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Report: Traffic projections 'invalidate the transportation rationale for the CRC'

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 23rd, 2013 at 11:19 am

traffic on i-5 -1
Tolls and traffic projections for the CRC project
raise new questions.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Economist Joe Cortright says new traffic projections from a previously undisclosed report reveals an inconvenient truth about the Columbia River Crossing project. The plan to toll the existing I-5 bridge span (starting in 2016) would lead to nearly 50,000 people per day opting to drive over the I-205 bridge instead. As a result, not only would I-205 (and its feeder routes I-84 and SR 14) become jammed during rush hour, but there would be a significant decrease in traffic on I-5 which raises new questions about the wisdom of spending $2.7 billion to significantly expand its capacity.

This analysis is detailed in a new, 12-page report by Cortright's firm, Impresa Consulting Inc. (PDF). Cortright obtained the underlying data via a public records request from the CRC and the records come from a traffic modeling report performed by CRC contractors CDM Smith.

Here's more from the summary of Impresa's report:

Starting in 2016, the CRC will toll the existing I-5 bridges; but the parallel I-205 bridges will continue to be free. Tolls will create a strong incentive for drivers to divert to I-205. Until now, CRC has claimed that diversion will be minimal; but a new study prepared by a CRC consultant CDM Smith confirms that tens of thousands of cars will shift to I-205, ultimately loading it to full capacity. Traffic jams on I-205 will increase travel times on I-205, and on connecting routes like SR-14 and I-84; economically important trips to Portland Airport will likely take much longer as a result.

Current daily vehicle traffic on the I-205 bridge is 140,000 vehicles per day and the diversion of traffic from I-5 would bump that number up to more than 188,000 vehicles per day in 2016, the report says. Meanwhile, traffic on I-5 in 2016 would drop to just 78,400 daily vehicles from its current number of 124,000 daily vehicles.

According to Cortright's analysis of the CRC traffic modeling numbers, once the new I-5 bridge opens in 2022 (and tolls are raised even further), the diversion will get even worse and traffic on I-5 would plunge to "about the same level as 1972."

"After spending more than $3 billion, the new mega-bridge will serve fewer than two-thirds as many motorists as use it today."

Given these diversion numbers and the impact tolling the I-5 bridge is likely to have, Cortright comes to the conclusion that, "The people for whom the project is being built (I-5 bridge users) don't value it highly enough to pay even a third of its cost (which is roughly what tolls will cover)."

Cortright also points out that the traffic projections by CDM Smith differs greatly from the projections included in the CRC's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS); so much so that these new numbers "invalidate" the "dramatically wrong" FEIS numbers (as seen in the chart below)...

Going further, Cortright's report bolsters his argument that CRC backers have ignored the decline in driving that has been underway in the U.S. for nearly a decade. "This forecast invalidates the transportation rationale for the CRC project," he writes, "The CRC was based on the premise that a new, larger bridge is needed to accommodate growing traffic flows."

We find these revelations especially troubling given the Oregon Department of Transportation's (ODOT) rationale against a road diet on SW Barbur Blvd due to concerns of "unacceptable" driving delays.

These latest holes in the CRC plan come as the legislature in Salem is due for a special session. While it appears "likely" that the CRC will see some action, the Governor has yet to lay out any specific plans to take it up.

For more on Cortright's latest analysis, check out the 12-page report.

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Comments
  • Kiel Johnson September 23, 2013 at 11:42 am

    This morning I was at Earl Blumenhauer's transportation breakfast. I had no idea there existed so many people wearing suits who had jobs connected to streetcar and lightrail in Portland. There weren't many people there whose jobs were connected to bicycling. I think it is because the connection isn't as direct. Bicycle ridership in Portland is stagnating meanwhile the people control the big purse strings are hearing from a lot of guys in suits who love big rail projects.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

      The reason is because there isn't a massive federal subsidy program for building bicycle paths. If we had something similar to New Starts or one of the other major federal funding programs that favors rail projects, the suits would follow.

      That's why I think a key priority of advocacy groups should be establishment of a federal funding program specifically for major bicycle infrastructure projects. The number of suits and lobbyists is directly related to amount of potential federal cash available.

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      • MaxD September 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm

        I agree with you Jonathan, but I have some reservations, too. After watching our state commit serious money and political capital to passing the CRC DESPITE the fact that it has serious engineering and planning flaws, but BECAUSE of the allure of Federal money, I am starting to think that is is fundamentally broken and corrupt way to build infrastructure. Big Federal handouts seem to yield projects defined by political ability rather than being being informed by the best urban planning or expressing the best engineering. It is tantalizing to contemplate giant piles of federal money, but I fear the results would be half-assed, corrupt make-work projects that completely ignore half of the problems they were supposed to address! Am I being too cynical?

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  • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks Joe and Jonathan! But, of course, we could have (and did tell) them this without an expensive study. :-)

    One gas station raises price of gas markedly. Other gas station keeps price the same. Where will folks go to fill up their cars? Hm.

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  • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Also note the resumption of the upward trend in vehicles in 2022 in the CDM Smith chart.
    That's a good one. I believe autodom will be in full-speed decline by them, making the timid drop in VMT seen recently look like a sneeze.

