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Nonproliferation, Portland style

Posted by on August 15th, 2006 at 7:26 am

Bridge Pedal 2006

[Click here to see
the rest of his display.]

We have a lot of highways in Portland. Maybe too many of them. They require huge public subsidies to build and maintain, they break up neighborhoods, they promote sprawl, they encourage more driving and thus more pollution, they are the site of daily fatal crashes, and their on and off ramps create deadly conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.

What’s the best way to solve the highway problem? To paraphrase the anti-nuclear proliferation activists: Just stop making them.

There’s a strong precedent for this, right here in Portland. The famous Mount Hood Highway (Wikipedia), planned to follow the route of quietly thriving Southeast Division Street, was heroically blocked by citizen activists in 1974 (the same ones who went on to found visionary neighborhood organization Southeast Uplift, which continues to advance exciting transportation-oriented programs like their new Bike Buddy program).

Maybe we could even take out some of the freeways we already have.

Why not? Look at Vancouver, BC, which never built any in the first place, with marvelous results. Last year Gordon Price, a former city councillor from our northern neighbor came to the PSU traffic and transportation class and compellingly compared Vancouver and Portland. Similar cities in many ways, but the lack of highways has led “le Vanc” to have a thriving urban center, while Portland teeters on the brink of succumbing to sprawl.

[Shawn Granton (blue shirt) led cyclists on the Dead Freeways Ride during the ’06 Pedalpalooza.]

Highway removal is not be so farfetched (even in the car-centric US) and it already has a strong history in Portland.

[Once a freeway, now a greenway.]
Photo credit: Portland Parks & Rec

Take the former 99W, which ran directly along Portland’s waterfront for decades. It was removed and Waterfront Park was built in its place, home to a crowded pedestrian/bicycle path, public art projects and monuments, and almost weekly festivals that draw large crowds that get there largely by bike and public transit.

Maybe I-84 could go next, allowing alternatives to the awkward, dangerous, and few bike connections between Northeast and Southeast Portland. Even more ripe for reconsideration is I-5, which allows for very few connections, by any mode, between North and Northeast Portland, and carries on the longstanding US tradition of highways having the greatest impact on poor neighborhoods and those that are home to racial minorities.

[Formerly an onramp]

Other west coast cities have also seen the benefits of getting rid of their biggest, most dangerous roads. After the big quake, San Francisco simply did not rebuild the Embarcadero Freeway. And Seattle currently is considering the same option with its aging Alaskan Viaduct Highway.

As Price reminded us, our highway system is aging at a rate far quicker than, and at least as catastrophically as any oil crisis. Most of our country’s highways were built within a few years, and all are now beginning to decay seriously — all at once. If we want to continue to use them, the price tag will be stratospheric — at a time when transportation funding is running out faster than we can spend it on road repairs.

Here’s a timely quote from an editorial by Toni Gold that was published in The Courant on July 23, 2006 (Gold is an associate with the Project for Public Spaces):

“The handwriting is already on the wall: Other states and communities have begun to reshape their interstates, especially through cities. Numerous freeways that separate cities from their rivers or harbors have been torn down for renewed public access and recreation; some downtown freeways have been converted to boulevards and the old street grid has been reconnected, giving an instant boost to real estate values – without, oddly enough, aggravating congestion. In all these cases the leaders of these movements are mayors, governors, citizens groups and neighborhoods – not the transportation agencies.”

Maybe we shouldn’t take out all the freeways. But maybe we should. Whatever happens, we’ll soon be forced to radically rethink the freeway system. And the sooner we start to do that, the better off we’ll be. We need to reconsider highways’ safety, social, and health impacts, and we need to recognize that we have options, even the option to do away with the things altogether.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Amy
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Amy

Elly, a very interesting article. Thanks for writing this up! Jonathan, thanks for including Elly as a contributor to your site. There’s a really nice symbiosis between your local events/ local activism postings and Elly’s bigger-picture activism posts.

