Esplanade closure begins February 1st

BTA at a crossroads with Columbia River Crossing project

Posted by on May 21st, 2008 at 4:38 pm

“Moreso than any other project I can think of, this project has had the most divergent set of opinions within the BTA in a long time… We are still having a hard time stating our positions.”
BTA executive director Scott Bricker

After a year of working in good faith with the staff of the Columbia River Crossing project, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance finds themselves at a crossroads.

Despite the project’s contentious details, its potential ramifications for regional environmental impacts and massive funding implications, the BTA has remained on the sidelines of growing concerns about the project. Instead of opposing it, they have remained a supportive part of the massive planning effort that has been likened to “a train that no one wants to step in front of”.

When the BTA held a forum on the CRC last month they featured presentations from supporters of the project (one was a CRC project staffer and the other was BTA co-founder and Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder — who’s support of the project is the focus of a cover story in the Willamette Week).

The forum’s one-sided tone caused one former BTA Board Member, Steve Guttman, to fire off a letter to executive director Scott Bricker.

Guttman implored Bricker and the BTA to not support the CRC project. In the letter, he wrote that if the BTA continues to support the project they would not be able to, “maintain credibility as an advocate for sustainable transportation” and added that, “Portland deserves better, and BTA members deserve to hear the full story.”

When the BTA published an official position on the project (which laid out a series of “recommendations”) at the end of April, it drew criticisms from the community.

Matt Picio, a BTA member and the executive director of local non-profit riding club, Exchange Cycle Tours wrote in to say that,

“I object to the BTA’s official stated position and encourage the Executive Director and the Board of Directors to closely examine the mission and purpose of the BTA and how they relate to the CRC project. I don’t believe that supporting an expensive, unsustainable and ultimately unnecessary expansion of current capacity is in the best interest of the BTA or its membership.”

Lenny Anderson, a well-known veteran transportation activist and the head of the Swan Island Transportation Management Association commented that, “In the age of Global Warming I hate to see the BTA hitch its wagon the the CRC dinosaur, even if BTA’s surrender is conditional.”

” I don’t believe that supporting an expensive, unsustainable and ultimately unnecessary expansion of current capacity is in the best interest of the BTA or its membership.”
a comment from Matt Picio on the BTA Blog

Bricker acknowledges that the CRC has been a complicated issue for his organization. “Moreso than any other project I can think of, this project has had the most divergent set of opinions within the BTA in a long time… We are still having a hard time stating our positions,” he said.

The CRC reached an important milestone earlier this month with the release of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS analyzes the five bridge design alternatives (including a “no-build” option) still under consideration and opens up a 60 day comment period for the $4.2 billion project (comment period ends July 1st).

Missing from those alternatives are several key components of the project that the BTA has pushed for for eight hours a week for the past year (a significant commitment of resources for a non-profit their size) as a member of the PBAC. Bricker has maintained from the start that the BTA insists that any new bridge has a “world-class” bike facility.

“Improving the Portland-Vancouver connection for bikes is a major priority for us. It’s on our Blueprint for Better Biking.”

Among the things the BTA hoped to accomplish in the committee was to have the CRC staff consider a 20-foot wide bike lane on both sides of the bridge (the DEIS offers nothing even close to that), to have them take a closer look at an 8-lane span (a 12-lane bridge is still strongly favored), and have them offer assurances that increased traffic would not spill into North Portland streets and that the $4.2 billion price tag would not divert funds from other projects (no such assurances have been made).

Roll On Columbia! ride

In recent months, as criticisms and hard questions have been leveled at the project from environmental advocacy groups like the Coalition for a Livable Future and, the BTA has found themselves in a tricky position: do they continue to be part of the process, being neutral (if not supportive) of the project?; or do they become a vocal critic and risk losing a seat at the table?

Bricker admits that there was a wide range of feelings about the project within the BTA, but he decided to take a gamble and continue to try and work from within to get what they wanted.

Before the DEIS came out, a conflicted Bricker told me, “I’m not sure if we’ve played this right, but we’ve tried to lay an infrastructure [of relationships with CRC staff]…and now we’ll have power once the DEIS comes out.”

Bricker’s thinking was that by remaining neutral and supportive of the process, the BTA would have every right to raise questions about the project once the DEIS came out.

Now that the DEIS is out, it’s clear that the CRC project staff have not addressed the BTA’s recommendations. Bricker says as a result, he plans to increase the BTA’s advocacy around the issue.

According Bricker, he and his staff are working on a new advocacy strategy. “We will continue working for our recommendations, but we’re taking more of an advocacy approach to make sure people get engaged.” In addition to getting more vocal about the DEIS and encouraging the community to submit comments, Bricker said he plans to sign onto a petition filed by the Coalition for a Livable Future that requests a 60-day extension of the public comment period.

“Having 60 days to review a 9,000 page document…that’s really challenging. We want to make sure no one rushes to a decision on this.”

Even with increased advocacy around the project from the BTA in the months to come, questions remain.