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  • Ron Richings September 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    The new analysis points to an obvious 'solution'. Don't build the new bridge, but DO institute a modest ( $ 1 ? ) toll on the old bridge - likely with an exemption for folks with Oregon license plates. The redistribution of some traffic to 205 will improve the flow on I - 5. Only tolling out-of-state vehicles will let Vancouver, Washington residents make a contribution to Portland-commuter traffic costs. Part of the toll revenue could be dedicated specifically to bicycling infrastructure improvements, and part could be used to offset the anticipated reduction in state gas tax revenue. And DO move the downstream rail bridge, which I gather would drastically reduce the number of I - 5 bridge openings that are necessary, so reducing the delays on I-5.
    Might even cover the cost of some fast shuttle buses from Vancouver to the final Max station. Gets some Washington residents onto Portland transit at much lower cost than extending rail lines across the river.

    So everybody wins.

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    • davemess September 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      I'm curious how you want to have rapid shuttle buses. Do you want to dedicate an entire lane to them on the current bridge? Or have them sit in traffic?

      And I'm assuming you would only charge out of state plates if we went it alone at funding a new bridge? Otherwise this doesn't make any sense, anyone coming to work in OR is paying state taxes here (thus contributing to our transportation).

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      • SteveG September 24, 2013 at 6:27 pm

        How about tolling one of the bridge's lanes via a HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lane that is dynamically priced to always flow at 45MPH? If is slows down, the tolls rise until some people shift over to the slow lane, or delay their trip to "off peak" periods.

        Trucks, busses and HOVs would either pay the toll to flow through, or sit in the slow lane with everyone else who doesn't want to pay. This would illustrate how prices work, in pretty much every other sector of the economy, to allocate scarce resources (in this case, road capacity).

        With a HOT lane, more lower income people would probably opt to ride bikes, transit, vanpools, carpools, etc, so they save time and money. They'd bike, carpool, vanpool or ride transit (i.e. eat rice and beans) rather than ride in their SOV and pay the full toll (i.e. eat steak). And while that may sound "unfair", I hope we can all agree that free access to the freeway's limited capacity simply doesn't work.

        If we want an efficient transportation system, we need to get serious and put a price on congested roadways.

        Let's use price to allocate scarce roadway capacy, and let everyone who really wants to move at a reasonable clip, do so.

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        • 9watts September 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm

          I've never understood why they are called HOT lanes. The whole premise of them is anathema to HIGH occupancy. You pay the toll because you *don't* have multiple occupants. In my book it would be a LOT lane.

          To me the HOV concept seems more democratic and conducive to the kind of behavior we'd all benefit from.

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          • SteveG September 25, 2013 at 9:33 am

            HOT lanes are typically "High Occupancy OR Toll" lanes: busses, vanpools and carpools go free; others (truckers, people with more money than time, and regular people who are in a hurry) all have the option to pay to swish through. The price paid my SOVs goes up during peak periods, to keep traffic flowing.

            This makes riding a bus or forming a carpool or a vanpool relatively attractive, not only because it would avoid the toll, but also because it would save time, relative to driving solo.

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            • Paul Johnson September 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm

              The problem with HOT lanes is they don't work. Atlanta's going back to HOV lanes because the only thing a HOT lane did was become a dais for showcasing Lexuses and BMWs stuck in traffic, while removing all incentive to carpool. It made traffic worse. In a city like Portland that already lacks a middle class, the last thing it needs is another way for the 1% to lord it over the people scraping by.

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    • q`Tzal September 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      Also build grade separated BRT lanes from Vancouver to Hayden Island and from Hayden Island to downtown as much as possible.
      If you build 2 lanes, one for each way, build a 3rd as an emergency backup lane that is used as a bike highway until it is needed for some massive screw up on the transit way.

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    • JRB September 24, 2013 at 7:56 am

      Imposing a toll only on out of state vehicles could well be viewed as a restraint on trade that is unconstitutional as a violation of the Commerce Clause. When one state imposes a fee on folks from out of state, it invites retaliation by other states and escalation discouraging commerce.

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    • Alex Reed September 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

      I would say, do seismic upgrades to both the I-5 and I-205 bridges. Have a $1.00 toll on each to pay for the upgrades. Fair, improves seismic safety, and as a bonus, would decrease choice traffic (like daverness noting that he currently travels to Vancouver to rock climb despite the presence of perfectly good rock gyms closer in Portland) over the bridges somewhat.

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      • davemess September 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        I should note, perfectly good rock gyms that aren't owned by my good friends.

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  • Hart Noecker September 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Cortright's analysis is impeccable. If only the warnings from ecologists were taking as seriously as from economists.

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    • q`Tzal September 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      There's only one effective religion in the USA: money. All subjects are viewed through the lens of "how much does this cost?".

      If two people don't go to each other's churches they'll agree to disagree.
      Anyone who's primary motive in life is NOT to make more money is a heretic. At best they are stoned hippy dropouts; usually they are considered the worst form of communist.
      Money governs every detail of our daily life; truly the material deity.

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  • Peter W September 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    > Given these diversion numbers and the impact tolling the I-5 bridge is likely to have, Cortright comes to the conclusion that, "The people for whom the project is being built (I-5 bridge users) don't value it highly enough to pay even a third of its cost (which is roughly what tolls will cover)."

    Sounds pretty consistent with the lack of political support up in the Washington Senate.

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    • Chris I September 24, 2013 at 7:36 am

      Vancouver residents would love for the state and feds to build them a sparkly new bridge; they just don't want to pay anything for it. One of my Vancouver friends was convinced that they didn't need to toll the new bridge to pay for the project. I don't know what kind of math they use up there...