John Beaston
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John Beaston

Reminds me of a quote from the Bogota, Columbia ex-major about the only things stopping a city from increasing transit ridership were the will to do so and a can of paint. Simply take any 4-lane road (freeway or arterial) and dedicate 2 lanes to cars and 2 lanes to buses (and bikes) with stripping. Portland should do it.
-John

WOBG
Guest
WOBG

Um–this may be a bit obvious, but: I-5 and I-84 may be better candidates for relocation rather than removal. Remember they are part of the Interstate Highway System; they are a big part of how we ship the things that people buy from Portland, and how our groceries and such get in. That’s a different issue than freeways’ effects on local transit and neighborhood continuity, but it’s part of the big picture.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Quite frankly this article bugs me. I’ve traveled this country a lot and this city does not have a lot of freeways (6 by my count, that makes a lot?). Portland does not have sprawl, we have the urban growth boundary that prevents the kind of sprawl we see in other cities.

If I’m stuck on surface streets trying to get to the other side of town (say from Beaverton to OMSI) how does that decrease pollution? What about the commercial aspects? I live on the west side and what makes bike trips difficult are the terrain, not the freeways.

“Just stop making them.” What new ones are in the works? The only one that I know of that is still in discussion is a bypass between McMinnville and Sherwood (thus making 99W a little easier to ride by bike).

I’d love to ride my bike all time, but sometimes time and circumstances don’t allow it. Freeways allow quick movement (during non commute time) between distance places with a city.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Just remember some things before we go dynamiting freeways: how do you replace that piece of infrastructure within a city? Afterall, trucks still need to make deliveries, workers still need to drive to work, emergency vehicles still need quick access to the fire, crime, accident, hospitals, etc. and this will place additional burdens and congestion on surface streets.

If a workable solution can happen, I’d be all for it. The sociological arguments about “connections” and “eco-whatever” won’t hold much water when business grinds to a halt downtown or bypasses Portland on its way to Seattle or Sacramento. More MAX, buses, and bikes will make a small dent in commuter traffic but it is a lot to assume that the average overweight, middle aged, non-exercising citizen will accept cycling or walking up to a mile to reach public transportation on a 38 degree blowing, rainy February morning when a warm car beckons. Even $5.00/gallon gasoline seems cheap compared to anytime spent cold and miserable to most folks.

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

Nice article. A better link to Gordon Price’s always fascinating thoughts can be found at :
http://pricetags.wordpress.com/

I heard him speak about urban planning in Eugene last year, and learned a lot. The big lesson is to provide people lots of options for getting around, and often they’ll choose walking and biking and other pro-environment alternatives. As a veteran politician as well as scholar of these issues, he has a lot of credibility on what’s actually doable and how to make it happen in the real world.

In reply to the previous post, bikes are only a piece of the puzzle; if we’re going to stop building freeways (and we should — they’re ridiculously expensive compared to the alternatives, and getting more so as gas and construction prices soar), we need to invest in mass transit that’s speedy enough to get people across town in circumstances where biking isn’t feasible. I think that’s something Price would agree with.

joe
Guest
joe

monorail…monorail…monorail! “is there a chance the track could bend?” “not on your life my hindu friend” “what about us brain dead slobs?” “you’ll be given cushy jobs!” (it’s from the simpsons when the monorail get built)

the middle age over wieght guy will just have to learn to deal with it. he could start off by carpooling, and so on. the people that can’t grow and move (or refuse) with change are the ones to get left behind. maybe the middle age over wieght guy should get a segway

Brian E
Guest
Brian E

I would like to see our existing railroads better utilized. How about a well run and inexpensive system of car and truck carriers to bypass Portland, on rail? This would relieve traffic through our bottle neck.

Currently, we are wasting our railroads. They are a great resource that should be developed.