Has the BTA’s tacit support of the project and reluctance to rock the boat made it easier for the CRC to seriously consider “world-class” bicycle facilities on the bridge? Would more pointed opposition from the BTA help add strength to other groups hoping to force a wholesale re-analysis of the project?

And now, with the release of the DEIS being far from what the BTA wanted, is it too late in the process to make major changes?

Hopefully we’ll get some answers to these questions as the debate sharpens in the coming weeks and months.


— BTA founder (and now Metro Councilor) Rex Burkholder has been very supportive of the CRC project. For more on that, read this article published today by Nigel Jaquiss of the Willamette Week.

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  • Hillsons May 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    I\’m not worried: by the time plans are even finished most people are going to want to stretch that $80 tank of gas as much as possible

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  • Jessica Roberts May 21, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    This whole process has been so difficult to understand, much less participate in, much less affect. I have great sympathy for the BTA\’s David facing this Goliath.

    Nevertheless, I have come to disagree with their decision to continue to support the process through continued participation with the \”bike committee.\” What I understand of the DEIS (and again, it seems specially designed to stymie mere mortals\’ understanding) leads me to believe that the final product has not been improved by the BTA\’s cooperation, and now we have lost much time. The proposed facility offers the bare minimum of acceptable accommodation, on the most expensive project this region has ever seen. The symbolism of this horrifies me.

    That said, it\’s also not fair to put the entire burden of opposing this project on the BTA. Where are our rail advocates, our pedestrian advocates, our land use and livability partners? Where are the environmental justice groups and the air quality advocates? I think we\’re finally seeing these partners come together with the SmarterBridge project, and I am glad to see those partners beginning a wider dialogue. The question is: are we too late?

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  • a.O May 21, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    We\’re not too late, Jessica. But it is definitely time for people to step up and make sure the will of the people is heard here.

    Realistically, BTA has to stay involved to ensure that the project is not 12 motor-vehicle-only lanes.

    That said, I think it\’s pretty naive to believe that something as unquantifiable as relationships built with staffers will translate into some specific level of \”power\” or leverage further down the line.

    We need a coalition specifically dedicated to stopping this monster.

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  • BURR May 21, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Frankly, I\’m very surprised at Rex Burkholder\’s support for this giant boondoogle.

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  • Refunk May 21, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    \”World class\” bicycle facilities on the bridge? To where?

    Isn\’t the northern end in *Vancouver?* From Platinum Portland to the bronze-age \’Couve, or from Prez Obama\’s model bicycling city to an abandoned fur-trading outpost.

    Toll the two existing Interstate spans (that is, the I-5 bridge), slap a new (safer than current bridge sidewalks) MUP up alongside and work harder on getting porcine Clark Countians out of their SOV-SUVs and onboard some kinda mass transit.

    More car lanes are not the answer. All that said, who can second-guess BTA\’s strategy in starting out neutral? Now they will try something else, but they had to start somewhere. The preponderance of funding this Taj Mahal should not be placed on Oregon, but the Feds, Clark County (WA state), and the users (tolls).

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  • peejay May 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    If we were to go back to the original reasons to build a new bridge, the only one that really mattered (forget the press BS) is to increase lane capacity to reduce congestion. Now, congestion is being reduced all on its own by the rising gas prices, just as we thought it would (I heard a figure of 7% less somewhere on this blog). Perhaps this might lead to a reassessment of the future capacity needs, and a downsizing of the necessary lanes, because who really thinks gas is going to get any cheaper?

    Time to can this stupid project, and not lend any more credibility to it. I will not join or contribute to the BTA until this unholy partnership is severed.

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  • Jim Labbe May 21, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Jessica!

    I totally agree that more groups need to become directly involved given the implications of the CRC project. However CLF does actually represent a lot of the groups and interests you list. Several who don\’t work on transportation issues directly have weighed in independently of CLF while supporting CLF\’s efforts to oppose the super-highway bridge.

    I too would like to see the BTA join them and for the BTA to again play a more active role in CLF. BTA was actually a founding member of CLF with Audubon, 1000 Friends, and others but has been much less involved in recent years…. probably because biking has exploded in Portland.

    But in the future will be real limits to single-issue advocacy… which is the whole reason why CLF was formed. For example, at least part of the reason the Sauvie Island Reuse/Flanders Bridge Crossing proposal failed politically was the appearance (to say nothing of the reality) of single-issue bike advocacy.

    I know BTA staff work hard and do ALOT of good work but I\’d wager the BTA could do more with less effort by collaborating more with CLF and other organizations. CRC is a good example.

    (BTA member)

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  • Kris May 21, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I am afraid that the BTA has been way too much focused on getting a \”world class bike facility\” rolled into the project.

    The CRC project needs to be addressed from a much broader perspective, addressing the root problem (congestion resulting primarily from Clark County commuters) in an effective and sustainable manner.

    Having a world class bike facility on the new bridge might increase Portland\’s prestige as a bike-friendly community, but it might not get enough commuters to switch to bikes to make a real dent in the # of cars crossing the bridge every morning and every night. Twelve lanes might help reduce congestion on the bridge, but it will most likely just shift the congestion problem to North and NW Portland.

