Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Will Metro vote to study another idea for I-5 Columbia crossing?

Chris Smith at Portland Transport reports some potentially key developments regarding the CRC on the Oregon side:
Two resolutions (PDF, 83K) are being offered for Metro's consideration. The first, from JPACT chair and Metro's representative to the CRC task force, Rex Burkholder, asks for the addition of one more option to the DEIS mix: a new arterial bridge as a supplement to keeping freeway traffic on the existing bridges.

2. In addition to the CRC staff recommended alternatives, the Metro Council supports including in the DEIS for additional analysis an alternative that includes a low rise with lift span supplemental bridge built to current seismic standards to carry cars, trucks, high capacity transit, bicycles and pedestrians. This alternative retains the existing I-5 bridges for freeway travel with incremental improvements to those bridges and the key access ramps, to improve flow and increase safety on I-5. Additionally, this alternative would include replacing the swing span of the downstream railroad bridge with a movable span located in a mid-river location on the railroad bridge, thereby aligning with the current lift span of the I-5 bridges.
The second resolution, by Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, is more expansive and inludes things like a "land use alternative" that would attempt to reduce the cost of the project. Which is interesting but would run smack into the Clark County Commission's on-going project to discard the 2004 Comprehensive Plan and enact a new one with larger urban growth boundary areas.

Smith says the smart money is on Burkholder's resolution. It's an important discussion to have. Smith notes that it's good to see the railroad bridge being mentioned, and on this side of the river it's fair to note that Democratic county commissioner Steve Stuart has been talking about that as well.

There's an article in the print version of The Oregonian today (sadly not on-line that I can find) that follows up some of Stuart's thoughts about the bridge project. According to Stuart, the federal government might pay at most half the cost of a new project. If that's so, we really do need to consider whether it's realistic to expect that Oregon and Washington could each come up with about $1.5 billion for the CRC.

Just so we know what has been stated previously, on page 4 of the CRC staff recommendations (PDF file) they discuss "Supplemental Bridge options" and um, they don't seem to think it's such a great idea:
All of the options would cause an increase in congestion in downtown Vancouver and Hayden Island compared to the Replacement Bridge options due to traffic diversion to local streets that would result from congestion on I-5, especially for the Supplemental Arterial option. Other traffic impacts would result from routing Clark County trips to Hayden Island through downtown Vancouver.
So that's the context of what is shaping up as an important Feb. 27 task force meeting. There seem to be some genuine differences of opinion, and the jaw-dropping potential costs of a new bridge combined with other improvments really have to be examined somehow.

I've been leaning toward the staff recommendation, frankly, but I'm still listening and interested in what people are saying both here and south of the river. Should Metro endorse another alternative to study in the DEIS, that would be a fairly major statement.

Ain't democracy grand? If nothing else, elected officials and many others have been making, for the most part, very sincere good-faith efforts to grapple with a very complex topic. I still don't envy them their task.

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