Dr. Mark Ross
Guest
Dr. Mark Ross

railroads are already clogged as is. infrastucture will need to be built up.

vancouver bc is not a major truck throughfare. it is not an example of what can be done by removing or not building freeways.

anything we do to impede traffic on I-5 or I=84 will find our city surface streets clogged with trucks.

we cannot ban trucks without starving (food) or doing without shelter and jobs. (building materials, retail and commerce)

this is elly’s second fantasty. I wish she would do more research and come up with practial solutions.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Again, Dr. Ross, unless and until you change your assumptions, all of these discussions will be lost on you.

Brad
Guest
Brad

These ideas are all well and good but for them to happen, it will take a generation of lifestyle change coupled with an economic spur ($10/gallon gasoline – not $4-5) to take place. The key is a generation of Americans / Oregonians that truly live, eat, breathe green and alternative transportation on a wide scale. Those of us proposing such things are on the leading edge of a trend that will take 20-30 years to become the norm.

In the short term, more alternative and mass transit usage and smarter fuel usage are more realistic. Haven’t people noticed that all of the talk is about fuel efficient, hybrid, biodiesel, and hydrogen vehicles and not less driving? Americans are too in love with the car (it represents individual freedom) and want alternative cars not bike boulevards and trains for the masses. Until society collectively sees cars as more hassle than help, expect to see more dollars spent on roads.

Matt P.
Guest

Eric said:
“Portland does not have sprawl, we have the urban growth boundary that prevents the kind of sprawl we see in other cities. ”

The Portland area DOES have sprawl – look at Gresham, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Wilsonville. The urban growth boundary has contained the sprawl somewhat, but the problem will worsen as area population soars. The sprawl problem around Hillsboro is pronounced enough that Metro is steering growth into Gresham and Happy Valley deliberately in order to preserve the farmland on the west side.

“I’d love to ride my bike all time, but sometimes time and circumstances don’t allow it. Freeways allow quick movement (during non commute time) between distance places with a city.”

Leave earlier. Do fewer things during the day. One thing we don’t usually ask ourselves as a society is if the convenience is worth the cost. Congestion and travel times could be greatly reduced if people change their habits – combining trips, buying locally, carpooling when practical, etc.

Dr. Ross said:
“this is elly’s second fantasty. I wish she would do more research and come up with practial solutions.”

Identifying the problem and spreading the word is the first step, and one that must be done before practical solutions can be brainstormed or discussed. I think Elly has done a great job of identifying the issues and speaking out on them. Now that she’s laid the groundwork, we should start discussing possible solutions. I’d like to see everyone contributing to the solutions rather than complaining about the messenger.

Thanks, Elly and Jonathan – keep up the good work!

The problem with trucks is that the choices we’ve made have encouraged their use. Now, events outside our control (fuel prices, aging infrastructure) are making it difficult to continue operating as before. These events will change the world again, and we have the opportunity to shape those changes, or be shaped by them.

-Matt Picio

Elly
Guest
Elly

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments once again. I agree that just taking out highways outright, this minute, would be really disruptive and not a good idea. As the Doctor says, though, I’m fantasizing here. But the reason I’m trying to dream up other possibilities, is because things now aren’t that great.

As things stand, pedestrians, cyclists, and neighborhood integrity are pitted against the convenience and speed of highways. Because this choice is not recognized, we implicitly choose the highways. Maybe we would keep the status quo, after a full discussion with both sides being fleshed out and given equal weight. I just want that discussion to happen, and people to consider that there is a choice.

Highways have devastated so many communities — I’ve witnessed this firsthand in my hometown of New Haven — always in the name of the inevitable, progress. And it’s nearly always the poor who pay for it the most. I guess that’s the point I should have stressed more. I’m not just talking about wanting safer and more convenient bike access across highways, but the racist and class-dividing effects that have hurt generations of families. I think we owe it to folks to take a second look.

Okay, I should have sat on this one for a couple more days. But as once again you all are on the ball with the pluses and minuses. More crazy ideas are brewing…

Dr. Mark Ross
Guest
Dr. Mark Ross

randy, anybody can come up with fantasy ideas, even a 5-year old. but whether or not they include practical solutions and ideas to convince citizens to buy into it is another matter.

this is apparently the second time this writer has written on basically the very same subject (the first article has “disappeared”) and I find myself having to repeat the practical limitations of her fantasy ideas. Its getting tiresome.

unless she can START an article with suggestions how voters/citizens will WANT to buy into the fantasy, she ought to leave her incomplete articles off this blog. watch Gore’s movie — notice how he includes solutions.

