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BTA issues position statement on CRC project

Posted by on June 9th, 2008 at 4:30 pm

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has just issued a press release stating their latest position on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) of the Columbia River Crossing project.

In the statement, the BTA says that “after extensive internal discussions and conversations with supporters and opponents” of the project, they feel that a new bridge is needed but that their support, “has essential conditions.”

Those conditions are:

Right Size the Bridge
The current conversation over building a new bridge starts at 10 or 12 auto lanes, however, with the existing bridge currently at six lanes, the BTA believes that an eight lane bridge may be adequate. The BTA will only support a project that provides rigorous analysis of an eight-lane option.

Begin Tolling Today
Any project will require vast financial resources and the majority of these should be collected through user fees. The BTA strongly believes that it makes sense to begin accumulating these funds now. However, we understand that there are significant federal and state hurdles to overcome in order to begin tolling. The project team must start the process so tolling can start immediately upon selection of a project design.

Don’t Jeopardize Other Transportation Projects
The region has billions of dollars in transportation needs as documented in the Regional Transportation Plan. The region has spent an enormous amount of time and gathered significant public input to determine these priorities. The Columbia River Crossing must hold these projects harmless and must not use locally allocated transportation funds.

Build World-class Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities
After a year of work, the BTA is advancing a recommendation for a 24-26 foot mixed bicycle and pedestrian facility on the west side of the bridge and 12-14 foot, primarily pedestrian facility on the east side of the bridge. We particularly are calling for high-quality ramps and access onto the west-side path.

The BTA’s statement also says that in the coming days they, “will call for community-based action to ensure that the CRC project moves forward in a way that protects our region and creates an essential connection for bicyclists.”

The BTA has struggled with their role in this $4.2 billion project and this statement is likely an attempt to clarify their uneasiness with the direction the project is going. Most observers of the process say that a 12-lane replacement bridge option has the most momentum and that has several groups — including the BTA — concerned.

But the CRC project staff counter those concerns by saying that six lanes in the 12-lane alternative are “auxiliary lanes” and more importantly, that the design of the bridge is only in its early stages. CRC staff have said repeatedly that they will work with the BTA to address their concerns as the process moves forward — but the question is when will they be addressed, and to what extent?

This statement from the BTA comes as a similar stance has been taken by Metro. Last week they voted 5-2 in support of a replacement bridge with light rail, but also passed a resolution that included several contingencies going forward — the most important of which was the formation of an independent oversight committee (without the Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation) that would preside over many key design decisions from here on out.

The CRC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released on May 1st and the comment period ends on July 1st.

With several hearings and important votes in the days and weeks ahead, the CRC project is heating up. Stay tuned for more coverage.

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  • Allan June 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I\’d like to suggest that if we\’re going to build a new bridge, it should be wider than we think is necesisary. If we spend 4+ billion $ on this thing, we better not be complaining about how we need more lanes right after its built. Having a larger bridge increases the throughput of the river crossing but doesn\’t increase the throughput all the way to downtown portland. I agree that we need great connectivity with other trails, but if we\’re rebuilding the bridge it should wide enough for the future

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  • Kristin June 9, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    >Don\’t Jeopardize Other Transportation Projects

    Seriously…can we have a few of those lanes on the Sellwood Bridge?

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  • Hillsons June 9, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I\’m wondering if this is the BTA still beating around the bush, or are they just hopping on board the bigger ship?

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  • Hank Sheppard June 9, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Looks like the BTA is drinking the Kool Aid. Its tough watching the region commit collective suicide. Maybe $5 gas will bail us out.

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  • Peter W June 9, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Even at \”just\” 8 lanes, the I-205 bridge is a Monstrosity (with a capital M).

    I think compromise means helping fix the existing bridge so people in sprawling Clark County don\’t get stranded by a bridge that falls into the river in a bad earthquake; any project that adds auto-lanes is just giving in to sprawl and not something the BTA should support.

    I understand this is being shoved down our throats though; but we need to put up the same kind of fight that stopped the Mt. Hood Freeway.

