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Oregonian editorial questions spending on CRC bike/ped path

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 14th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

"... bridge planners must examine the bicycle-pedestrian plans very closely to see how costs could be shaved... The core purpose of the project has been and, we predict, will remain getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly."

The Oregonian Editorial Board published an editorial piece today that calls the funding of a bicycle and pedestrian facility on the new I-5 bridge into question.

In the editorial, The Oregonian states their skepticism about projections of how many people will cross the bridge by bike and foot, saying the numbers being produced by project staff "deserve very close scrutiny because of another figure looming over the project: $100 million."

(Just for perspective, $100 million is about 2% of the total cost of the project, which is estimated at upwards of $4.2 billion.)

The Oregonian points out that as CRC staffers look for places to cut spending, the bike/ped facility should not be spared the axe. They write:

"Still, with the entire $4 billion bridge project now entering a critical "value engineering" phase, bridge planners must examine the bicycle-pedestrian plans very closely to see how costs could be shaved."

The editorial points out that, "some will argue that the bicycle and pedestrian paths on the bridge should be eliminated altogether." They then provide statements from TriMet GM Fred Hansen and the Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission that that is not at all likely to happen.

"Maybe so," they conclude, and then there's this,

"The core purpose of the project has been and, we predict, will remain getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly. Sharp and careful "value engineering" and political planning must keep that thought at the project's center."

Wow. Did The Oregonian say that moving human-powered traffic over the bridge is outside of the "core purpose of the project"? I don't get it.

It's worth noting that the editorial includes one incorrect assumption. They write "some bike advocates would prefer for the two tiers to be flipped". From what I know, however, bike advocates and bike insiders in Portland are overwhelmingly in support of putting people on bikes and on foot below the deck.

In fact, at this week's City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting, eight of nine members present voted for the under-deck option (the other member abstained).

It's also interesting that this editorial came out now. At that BAC meeting, David Parisi, the CRC staffer in charge of the project's bike and ped path design had come to get a formal recommendation from the City's BAC. As the committee debated making any recommendation of a specific design because they felt uncomfortable with the options (and the project in general to a certain extent) he issued a threat -- basically saying, "Come to consensus soon or I can't promise that we will continue to leave the bike/ped path funding untouched."

We'll have more on this next week, but it's interesting to see where this might lead. Mayor Adams has promised repeatedly that the bike/ped facility will be "World Class". As the budget knife sharpens, how firm will he remain on that promise? Will the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) speak out forcefully against this?

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Comments
  • Roger Geller August 14, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Hmmm, I read the editorial this morning and what I took away from it was that the editorial board didn't want the project to pursue options potentially more expensive than the underdeck crossing--noting that having the path adjacent to the roadway would cost $75 million more than the current cost estimate.

    As Trimet stated, not including the path is a "nonstarter."

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  • Esta Nevando Aqui August 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    "The core purpose of the project has been and, we predict, will remain getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly..."

    So they can idle in the bottlenecks at 4th Plain and the Expo Center. LOL.

    This bridge is a joke and so is the Oregonian. I can't wait until it gets the axe.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I agree Roger. The article is confusing. But the thing is, there is basically zero momentum for any bike/ped design except for the underdeck... so why make it seem like there is? and the part insinuating that bike/ped traffic is not a "core purpose" of the bridge is unfortunate.

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  • Hart August 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Does the Oregonian still send out racist anti-Muslim DVDs in their Sunday editions? Just curious if that's something this editorial board still does, or if prostituting for the auto industry is their full time job now.

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  • kgb August 14, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Is the Oregonian sitll in business?

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  • Bob August 14, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    It would be interesting to hear ODOT/WSDOT's take on the bike/ped component. Those two agencies seem to be driving this process and for that reason I fear for the results.

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  • Joe Adanski August 14, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    An Oregonian commentary is not the same as transportation policy. But if the proposed CRC gets minimized sufficiently, say down to six lanes with crappy bike/ped facilities.. we are there already, no need for CRC.So in a perverse way, this commentary is a step in the right direction.. no CRC.

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  • Rex August 14, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I just sent the following to the editors of the Oregonian:
    In the Origonian’s recent opinion piece Talking the walk over the Columbia River,
    I was disappointed to read the following: “Core purpose of the project…. getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly.” This statement leaves out bikes and pedestrians.
    I would like to ask the editorial board a few questions: First, when does Peak Oil happen and thus the reduction of, at least, the cars and trucks portion in the core purposes? And second, when the oil does run out, will bikes and pedestrians become the core purposes of this bridge that could, at this time, shortsightedly be relegated off the budget?
    Last question, “What is the life span of this bridge in relation to peak oil”?

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  • bridge purpose? August 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Seems to me the core purpose of the bridge is to get cargo and people over the bridge, not trains and cars. If I choose to move my person or my cargo over the bridge via bicycle, that would seem to be meeting this core purpose.

