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UPDATED: Economist contends new I-5 bridge will “induce traffic,” use up transportation budgets “for a decade or more”

Posted by on February 25th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

UPDATE, 3/3: The Columbia River Crossing project staff have issued a memo refuting Cortright’s claims. Download that memo here (300 KB, PDF).


Economist Joe Cortright
(BikePortland file photo)

Economist Joe Cortright, who reported last June that Portland’s “green policies” add $2.6 billion into the local economy, has once again set his sights on debunking the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project.

Cortright’s five-page analysis (download PDF below) raises red flags around several “key issues” surrounding the effort to build a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver.

Cortright believes that a new bridge will “induce” more traffic, that it won’t reduce congestion, and that tolling the existing span could cut trips “by as much as half”. He also questions the financing of the project saying that, “$4 billion is a lot of money we don’t have” and that the huge expense will mean the region’s other transportation needs will go unmet “for a decade or more”.

“The big bridge will make traffic worse, not better, by overwhelming capacity in
other parts of the I-5 system.”
–Joe Cortright

Cortright also questions the CRC’s financing plan, calling it “shaky and speculative” and reliant on tax increases that haven’t yet been approved.

Writing about the concept known as induced demand, Cortright says a new bridge will encourage more trips and lead to sprawl:

“The presence of larger transportation facilities encourages people to take trips they would otherwise avoid, or re-route. Over time, transportation facilities lead to more dispersed commuting and business and housing locations – sprawl – and produce more and longer trips. The 20,000 additional trips is a minimal estimate because it does not take account of induced land use changes (and settlement patterns) that will develop over time if capacity is expanded.”

Columbia River Crossing Forum

In addition, Cortright contends that, “The big bridge won’t reduce congestion.” Instead, he says, it will make traffic worse by “overwhelming capacity in other parts of the I-5 system”.

From his analysis:

“…How do I-5 and North Portland road networks handle the additional 13,900 peak hour trips that will be generated by the new bridge? Why does a 10% increase in the peak cause catastrophe on the bridge [according to CRC’s own analysis], but a 40% increase on the rest of the system create no problems at all? This is not explained in their analysis.

So, in sum, the CRC position is:

Going from 35,800 to 39,400 on the I-5 Bridge brings the system to a grinding halt; But Going from 35,800 to 53,300 can be accommodated with very high speeds with no bottlenecks elsewhere on I-5 or in the Bridge Impact Area.”

Cortright also contends that if consumers had to pay a toll to cross the Columbia, “traffic volumes would fall substantially”. Citing polls that suggest I-5 bridge crossings would fall by as much as half with a toll, he writes, “if resolving congestion is the problem…tolling the existing facility alone could reduce congestion, and probably do so at a far lower cost.”

On the topic of finances to pay for the project, Cortright says we simply don’t have the money. He points out that the $4 billion cost of the bridge (which would make it the largest public works project in the region’s history) is equivalent to 80 OHSU Aerial Trams and that the it works out to nearly $2,000 per capita from all 2 million residents of the region.

More troubling, according to Cortright, is that the project would drain our region’s transportation budgets “for a decade or more.” He writes,

“…according to Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan, the I-5 and I-205 corridors account for less than 10% of the expected growth in daily travel in the region over the next 25 years. If we spend $4 billion here, how will we meet the other 90% of the expected growth?”

Download Cortright’s Economic Analysis of the CRC (80 KB, PDF).

View more of my CRC coverage here.

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51 Comments
  • Opus the Poet February 25, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Add this to the attempts to eliminate the bike/ped facilities from the bridge, and you could kill the project. Think of the transit and bike/ped facilities you could build for $4,000,000,000…

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  • Bryan February 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hmm… interesting article. Are any of the decision-makers actually floating the idea of a toll?

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  • Elly Blue February 25, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    My head is spinning from recent forays into learning more about this project. This paper talks about the \”Big Bridge\” scenario — there are several scenarios on the table involving combinations of building or supplementing, good transit or crummy transit, tolling or no tolling. Which option is Cortright talking about?

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  • greg February 25, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I still think a new roadway from the westside into Washington would be a better solution. Make it a 205 equivalent for the westside that crosses the river west of Vancouver.

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  • Duncan February 25, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Thats a lot of zeros there…

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  • RyNO Dan February 25, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Dedicate one lane to freight only.
    Limit single-occupant motor vehicles to only
    one lane, and charge them $5 round trip.
    Congestion, freight, and financing solved !