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  • Allan June 9, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I\’d like to suggest that if we\’re going to build a new bridge, it should be wider than we think is necesisary. If we spend 4+ billion $ on this thing, we better not be complaining about how we need more lanes right after its built. Having a larger bridge increases the throughput of the river crossing but doesn\’t increase the throughput all the way to downtown portland. I agree that we need great connectivity with other trails, but if we\’re rebuilding the bridge it should wide enough for the future.

    Maybe we shouldn\’t build the bridge at all. I can certainly think of ways to spend $4Billion without needing the bridge that would certainly help out our transportation network. However, if we do decide to rebuild our interstate bridge, it makes no sense to build an 8 lane bridge. It would be a drop in the bucket. it would like spending a ton of money for no improvements.

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  • Matthew Denton June 9, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    If they really think \”Don\’t Jeopardize Other Transportation Projects\”, that really means we shouldn\’t build the bridge until we have the money to pay for it…

    If we sell bonds to build the bridge based on the expected tolling money, (not to mention the \”local $1.5B\” that we need to come up with as well,) and the huge increase in vehicle trips doesn\’t happen, (peak oil or a carbon tax could easily knock that out,) we still have to pay off the bonds, (or the state can declare bankruptcy.) And not only is money spent on paying off the bonds money that can\’t be spent on other projects, but it also could very quickly eat into the maintenance budget for the roads that are already built…

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  • AllOver June 9, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    So perhaps none of this matters?


    The freight industry considers the bridge the worst bottleneck on Interstate 5 from Mexico to Canada, said Monica Isbell, owner of Starboard Alliance Co., a Portland logistics firm.

    The project would bring in federal money for national priority corridors that would not be available to most transportation projects in the Portland area, Burkholder said. In addition, Congress will write a new six-year transportation bill next year. If the region misses an August deadline to apply for federal money, that could delay the project until the next six-year funding bill, he said.

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  • Lance P June 9, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Why is it that suburban people (aka terrorist) get so much priority. What about all of the people with asthma along the I-5 corridor? We are currently in a war just to support that suburban lifestyle. This whole project seems just like the Mt. hood freeway. Everyone should start calling your representatives and shut this thing down. I got a better idea. Lets build a wall to keep those washingtonians out.

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  • Bill Stites June 9, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I sure hope the \’no build\’ option is still on the table, but I\’m not hearing it from anybody … \’cept myself.

    Why are 10-lane LA freeways jammed up?
    Building more capacity tends to fill up over a few short years – so-called \’induced demand\’. It\’s amazing how little we\’ve learned from past mistakes.
    Of course, increasing gas prices [the projections are getting wild] will naturally attenuate traffic.

    And the price tag is ridiculous for the likely return-on-investment.

    We can work on the side of increasing capacity, or we can work on the side of reducing demand.
    This latter option is extremely valid and respects the disaster that is global warming [I don\’t care for the White House euphomism \”climate change\”].

    At the June 5 Metro hearing, I recall one trucker\’s rep citing many dollars per hour to run their trucks – and saying \’bring on the tolls\’ as they\’d be happy to pay them for less time in congestion.
    Tolling ASAP will give us valuable information as to whether we can indeed control congestion by adjusting the cost of tolls. I submit the answer is a resounding YES.

    Sure, I haven\’t sat upon the 39-member Task Force and gotten all the info, but no one can predict the future. And the members of the Task Force shouldn\’t be thinking they can either.

    The bridge is not that dysfunctional compared with other sections of I5. Let\’s make incremental changes – starting with tolling – and see how it goes. Feedback and consideration of present factors and worldwide trends ought to show us the way.

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  • Coaster June 9, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    \’the worst bottleneck on Interstate 5 from Mexico to Canada\’

    I have a hard time believing this. Seattle is way worse, not mention the Sacremento and LA areas.

    Let\’s just re-route the I5 around portland instead… wouldn\’t the existing 2, plus a new smaller bridge be better than the 1 huge new one?