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  • IanC September 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Keep up the great work on this important issue.

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  • davemess September 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Didn't I hear that they were thinking of also tolling the 205 bridge, if I-5 got a toll? I wonder what the models would say about that?

    I'm hesitant to truly believe almost any traffic model, and I have to wonder how they can factor in traffic that doesn't HAVE to get over the bridge, and will just stay in Vancouver or Portland. I know I am occasionally part of this traffic, as I go to rock climb in Vancouver, but if both bridges were tolled, I would likely stay in Portland. Same goes for shopping, etc.

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    • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      As commenters have pointed out here several times, we apparently have rules that forebid tolling existing interstates. Assuming this is accurate, this seems like the first thing to try to change going forward.

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      • davemess September 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm

        So they won't be able to toll either 205 or I-5? Sorry, I must have missed that.

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        • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm

          I'm conjecturing just a little, but from what I can tell it seems tolling would require a major rebuild (such as the CRC would entail).

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        • Nate Young September 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

          I may have misunderstood but I believe that injunction was only on I-205 and only held if the toll was to be used to pay for a new I-5 bridge.

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    • Spiffy September 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      I wouldn't mind them tolling I-205 if they had light rail to Vancouver and also had decent C-Tran coverage in east Vancouver...

      I'd like to see Trimet loop up I-5 until it meets I-205 and then come back down to PDX...

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      • q`Tzal September 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm

        Might be better off with a BRT in Washington seeing as they seem to have an irrational hate on for any rail projects.
        Probably could sneak in fully grade separated BRT lanes for that full loop in individual pieces before they figure out whats up.

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        • Paul in the 'couve September 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm

          BRT would be a better system than MAX anyway and it wouldn't involve tracks being a hazard for cyclists.

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          • q`Tzal September 23, 2013 at 10:59 pm

            BRT is better only in that its implementation is initially less expensive. The allure of cost controls and ease of project cutbacks to BRT vs LRT allows bureaucrats with no transit knowledge to scrimp on the most important part of making BRT as good as LRT: full grade separation. Without it BRT devolves in to another failed express bus stuck in traffic; with it BRT can overcome the most critical failing of rail - broke down vehicle replacement.

            From a purely scientific/engineering standpoint steel wheels on steel rails are more energy efficient than rubber wheels but even better is maglev in a vacuum tube.
            Alas the best compromise for now would probably be an electric motor bus powered by surface embedded wireless induction power with enough of a battery to get 5 miles of route back to the bus depot for repairs.

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            • Paul in the 'couve September 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

              I said BRT is better than MAX - not that BRT is better than rail. MAX is no where near an optimal implementation of rail. I was speaking loosely though. Of course a bad BRT implementation could be as bad or worse than MAX but expanding MAX limits the entire system with the fundamental slowness and capacity limitations that are built into to the MAX system from the start.

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              • GlowBoy September 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm

                Paul, you might be thinking of the Portland Streetcar, not MAX. The overwhelming majority of MAX tracks are grade-separated and don't present a hazard to cyclists. It's mostly just downtown, and a few non-perpendicular grade level crossings (I can't think of very many) where they are a hazard.

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                • Paul in the 'couve September 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm

                  Not at SW 20th and Jefferson, or at SW 18th and Yamhill and Morrison, or at SW 11th between Yamhill and Morrison, or in the Rose Quarter transfer center, and the tracks must be crossed to make a left turn anywhere along Interstate and along E Burnside. And then there is the crossing at the 205 Path and Burnside..... In other words even though grade separated there are literally hundreds of places where cyclists have to cross max tracks.

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                • Paul Johnson September 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm

                  If you're having problems negotiating tracks that have been in the streets almost as long as it's existed (MAX was certainly not the start of on-street running in Portland), then I'd hate to see how you handle PBOT's lousy maintenace of the streets creating far larger and more pervasive hazards than rail slots.

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              • q`Tzal September 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm

                The best short unbiased explanation of BRT vs LRT is at Human Transit: rail-bus differences: premise or conclusion?.

                What would have been optimal (from a transit design purity standpoint) in downtown Portland would be to have buried the Blue Line from Lloyd Center to the tunnel and all of the Green Line as it was initially being installed.
                I don't think we even have the political will in Portland to have separated bus only lanes for TriMet BRT; if you go in to their documentation of stretch goal projects their most controversial wish is for traffic signal preference for TriMet's idea of what BRT would be. They aren't even willing to dream of a separated BRT so anything they actually deploy as BRT will fail as anything other than a bus stuck in traffic. Conspiracy nuts like myself might suggest that this is exactly what the LRT industry wants; doesn't make it true so let's give `em the rope to hang themselves.

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                • Paul in the 'couve September 24, 2013 at 8:59 pm

                  There was also a reported reviewed several times on OPB today about how the best Return on Investment of transit dollars was from Cleveland's BRT beating the blue line by about 30:1

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                • Paul Johnson September 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm

                  The problem with BRT is that it's too easy to cheap out on BRT, making it no better than bus service. This is actually why the TriMet "X" routes have failed.

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        • Paul Johnson September 24, 2013 at 6:55 am

          They have an irrational hate for BRT, too, given that Clark County lobbied hard to have the BRT lanes on I 5 removed, making C-TRAN Express only viable because you'll die of rust and old age making the transfer to or from Yellow.