    As pointed out by others before, the most effective – though much less popular – solution would be tolling. Over time, it holds great promise of changing commuters\’ behavior (people start carpooling, biking, using public transit, telecommuting, or just moving closer to work) and it will allow us to curb and price what will otherwise remain a negative externality, regardless of the number of lanes on the bridge.

    I hope that this is something that the BTA will become more vocal about, when they step up their advocacy efforts around the CRC project.

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  • mmann May 21, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I too am a BTA member, though as such I have to admit I really don\’t know what \”membership\” means except they get my money and I get to feel good about supporting cycling in Portland. That said, I\’m glad to see that this project is getting the recent intense scrutiny, and that it\’s putting the BTA (us) in a tough spot. tough spots are where the best thinking takes place. WHY would we (pdx/\’couv) need more I-5 lanes? Simple, to ease congestion. As others have said, let\’s let the price of gas and the misery of car commuting take care of that. Whose interests, really, are served by spending BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars on MORE lanes across the Columbia? Not mine, as far as I can see, and not the interest of the health and livability of my community (pdx). This project deserves a long, tough, critical analysis. I just don\’t see the benefits, and would urge more courage from MY BTA.

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  • bicycledave May 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Most of us can easily understand why this bridge is a bad idea, but the argument that has the most mass appeal will be:

    Why should Oregon pay to relieve congestion for Clark County commuters?

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  • East Portlander May 21, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    This project is a ridiculous waste of money and if it wasn\’t anticipated to receive such significant federal subsidies would never be palatable given out limited transportation funding in the region. We should focus on low-cost solutions to congestion management, including bike and pedestrian infrastructure along with sound land use planning.

    The solution to CRC specifically is to toll existing bridges, use it pay for seismic retrofitting and expansion of the light rail network to Clark County. I\’m tired of Vancouver residents crying poor when it was their individual decisions to move to the far edge of our region to obtain oversized cardboard boxes surrounded by sterile grass with poor transportation connections to their jobs and retail in order to avoid as much interaction with mankind as possible and all the while spewing their pollution on our population and clogging our streets with their license plates. This project, as it currently exists, needs to die.

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  • Jeff Bernards May 21, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I spoke at the Portland Planning meeting last week, all the special interest people were there, meaning both for & against the bridge. People are speaking out, I didn\’t see or recognize anyone from the BTA? I spoke and here it is:
    As a citizen concerned about the many brewing storms were facing: climate change, energy security, the desire for a healthy environment, Oregon’s crumbling infrastructure and a $9 trillion federal debt (that’s our debt). This project that will cost more than twice all of the Max infrastructure that’s in place now including the development of the Washington County Corridor. This is a huge investment and needs a pragmatic look at ALL viable & affordable alternatives.

    Regarding Climate change, I couldn’t find a mention of the amount of concrete, steel and construction related pollution that will be created to build this bridge. Everyone mentions 2035 as target date to reduce CO2, that’s to late, we have to start now. If tolling reduces traffic and encourages people to seek alternative transportation why isn’t the bridge being tolled now? Probably because there’s been a minuscule investment in mass transit north of the Columbia River. Tolling should be used now to facilitate building mass transit infrastructure.

    As far as oil security, were just one war, one pipeline malfunction or one political upheaval away from feeling the early effects of what peak oil has waiting for us. Perpetuating the myth that we’ll be driving around freely by the time the bridge is completed is just wishful thinking. Recent oil price increases have proven we can drive less, car pool more and use mass transit, where it’s available. An investment in mass transit is the future, investments of this magnitude is an investment in the past.

    Expanding to allow more cars will only encourage just that, more cars. The air shed around Portland already suffers.

    Federal money has a disconnect with people, like there’s a big pot of spendable, un-repayable money that we can just spend with no consequences. It is an irresponsible to make future generations carry the burden of our misplaced priorities.
    This is a subsidy to people who abandoned Portland Public Schools or drove until they could afford a mortgage and now asking us to make their choices less costly.
    I could defend increasing the Federal Debt to build Mass Transit, like Max, as an investment in the future. But I would have a hard time defending borrowing for the CRC, because it only represents a monument to the past
    I support a bike/transit bridge for I5 and runing a max line on 2 lanes on the exisiting 205 bridge. Sismec upgrades for I5 done.
    Thank you for reading my rants

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  • Metal Cowboy May 21, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    With all due respect to a bunch of good people who are working hard to help create a livable community and one of the most bicycle friendly places in America, Scott and company, you are on the wrong side of this one.

    Having watched it roll out to this point, I truly believe the BTA is being played, or is out playing themselves. I read and hear and get fed the same mantra repeated about the CRC – it\’s a complex issue and it\’s going to happen in some form so we should get a seat at the table and make it the best we can for bikes.