Anymore C minus rants from elly about the same thing without practical ways to get people to buy into it dilutes this blog.

elly: here’s a GREAT article topic: someone recently made a SMART comment: the biking world is divided into two catgories — those who WANT to be on bike and those that DON’T WANT to be on bikes (due to economic hardship OR criminal problems ie: no drivers license. This is a topic worthy of in depth reporting.

Dr. Mark Ross
Guest
Dr. Mark Ross

matt, if you knew how much FOOD is on board trucks at any given moment, you’ll realize that trucks aren’t going away anytime soon. Clearly metro areas aren’t ever gonna be able to produce the quanity and variety of food needed to feed the population within in, and with railroads infrastructure ovewhelmed — carriers can no longer rely on them for perishable goods — ie produce — we’ve no better system for delivery. granted, that cereal you’re eating may have made three cross country trips — one from the farmer to processor, then from the processor to wholesaler (or store warehouses) then from there to the store. Yikes! Room for improvement? I dunno.

Jonathan Maus
Guest

Dr. Ross,

I appreciate your feedback about Elly’s articles but please resist the insults. To you they might be “C minus rants” but I have gotten several emails from people who really enjoy them.

If you don’t appreciate her style, read something else.

And none of them have “disappeared.” If they did it was a temporary technical glitch that has since been corrected.

I like your suggestion for an article. I’ll keep it in mind.

Elly
Guest
Elly

Dr. Ross,
Thanks for the suggestion. Actually, I’m working on something similar to that right now. Though you might find that a lot of people who start using bikes out of necessity (myself, for instance) turn out to quite like the mode.

Not sure what you mean by “solutions”. I’ve heard your critiques, but you haven’t stated a counter-position, or solutions of your own (or if you even agree with me on what the problems are). I’m sure everyone here would be interested to find that out, or if you’d prefer, you can email me — it’s eleanor dot my last name at gmail dot com.

Take care,
Elly

Dr. Mark Ross
Guest
Dr. Mark Ross

jonathan, I take back my “disappeared” comment as I see it now. I wanted to do a cut and paste earlier but it was gone. “C minus” was a saying from an old English teacher used to describe an aotherwise well-written article that only told one side of the story . . .

I enjoy reading all the articles in your blog, whether I think I’m interested or not. I just don’t like to find that there is “no beef” after committing to read any given article. You’re doing a fine job here and I hope it says that way.

elly,

the trucking/commerce situation is a troubled one . . . something I’m well educated about. In the first place there is a shortage or truckers, then they’re commanding high pay for the better ones, and thirdly, hardly anybody desires local runs (driving semi’s exclusively around town) — for obvious reason — traffic, long waits at rail and ship yards, etc etc. With this in mind, it seems that the slippery slope would lead to a better and less costly way to get food to customers . . . but it hasn’t happened — the current infrastructure apparently is the best and most cost effective way to to feed our citizens. Removing freeways and restictions on trucks (less roads) will result in higher food costs on top of the bill to make the infrastructure changes.

Solutions? there isn’t a practical solution. this is why I wouldn’t suggest a far fetched idea to begin with.

It would help to have dedicated truck lanes (no cars/bikes) from the freeways to ports and rail depots and major warehouse/manufactors to keep trucks off surface streets, but even that fantasy has a cost society will never foot. “Freeways for trucks? No way!”

As a biker I think our problem is this: we’ve a huge elephant in the room we’re not talking about — outlaws on bikes!

If we clean our house, maybe we’ll then get the support to live your dreams elly. 🙂

Eric
Guest
Eric

Matt P-Portland’s sprawl is no were near as bad as say Seattle, San Fran, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta. In almost every case these cities have built freeways in anticipation of population growth. All of the metro’s population growth has developed around the existing freeways.