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  • Adron September 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I like the idea of just closing I-5 through Portland, letting the city reclaim the billions and billions of dollars of land back to the neighborhoods and uses they were originally abrogated (stolen, taken, ??) from and funnel traffic out to I-205.

    Oh wait... nobody has floated that idea? Well how about somebody floating that idea? It'd be freaking GREAT to not have people rolling into the city post-high speed interstate usage. Just my 2 cents...

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    • Peter W September 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Not entirely a new idea, and not a bad one either.

      http://riverfrontforpeople.org/

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      • Hart Noecker September 23, 2013 at 1:56 pm

        Members: Jefferson Smith - 'political activist' :)

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      • Cora Potter September 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm

        Yes- let's send all of the air pollution East where the poor people live so that we can build lots of Condos and Bistros in the Central City.

        Brilliant and totally just. I see no equity issues with the idea.

        /snark

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        • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm

          As usual, the problem seems to be too many cars/too much driving.
          What would you propose we do, Cora?

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          • Cora Potter September 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

            I'm fine closing 1-5 along the east bank as long as it's explicit that the traffic MUST be rerouted via 405, and that shifting to 205 is not wanted.

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            • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

              And there are no lungs breathing along 405?

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              • Cora Potter September 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm

                There are! Those lungs also have a median income that is 10-20K higher per year than the lungs in the census tracts surrounding I-205.

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                • Oliver September 24, 2013 at 11:35 am

                  Most of the growth (and traffic impacts) surrounding 205 has been in new moderate to higher income properties, you're only thinking of east county between Killingsworth and Foster.

                  Besides if the property owners (via pedestrian and livability advocates) out there convince the Oregon taxpayer to construct free sidewalks for them, those properties will be priced out of reach of the current group of lower income families currently occupying them within a fairly short order.

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            • Peter W September 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

              > I'm fine closing 1-5 along the east bank as long as it's explicit that the traffic MUST be rerouted via 405...

              One advantage of that (in addition to the great point Cora raises regarding environmental justice for East Portland) is that 405 is already buried to a great extent in NW, and could be capped for the benefit of neighbors and downtown generally. Theoretically, as soon as the value of a downtown block exceeds the cost of capping the freeway, it could be covered at no public cost.

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              • Terry D September 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm

                That idea has been floated around as well during the Katz administration. There is still buildable land near dt south and east, but when that gets more rare capping will become more viable. PSU though has dibs on the sections near the school.

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              • Reza September 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

                Um, only south of Glisan. The rest of I-405 is elevated on a huge viaduct.

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            • Chris I September 24, 2013 at 7:41 am

              That's the thing about traffic; you can't really tell it where to go. If they closed the eastbank freeway and widened I-405 by one lane in each direction, I'm sure that a good chunk of traffic would use I-405; but much of the through traffic (which many would argue should never have been routed through the middle of the city in the first place) will divert to I-205.

              When you close a freeway like this, though, history has shown that a portion of the traffic goes away. Congestion is increased, so more people choose to leave their cars at home. This is what happened in San Francisco when they tore down the Embarcadero.

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            • Reza September 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

              Good to know that it's "not wanted", but drivers would make up their own minds about how to get around if we ever did knock down the Ol' Marquam.

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              • Alan 1.0 September 24, 2013 at 6:34 pm

                Then we could debate calling them "helmsmen" or "people navigating boats," and they could rant about all the people swimming to work.

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        • Oregon Mamacita September 26, 2013 at 8:56 am

          Cora, the interests of the folks n the East Side are just less important. We should be grateful that we are allowed downtown to look at the street cars and the bioswales. Rather than demand sidewalks, we should be grateful that there are parklets on 30th & SE Division in front of the expensive restaurants. When we are cold, we can look at the pretty posting on the BPS website and feel warm. When you see the pond form
          on the unpaved street in deep south east, know that your sacrifice is
          important because without your tax dollars and tax breaks, Homer Williams would not have an awesome swimming pool.

          Some shared sacrifice, huh? I will now drive past (2) 5000 sq. foot houses
          that replaced a small house with lots of trees, secure in the fact that having three bathrooms and no trees is green, as in tax-break green, dollars in your account green.

          It should be an honor to inhale the subaru fumes of the guy with the
          expensive bike with the Thule rack as he drives to a mountain bike trail.

          Thanks for letting me blow off steam. You express my thoughts better than I do- keep up the comments, Sis.

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    • Spiffy September 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Since they built I-205 as a bypass to allow traffic to go around Portland it would make sense to get rid of the other through route and instead have it feed into Portland instead of also still passing through. Dead-end I-5 at the southern city boundary and start it up again after Jantzen...

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      • Cora Potter September 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm

        Just a reminder Spiffy - You too Adron...The city of Portland extends as far east as the 180s. Funneling traffic to 205 is funneling traffic to the middle of the city.