    The best thing for cyclists and the entire community should be changing our transportation habits and saving 4 billion dollars in the bargain. I think the BTA should do an about face, kick that seat at the table to the floor, admit they\’ve been played and have the courage to go Braveheart and help kill this project cold, dead and buried.

    It\’s time for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to take a good look at their mission and come out swinging.

    BTW Rex, you\’re on the wrong side of this as well. But I like your work on a lot of other stuff.

    See you on the battlefield. Side by side or looking across at each other. Your call.

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  • Chris Smith May 21, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I agree that BTA should vocally oppose all the \’build\’ options in the current DEIS.

    But let\’s give them a little credit. They just signed on to a letter requesting a 60-day extension in the comment period for the DEIS.

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  • Racer X May 21, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Yes there are a lot of folks driving into Portland from Vancouver (…Beaverton, Troutdale, etc.)…time to put up city walls? I see a lot of Oregon plates up here too.

    So what is a real Plan B? Other than blogging?

    I live within earshot of I-5…on the northbank of the Columbia…we call it the \’waterfall\’ (though the PDX airport is more noisy with its overflights and engine testing facility).

    At least with the project – we will get a sound wall where one does not exist and a safer bike and MAX crossing of the river. Perhaps these are green crumbs…I do not see Portlanders doing much up here for green transport…it even took extra years for ODOT to wrap up Delta Park.

    How about pushing ODOT and Mayor Sam to halt the redevelopment of Hayden Island – just close those poorly designed and planned highway exits…the congestion always clears once you reach the north side. This would help lengthen the life of the existing bridges.

    If this project splits the region and does not get built (esp. the transit and bike ped portions with the tolling) then I would ask all the \’posturing Portlanders\’ to work in Salem and with their business community (stop buying their products/ services) to no longer hire folks with a WA address…or likely more legally make it a requirement of employment (as many cities do for top management).

    I am glad none of you drive to Seattle or across the I-5 with your cars. Only bikes right?

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  • nuovorecord May 21, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Robert Liberty\’s opinion piece in last Sunday\’s O laid out a good alternative vision for the CRC project, one you would think the BTA would be supporting.

    I am puzzled, frankly, by the BTA\’s and Rex\’s position on this project. It\’s as if the planners drawing this thing up haven\’t been paying attention to anything going on in the world over the last five years or so. Having an improved Columbia River bike crossing would be nice, but not at the expense in monetary terms as well as societal terms. Hopefully enough people will rise up and kill this turkey of a project.

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  • Chris Smith May 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    So what is a real Plan B? Other than blogging?

    1) Show up at a hearing and testify against the options.

    2) Sign up on the Coalition for a Livable Future\’s advocacy list for this project.

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  • Matthew Denton May 21, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    \”Realistically, BTA has to stay involved to ensure that the project is not 12 motor-vehicle-only lanes.\”

    No they don\’t. State law says you have to build a bicycle path, and if the CRC doesn\’t have one, a much easier tactic to sue. That is what the BTA is doing in the SK Northwest case. The advantage of staying in is so that they can make it better than the state required minimum, but they clearly haven\’t had much luck at that…

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  • Boo Boo May 21, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Without following this whole mess closely. It appears that transportation-sustainability-clear air groups need a stronger coalition with more political influence. Can anyone working with these groups comment on your access to a good attorney or legal firm like Earthjustice to review the DEIS and whether it and the process has complied with federal and/or state laws?

    Maybe the focus really needs to be educating the public IN SIMPLE TERMS about why this sucks and putting grassroots pressure to bear on decision makers.

    Maybe a model is how other statewide and regional environmental groups have been successful to protect rivers, watersheds and forests with grassroots organizing and going to court with a good lawyer when necessary.

    Yes this is a transportation project, but it strongly affects air quality, global warming, and water quality?

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  • Matt Picio May 22, 2008 at 12:01 am

    This project makes assumptions about local, regional and national growth that aren\’t supported by the facts. It would be the most expensive road project this region has ever seen. The funding isn\’t fully lined up, and the funding method (tolls) is predicated on what\’s likely to be a declining resource (vehicle trips).

    This project is royally a bad idea. For those who say it\’s necessary, I issue this challenge: Find me a single example of a 12-lane highway which REDUCED congestion in the city in which it was built, 2-5 years after construction was completed.

    CRC is a bad idea, and not what the region needs. Even if it\’s implemented, there\’s a good chance the full funding will never materialize, and then what? A half-completed concrete and rebar monstrosity crouching over the river and Jantzen Beach?

    For that matter, do the Jantzen Beach residents have any idea how huge this thing is, and how it\’ll look stretched over the island?

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  • Metal Cowboy May 22, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Besides blogging about it? what Chris Smith noted – come to the next hearing, write the Oregonian, join the resistence to this and articulate your position – mine is that we need to increase the bike mode share across the existing bridge, carpool like we mean it, lobby for light rail extending to Vancouver and kill this thing dead. It\’s the old school answer to a new set of challenges. Amnerica is better than this, sometimes the hardest choices and the right choices are the same. In this case a no build option or a toll and light rail addition is the right choice.But not a 12 lane dino that won\’t pay for itself or reduce the pollution over the long haul – and it certainly won\’t reduce the number of cars driving that corridor.

