ran an article yesterday about possible tolls
on a new I-5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland. County Commissioner Steve Stuart says federal funding will be scant:
Stuart recently spoke with members of the Washington congressional delegation about the bridge and came away feeling its prospects at the federal level aren't bright. The two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, all told him the big federal deficit and the cost of the war in Iraq are making big-ticket transportation projects less feasible.
"We'd be very, very lucky to get even half," Stuart said. "Whatever we come up with is going to require local dollars, and inevitably that means tolls."
He may be right; I can't recall anyone from the Congressional delegation actually being quoted about this issue directly. It's all conjecture at this point anyway.
From what I understand, quality proposals would stand to do well when it comes to federal funding, and there are a lot of devils in those details.
From Portland Transport
we learn that veteran transportation planner Jim Howell suggests that the solution is light rail by itself. You can read his guest editorial
at the Portland Tribune.
I love it when people in Portland who obviously understand little about Clark County politics think they can tell us what to do. Howell's idea wouldn't be approved by voters or any sane politician in a million years, and it's pretty typical of the pie-in-the-sky mentality among some transportation enthusiasts south of the river.
That attitude is a big potential problem, and it's already manifested itself through various mischaracterizations of the CRC project. Some folks in Portland seem to insist on calling a new bridge "gigantic" and talk about "a massive new 10 lane bridge" when they know darn well that what is proposed is 3 through lanes in each direction, with "drop-off" lanes and interchange improvements.
Constant talk of a "big new bridge" is fairly misleading. But there are forces in Oregon that have utterly misconstrued the CRC, big surprise.
Oregon's Metro talks about "land use solutions" without ever acknowledging that Clark County is poised to blow out the urban growth boundaries. Maybe, as one person has suggested to me, Metro is in fact trying to tell us something, but it would seem to be a rather arduous way to deliver that message. Yeah, our land use policies are messed up. We know. It's called the BIAW, look into it.
Some transportation experts and enthusiasts from Portland talk about "aggressive transportation demand management," which the public doesn't really understand.
What it amounts to is making it so expensive to get across the river that we won't go, or if we have to go because of work or medical reasons we can pay an exorbitant price or use transit.
Which works well in computer models, not so much for a patient needing chemotherapy and the light rail doesn't go where they need. High tolls used to keep people from using the road system as much would be seen as unfairly punitive.
When the public figures out what some people mean by "aggressive transportation demand management," they will justifiably go on a voting rampage against anyone and anything involved in such a plot, should it be put into practice. Agree or disagree with "aggressive TDM," that seems to be the highly predictable political outcome.
Tolls that pay for the project and perhaps upkeep might be accepted, if griped about, but if you start trying to screw regular people who are just trying to get to work, the first thing you're going to see coming across the bridge is a parade of citizens bearing torches and pitchforks.
But I figure if folks in Portland want to tell us what to do, then two can play at the game. (Here goes that little bird again).Hey, Oregon, here's a land-use idea that will keep thousands of people from moving over here: fund your schools. It's not exactly a secret that one of the top reasons people with kids flee Oregon is how badly public schools are treated.
As long as we're "being creative" and "thinking outside the box" and "being experts," I would posit that greater investments in public schools in Oregon would not only yield long-term economic benefits but slow the long-term increase in commuter trips across the Columbia. So study that, or put that in your pipe or what have you.
You know, I bet someone has studied that. 'Cause everyone I've met from Portland with kids over here says the same thing: they wanted to get away from Oregon's lousy school funding picture.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for light rail if it pencils out (and realistically, the cost is steep and it may not be the best solution in the end).
But we still haven't figured out how to have a bus system that will support transit from Clark County. To be fair, it's still early in the process, but it would be nice to have an idea of how a total system would function and what it would cost. Buses might, after more study in the DEIS, still come out on top as the transit component.
One could argue that the money spent on light rail could be used instead to make a whole ton of improvements to C-TRAN, not the least of which would be freaking bus shelters and street cut-outs so that people aren't standing in the rain and buses don't mess up traffic flow so much. (I haven't actually decided myself, it's just an example of the kinds of decisions that need to be made.)
If people in Portland really want to control cars, they can start with Washington County cars and stop blaming us for all their problems. There is no moral or legal reason to single out Clark County residents for shabby treatment.
Should Portland decide that minimizing automobile use is that important, they should try a London-style center city pricing plan that applies to everyone instead of figuring they can just hose people who happen to live north of the river. Not everyone moved here from Portland, despite the canards frequently tossed around in some circles south of the river.
This is a major metropolitan region, and there are services on the Oregon side that Clark County residents have to access (can you say "Kaiser Permanente?") The I-5 bridge mess is just that-a mess-and it needs to get fixed.
Portland does have legitimate concerns. It is very much worth discussing, for example, ways to reduce air pollution in the corridor. Sure, we don't want to "move the bottlenecks," which might simply transfer pollution-generating congestion from one place to another.
But what seems strangely absent from discussions of this, which tend to focus on north Portland, is where the pollution currently must reside, if congestion bottlenecks cause pollution - Vancouver.
I figured Portland residents would have a different take on things, but I didn't realize how accepted it is sometimes to just consider Clark County "the Other." To exaggerate a bit, it's as if Clark County residents are not fellow citizens who work, shop and play in Portland, but some kind of marauding enemy force to be contained, and if possible, humiliated. It's kind of weird.
Must be the license plates or something, because nobody seems to be talking about forcing 50% of Washington County commuters to take the already existing light rail line. Again, if that's what people in Portland want to do, they should feel free to try it and good luck with that. I hear there is a new Pitchforks R Us opening in Beaverton; that will be handy.
The new Interstate Bridge is not the Mount Hood Freeway, another common canard. A new bridge would be a replacement, not a new corridor. People who insist on comparing a replacement bridge to the never-built freeway are kidding themselves at best, and being obstructionist at worst.
Funny thing - Interstate 5 is an important highway, not Portland's private social experiment. We all want to do things better, but there needs to be give and take, and a willingness to realize that not everyone is going to like the final outcome. There are legitimate safety and efficiency reasons to consider replacing the existing structures.
Finally, the subcommittee to study a fourth alternative
was scheduled to meet one last time this morning, in advance of a task force meeting tomorrow evening. It's also worthwhile to explore that alternative in the DEIS, to see if something short of replacing the structures will work.
The CRC staff doesn't think so, but it's important to the process that all reasonable alternatives get a good, hard look, even if it does cost some more money for analysis.
It's understandable that a project this large and complex will generate tensions. What we need is a greater understanding of concerns on both sides of the river, which is probably easier for Clark County residents because most of our media is based in Portland. In any case, large projects are almost always faced with political challenges, but good-faith efforts by those involved have helped in the past and hopefully will continue to be rewarded with progress.
Now about the aesthetic of the design...(just kidding.)UPDATE, 12:40 PM: The Columbian reports some details
of the "fourth alternative" approved Monday. The newspaper says it will include a new southbound only bridge, and:
- Keeping the existing Interstate 5 Bridge for northbound traffic only, each span with two lanes plus shoulders and off-ramps.
- Building a new bridge, adjacent to the existing one, with four southbound lanes as well as high capacity transit, whatever system is chosen.
- Increasing the mass transit capacity to 25,000 riders a day, express buses from 19 to 40 and park and ride lots in the corridor from 1,872 to 7,500.
- Including bicycle and pedestrian facilities to the existing I-5 Bridge, perhaps on paths built off to the side.
It's an interesting proposal, and at first glance it would seem to deserve serious consideration for inclusion in the DEIS. The whole project is like squeezing a balloon, of course, as anything you do has an effect somewhere else.