Leave earlier, I assume that you meant leave earlier by bike? I figure that in my example of the trip from Beaverton to OMSI I save at least an hour and a half by driving then cycling. Not to mention it won’t put my kids, in a trailer, at risk on any number of inadequate streets between the two points. I once had a job in N Portland that took 30 minutes in the morning that would take me, if only on surface streets, by car an hour each way. As they say time is money, and a whole lot more. That extra hour of travel time is now lost that could have been spent volunteering, education, spending time w/ my kids, etc, etc.

Leave the current infrastructure the way it is, make pro bike/pedestrian additions when improvements are required. When they made improvements to 26 between the tunnel and 217 they added a bike and pedestrian lane which didn’t exist before the improvement.

Brian E-I believe that Oregon either pass or received some transportation funding to improve the region railroad infrastructure. On the OPB report where I heard this I remember hearing that Portland & Western, a region railroad, was going to be able to make improvements to their tracks and thus increase the number of railcars they could handle thus potential decrease the total number of truck trips.

Darren Pennington
Guest
Darren Pennington

Sorry to jump into this thread so late, but if you are talking freeways and connectors, the Portland metro areas next major road project will likely be here: http://i5to99w.org/

The modest proposal is a connector type road between I-5 (in the Tualatin, Wilsonville, area) and 99W (in the Sherwood area). To some and particularly those with a long memory this could be a smokescreen for something referred to as the The Westside Bypass, a ring freeway similar to I-205. The actual WSB died two decades ago, but there are still those in Washington County that view something like it as vitally important to growth.

The idea of the road is in the regional transportation plan and Metro, ODOT, Washington County, and most of the local jurisdictions are on board. Wilsonville is on record of not wanting it at “their” interchange, i.e. exit 286, but still liking the concept. In short, Wilsonville doesn’t want any of the traffic currently on Tualatin – Sherwood Road to be diverted to Wilsonville.

There is a “Stakeholders” group of citizens and business types, but among some citizen members there is a feeling the pro car and truck types along with ODOT are taking over. If you are a fan of wetlands and wildlife the study area for this new road takes aim at potential parts of the National Wildlife Refuge that is in the Sherwood area.

I’m uncertain how bicycle traffic is being considered, but who likes riding next to cars flying at freeway speed?

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

What a great discussion this is. I wish some of portland’s real transport experts, like at PSU, would weigh in. Jonathan, can you invite one of them to read our conversation and comment?

I have a question for dr. Mark: When you say that “the current infrastructure apparently is the best and most cost effective way to to feed our citizens,” what are you basing that on? The current infrastructure didn’t just happen — it’s the result of massive taxpayer subsidies to the highway lobby and its components. And it hides the costs (such as enviro costs) of its consequences from easily visible calculations. If we took the same amount of money we use to subsidize the highway system and put that into rail and other alternatives, are you sure we couldn’t feed our citizens at least as effectively, while making it much easier for bikers and walkers to get around?

I’d also like to hear more about relocating, rather than just removing, highways to make the city more bike- and walk-friendly.

Thanks for the great discussion.

Matt P.
Guest

Dr. Ross, I *do* know how much food is onboard trucks at this moment (the magnitude, not the exact tonnage), and that particular statistic should scare anyone who thinks seriously about the state of transportation in America. I did not say we should ban trucks, nor imply that they should go away – please don’t put words in my mouth. I said that the decisions we made in the past are the reason why we have so many trucks now. Food and goods used to be carried primarily by rail. Due to the decisions of the past, changes in funding, taxation, and other aspects have shifted much of that business from rail to truck. I’m saying that if we want things to be different, we need to identify how to make the choices now that will get us to where we WANT to be in 20, 30, 50 years rather than sitting by and letting others make those decisions for us.