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  • Robert Dobbs February 25, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    DEEP SIX THE CRC!

    Put in another light rail bridge or nothing. Don\’t let Washington outsource their traffic problems to Oregon!

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  • Jeff February 25, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Is there any evidence that infrastructure improvements induce additional growth? I would venture a guess not as I\’ve lived in places where infrastructure was grossly inadequate, didn\’t get improved, and the growth that took place anyway was phenomenal. This sounds like a bogus argument.

    The single major reason to improve the bridge would be to build reliability into the interstate commerce system. All other issues should be secondary. That doesn\’t mean we don\’t consider them, we just put them in perspective.

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  • Robert Dobbs February 25, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Make that \”another bridge, just for light rail\”.

    Mmmm…. Grammar….

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  • Cøyøte February 25, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    \”$2,000 per capita from all 2 million residents of the region.\”

    I don\’t know how much clearer you can say that. If the feds want this, let them pay for it. I don\’t mind paying taxes, but I sure hate to waste money on crap I don\’t need.

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  • Schrauf February 25, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Regarding his theories on traffic dynamics and congestion – I don\’t doubt what he says, but I would prefer he focus on his specialty (economics), and let the traffic engineers focus on the traffic impacts the bridge would have on adjacent areas.

    Speaking of which, what DO the traffic engineers say about the matter? I have heard theories on all sides, but I\’m not sure which theory is coming from which so-called expert.

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  • wsbob February 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    From Cortwright\’s CRC economic analysis, pg 3:

    (An excerpt from th KATU opinion poll to the question) : \”“If a new bridge is built and a toll is charged, what would you be most likely to do? Use the bridge? Drive out of your way to avoid the bridge? Take mass transit? Or do something else?”

    Drive out of your way to avoid paying the toll: 42% (end excerpt)

    That\’s interesting. Simply charging a toll would really divert drivers to another route? The I-205 bridge I imagine. I wonder if it would actually work. What are they waiting for? They should try this for a 6-9 month trial period before approval of any newly constructed bridge project. See what happens.

    I haven\’t done a search yet, and my memory\’s not perfectly reliable on this, but I think Joe Cortright may have been the guy that had a particularly critical view of the tram project for a number of reasons both economic and aesthetic. One of his ideas was to access the hill from the waterfront via underground rail and an elevator. They laughed him out of the room because of the budget for that idea, and then the tram wound up costing almost exactly the same amount.

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  • Duncan February 25, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I remember when the floating bridge opened in Seattle- it was over capacity the first day because of commuters switching from mass transit to cars. Its life expentancy has been lowered due to heavy use.

    I think thata if they charge a toll on the I5 bridge they will end up putting a toll on the 205 bridge as well for that very reason- and well they should. If people want to live in sprawltopia, they should pay for it themselves.

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  • turbodragon February 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Folks: Read Cortright\’s paper. Critically. Let\’s be careful before we support it. It doesn\’t come across to me as very objective and mixes data. Not sure why he discusses traffic theory, but would like him to tell what would happen economically without the bridge.

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  • Mmann February 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    More serious thoughtful questioning like this can only be a good thing in the long run. We need to have a bridge there. My question is this: Does the existing bridge need to be replaced? If it does, then I\’m all for limiting the traffic lanes, so long as mass transit and bike/pedestrian faciities are there. Tolls? Absolutely, both to help pay for it as well as discourage unnecessary driving.

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  • Andy February 25, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    What I want to know is who is profiting from this?
    Any connections between contractors/designers/engineering firms and legislators?
    Campaign contributions perhaps to the legislators?
    It seems mighty fishy that a porkbarrel project with such logical grievances against it would be on it\’s way to being built without some sort of outside influence.
    I wonder who the slated contractor is, or if the project will be bid on.
    Maybe there will be a no contest bid to a KBR subsidiary like other cash cow projects from here to Iraq.
    Or the legislators are just to cowardly to place a toll on a road. Too scared of car addict commuters voting them right out of office to make the right choice for the region.

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  • bahueh February 25, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    tolls won\’t help the situation…people that work in PDX and live in Vancouver are still going to work in PDX and live in Vancouver. they pay for $3.20/gall of gas….they will pay a small toll, and still sit in endless traffic. the only thing a toll will do is yes, garner revenue, but put a total stop to afternoon northbound progress as people stop to physically pay, depending on where toll booths are installed. limiting traffic signals didn\’t help…does anyone truly think another stop sign will do the job of alleviating that mess? I would venture to guess it\’ll back traffic back into Portland most afternoons..
    light rail. period.