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        • MaxD September 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

          I think density and development patterns would allow for a much better buffered freeway at the 205 location. Also, the river and downtown are undeniable assets to the city, and they are greatly diminished by the presence of I-5. I agree with Cora Potter to some extent that relocating the freeway here would have some equity issues, but only to a point. I would love to see I-5 be re-routed to I-205 from north to south; this would make the columbia crossing local traffic, 405 would be local, and 84 would be local with a terminus at 205 (the new I-5). This would radically improve North Portland, the Rose Quarter, the Central Eastside, and Sullivan's Gulch. 205 would get bigger, but I think some capping and buffering could mitigate. we would be left with some big roads through the city that tie into I-5, but eh speeds could be taken down to 45 mph, stoplights introduced, many of the ramps removed, and bike/ped facilities added. I think this would still serve local freight and transportation needs and provide incredible development and recreation opportunities. I think this would make Portland an incredible city, and I think that would benefit everyone who lives and works here. I imagine this could work similar to to how the highways work in and out of Vancouver, BC

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    • Reza September 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      The only section of I-5 in Portland. that people have talked about removing is the Eastbank Freeway. What people don't seem to realize is that I-5 along the Eastbank was always industrial; the freeway was built on fill and old railroad yards. There's nothing to "give back" because no neighborhoods ever existed in the area where you propose to remove the freeway.

      Now, I-5 further up north (Minnesota Freeway) and I-405 were hugely disruptive and tore through the fabric of existing neighborhoods. Their deleterious effects (noise, pollution, eyesore, barrier) are felt in the surrounding neighborhoods even today.

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  • A.K. September 23, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    It's amazing how many people would put up with a longer commute and being stuck in more traffic in order to avoid a $5 (or whatever) toll.

    On the other hand, if traffic got bad enough on 205, I could see a lot of commuters switching back to I-5, as at that point the toll would be worth it to save an extra 20 miles of driving and 45 minutes of commuting time.

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    • Chris I September 24, 2013 at 7:44 am

      I think you underestimate how many people in Vancouver are cheap when faced with up-front costs, but fail to properly value their time or account for unforeseen costs. These are the people that complain about the expense every time they fill up their trucks, but will drive a mile to buy a gallon of milk.

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      • 9watts September 24, 2013 at 7:46 am

        Both the complaining and the dependence are habitual.

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      • Oregon Mamacita September 26, 2013 at 9:01 am

        Great generalizations, Chris. People in Vancouver are dumb. All of them.
        If they want to raise their IQs and sharpen their critical reasoning skills, they need to move into a new, 1000 a month studio apartment on Mississippi, drink expensive booze and soak in vibrancy.

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  • wsbob September 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    "...As a result, not only would I-205 (and its feeder routes I-84 and SR 14) become jammed during rush hour, but there would be a significant decrease in traffic on I-5 which raises new questions about the wisdom of spending $2.7 billion to significantly expand its capacity. ..." maus/bikeportland

    It's too crowded now, so traffic decreasing on I-5 would be a good thing...but it probably will not do that, at least not for long, depending in part on whether area population continues to grow...which it apparently is doing.

    One way or another, the current I-5 CRC bridges will be replaced. It's just a matter of when, and what form and design, for what exact purpose will replace them. These bridges weren't built on the order that for example, NYC's Brooklyn Bridge was.

    Anticipating that somehow, a case for replacing the I-5 CRC bridges will not be eventually realistically made, is naive. Envisioning and working towards ways to relieve capacity demands made upon capacity capability of I-5 CRC bridges and I-205, would be a more productive way to go.

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    • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      wsbob,
      while we're handing out 'naive cards' I'll offer that pretending like the forces that are closing in on autodom don't concern us, or have any bearing on our infrastructure plans, or which transport modes we spend taxpayer dollars on is supremely naive. Infrastructure spending such as the CRC represents is for generations. I haven't met anyone who can tell me with a straight face that our cultural, economic, historic dependence on the automobile won't plausibly take a (major or even fatal) hit during the prospective lifetime of the (proposed) CRC, or of any other major piece of infrastructure.

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    • Terry D September 23, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      The Brooklyn bridge has a lower safety rating than the I5 spans actually...it is also "Structurally difficient" and for safety needs to be replaced. But, like the Steel here in Portland, is on the list of historic national "Iconic bridges" that though completely out of date no one wants to replace because of the history.

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    • Alex Reed September 23, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Wsbob, I agree that, like everything else made by humans, the Interstate bridges will eventually need to be replaced. I just think that the correct replacement date is closer to 2160 than 2016.

      You are a little bit coy about why you think they should be replaced. Is it seismic stability (if so, shouldn't we first replace many of the hundreds of Oregon bridges that are in worse seismic shape?) Is it for aesthetics (are the aesthetics really worth $4 billion)? Or is it for auto capacity (which it appears may not be a problem, especially if we toll the bridges.) Please let us know why these bridges must be replaced on a timescale that warrants discussing it now!

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      • wsbob September 24, 2013 at 12:02 am

        "...You are a little bit coy about why you think they should be replaced. ..." Alex Reed

        It's not my personal feeling about whether or not the I-5 bridges should or shouldn't be replaced that I've expressed in comments here, but rather, that as I wrote in an earlier comment:

        http://bikeportland.org/2013/09/23/report-traffic-projections-invalidate-the-transportation-rationale-for-the-crc-94357#comment-4445291

        ...I expect that one way or another, the bridges will at some point in time, be replaced. When that will be, I couldn't say.

        Since you seem to be inquiring about it, personally, except for seismic concerns, I guess, my feeling is that other reasons suggested for replacing the bridges haven/t been particularly great.

        It's the anticipated, hoped for increase in number of commuter driven cars back and forth each day from state to state, that seems to me is one of the worst, and biggest of the reasons offered in favor of building a replacement.