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  • old&slow August 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    The bridge estimates are ridiculously expensive. For reference, the new Martinez bridge in the bay area which is 4 times as long cost 1 billion. The new Bay bridge which spans from Oakland to San Francisco is 5 billion. I don't know where they get these numbers, but the cost of adding a bike lane is almost nothing compared to the cost of the bridge. The Oregonian, Willy Weak, all the local "journalists" are so lame it is embarrassing! How about some kind of research into the cost of the bridge instead of nitpicking over the bike lane.

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  • David Haines August 14, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    The Oregonian editors' sudden obsessing on this tiny sliver of the project's $4 billion cost definitely enlightens me as to who feeds their opinions.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the O editors question other aspects of the bridge -- like each of the TWELVE lanes.

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  • BURR August 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    that's funny, 'cause I read the editorial and thought that the Oregonian was endorsing making sure bike ped facilities were part of the final design.

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  • Richard S August 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I had to read that editorial twice. I'm still not certain what position they are trying to take. Frankly, it's poorly written. It could just as easily have been a standard news story.

    Editorials are supposed to advocate a position in unmistakable terms, with supporting arguments.

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  • peejay August 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Come on out to Sunday Parkways Southeast edition, where you can tell the CRC people exactly how you feel about their crappy bridge. It's actually great that the O said what they said, because the bike and ped facilities were nothing but sugar for the kids and you know it. Now that there's no money for sugar, we know what's left.

    No CRC, no 12 lanes, no way!

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  • JH August 14, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    This is unfortunate, I hope he make a full recovery!

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  • jim August 15, 2009 at 12:19 am

    maybe we can tax all the imported goods that need to get across crc. also tax the mexican trucks they let come across.

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  • rev August 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    The idea that the CRC folk would try to bully the Bicycle Advisory Committee when they are volunteering to help the CRC work better is as insane as funneling 6 lanes of bridge traffic into 2.

    If we work together we can stop it.

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  • Rollie August 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    You know, one day people like this -- yes even old coots at the Oregonian -- won't be able to afford gasoline. And I really don't think electric cars and so forth are going to pan out. And so, for the first time in their lives they're going to try riding a bike. And they'll be all "Hey, there's no bike lane" and "I feel unsafe" and suddenly the Zen gong of enlightenment is going to ring out loud & clear!

    Though humor aside, at that point I think enough people will have made the transition, that one or more of what used to be car lanes, will be empty and available to bikes. And shopping carts of course. And there won't be a need for a specific bike lane anymore.

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  • Mr DeJerk August 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Let's face it: they're right. The project is and will be for cars and trucks. That's why it's preposterous. Why should we kid ourselves that we will be getting anything from a bike/ped facility?
    I don't see the point on negotiating. If the BTA is to say anything about it, is that any CRC design is unnecessary AND counter-progressive.

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  • mykle August 16, 2009 at 1:01 am

    I've expected all along that the CRC project would try to weasel out of bike, pedestrian and mass transit components of this project once various levels of project approval have been passed. It's clear that those elements have only been added to sell the project to Portland voters. None of the landowners & developers poised to make millions from sprawl in Clark and Cowlitz Counties give a damn.

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  • Mark C August 16, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I don't like the CRC as currently proposed at all, but I've at least taken comfort in the fact that we'll get upgraded bike/ped facilities. Now the Oregonian is proposing that bike/ped facilities be "value engineered" right out of the project? I was just shaking my head reading that editorial.

    As others have stated above, the CRC as proposed does nothing but move the current bottleneck to different locations north and south. So, let's leave the current bridges to the cars and trucks and instead build a much cheaper new bridge dedicated to light rail, bikes, and pedestrians.

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  • SteveD August 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Don't get your collective panties in a bunch over this. Since the project is mostly Federally funded, there is a mandate to provide mass-transit and bike/ped accessibility. They might shave it a bit, but they cannot cut it out, lest they want to lose Federal money. That is what I've been told by those involved in the planning.

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  • PdxMark August 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Technically, I think the CRC is mostly NOT funded.

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  • Andy B from Jersey August 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    SteveD beat me to it.

    We're having issues about a bridge here out east that crosses the Delaware from Jersey to Pennsylvania. The bridge authority planning it is trying to weasel out of building bike/ped facilities even though the closest bike and pedestrian crossable bridges are 10 miles away in either direction.

    However if either bridge is to get federal funds it must provide bike/ped access (John Boyle at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia can give you the details on the regs that govern this). Only if providing bike/ped access is extraordinarily expensive, amounting to over 15% of the total cost can an agency opt out of providing the bike/ped access. In each case the cost of the bike/ped access doesn't exceed this amount.

    Andy B

    PS - Where's the coverage of the SRTS National Conference Jon?

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