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  • Bjorn February 25, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I disagree that a toll on the I-5 would necessarily cause a toll on the I-205, but if it did and that toll came with a corresponding improvement to transit and bike options across the 205 then so be it.

    It is 7-8 miles on non freeway roads to go from I-5 to I-205, perhaps freeway traffic would use the 205 bypass as intended and not drive I-5 through portland, thereby avoiding the I-5 bridge toll, but the local area traffic which causes the current peak traffic problems (read daily commuters coming from washington into oregon) would be unlikely to drive an extra 15 miles to avoid a few dollar toll, regardless of what they might say in a KATU poll.

    Bjorn

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  • Grimm February 25, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    At first this project seemed like a great idea. But then I took another bike trip to Vancouver, and it made me realize what a horrible urban sprawl it is. Im sure people who live there happily drive there SUV from strip mall to strip mall or something. Thats all well and good, but I dont want that SUV parked here daily. Makes me not want to support it by letting people buy cheap housing up there and commute into a our dense urban areas for jobs (yes thats a very very general, but it seems to be the case for many).

    As far as bikes are concerned, Ive used both bridges and found that neither one are very good but I guess better than nothing. I would support OR/WA building a freight/mass transit/bike/ped bridge that is parallel to the current I5 bridge. Those are the areas that the current bridge lacks support and I want the future of the Portland/Vancouver transit to go.

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  • Ma$$ Transit February 25, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    They should hire the folks who brought you the \”Big Dig\” in Boston…

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  • Bjorn February 25, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Jeff #8 There is a lot of research that shows that expanding the bottleneck facility in a traffic system leads to more vehicle trips and equal congestion within just a few years. One good example that I can think of is the Sydney Harbour Tunnel that was build in Australia. Vehicle trips across the Harbour bridge were constant over the 5 years before the tunnel was built at just over 180,000 vehicles per day. The first year after the tunnel was built trips across the bridge dropped nearly 25% and traffic flow across the bridge was of course much smoother because of it, the reduction was of course because those drivers plus some new ones were using the tunnel instead. Fast forward to today though and the bridge sees the same number of trips that it did before the tunnel plus there are all the trips through the tunnel and congestion is actually worse. That is because the roads that cars use to get on and off the bridge and tunnel did not see the same capacity improvement that the crossing did. The CRC is proposing to do the same thing, and it will have the same result.

    Bjorn

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  • Duncan February 25, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    #17 The current bridge toll in NYC is 9$ EACH WAY… Thats not peanuts, to be effective tolls must be high enough to deter traffic and alternatives must be offered at the same time-

    There need be no delay, Tolls in NY are collected electronicly.

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  • J G February 25, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Several of the questions you have asked in your comments above are answered on the CRC projects website.

    Check out http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org

    I\’ve paid a fair amount of attention to this because I work part of the week in Portland and part of the week in Vancouver and use the I-5 bridge when I do. Sometimes I commute by bike across the existing bridge to Vancouver. Sometimes by car. Sometimes by bus. (ugh)

    Anyway, what\’s important to keep in mind is that the newer of the two existing bridges is over 50 years old. The bridges are deficient with respect to earthquakes. The lanes are narrow. The bicycle and pedestrian facilities are abismal. Transit gets stuck in traffic. Crash rates are very high on this section of I-5, especially when the bridge is raised.

    $4 billion is not just to increase capacity for cars. It\’s to correct existing safety problems, add a transit corridor, upgrade bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and lots more stuff. And everyone seems to assume there will be tolls, maybe even on I-205, too, but if I understand it correctly, that requires some special legislations.

    Don\’t get me wrong – I share some of your priorities and concerns about induced traffic, the end of oil, etc. But, don\’t assume the cost is $0 to keep the existing system and $4 billion for the highway improvement.

    Spend some time on the CRC website and attend some of the public meetings. I have and I\’m glad I did.

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  • Jason Penney February 25, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    carectomy.com points out that motorist miles have increased 5x since 1970. I say, let\’s make a priority for service and handicapped traffic on the existing bridge and charge $5 each way for non-commercial private vehicles. Let\’s see the CRC\’s plan to reduce non-commercial traffic by 80% before we even *consider* a new span.