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  • wsbob June 9, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    BTA\’s statement is commendable for its urge towards reduction of bridge size from 12 to 8 lanes, but the statement fails to address the fundamental problem calling for the construction of a mega-bridge in the first place:

    -Thousands of miles of motor vehicle miles logged and gallons of gasoline consumed each day to support pattern migration of workers across the river from state to state between work and home each working day.-

    I\’m not sure how the BTA would be best to do it, but if the statement could be accompanied with some content expressing a need to address this problem (if it recognizes such as a problem) as a condition of their support. Doing so might make their statement more meaningful to me.

    BTA\’s suggestion to implement a toll for the crossing ASAP is also worthy.

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  • Matt Picio June 9, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Allan (#1) – That\’s exactly the problem, there\’s no discussion as to what we\’re likely to need in the future. It\’s just as likely that we\’ll only need 6 lanes, or maybe only 4. We are 5% of the world\’s population, using 25% of the energy resources. At some point, we\’ll have to adjust to use 5% of the world\’s resources, whether we like it or not. Since these resources lie in other countries, we\’re not getting a bigger piece of the pie unless we use force (Iraq, anyone?). Our needs 20 years from now not only could be less than today, they\’re as likely TO be less as they are to be more.

    I want a smaller bridge at a LOT less money.

    AllOver (#8) – August deadline, eh? I would LOVE for CRC to miss that deadline. 6 years is enough time to get a clearer idea of what we need. There hasn\’t been nearly enough public input on this project.

    Bill (#9) – I am in total agreement with you – NO BUILD is the best option. Kill this thing deader than the Mt. Hood Freeway. This is the city that removed the Harbor Drive Expressway, fer cryin\’ out loud!

    General Remarks – Kudos to the BTA for either thinking or re-thinking this issue and not \”blanket supporting\” the CRC 12-lane option. While I still don\’t think the BTA goes far enough, I think that the issues they raise in the position statement address many of the key ones, and they certainly appear to be listening to the dialogue going on around this issue.

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  • Cameron June 10, 2008 at 7:24 am


    The CRC will be a boondogle that spirals out of control and leaves us with a mountain of concrete crumbling into the Columbia. Any estimates of cost recently have all been based on EIA price estimates for gas- they think prices will drop to $2 a gallon starting tomorrow. Obviously this is less than likely.

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  • ambrown June 10, 2008 at 8:05 am

    I want to second Coaster. Anyone who\’s tried to drive any of the interstates around Seattle, let alone most of los angeles, would know that the Vancouver traffic is bad, but clearly not the worst on the entire I5 corridor. Could we possibly organize a letter writing campaign to the BTA, as members, asking them to come out forthright against the CRC? As someone paying $40 a year, I would hope that my voice would have a little resonance. What would that letter look like? Have people already contemplated/enacted this idea?

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  • Paul Cone June 10, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Some friends of mine drove down from Seattle on Friday afternoon and it took them THREE HOURS to get to Olympia. Yes, somebody needs to debunk this crappy \”worst bottleneck\” argument the freight industry keeps trying to sell.

    And what\’s wrong with stranding Vancouver? If they can\’t live without us and our sales tax free shopping and good paying jobs, then maybe they should get a job in their own community or suck it up and be part of ours.

    OK, flame off… I do like the idea of lots of bike as well as ped options on the new bridge. Downtown Vancouver seems to be getting more livable… now we just need Hayden Island to work towards that, too (am I too dreamy?) A bridge that connects the local community is much more appealing to me than one that connects Canada with Mexico better.

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  • wayne June 10, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Its pretty disappointing that the BTA would support this project. Apparently Rex Burkholder still holds sway in that organization. It\’s too bad that they are willing sell out on the interest of their members.

    The conditions the BTA gives for supporting the project is pure junk.
    1. \”Build the Right Size of Bridge\” Of course they are going too add lanes. It wouldn\’t make sense to build a new bridge if they didn\’t add lanes.