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  • the other steph May 22, 2008 at 8:26 am

    one of the proponents\’ big justifications for the added lanes is that they are going to exist as purely auxiliary lanes matched up to any number of interchanges. i haven\’t been following closely the work for I-5 widening at Delta Parkway, but i find it more and more incredible that those auxiliary lanes would remain \”auxiliary\”. how is it not a mandate to inevitably widen and \”solve the bottleneck\”?

    i appreciate the effort to extend the comment period. a handful of weeks after an intense primary election is wildly insufficient for a project of this magnitude.

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  • J May 22, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I found this on the CRC website:

    Where will the money come from to pay for the project?
    The Columbia River Crossing project will seek federal, state and local funding. In addition, tolling is being studied as a method to help finance the project. Tolls paid for the construction of the existing I-5 bridges in 1917 and 1958.

    My question is what are the ratios of these funding source (if that has even been determined)? How much is WA expected to pay vs OR, and how much is federal, etc.

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  • Mara May 22, 2008 at 8:49 am

    City of Portland and Metro Council are among the eight jurisdictions deciding whether or not to move this project forward, and they\’re scheduled to make their decisions in July. They are both having public hearings, and I encourage people to go and testify. June 5 for Metro, and July 9 for Portland.

    June 5 – Metro Council
    Time: 2pm (get there early to sign up)
    Location: 600 NE Grand Ave, Portland, Metro Council Chambers

    July 9 – Portland City Council
    Time: 2pm (get there early to sign up)
    Location: City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave, Portland

    There were about 18 people speaking against the bridge alternatives at the Portland Planning Commission hearing last week, but more speaking in favor of the project, particularly from the perspective of freight mobility. Elected officials are getting a lot of pressure to push this project through, and we need to show enough support against the alternatives so they can make a better choice.

    ALSO, you can make public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and legally they have to respond if the comments are about shortcomings of the DEIS.

    May 29 – Portland hearing
    Time: 6-8pm (open house at 5pm)
    Location: 2060 North Marine Drive, Portland (Expo Center, Hall D)

    Mara Gross
    Coalition for a Livable Future
    go to

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  • the other steph May 22, 2008 at 9:04 am

    thanks, Mara!

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  • 2ndaveflyer May 22, 2008 at 10:29 am

    The CRC project will be constructed, even if 20,000 cyclists block the lanes of I-5 in protest. You have to appreciate that 100\’s of 1000\’s of manhours are being spent each day by persons trying to go north and south. Much of this traffic is commercial traffic; like trucks delivering tires, grease, and spare parts to River City and the Bike Gallery.

    The BTA is right to take an active role in the planning process. Understand that their influence is strongly limited by their lack of resources…not their fault. Consider supporting them with your membership dollars; particularly before faulting them for being ineffective.

    I\’m a cyclist that often crosses the current span…quite a thrill…and yet 40\’ of bike lanes seems pretty excessive. This bridge will never draw the crowds of say a Hawthorne. Going south the commute by bike is too long to be practical for most, going north the attractions are too limited to draw much of a crowd.

    Thank Reagan for this idiocy where we all think its fair and fun to stick any \’user group\’ with the costs of providing services or infrastructure. It\’s a nice way to raise revenues without technically raising taxes and it helps fracture the communities we live in. Thus, for example, we don\’t provide access to our parks for all of the people; just those that can afford the ticket in. It\’s disgraceful.

    It\’s a mistake for environmentalists to support tolls for this bridge; it\’s a big mistake. Travel back east and enjoy the toll roads. Talk about pollution, corruption, and a waste of time! We\’re better than that in the Northwest. If we agree we need the bridge then we need it for all of us, and all of us should pay. We could take this process ahead add-nausium such that people on each individual street could pay user fees for their own street repairs, lights, and utilities. Of course if your street can\’t afford to maintain infrastructure you could always charge a toll to people passing through your neighborhood…builds a warm sense of community eh?

    Support whatever programs or organizations you believe can help make the CRC more to your liking…good luck with the project oposition. Support tolls if you believe that we should build a society where we fight with one another over who should pick up the tab for things we all benefit from. Stay dry.

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  • Matt Picio May 22, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Racer X (#15) – \”I do not see Portlanders doing much up here for green transport\”. That\’s partially because Vancouver is in another state, and subject to different laws and regulation. Portland tried to promote MAX, which Clark County voters shot down. I\’m curious why you feel that Portlanders are responsible for intiating change in Vancouver, rather than Vancouverites.

    the other steph (#22) – I agree, people are going to use the \”auxiliary\” lanes as passing lanes whenever possible. Enforcement won\’t fix it, since pulling someone over to ticket them will just cause additional bottlenecks.

    J (#23) – funding ratios are still under discussion. As you might imagine, many Oregonians feel that Washington and Vancouver should bear much of the cost, since Vancouver commuters constitute a large proportion of the traffic. Personally, since the corridor is SO important to Inter-State trade, we should bill California for a large part of the bill as well, since a large portion of the frieght in the corridor is heading to or from California.