    Remember: every time you spend money at the gas station, you\’re paying to kill US troops…

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  • bahueh February 25, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    hey Jason..
    most of our gas in the NW comes from Canada and Alaska…when did Canadians start killing U.S. troops?

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  • Jeff February 25, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Bjorn (#21),

    Interesting points, but they don\’t address my stated concern (#8). I was specifically questioning whether infrastructure improvements are proven to increase growth as it relates to housing, occupancy and population (through shifts or immigration to the greater area). You\’re addressing traffic flows, which are important but don\’t directly correlate to growth in housing and population. I remain unconvinced that a new bridge will breed anything more than the already explosive growth the Vancouver area is already seeing.

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  • Duncan February 25, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Jeff-
    Seriously think- more car capacity over the bridge, you think it will slow growth or something? More capacity=more cars=more sprawl= urban congestions= less livable city. That is simple common sense.

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  • Duncan February 25, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    #25-
    As long as demand for oil remains high, because of our draw on the global reserve of oil (47% of the demand) then oil-garchys will continue to thrive.

    I would go farther- our use of Canadian Oil supports mysoginy in Saudia Arabia, genocide in Darfur and economic stagnation in Mexico.

    I drive, but I dont lie to myself about it.

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  • Jeff February 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Duncan, Duncan, Duncan…

    Of course I realize that it makes \”common sense\”. But if you\’ve taken any time to observe how the real world works and how much more complex it is than any of us can model in our heads, it is not unreasonable to expect a higher degree of explanation (in the form of research, data, or statistics) about one\’s suppositions, esp. as they pertain to public policy. I\’m not willing to just take this one at face value, esp. since there are soooo many more variables that affect one\’s desire to move to and live in a place….

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  • BURR February 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Interstate freight can be moved much more efficiently by rail than by truck.

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  • Metal Cowboy February 25, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    bahueh,

    Gotta call you on that Canadian oil statement – utter nonsense. Good luck with your rationalizing away \”good\” oil consumption in the Northwest vs \”bad\” oil use in other parts of the country based on where some of the region\’s is piped in from – and how it isn\’t connected to wars for oil. Unless you\’re in an Oregon that I\’m not familiar with, one say located in the Netherrlands, your use of oil is tied to national policies, and those canadian companies are part of multinational corps with vested interests in that oil over in the middle east and beyond. And what about all the goods and services broght to you by oil transport not from canadian pipedd oil.

    Reducing our national use of oil is a security issue, a global pollution issue, a path to softer, cleaner ways of organizing and running a society and cycling is one of the easiest and most dramatic ways to reduce your connection to many of these things that impact our world adversely. Choices about where you work, what you eat, where you get various products and how much you really need as you go through life – all impact co2, pollution output and economic shifts. We could have a very productive society with a strong solar, wind, geo thermal etc based energy system. But not if I think I\’m living in a vacumn using only that \”good\” canadian oil. We could have a transportation system based on cycling, mass transit, train and to a smaller extent recycled veg oil ( I don\’t believe that growing biofuels is the answer when we throw away 3 billion gallons of veg oil fuel annually – 30 percent of our nation\’s energy needs is going into cat food and landfills). None of these lower impact things can become dominant if people go around rationalizing where their oil comes from and how they aren\’t connected to troops over in Iraq.

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  • Sky February 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    #22
    Tolls make for choke zones and cause major traffic problems. Anyone who has spent any time driving daily in the NYC area can attest to this. The EZpass electronic toll system is only used by a fraction of the people using toll-ways. It is convenient, I still have mine.
    The dangers of toll zones is the scary part. Most of the accidents I\’ve seen on Turnpike have happened around (and in some cases in or through)the toll booths.
    In 4 years of driving in the NYC area I only had one traffic accident. I was rear-ended while in a very long toll line to use my EZpass at the Holland tunnel.

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  • John Reinhold February 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Anti-CRC sticker at Cafepress

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  • Brett February 25, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    I have a family member who is doing some cost analysis on this project. He hasn\’t been in town in a while, but what I heard last was that it will be really difficult for Portland to afford this bridge. If they left out the max line and pedestrian stuff maybe, otherwise his thoughts are that it is unrealistic.

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  • John Russell February 25, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Here\’s my two cents:
    We\’ve had toll booths before, why not just stick them back in? I\’m pretty sure that\’s the whole reason that ODOT building is even on Hayden Island in the first place. Put those in for a trial period of something like a year and monitor how traffic dynamics change as a result. Base any plans for future bridge replacements/improvements off of that. It would sure cost a lot less than building a new bridge first.