    2. \”Begin Tolling Today\” You can toll without building a 4.2 billion dollar bridge

    3. \”Don’t Jeopardize Other Transportation Projects\” It\’s the biggest project this region has seen for decades. It will siphoned money away from more worthwhile projects directly or indirectly.

    4. \”Build World-class Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities\” In the BTAs\’s eyes its ok to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure that will increase carbon emission by encouraging auto use as long as you add a bike line to the project.

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  • Lance P. June 10, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Can someone please post all of the numbers of the people we could start calling to shut this thing down. It would be nice to have a list of the numbers in one location. We could all start calling once a day until someone wakes up and listens.

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  • GLV June 10, 2008 at 9:10 am

    \”Any project will require vast financial resources and the majority of these should be collected through user fees.\”

    So do they support a bike/ped toll?

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  • Ed June 10, 2008 at 9:55 am

    A bike/ped toll would be counterproductive since they are reducing congestion.

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  • GLV June 10, 2008 at 10:15 am

    I agree, but the BTA\’s position statement doesn\’t say that.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 10, 2008 at 10:21 am

    They are not considering a bicyclist or pedestrian toll at this time.

    (Though as a pedestrian…you would be paying a fee to cross the bridge when using the HCT [transit fare]…vs. the fare free crossing of the Willamette River by the MAX.)

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  • Specner June 10, 2008 at 10:30 am

    As a member of BTA, I keep wondering why they are getting involved in the CRC other than ensuring that adequate bike facilities are provided. I am afraid they are putting time and resources getting into the broader policy issues when they should be focused on the bike infrastructure. Enough was certainly wasted on the Flanders Street Bridge.

    While they fiddle on the CRC, the NoPo Greenway, reliable bike paths into Beaverton, bikeways east of 82nd, more Mtn. bike paths in forest park, etc. etc. aren\’t getting built. Don\’t get distracted and get on with the job I pay you for.


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  • GLV June 10, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I know CRC staff have not proposed a bike/ped toll. I\’m simply asking whether BTA supports the concept. It certainly could be interpreted that they do, and if that is not the case, they might want to clarify their position statement.

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  • Moo June 10, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Funny, but by building this behemoth some years down the road, will only take the \”new\” bike commuters off the road and back into their cars and trucks. This whole thing will never be a win – win. Shelve it for a couple years.

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  • destin June 10, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I am most likely not donating to the BTA this year because of their support for the New Mount Hood Hi-way®

    Is their another bike advocacy group that i can donate to instead?


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  • ambrown June 10, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    to #26

    Coalition for a Livable Future?

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  • destin June 10, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    thank you ambrown # 27

    that\’s perfect 🙂

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  • Wes Robinson June 10, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    I don\’t think I\’ve ever been more disappointed in the BTA.

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  • Matthew Denton June 10, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    #9: I believe what they are talking about is the \”Corridors of the future\” federal program. There are 6 corridors in it, I-5 is 2nd priority, (behind I-95 on the East Coast,) and the program has $60M, most of which is being spent on administration… By the time we\’ve split the money with the other corridors, and the rest of I-5, (those other two bottlenecks: Seattle and LA might want some money too,) there might be enough money left over for a sign at the Columbia River.

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  • Lenny Anderson June 11, 2008 at 9:15 am

    A sign is all we need; well two signs….to direct freight travelling N/S on I-5 to use I-205 instead. Most use I-5 because it is more direct and faster, despite \”the most congestion on the west coast\” blah, blah, blah.
    The famous German Autobahns all have the primary route around urban areas.

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  • steve June 11, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    How can anyone still support the BTA?

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  • Matthew Denton June 11, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    There is one other place to give you bicycle advocacy money to, (instead of the BTA,): Over on the right hand side there is a \”donate\” button.

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  • Tom K June 11, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Whenever (now or in 6 years) or however (tolls, 8/10/12 lane) a CRC project moves forward, we should be so glad that the BTA is at the table advocating for the interests of bicyclists.

    I\’m supporting both the BTA and CLF, even though they take different positions on this issue.

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