    2ndaveflyer (#26) – It\’s never inevitable, if enough committed people pit their effort against it. It only seems a Herculean task. As for \”thank Reagan\”, I think you mean \”thank the baby boomers\” or \”thank the 1980s Republican Party\”. Reagan was such a small part of the problem – Congress, the cabinet, the Republican and Democratic leadership, and the department and bureau heads are equally if not more to blame. The methodology was endemic and generational. To change the system, you need to change the people, not just the top leadership. It\’s much easier for people to blame a public figure than admit complicity. (not pointing a finger at you specifically with that last, but society in general)

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  • JE May 22, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Tolls now.

    Just throwing this out there for those who know more about it that me:

    Could Oregon, Multnomah County and/or Portland toll the Oregon side of the bridges?

    Like an admittance fee. No CRC, Washingtonians or Federalies, just us collecting a fee.

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  • brettoo May 22, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    A few pertinent questions to those who\’ve followed this more closely than I:
    What percentage of the bridge traffic is freight? What percentage is SOV commuters? What percentage of SOV commuter traffic would have to be diverted to mass transit or bikes to provide adequate decongestant for freight traffic?

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  • Chris Smith May 22, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Trucks (and \”goods and services\” can move in vehicles other than trucks) are less than 10% of the traffic on the crossing.

    Which is why tolling NOW makes so much sense. Commercial vehicles get a huge return on more reliable travel times via tolling.

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  • ambrown May 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I think Christopher Smith said it best in an interview with the Portland Merc\’s blogtown a few months ago. In today\’s age of oil uncertainty and climate change, how will we tell our grandchildren that we decided to spend $4.2 BILLION dollars on a project that INCREASES the use of our scarce resources, perpetuates suburban sprawl and continues to harm the earth? I know this isn\’t a possibility due to the nature of the location of the funding, but imagine what $4.2 billion dollars can buy the city of portland in terms of environmental sustainability: we\’re not just talking bike lanes and transit, but incentives for businesses to go green, tax havens for green collar jobs…

    I\’m a BTA member, but i agree; this bridge isn\’t just about bicycles. To wearily support this bridge because it includes a yellow line extension or big bike lanes (and really, would ANYONE regularly bike across that bridge in the December rain? Think about the length of the span and distance from downtown pdx; it\’ll hardly be used by average bikers) is to undercut our belief in the necessity for a drastic overhaul of our hegemonic transportation infrastructure to meet the 21st century. We all need to be attending these meetings and voicing our dissent about this enormous expenditure.

    AN interesting parallel: Before San Francisco, Baltimore and Portland could be successful with their freeway revolts, many highway engineers were given free license to build gigantic interstates through urban areas, often kicking out minorities and lower social classes (see Chicago, New Orleans, St. Paul, Miami, Brooklyn, and many others). To be brief, the successful highway revolts only started working with passionate grassroots organization (such as today\’s BTA, bikeportland, CLF) and federal-level legal mechanisms which allowed these groups to appeal the technocrats that hadn\’t previously existed in the Dept of Transportation (as, perhaps, a Blumenauer DOT would provide under an Obama administration…)

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  • a.O May 22, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you ambrown. Chris Smith was exactly right, as usual:

    In today\’s age of oil uncertainty and climate change, how will we tell our grandchildren that we decided to spend $4.2 BILLION dollars on a project that INCREASES the use of our scarce resources, perpetuates suburban sprawl and continues to harm the earth?

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  • Cøyøte May 22, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    The BTA has to remain at the the table to maintain credibility. You cannot enter into a collaborative process like this, and pout if they do not agree with you. If the BTA leaves they will not be invited to the next dance.

    Mr. Briker, make your points, declare your objections, advocate for what you want, then realize even being invited to the table is world class. We will get there eventually.

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  • Matthew Denton May 22, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    #26 the argument for tolls isn\’t [just] to help pay for it. It is a form of congestion pricing: If you charge people money to do something, maybe they\’ll do less of it. For instance, if we only charged tolls for SOVs, then more people would carpool. More people carpooling means less trips across the bridge, and less congestion. For commercial trips/freight the argument for tolls is actually very strong. It costs somewhere between $1-$2/min to run a semi truck, (including the cost of the truck, the driver\’s wages, fuel, insurance, etc.) A plumber in a van is a little less than that, (maybe 75 cents/minute.) If they had to pay $3 to cross at rush hour, but it took 10 minutes less than it does now, (because there were less SOVs willing to pay $5 to make the trip,) then they\’d be very very happy.

    Yes, we do need money for earthquake retrofits and light rail across the river too, but that isn\’t the only point of the toll.