    Second of all, offer a reliable form of Mass Transit as an easily viable option. Build another bridge solely for such transit just downstream in a spot that would allow either a build or no-build option with the CRC project and put some great bike/ped facilities on it. Again, monitor how traffic dynamics change as a result and plan accordingly.

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  • Cortright February 25, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    It\’s terrific that we\’re having this discussion–a solid, thoughtful public debate over whether to spend $4 billion on this project, and if so, who should pay. It\’s easy to be in favor of CRC if you believe someone else will pay for it.

    I\’m happy to answer specific questions about my memo, but I\’d like to correct one mis-statement from #12, WSBOB, who claimed that I \”had a particularly critical view of the tram project for a number of reasons both economic and aesthetic\” and that one of my \”ideas was to access the hill from the waterfront via underground rail and an elevator. They laughed him out of the room because of the budget for that idea, and then the tram wound up costing almost exactly the same amount.\”

    WSBOB is incorrect. I have taken no position on the OHSU tram, nor did I suggest an underground rail and elevator. (Like most people, I was appalled that it ended up costing 3 times the budgeted price, another caution for the CRC).

    I have been a critic of claims that investments in OHSU will spawn a cluster of biotech firms in Portland, based on my research for the Brookings Institution, details at http://www.brookings.edu.

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  • Bjorn February 25, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    #26 Jeff,

    During the period in question from when the tunnel was constructed the growth in vehicle trips was over 30%. There was not anywhere near this level of job growth in the city during this period. I suppose there might be other explanations for some of the growth but the one I have heard is that people who worked on one side moved to the cheaper housing on the other side when the commute time was temporarily lowered by the additional capacity. Really I think it is an apt example of what will happen in we build a replacement bridge that is larger than the current bridge.

    I\’ve read quite a bit about the CRC project and I am not totally against the idea of building a replacement bridge that simply replaces the current capacity and adds light rail and better bike/ped facilities. I could even get behind a design that added a BRT lane that ran south in the morning and north in the evening, but widening the bridge for private motor vehicles and freight that we should be shipping by rail is simply going to leave us in the same spot in 10 years we are now congestion wise, except that we will be out billions of dollars.

    Additionally I would point out something that Gordon Price talked about when I heard him speak. The bridge will cost 4+ billion dollars to construct but if we increase the capacity then we also increase the cost to maintain the bridge over time. The project needs to take into account how maintainance will be funded better.

    Bjorn

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  • Matthew February 25, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    JG #23:

    A lot of the CRC press releases/website/meeting are just marketing for a new bridge. I showed up at one of their open houses and got a balloon about congestion, but they couldn\’t tell me what the project would do to the air quality in N Portland. (They\’ve wised up since then: of the last 10 \”neighborhood\” meeting they\’ve had lately, only one has been on the Portland side of the river.)

    I don\’t see the Sellwood bridge people handing out balloons promising anything from their project, and for good reason: They aren\’t trying to sell a new bridge to people, they are trying to make an existing crossing safer.

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  • rev February 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    the fact this project has come so far when the public outcry against it has been so strong by so many is embarrassing.

    they are going to say \”we have to continue the project, we have already spent so much money planning it!\”

    how we respond will make all the difference.

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  • Jim Labbe February 26, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Jeff,

    I think the answer to your question (#8 and repeated in #29) as to \”whether infrastructure improvements are proven to increase growth as it relates to housing, occupancy and population\” can be answered in part by simple observation. In many cases basic infrastructure like water and sewer simply makes urban development physically or legally impossible.

    The connection between infrastructure and growth in demonstrated in the challenge this region faces in developing outlying UGB expansion areas (Pleasant Valley, Springwater, North Bethany and Damascus). The problem here is not land availability, but the infrastructure improvements to service that land for urban development. Even before the housing downturn, the lack of infrastructure funding was holding up development in Pleasant Valley and North Bethany.

    My understanding of the research on highway and road improvements is that highways can induce real estate development by providing (temporarily at least) developable land within commuting times of commercial, employment, and transportation centers, especially the central city. By temporarily shortening the commuting times from the edge, new freeway lanes make outlining lands more valuable for low density real estate development largely dependent on single occupant vehicles.