Oil is going away – that’s a fact. Only the timing of it is in dispute. Tractor-trailers, planes and trains only use a fraction of the oil we burn. The majority is burned in personal automobiles and light trucks. These are the same vehicles that are the major cause of problems in our neighborhoods, on our streets and in our lives. They provide wonderful mobility for even the poorest of people – but at what cost? For the last 30 years, subdivisions and neighborhoods have been built to cater to the personal auto at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians. Semis, delivery trucks and emergency vehicles are not the problem – most of the issues we face are due to the roads being near or at their traffic capacity. If you ask any of the traffic planning types that read this site, they’ll be able to tell you that the difference between 85% and 95% capacity is probably a doubling of the commute time. If carpooling, reduced or combined trips, or alternate transportation reduced the number of personal autos on the road by 25%, many of the issues we have would be solved – at least for the next 20-30 years until the growing population increases the number of vehicles.

Oh, and I agree – we need dedicated truck lanes on the freeway, preferrably access-controlled, mandatory, and toll. Heavy trucks put more wear on the roads – toll them and put all of the proceeds into road repair with no exceptions. (I realize that would be unpopular with truckers) The biggest issue is getting heavy trucks separated from the throngs of “drivers” who are dangerous to all the traffic around them – a trucker’s biggest fear is getting cut off by a small car or motorcycle when carrying a load, or going downhill, or while hemmed in by other traffic.

I disagree that Al Gore gave any real “solutions”, and he conveniently omitted the fact that his own administration failed to address most of the issues he raised in any substantial matter, but he did a fine job listing the issues and pointing out their seriousness. Since this is not the forum to discuss “An Inconvenient Truth”, I welcome your opinion privately – my email is “acehunter [at] gmail [dot] com”

Eric – Agreed. I grew up in Detroit, with sprawl problems almost as bad as Atlanta, Vegas or Houston. That wasn’t my point – my point is that we *do* have sprawl here, despite the urban growth boundary, and that the lesser magnitude of it is due more to our low population than our civic policies.

Also, I understand your point with the Beaverton to OMSI trip. Leaving earlier is a suggested solution that doesn’t apply to every problem. I believe that the transportation should be appropriate to the trip. Around the block: foot. 1-10 miles: bike. 10+ miles: bike, bus or car, depending on time. 50+ miles: usually by car. What I find ridiculous is a person who will get into their 3,500 lb. SUV and drive 2 blocks away to pick up ice cream for the kids. To that person, I say – “How about walking to the store WITH your kids for a change, wave at the neighbor you’ve never even met in the 6 years you’ve lived in your house 2 doors down, and enjoy the day.”

My personal position is that if it takes me less than an extra 20 minutes each way, I’d rather do it by bike than by car or bus. I realize that solution doesn’t work for everyone, I’d just like to see everyone contemplate the choice rather than assuming the car works for every trip without giving it a second thought. Living one’s life by habit rather than by choice in my opinion denies the gifts that make us human – reason and decision.

My commuting choice is made much easier by the fact that my wife drives the car to work. I can take the bus, or ride. The bus takes 35 minutes plus 5 minutes walking and 5 minutes waiting (45 minutes total). The bike takes me between 43 and 50 minutes depending on how fast I ride. The bike allows me to exercise while I travel, so that’s usually my choice. Riding home takes an extra 10-15 minutes by virtue of being uphill.

I can sometimes be very opinionated, and frequently put my foot in my mouth. I tend to still be thinking about an issue when I speak or write about it. If you totally disagree with me, feel free to discuss it with me at the aforementioned email address.

Respectfully,
-Matt Picio

Brian E
Guest
Brian E

Dr. Mark Ross says, “Railroads are already clogged as is. infrastructure will need to be built up.”

Yes! This is my point! MAKE THE RAILROAD SYSTEM BETTER! I believe they should all be publicly owned and operated. Just like our highways. This is near impossible at this point in time but I think it has got to happen as our infrastructure and population grows.