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  • Matthew Denton May 22, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    It should also be pointed out that I-5 congestion isn\’t actually that bad. Less than 10% of the traffic is going from points both south and north of the I-205 splits, but that traffic takes I-5, instead of the \”east side bypass\”, (I-205,) because it is faster to wait in traffic on the bridge, (and in the Terwilliger curves, and at the 2 lane section at the Rose Garden, and everyplace else) than to take I-205…

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  • Mike May 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    So what else can be done?
    Join the CLF…Done.
    Support the BTA…Done.
    Attend meetings in the middle of the work day…can\’t, gotta start saving for when my taxes go up to pay for this monstrosity.

    So what else?

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  • mara May 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    So glad you asked. Other ideas…

    (1) Send a letter to your elected officials — link to email electeds, with a sample letter here:

    (2) Email your friends and ask them to do the same.

    (3) Respond to articles, especially if the article or comments argue a view you disagree with, like these:

    (4) Track articles, so you can do (3) (I use Google Alert)

    (5) Talk to your neighborhood association, civic group, running group, co-op, etc. about the issue. Consider what you can do together. Write a letter to the editor? Write to your commissioner? See if one of you is free to go to a meeting that occurs while most other people are working?

    (6) Ask good questions, like what else you can do. Music to my ears.

    Ideas from others?

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  • Doug Allen May 22, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Mara is right.

    I have gotten a letter to the Oregonian and a letter to the Tribune published this spring, each in opposition to the massive replacement bridge.

    Keep to their length limits, edit for clarity, address an article or editorial, add some new information, and you are guaranteed to beat the average of 1 letter in 10 getting published (Oregonian — I think the Tribune is easier). I got two out of two, but I haven\’t seen nearly enough other letters.

    I took vacation time from work to attend the Planning Commission hearing, but certainly the Metro hearing is the big one coming up where we stand a chance of turning this thing around.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 22, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    As for not wanting to build a facility to help Vancouverites commute to Portland (much of discussion seems to be this)…in interviewing bike commuters over several years…I have found that the bike traffic split is 50/50 (vs. 90/10 for the i205 trail).

    That the greatest opportunity for accessible bike commuting is NOT living in Vancouver and working in Portland but living in North Portland and working in downtown Vancouver. Vancouver is the emerging urban center for much of North Portland.

    And yes there are few of us on the CRC PBAC that expect the bike traffic across a future facility to be as high as the Hawthorne in the next 10 to 20 years. But what we are dealing with is a 100+ year facility that connects two urbanizing and \’densifying\’ areas (downtown Vancouver and Hayden Meadows/ Janzen Beach).

    Who knows what energy policy will be then…except that bikes will outlast cars as a machine technology.

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  • Helen Wheels May 22, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Opposing the CRC is a no-brainer. It looks as though the BTA is compromising its values to get a token bike path on this new behemoth boondoggle of a bridge. I don\’t care about a bike crossing to Vanloser (sorry, but the only good thing about VL is it is across the river from Portland. I wonder how many VL\’s would actually ride their bikes from there to Portland. I sure have no interest in biking over there.

    I am saddened that Burkholder appears to have developed early-onset dementia. Fellow Metro councilor Robert Liberty backed Jim Middaugh who would have been a vote against CRC on the city council. Then we have pro CRC Burkholder who supported Nick Fish whose view of the CRC remains unknown (to me).

    I am holding out hope that the Portland City Council will vote against this \”let\’s foot Portlanders with the bill again\” project. Oregon businesses need to start hiring Oregonians. I have had it with Vancouverite\’s taking Oregon jobs. They live a lot cheaper over there while too many Oregonians can\’t find a good-paying job in their own city.

    VL\’s whine about the possibility of paying a toll, but who the schmuck cares? Too bad. It\’s about time they paid for their excesses. Meanwhile, we have to breathe the filthy air and build roads for them.

    I just hope the I-5 bridge is upgraded and tolls are instituted before this 12-lane bridge proceeds any further.

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  • 2ndaveflyer May 22, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    I must say I am pleasantly surprised by this thread. I haven\’t read as much lately because the communication quality seems to have crashed and burned in many cases. Thank you, everyone, for writing so thoughtfully about this issue.

    I still disagree with tolls as a social engineering tool. They simply do not work. Rather than relieve congestion they increase it. Those who say congestion is not that bad cannot possibly be driving the road or reading the figures for delays on this stretch of road. When I worked on Tomahawk Island several years ago my company set a policy to attempt no business/pick-ups/deliveries/supply runs after 1:30 in the day; its simply a waste of time.

    Tolls will not cause people to leave their SUV\’s; that\’s just a fantasy. Consider that many of these vehicles cost over $50,000. A toll, even at $10 a crossing, will not result in major changes to vehicle use. It is a terribly complex issue and I don\’t pretend to know the answers, but the only thing that will get people out of their cars is when they have viable alternatives. Some of these may be:
    1. affordable housing close to the urban core.
    2. efficient mass-transit
    3. covered bike corridors separated from other traffic.
    4. add your favorite 7 here

    Visit the San Francisco area or talk with those that have. The tolls produce tremendous gridlock and pollution and just add to the irritation of living there. Back east no one even thinks about not taking the expressways; they just stop-go-stop-go-stop-go and throw their tokens into the hoppers and angerly grab their tickets like Tony Soprano.