        Huge forces push a decision to start building these bridges. Much larger than those pushing to expand infrastructure for biking.

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        • Alex Reed September 25, 2013 at 8:43 am

          Thanks for the reply wsbob! Sounds like we have pretty close perspectives on this issue, I just emphasize the ideal outcome more and you emphasize the political reality more. Interesting how the Internet can make real conversation a little bit difficult!

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          • wsbob September 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

            "...I just emphasize the ideal outcome more and you emphasize the political reality more. ..." Alex Reed

            Alex...emphasizing one element of a situation over another, isn't particularly my intention. Mainly, for a given situation, I'm trying to understand the elements at play, and how they influence what happens, or what doesn't happen.

            It seems that some new bridge will certainly be built to replace the I-5 bridges. That river crossing point is too important to allow the bridges across it to become older and more decrepit than they already are. That means investing a lot of money to maintain the current bridges, or instead starting with a clean slate...the latter being the big sticking point, because nobody seems to be able to agree upon what a new bridge should be, or what it exactly it should do beyond what the current bridges already do.

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  • Terry Nobbe September 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    My goodness! I counted 29 comment posts to this story since it was released earlier today.

    I've followed the story on the CRC since it became newsworthy because I've been caught in the traffic jam approaching the Columbia River crossing on I-5 a few times

    I'm retired and reasonably well off and a bike is MY primary form of transport. Since moving to Portland in 1997, a bike has been my primary vehicle of choice for commuting in any weather (yes, I have a pair of studded 26x2.125 knobby tires that I no longer use).

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  • yellowjacket September 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    (1) Why hasn't the Oregonian or Tribune or WWeek covered these dramatically lower traffic projections? (2) Another question: how many years must there be a toll before the bridge is paid off, and then will the toll disappear? (3) What are the assumed fuel costs underlying these traffic projections? Do they assume gradual increases, if at all? I would contend both projections have underestimated fuel costs which will ineluctably rise significantly over the coming years and decades, and which will result in even lower traffic volumes, thereby making it even more difficult to pay off this proposed albatross and thereby saddling the taxpayers with the debt.

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    • wsbob September 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      "...I would contend both projections have underestimated fuel costs which will ineluctably rise significantly over the coming years and decades, and which will result in even lower traffic volumes, ..." yellowjacket

      Traffic volumes won't necessarily decrease if population growth and planning direction effectively counter-balances necessary increases in fuel costs.

      If there continues to be strong reasons for increasing numbers of people to live across the Columbia river from the state where they're employed, traffic volume across the bridges may not decline, even though fuel costs rise.

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      • 9watts September 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

        "traffic volume across the bridges may not decline, even though fuel costs rise."

        Dude, it is not going to be like that at all.

        *We Will Not Be Able To Afford It*

        "Peak oil does not occur when we run out of oil. Peak oil occurs when the marginal consumer is no longer willing to pay the cost of extracting and processing the marginal barrel of oil."

        "The marginal consumer banged into the price of the marginal barrel, on a static basis, somewhere in 2011 at about $110-115 Brent. And then, oil prices essentially stopped rising. Those of us who use supply-constrained forecasting weren’t surprised. It’s entirely consistent with the historical record. But I think many in the oil business still thought, somehow, that oil prices would continue to rise as they had done in the 2000s. After all, the oil supply is widely acknowledged as constrained, even by those who are not necessarily believers in peak oil. So why wouldn’t prices continue to rise if we’re supply short? Well, because there was a price at which the marginal global consumer would rather reduce oil consumption than pay more. And that price is around $110-115 Brent, and from here on in, we should expect that number to rise only with the purchasing power of the marginal consumer.

        On the other hand, the cost of extraction development has continued to increase. Last year costs increased somewhere between 10% and 13%, depending on who you talk to. Exxon’s costs rose about 7% in excess of its increase in revenues, which were also falling. And Petrobras’ costs were rising 10% to 13% faster than its revenues. So what we can see is that in the contest between technology and geology, in recent times geology has been winning. Oil has become more expensive to extract."

        excerpted from here:
        http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-04-30/commentary-interview-with-steve-kopits

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        • wsbob September 24, 2013 at 10:05 am

          yeah d-u-u-d-e ... .

          Seriously...your doomsday, apocalyptic projections and infatuations aren't worth a dime as long as there continues to be some energy source capable of being converted so that it can power a vehicle by way of a motor.

          Many people will continue to drive...city populations will continue to rely heavily on motor vehicles for transport, because that mode of transportation is far superior to bicycles for many people's needs. They may drive shorter distances. Better community, regional planning and change of lifestyle may bring many people to live less driving distance from their daily destinations, but they're still going to drive.

          A new I-5 replacement bridge across the Columbia would be excellent. One that didn't increase capacity for daily number of personal cars, but did instead provide for light rail and increased capacity for travel by foot and bike. Because nobody wants to be beset by the havoc occurring if the current bridges should fall down, one that had better seismic resistance capability than the current bridges. Something beautiful, a thing of grace and beauty, rather than the butt-ugly concrete disgrace planners have only managed to envision after 10 years or so of work.

          The single biggest obstacle to proceeding with the construction of a replacement bridge that constrains personal car use and offers commodious facilities for active transportation and mass transit, seems to be that...not enough people want to build that kind of bridge.