Dr. Mark Ross
Guest
Dr. Mark Ross

matt, any “toll” charged to truckers is just a self-inflicted jump in food prices! . . . I’m inclined to think that the status of oil prices in 20 years will finally get everybody’s butt in gear to agree to infrastucture expenses. Al Gore was VP . . . not really in power to order massive changes, but I agree with you the admin could have done more.

brian, amtrak can’t run trains on time because they can’t get the freight trains out of the way fast enough. we won’t even talk about the on-time arrival percentage of freight time, nor mention the rail industry’s deep dark secret — a heck of a lot of trains are sitting idle at waysides waiting for other trains to get out of the way.

its the heart of america where this problem is most out of hand . . . we need more rails — some say double the capacity we have now — and that isn’t gonna fly well with our fiscial conservative friends and our environmental liberal pals, Yikes!

making the system better is the obvious solution but apparently easier said than done.

brettoo, yes, lets have some experts weigh in.

elly, I thought of a little dream myself . . . instead of moving roads/freeways, I’d like to see more bike “freeways” like the limited access bikeway between the ross island concrete plant and sellwood bridge. It would be ultra cool to have a bike “limited access freeway” that started at the east end of the hawthorne bridge with access every 20 blocks until linking up with the I-205 bike trail. what say you?

watergirl
Guest
watergirl

Part of the rail freight congestion issue is also that there aren’t enough engineers (train drivers) and crews. Trains often sit idle at the yards here in PDX, as well as across the country, waiting for crews. UP and BN can’t find enough people.

AMTRAK also suffers on the west coast because it leases trackage rights from BN. As such, it takes second priority to freight trains (UPs and BNs). AMTRAKs have to wait for freight trains to pass in areas where there is no double-track.

At-grade street crossings are another speed-reduction. That’s why trains move so slowly in much of Portland. In Eastern WA/Idaho, there’s a project to grade separate all crossings in a huge rural rail corridor, allowing trains to travel faster thru that area.

revphil
Guest
revphil

In case you would like to see the best documentary ever about a dead freeway you should look to BikeTV’s Clarence Eckerson Jr’s
“LESSONS FROM PORTLAND (THE DEFEAT OF THE MT. HOOD FREEWAY)”:
http://homepage.mac.com/trorb/TOPP/iMovieTheater154.html

Not geeky enough for online video? hate the little screen? This and other bike movies will be shown at Free Geek next Wednesday the 23rd @ 7pm… it’s a repeat screening of Kickass Biking. FREE!

Chris Smith
Guest

A few reflections from a citizen who sat on Metro’s Transportation Policy Advisory Committee for a few years (don’t know if that makes me an expert):

1) It’s not just about the roads, it’s also about land use – we need to ‘complete’ our communities so people can find housing they need near where they work, so they shop and recreate in their local community. Part of the project is that cheap energy allowed us to separate these land uses by large distances and we’re finding that arrangement doesn’t scale.

2) Freight rail is not seeing any reinvestment. Unlike roads, the rail lines are privately owned. I don’t understand the motivation of the owners to not reinvest, but it’s a problem.

3) A first step is probably to think about how we operate the current system in a way that better fits our priorities. For example, I agree with some of the comments that freight is important to our economy. We could agree to prioritize freight with queue jump lanes at freeway ramps, dedicated lanes on some roads, or tolls (a freight load has an economic incentive to pay a much higher toll than a passenger car usually does). All of these of course are in some ways disincentives to SOVs (single occupancy vehicles).

Eric
Guest
Eric

Matt-Lets agree to disagree on sprawl. No problem about the foot in mouth that’s what this forum is for. I realized that in my first post I really did not present a possible solution (thus the second post). I just think Elly’s vision of possibly removing all freeways was a bit extreme, so yes all costs need to be considered in making a decision. I concur about the short trips. I started riding to work this summer, about 10 miles each way, and yea it’s a great way to fit in some exercise during the same time it takes to commute. Wish more people would realize this. And boy do I love passing people waiting at long traffic lights ! I was just going to do it for the summer but now I going to do it year round as much as possible.

fum
Guest
fum

Regarding Chris’ comments:

1: LU and transportation go hand in hand. Whether we’ll ever get to the day where the majority of people work in the same area as they live is debatable, even with increased transport costs.

