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Clackamas County wants Metro to fight climate change by widening roads

Posted by on October 30th, 2014 at 8:32 am

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Climate change in action — or inaction, depending on your point-of-view.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This morning, Clackamas County’s commissioners are considering whether to urge the Portland region to attempt to fight climate change by adding more lanes to its freeways.

“Congestion is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” the five commissioners write in a draft letter to the regional government Metro, part of their public agenda this week (see p. 26). “It is critical that the language in the Preferred Strategy [of Metro’s Climate Smart Communities plan] reflect a continued commitment to increasing highway capacity, particularly in those areas of critical congestion like the I-205 South Corridor and the Rose Quarter.”

The commissioners of the largely suburban and rural county to Portland’s south and southeast do not mention, in their draft letter, why they think that additional lanes added to local freeways would be unlikely to fill up just as others have.


The letter is a response to Metro’s climate plan. Metro’s draft version of that plan (PDF) calls for the region to dedicate 58 percent of related funding over the next 20 years — about $20 billion — to roads, even though the report says that “adding lane miles to relieve congestion … will not solve congestion on its own.”

Metro’s draft plan calls for $12.4 billion to be spent on transit, which it rates as enough to achieve a 16 to 20 percent cut in per-capita carbon emissions. The plan calls for $2 billion to go to improving biking and walking, which it rates as enough for a 3 to 6 percent reduction.

But most of the money identified as part of Metro’s climate plan is slated to go to road improvement or construction, which the plan identifies as reducing greenhouse gases by less than 1 percent. (The report notes that this figure doesn’t include “synergies” with other policies, however.)

Metro estimates that this set of investments would cut regional carbon emissions per person by 29 percent over the next 20 years.

Some have questioned Metro’s priorities. For example, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended more spending on biking and walking relative to public transit (PDF), arguing that “While transit investments are critical, active transportation investments are likely to provide greater rates of return in mobility for the relatively modest funds invested and will also generate significant health co-benefits.”

According to widely cited studies of traffic behavior, increased freeway capacity tends to lead to more and longer driving trips rather than less congestion, because people adjust their habits to drive on a road until it becomes too congested to be useful.

Metro’s climate plan does not mention tolling as a way to reduce freeway congestion. Nor do the Clackamas County commissioners.

Last week, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance urged its supporters to contact Metro and push the organization to invest in transportation modes that emit less greenhouse gas and deprioritize the “road widening and highway construction” that make people emit more greenhouse gas.

— Earlier this month we looked at five smart things Metro’s plan does to fight climate change.

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101 thoughts on “Clackamas County wants Metro to fight climate change by widening roads”

    1. Avatar Carl says:

      Nice! Perfect talking points to keep in mind when taking Metro’s short survey about this plan:

    2. Avatar matt picio says:

      Nice resource! Congestion is a red herring anyway – or more to the point, it’s a constant. Widen the roads, and within 2 years, they’ll be equally as congested due to higher numbers of auto trips – make it more convenient to drive, and more people will drive. Make it less convenient, and more people will seek alternatives to driving. Instead of 4-6 congested lanes on the highway, you’ll end up with 6-8 congested lanes.

  1. Avatar Brent says:

    A rationale by any other name would smell as stinky.

  2. “Congestion is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions”

    Wrong. Cars idling in congestion is a key contributor. People or people on bikes don’t cause any extra greenhouse gasses when in congestion.

    So let’s not reward the bad behavior by making it easier.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      I thought this was going to be an April Fools post with a title like that. This is the thinking of an addict. We can’t face the truth–the end of automobility, of building our way out of a society utterly dependent on and largely ruined by the automobile–so let’s just pretend that we can keep doing the same things we did to get ourselves into this mess and build more freeways!
      Here’s some of what the US PIRG thinks of this approach:

      “Americans drive no more in total now than we did in 2005, and no more on average than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term as president. The recent stagnation in driving comes on the heels of a six decade-long Driving Boom that saw steady, rapid increases in driving and congestion across the United States, along with the investment of more than $1 trillion of public money in highways.