    See the Transportation Research Board study that found funding for the Interstate Highway System improved access to developable land on the fringes of urban areas and there by supported low-density development:

    \”Consequences of the Development of the Interstate Highway System for Transit, National Research Council,\” Transportation Research Board, Research Results Digest No. 21 (Aug. 1997).

    Where there are few transportation alternatives to single occupant vehicles, evidence suggests there is little compulsion to depart from conventional, low-density development.

    I would add that- short of the negative impact of producing more greenhouse gas emissions- low-density SOV oriented development also takes a much higher toll on our local and regional ecosystems associated ecosystem services (water quality/quantity, wildlife habitat, and public health).

    Which is part of why the debate about the costs and benefits of CRC must be a bigger and broader discussion about how we want the region to urbanize.

    Jim Labbe

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  • Duncan February 26, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Jim- Well said

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  • wsbob February 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for the correction Cortright, and for checking in on discussion. I did a search subsequent to making that comment, but couldn\’t find who suggested the tunnel/elevator proposal as an option to the tram.

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  • Helen Wheels February 27, 2008 at 12:48 am

    There must be a toll or nothing at all. Pardon the pun, ha ha.

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  • Matt Picio February 28, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Jeff (#8) said \”The single major reason to improve the bridge would be to build reliability into the interstate commerce system. All other issues should be secondary.\”

    How about another rail bridge, and build reliability into the interstate commerce system by moving freight to rail and out of trucks? Rail is much more efficient than trucking, and if the Interstate Highway subsidies were removed, a heckuva lot cheaper, too.

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  • lance sjogren March 19, 2008 at 10:35 am

    \”Induced demand\”.

    Interesting concept.

    As I interpret it, it says that traffic is reduced when it becomes increasingly miserable, and, conversely, if you improve the transportation system then people will use it more.

    Thus, the more dysfunctional the transportation system the better.

    Brilliant!

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  • Duncan March 19, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    It is a derivation of the \”Tragedy of the Commons\” concept.

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  • Aaaarrrrgggghhh March 19, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Lance,

    It also means that the more you \”improve it\” by building ever wider roads with more lanes, the worse traffic gets in the long run, forcing a demand for ever more lanes. Spend some time in Phoenix, and this become obvious.

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  • Evan March 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I have not met Jim Labbe but I know of him and he knows what he is talking about.

    The concept of induced demand is a simple economic concept: make something cheaper and demand will increase. By reducing the \”time cost\” of travel, you will increase demand on the system. Adding capacity does just that, although study after study has shown that \”YOU CANNOT BUILD YOURSELF OUT OF TRAFFIC CONGESTION.\”
    The more money you throw at roads, the more people will drive by themselves, from further away, instead of choosing alternatives. But the relief is temporary, and very soon the \”induced demand\” will exceed the increased supply, and you are, once again, (stuck in) traffic.

    Cars don\’t get stuck in traffic, THEY ARE THE TRAFFIC. Adding capacity to the system will only increase the load; you cannot reduce traffic by encouraging additional use, as the proposed CRC does.

    The key to reducing traffic is reducing demand on the system. You can do this by increasing the cost, via tolls, higher gas prices, elimination of free parking at the destination (work), etc. Did you know that employer-paid parking is not taxed (to employees), and can be written off by the employer? You can also spread the demand over the full 24 hours, rather than concentrating it at the 8am and 5pm peaks. You can improve the alternatives, such as mass transit, bike and ped facilities.

    The basic problem with the CRC is that it offers the wrong combination of carrots and sticks. The direct costs to the primary (SOV) users are too low, as are the direct benefits to those who choose alternatives.

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  • Todd B March 20, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Lance…

    The system you describe regarding \’induced demand\’ seems to describe many of our community transit systems.

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  • Racer X March 20, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Matt…talk to the private sector…BNSF can upgrade their private bridge to reduce the bottle neck and thus improve their service to their customers…they control the strings…for the most part. I assume they have paid off the construction cost of their 1910(?) bridge by now.

    After all the Multnomah and Vancouver communities begged Sam Hill to add a \’carriage\’ bridge on top of the rail crossing before the Interstate bridge was built. He only built the rail crossing that we all still have to this day.

    Let the private sector build it if it is so dire (and let them profit!).

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  • […] not alleviate congestion. (A local bike blog has been providing biased coverage of this issue, and wrote at length about Cortwright’s studies.) In response, the CRC released a rebuttal questioning […]

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