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          • MaxD September 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

            I agree! A new bridge without the freeway widening, including lightrail and bike and peds, and not excluding river-based industry would be AMAZING! It could actually start to connect Vancouver and Portland in a new way!

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          • 9watts September 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm

            "Seriously...your doomsday, apocalyptic projections and infatuations aren't worth a dime as long as there continues to be some energy source capable of being converted so that it can power a vehicle by way of a motor. "

            O.K. fine - what is that energy source? That will remain available and affordable into the foreseeable future? I'm curious.

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            • wsbob September 25, 2013 at 12:03 am

              "...O.K. fine - what is that energy source? That will remain available and affordable into the foreseeable future? I'm curious." 9watts

              Your asking the wrong person. Sources of new types of fuel sources is something that researchers and engineers work on. The world economy runs on food and fuel. There's a high incentive to develop new sources of fuel.

              No guarantees, of course, and most likely there will be changes from how things were and how they are now, but it seems to me that if at all possible, motor vehicles of some type will continue to be a major mode of transportation.

              If worse comes to worse, I suppose someone could propose assembling teams of people on bikes to pull carriages and stagecoaches around. Then, there's horses, mules and oxen, neither of which have ever been much inclined to use indoor plumbing...making for some very messy, smelly streets, and a big haul-away job. When considering some of the alternatives, for all its' downsides, there's some things about motor vehicles that are pret-ty good...pret-ty good.

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              • 9watts September 25, 2013 at 7:31 am

                "The world economy runs on food and fuel. There's a high incentive to develop new sources of fuel."

                No kidding.
                But the problem is they're not making any of the good* stuff anymore. The alternatives for powering something like the personal automobile are proving to be disappointments; either very expensive or poor performers or both, certainly when compared to oil.

                "but it seems to me that if at all possible, motor vehicles of some type will continue to be a major mode of transportation."

                I agree that culturally, economically, politically, psychologically automobility is pretty high on the priority list, but just because we want something really badly, are committed to maintaining this institution, doesn't mean we can. At some point we'll want to ponder the possibility that we've run out of options.

                *the energy dense stuff with high energy return on energy invested (ERoEI), like fossil fuels.

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                • wsbob September 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

                  New options will be developed. Doing this is part of human nature, as is adaptability. Not to disregard the fact that outcomes of this characteristic often aren't good.

                  Some may say that if not replacing the I-5 bridges, or otherwise increasing their daily commuter car capacity would either cap or decrease the number of people working in Oregon and living in Washington, or vice versa...that would be a good thing; reducing per capita overall amount of fuel expended for the daily commute could be one possible outcome.

                  For this to happen though, I figure it would take much more than simply declining to increase the bridges daily commuter car capacity.

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                • 9watts September 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm

                  "New options will be developed."

                  Sounds like you believe in providence.
                  You are obviously convinced it will work out, but when asked for specifics, you punt, saying this is a matter for experts. On paper I am one of those experts, and I'm telling you, this time we're screwed. Nothing remotely as energy dense as gasoline exists or will be found. We've been looking for generations. All alternative (not dependent on fossil fuels) technology packages we've come up with deliver nothing like the combination of features we associate with the category.

                  Electricity, biofuels, fuel cells, hydrogen, compressed air, solar... you name it. They are either repackaged fossil fuels, and/or are so dependent on infrastructure that won't work without fossil fuels, or are so energy-un-dense as to be, really, a wholly different animal. And all of them are considerably more expensive, and this is not just because we haven't hit the returns to scale that the mass production of automobiles 'benefits' from.

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          • spare_wheel September 25, 2013 at 10:10 am

            "Many people will continue to drive...city populations will continue to rely heavily on motor vehicles for transport, because that mode of transportation is far superior to bicycles for many people's needs."

            It's almost as if you have never visited a first world nation with efficient public transport. I recommend a trip to Japan.

            I think it's likely that as the cost of fuel continues to increase (faster than income) we will see an even more profound shift away from single occupancy vehicles in the USA.

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            • wsbob September 25, 2013 at 9:30 pm

              "...It's almost as if you have never visited a first world nation with efficient public transport. I recommend a trip to Japan. ..." spare_wheel

              Oh right. Just what people want to do: trade travel in their comfortable, personal cars, for the experience of being jammed into something like Japans efficient public transport.

              Here in the Portland area, there's the light rail. Not bad for efficiency, and sometimes comfort (though often not the latter), if the trains boarding and disembark point and riders' destination is within walking distance. For types of trips many people need to make, no way however, does it substitute well for the convenience, comfort and safety of personal car travel.

              Additional new housing within walking distance of light rail...housing that for some people, could conceivably obviate the need for a personal car. Out in Washington County, right now in fact, a bunch of new apartments are being built at the Elmonica stop. A little tough to haul home a lot of groceries, especially enough for a big family, but...oh well. Often not the greatest mode of transport for getting to the doctor or the hospital, but I suppose there's taxis and ambulances for that...most likely motor vehicles.

              For people living, and working...within walking, or possibly biking distance...to the light rail, the train could possibly obviate the need for both personal car, and the Oregon to Washington daily commute across the I-5 bridges. If enough people lived and worked this way, conceivably, the need for a new bridge across the Columbia, providing for a greater daily capacity of personal cars moved, would not be a strong need.

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            • 9watts September 25, 2013 at 9:49 pm

              wsbob:
              "For types of trips many people need to make, no way however, does it substitute well for the convenience, comfort and safety of personal car travel."