      But even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities.”

      full article here:

    2. Avatar Todd Boulanger says:

      …and to add…Single Occupant Vehicles add much more congestion and emissions per VMT than pooling vehicles…

    3. Avatar Garlynn says:

      Another way to look at this is, normal internal-combustion-only vehicles idling in congestion contribute to GHGs. However, even mild-hybrid systems, especially full-hybrid vehicles, and absolutely all electric vehicles, do not emit GHGs while idling in congestion. As this sort of technology penetrates our fleet, it’s important to keep in mind that congestion itself will cease to be a source of GHGs (above and beyond free-flow automobile travel). Indeed, for hybrid vehicles that operate in electric-only mode below speeds of about 30 mph, operations on congested roads might produce fewer GHGs than operations at free-flow speeds (when the gas engine kicks on)!

      This is important to keep in mind, because road widening is presumably more or less forever. In 50 years, the fleet penetration of electric and hybrid vehicles will be so high that congestion will absolutely cease to be a meaningful source of GHGs in and unto itself (above and beyond other types of auto travel conditions). However, the induced demand and the associated land use patterns will be locked in by any road widening that should happen over the next half-century.

      We should thus not at all seek to widen roads to reduce congestion to reduce GHGs; this strategy is doomed to failure for a myriad of reasons.

      1. Avatar Caesar says:

        “In 50 years, the fleet penetration of electric and hybrid vehicles will be so high that congestion will absolutely cease to be a meaningful source of GHGs in and unto itself (above and beyond other types of auto travel conditions).”


      2. Avatar 9watts says:

        count me as another person curious about that claim. In 50 years there will be no penetration of anything motorized.

        “Indeed, for hybrid vehicles that operate in electric-only mode below speeds of about 30 mph, operations on congested roads might produce fewer GHGs than operations at free-flow speeds (when the gas engine kicks on)!”

        This is taking a very narrow view, Garlynn. Those hybrid cars go to the same gas stations that the other cars do. They fill up just as often and emit about the same nasties. Just because they once in a while are quiet (while idling) doesn’t mean that they don’t make up for that around the next bend, pulling up the next grade or whenever. Championing fuel economy is so 20th Century. Chasing it has become a fool’s errand. Given what we know, it doesn’t matter one whit whether we burn the oil that is still in the ground in 5 years (SUVs) or 15 years (hybrid cars). The point is to leave the stuff in the ground, not burn it at all. To do that we have to stop driving. Widening roads and whistling about hybrids are both distractions from the uncomfortable truths we should be talking about.

      3. Avatar wsbob says:

        “…However, even mild-hybrid systems, especially full-hybrid vehicles, and absolutely all electric vehicles, do not emit GHGs while idling in congestion. …” Garlynn

        In the stop and go, or very slow moving commute, IC motors that are part of hybrid car systems, will periodically be coming on to restore battery power used by heaters, air conditioners, and any other accessories people’s cars are equipped with. These cars’ design should help to reduce emissions immediately present to where the cars are in use, but the amount of GHG they produce may ultimately not be as low as some would like to think.

        1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

          I think almost everyone who follows the auto industry recognizes that most motorized vehicles will be hybrid or all-electric within 50 years. That’s no more radical than someone claiming in 1960 that all motor vehicles would be equipped with catalytic converters by 2010.

          And it is true that most full-hybrid systems actually get more miles per gallon in congested conditions than they do driving down the highway at 60 mph.

          We can debate back and forth about the degree to which the motorized vehicle will decline by 2064, but I think we can agree that these technological changes will would any (weak, at best) claim that the environmental impact of congestion justifies additional road capacity.

          1. Avatar 9watts says:

            “I think almost everyone who follows the auto industry recognizes that most motorized vehicles will be hybrid or all-electric within 50 years. That’s no more radical than someone claiming in 1960 that all motor vehicles would be equipped with catalytic converters by 2010.”

