ups, I intend to cover a full break down of the Milwaukee Light Rail Project.

Forces Against the CRC, Fight for People: Families, Kids & Livability!

A great article was posted by the Cascade Bicycle Club. Along with every bike group, transit group & almost every single other citizen group in the Portland Metropolitan area the citizens stand against the corporations & Government entities working against the people of the region. Check out this image in the article too, just look at everything near the I-5 corridor, just in that small distance that will be wiped out. More is coming out everyday about how poorly this project has been run and how bad it will be for the area.

…it’s time to stop it, any day now and work on other solutions. There are so many small fixes to so many of the big issues that I-5 causes we’re wasting time and money with this CRC nonsense. Call your representatives today and tell them to get their act together and look at real alternatives to serve traffic and work for the citizens of this area.

Washington Passes $8.4 Billion Transportation Bill

Here’s a quick blurb on this transportation package in Washington. It looks like, sounds like, reads like the Washington Democrats have voted in to throw down $450 million match for the I5 Columbia River Crossing in spite of heavy local contention on the Portland and Vancouver sides of the bridge. It appears that the politicians in both Oregon and Washington give no care to those residents in these cities.

The CRC wreck continues to move forward. It’s starting to get to the point of, who’s going to pay for the massive overruns that are starting to take shape. Remember the bridge needs redesigned to meet Coast Guard height restrictions, it’s going to limit overall height which will close down businesses along the Columbia up river. Beyond those two immediate things Oregon has not established an actual funding source for the bridge or setup actual bonds or other mechanisms. In other words, the politicians in Oregon have spent money they don’t have in any budget, the politicians in Washington have completely disregarded Vancovuerites and of course have no vested interest in Portland form this perspective.

None of them seem to be paying attention to the future, nor the fact that traffic hasn’t increased on this stretch of interstate or the fact that 70% of traffic congestion is caused by local traffic. In other words, EVERY logical solution to this is to build an arterial bridge and let local traffic travel on it instead of being forced to funnel into the I-5 corridor.

Why is this simple solution such an insanely hard thing for these politicians to wrap their head around? It seems someone with some deep pockets and serious intent to build the bridge – broke as it is – keeps pulling the strings of the politician puppets. Just sad.  😦

My Two Cents of What’s Happening

The Republicans are in favor of just paving a massive bridge across the Columbia River. A few of them have even suggested BRT, albeit they know how BRT works out (i.e. it usually doesn’t get funded and when it does it’s shoved into traffic anyway).

What this is starting to shape up like, in a twist of irony, is Oregon is supporting the bridge to get light rail and Washington is supporting it to get light rail, in spite of and against the will of the sprawling areas’ Vancouver citizens. The irony is that Vancouver’s state – Washington – is in favor of light rail, the biggest sticking point for Vancouverites.

In Oregon, we’ve actually got a number of the features we demanded were must haves; safer and better pedestrian and bike access, light rail into downtown Vancouver and on to the College, reduced overall lanes and slowly decreased scope to fix all these other ingress points on the Interstate.

Overall, Portland and Oregon as a whole have gained a lot of things we wanted. However the biggest problem is that it is still unwanted by the overall communities it affects the most, it doesn’t actually provide real traffic congestion relief (and even if it did, induced demand would fix that in short order). The bridge is largely unfinanced which will fall on the backs of our children. The trend is also AGAINST increased car ownership, it’s actually dropping, and Portland is a leader in that dropping demand. Building this thing is against the trend that is occurring.

Overall, it seems like Oregon and Washington politicians are blinded by the desire to get light rail built and find it acceptable to sink us into massive debt by building an Interstate that is entirely unfunded, even with the tolls for Washington Commuters coming into Portland.

Overall, things are whack for the CRC.

The Ongoing CRC Cluster Failure

So I was reading through some articles and somehow I’ve missed this one. It appears the politicians haven’t paid any attention to the state treasurer. The House & Senate didn’t say a thing to the state treasurer who testified that many problems still exist. To quote Wheeler,

“The project costs haven’t been nailed down,” Wheeler said. “There are a lot of question marks, including whether the federal funds will materialize. We’re concerned about the governance model if the tolls don’t pan out. The Coast Guard hasn’t signed off on the height yet, so we don’t know what revisions will be necessary.”

When asked if he’s given a seal of approval to the bridge,

“No, we have not.”

So it really makes me wonder what nonsense the pro-CRC crowd keeps chirping on about. They must seriously be well funded to have pro-CRC people shilling out on a Facebook Page and other presence points on the Internet (when obviously the PEOPLE of the area don’t want the thing).

To throw in another quote about the legislature, they seem to be aiming for union & business support, they’re obviously not asking the citizenry (who until recently has found it odd that this thing was still alive as a project).

“The Oregon Treasury deals in investment-grade analysis, the Legislature in superficial votes that curry favor with unions and the project’s supporters in the business community.”

Then in regards to the Governor. It just keeps becoming an even larger political boondoggle.

“The governor? He’s in bed with the wrong crowd.”

Then later on, a real summary quote,

“Let’s be glad the Legislature, so easily cowed or bought off, has moved on, clearing the way for a more aggressive review in Washington state and more thorough analysis by the Oregon Treasury.”

“When it comes to doing our job,” Wheeler said, “so that if we issue bonds, we have certainty that the bondholders will be paid back and the taxpayers won’t be at risk, that requires a deeper analysis than what the legislative process prescribes.”

So I guess Wheeler is looking out for the state. The political leaders recently elected to the legislature in Oregon sure as hell aren’t paying attention to those they represent.

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.

CRC, a way to kill decades of progress…

This however, is a vastly superior idea.

A Common Sense Alternative to the CRC from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.