              I wonder if you've spoken with people who have given up their car, don't have or use a car, get around by other means? Methinks you might be surprised at the extent to which the convenience, comfort, and safety of the automobile is a social construct.

              I can't think of anything that would persuade me to trade my mix of transport solutions for a car. And I know quite a few others who think similarly.

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      • spare_wheel September 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

        Would you care to share with us some of these "reasons"?

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    • Peter W September 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      > (1) Why hasn't the Oregonian or Tribune or WWeek covered these dramatically lower traffic projections?

      WW covered this story here:

      http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-30724-tolls_on_the_columbia_river_crossing_will_max_out_interstate_205.html

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  • dwainedibbly September 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Toll the bridges? Heck, toll the entire interstate highway system.

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    • gutterbunnybikes September 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Toll them both. Toll should be double Trimet fare. Toll increases when fares increase. See how fast the Couve would go for a max line bridge with bike lanes then.

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  • Sam September 23, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Could someone tell me why BTA, BikePorltand.org, and other pro-cycling websites are against the CRC? I'm a regular bike commuter from Vancouver to Portland, and I am in awe of how dangerous the current route is. The CRC is the only plan to-date I've heard to fix the Jantzen Beach/Delta Park/I5 Bridge section. This is comprised of:

    * going on and off side walks
    * dodging street signs that are bolted in the bike-lane
    * going down very narrow pedestrian path that has bridge parts sticking out, is downhill, and has little slots that may or not contain hidden pedestrians

    I'm surprised that cycling advocacy groups would be against a plan that fixes such a dangerous bike path and also includes light rail that can carry bikes.

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    • Chris I September 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

      We would be fully behind a plan to build a local access bridge that improves pedestrian and cycling access. It could be done for a fraction of the proposed CRC cost. We are against the current CRC because it would suck $400 - $500 million from each state DOT, and probably more money in the future (because the tolling projections are so deeply flawed). This is money that would go much further to improve pedestrian/bike access around the state if it were used for smaller projects.

      It's kind of irrelevant though, because the CRC is effectively dead. Your best hope is to push for a locally-funded, local access bridge to Hayden Island from Vancouver.

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      • Sam September 25, 2013 at 11:48 am

        We won't know if the CRC is truly dead until Sept 31st, where we find the outcome of c-tran lightrail financing plan, coastguard permit, and the Oregon special legislative session. Right now it is still on life support.

        If it does die, there needs to be a stop-gap while the three bridge/one bridge war goes on for the next decade or two. The bike path is very dangerous, and it is lame to see the only plan of record to fix it face such opposition. It took millions of dollars and several years to come up with the current solution across all stakeholders, I wonder how much time and money round two will take. I wonder if anyone will get injured during this time..

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        • GlowBoy September 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

          September 31st is a loooong time from now. ;)

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  • wsbob September 23, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I doubt that their history or their design is what's holding up replacement of the I-5 bridges, but rather...exorbitant costs and an unwillingness to commit to a great new design that's keeping them from being replaced.

    Actually, there seems to be many more complex reasons for the holdup in their replacement, but I believe whatever iconic status or history people associate with those bridges, is low on the list of reasons for not taking them down and replacing them.

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  • Paul Johnson September 24, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Sounds about right given what Oklahoma has seen with it's Governor Joseph Turner Turnpike.

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  • MaxD September 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

    This project does seem dead, but we have been here before. I think their are a lot of legislators who are misinformed or uninformed. I spoke with Chip Shield's office yesterday, and they have been hearing from the CRC team! That means they need to hear from constituents who do NOT want the CRC. They actually do tally phone calls and emails. Each one counts. Find your legislator and let them how you feel:
    http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

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  • Jim Labbe September 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I understand that some Democratic politicians (Chip Shields?) are still try to cut deals to win mitigatory provisions that would allow the CRC to go forward.

    Now, much less than before, there is no reforming the CRC. The CRC must die so the era of freeway mega projects and the 20th century politics it represents can come to an end. We need to urge our elected officials to apply their leadership towards building a more sustainable, human-centered, and genuinely multimodal transportation system. We need to challenge them to forge a new politics of transportation that both creates jobs and improves environmental and health outcomes, rather existing policies that subsidize environmentally and socially destructive behavior and development. New policies and politics are not going to emerge until, Democratic politicians let go of trying to save or even "improve" the CRC.

    Trying to reform the CRC now by "winnning" half-measures to "mitigate" its impacts, only preserves a flawed transportation politics and policies.

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    • wsbob September 27, 2013 at 11:12 am

      "... a more sustainable, human-centered, and genuinely multimodal transportation system. ..." Jim Labbe

      "... a new politics of transportation that both creates jobs and improves environmental and health outcomes, rather existing policies that subsidize environmentally and socially destructive behavior and development. ..." Jim Labbe

      Jim...interesting. You might consider continuing those thoughts by presenting some of your personal ideas and examples about what it is you've written of could be, for the Portland, Vancouver, or the broader Portland Metro area.

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  • Oregon Mamacita September 26, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Why can't BRT replace light rail on a replacement bridge? Then we could get the height that we wanted, as well as an active transportation lane.

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    • MaxD September 26, 2013 at 10:59 am

      or put in a lift! That way the bridge would be useful to pedestrians and cyclists.

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