2: The Class I RR are investing, especially in corridors moving large amounts of goods. Check out BNSF and UP’s annual reports. Class III railroads (eg P&W) have less access to capital, which is why ConnectOregon was awarding grants to private companies.

For fun, compare and contrast the values of OTIA I, II & III and ConnectOregon. The public sector doesn’t invest much in freight, except where it benefits multiple modes.

RE: the article
Before removing any highway, there needs to be a determination of why people are using the highway? Is it intra-urban travel, or inter-urban in nature?

Assuming inter-urban travel, then sufficient alternatives need to be in place to allow people to switch their travel patterns, including, but not limited to: revised LU near their home, increased transit service, bike lanes or a more complete and connected non-highway road network.

In the case of intra-urban travel, perhaps the highway is necessary, but it could be supplemented by better rail connections, transit/bike connections, or other means.

Lenny Anderson
Guest

The Eastbank Freeway…recognized by the then head of ODOT as a mistake the day it opened…sits on the most valuable real estate in the City if not the region. It should be removed, along with the Marquam Bridge.
A capacity neutral way to do this is to add a thru lane to I-405 (& rename it “I-5”) and a thru lane to I-205. The I-405 trench looks wide enough to me, if we are willing to sacrifice the roses. At some point we can cover it, ala Mayor Katz’ idea, and we have a very low cost “big ditch solution.”
Note that upwards to half of the recent gas tax increase in Washington goes for replacing the Alaska Viaduct with a tunnel…$4 Billion or so. Removing that eyesore will transform Seattle in unimaginable ways.
Likewise, removing the Eastbank Freeway will open up an underutilized central area for the creation of almost a whole new city.
Me, I’m looking forward to a quiet evening on the “East Portland Beach” watching the sun set over the West Hills and Downtown.

Dr. Mark Ross
Guest
Dr. Mark Ross

“A capacity neutral way to do this is to add a thru lane to I-405 (& rename it “I-5″)”

If I’m correct, it can’t be done because the freeway exits are too close to each other . . . even if another lane was added, there still would be clogging . . . not only all of I-5’s thru traffic would be on I-405, there would be half of I-84’s traffic headed over the fremont bridge and down I-405 to points south.

But I support the concept of getting the freeway moved — unfortunately there are more serious expenses that lay ahead that will kill any serious effort by the DOT or legislators to get behind it: 1) the interstate bridge have to be replaced — oregon’s economy depends on it, and 2) the boone bridge (I-5 over the willamette river) is getting attention as a wink link in the commerce chain — if it breaks, we’re doomed.

ps: a worse mistake than the I-5 location on the river was running I-5 through Medford — a route through Klamath Falls was not only shorter, but less hilly. (When the freeway was being planned, the chief’s home town was Medford).

Brian E
Guest
Brian E

Highway 97 through Klamath Falls is the preferred route North/South for truckers. FYI, about ten years ago a group of investors tried to develop K-Falls into a shipping hub. It was called the Phoenix Project and would tie together trucking, air, and rail. Central was, Kingsley Field, one of the longest paved runways in the NW. The effort failed miserably and was possibly an investment scam.

In regards to Railroad spending, please read this 7/26 press release from Trent Lott. Our Senator Gordon Smith is a cosponsor of the bill.

http://lott.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=313&Month=7&Year=2006

Matt P.
Guest

A welcome change, given that auto/truck subsidization destroyed much of America’s rail infrastructure. Unfortunately much of what was lost is gone for good – the rail system was built on land grants, and the railroads can’t afford to reacquire lost land to expand their network, even if they were inclined to operate what were previously marginal routes.

A welcome change would be a massive investment in railroad intermodal facilities and laying parallel track to increase long-haul capacity. If we could shift 80-90% of all Seattle-California truck freight traffic from truck to rail, it would significantly reduce congestion in the urban areas and reduce gasoline usage.

OTOH, successfully doing that would put thousands of truckers out of work.