    I may be a revolutionary liberal but I side with the libertarians and fiscal conservatives on this issue. If you want real change you have to provide market incentives and positive choices and alternatives. Tolling to produce social change is simply ineffective. Try it with your children or your spouse…you won\’t be pleasantly surprised!

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  • Doug Allen May 23, 2008 at 8:22 am

    If you check out the CRC web site, you will see that they insist that all tolls will be collected electronically, and traffic will not be impeded.

    Libertarians, such as John Charles at the Cascade Policy institute, and Liberals, such as the Oregon Environmental Council, have recommended \”Congestion Pricing\” (tolls) for years, and I think they are right when it comes to paying for expensive infrastructure. Tolling is no more a matter of \”social engineering\” than paying for electricity versus free electricity.

    There may be elements of \”social engineering\” to building a massive replacement bridge when cheaper and less destructive options are available, but tolling is not one of them.

    There is a lot of unused capacity during non-peak times, so by shifting trips that can be shifted, carpooling when that works (saves gas money too), and providing better transit (faster, more destinations), tolls ($2.00 to $2.50 at peak, according to CRC) will have a major effect according to the CRC\’s own numbers.

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  • Mmann May 23, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Here\’s a couple more thoughts related to the bridge. 4.2 billion is a whole lot of money, but for federal spending, in perspective it\’s what we spend on the Iraq war every 3 weeks (200 million/day). Of course, we\’re in massive debt to do that, and it shows how whacked this nation\’s priorities have become, but if the political will was shifted, it could be funded.

    The bigger issue to me is the need, long term. I don\’t see a good reason to double capacity (12 lanes) for the foreseeable future.

    But if the new bridge becomes an inevitability, I\’m all in favor of tolls. What transportation/environmental folks need to focus on is cutting down unnecessary and single occupant vehicle trips, and I think tolls are a good step for this. How many folks in Vancouver shop at Janzen beach because there\’s no sales tax? How many would hit their local Target instead of crossing the river if they knew there was a toll that would make the tax break a wash?
    And a couple evenings ago I was listening to ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Reich talk about how the best cure for our current recession is spending on infrastructure (and the jobs that would create)
    Now, building unnecessary bridges for the point of creating jobs is pretty dumb, but IF the bridge is needed, it would provide good paying work for a lot of people. So I remain unsure. On the one hand we NEED to cut down on unnecessary car trips across the river. But if it\’s built anyway, it should have tolls, light rail, and the best bike/pedestrian water crossing in the country.

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  • BURR May 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    2ndaveflyer – ther is nothing remotely \’fiscally conservative\’ or \’lobertarian\’ about this pork barrel project!

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  • peejay May 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    2nd dave:

    Yes, but tolling is not just a punitive \”sin tax,\” although it is that as well. It\’s a very conservative idea about getting people to pay for the services they are being provided, and is far fairer than a blanket tax on everybody to pay for it. As for the idea of creating congestion, well, there\’s plenty of technology that eliminates the old toll booth jam phenomenon. There are \”fastpass\” systems that make toll collection almost full-speed once people sign up for them, which they will do because if they don\’t, they will have to wait in the few manual collection lanes.

    Anyway, all the other positive choices you list, which I agree are much more important, require a certain threshold of political will to accomplish. This doesn\’t happen on its own; it needs people motivated enough (by congestion, tolls, and high gas prices, for instance) to want these things.

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  • Matthew Denton May 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    You apparently haven\’t been paying attention what happened in London when they imposed a toll on the central city: Less people drove, congestion disappeared, people stopped double parking. Yes, the toll was a lot of money (9 pounds, about $20,) but it worked. Of course, London has great public transit, great bicycle facilities, and high density, where as Vancouver has C-Trans, some lines on the pavement, and suburban sprawl, but the point is that tolling works.

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  • Pete May 23, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Doug and Matthew\’s points combined: with electronic tolling you could do what the electric company does and vary the toll rate by time period. Consumers who could do so may vary their trip schedules to save money, thus saving congestion during peak commutes. (The reason clothes and dishwashers have time delays isn\’t just to postpone the noise, it\’s to run them in off-demand hours). Of course Matthew\’s point is the amount of savings or penalty has to be significant enough to alter behavior, but it\’s been shown to work.

    It\’s too bad cyclists couldn\’t get rebates the way solar net-metering systems can on the grid, though. 🙂

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  • Schrauf May 23, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    What is the lifespan of the existing I-5 bridge? I can\’t find this statistic anyplace, and it seems pertinent to the discussion. If the bridge will need to be replaced in 10 or 20 years anyway, a new bridge now, has some merit. A new bridge will be much more expensive later.

    Having said that, the current options on the table are ridiculous. Too bad it seems too late for other options to be considered. What about a scaled down, sleek and efficient, eight-lane bridge with light rail and good bike/pedistrian facilities? Not even on the table? The options are either garmongous, or no-build? Ridiculous.

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