            I will disagree. The last fifty years represent the period during which autodom in the US expanded into every conceivable niche, and the technologies to curb its effects blossomed in a thousand directions. But this is no guide to the next fifty years or even the next fifteen. It’s over. And our penchant for denying that, working feverishly to stem the tide will have no effect in the end.

            What is it going to take for us to accept defeat?
            20 million Sao Paoloans with no drinking water?

            1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

              So you think most motorized vehicles in 2064 will remain solely ICE-powered?

              Saying you think they won’t exist is not an answer. They may be radically less common today, but they will still exist (assuming we still do).

              1. Avatar GlowBoy says:

                Sorry, meant to say that motorized vehicles may be radically less common than today.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                “They may be radically less common than today, but they will still exist… ”

                We agree.

  3. Avatar RJ says:

    So wait…you don’t want to help pay for the Sellwood Bridge, but you want to tell us what to do with I-5 in the Rose Quarter? Nice try.

    1. Avatar meh says:

      The insterstate system is owned by each state, so yes I-5 is paid for by everyone in the state. The Sellwood Bridge is owned by Multnomah county so they get to pay for it. Ownership, a very simple concept.

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        majority use is also a simple concept.

        1. Avatar meh says:

          Go check out the politifact post on this. In fact more trips started and ended in multnomah county for the bridge.

          “Now we acknowledge that the 1999 study is old, with traffic figures based on 1994 travel. So we poked around for newer figures and found this: a 2006 semi-update of the 1999 study with 2030 traffic projections. This version projected 76 percent of trips starting or ending in Clackamas County, with 9 percent of trips solely within the county. Trips ending or starting in Multnomah County would account for 79 percent of trips. (This totals more that 100 percent because trips can begin or end in either county.)”

          1. Avatar davemess says:

            We have talked about that article before on here. If someone lives in Clackamas county and works downtown; BOTH of their trips are going to either start or end in Mulntomah county. The vagueness of the methods in that data is ridiculous. Easiest way to tell would be looking at where the cars are registered.

            It doesn’t seem even remotely difficult to imagine that a bridge that is less than a mile from the county line on the Southern edge of the city would see a majority of traffic from that other county.

          2. Avatar GlowBoy says:

            Well, duh of course most Sellwood bridge trips will start or end in Multnomah. The bridge is IN Multnomah county. Not very many people use it to travel from one place in Clack to another place in Clack. The point is that a very large share of those trips also start or end in Clackamas county.

      2. Avatar J_R says:

        Making it a toll bridge (like Clackamas County’s toll ferry) is also a simple concept.

    2. Avatar davemess says:

      Don’t forget they also didn’t want MAX.

    3. Avatar Matt says:

      To set the record straight, there are many folks in Clackamas County, like myself who would have voted to help pay for the Sellwood bridge, however the language of the measure was so poorly written tha many of us voted against it.
      1. There was no end date or sunset clause of the per vehicle fee that Clackamas County voters would have paid… so even after the bridge had been paid for, we could have continued to be charge the fee by the county with no idea where that money was going.
      2. The county could have raised the per vehicle fee without a vote after it was enacted. It was unclear if there was a cap on how high the fee could have been.

      I don’t think any voter anywhere is going to vote to create a fee on themselves if they don’t know when/if the fee will end, or how high that fee could go.

      I’m pro-bike, I rarely use the Sellwood bridge, and I vote in Clackamas County.

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        “I don’t think any voter anywhere is going to vote to create a fee on themselves if they don’t know when/if the fee will end, or how high that fee could go.”

        Clearly you haven’t followed Portland voters very much…..

        1. Avatar Matt says:

          No doubt, Portland voters are really good at doing that to themselves. The art tax is a great example. Clackamas County voters on the other hand don’t tend to do it as much.

        2. Avatar spare_wheel says:

          “Clearly you haven’t followed Portland voters very much…..”

          You write as if this is a bad thing.

      2. Avatar wsbob says:

        Matt…numbers one and two in your comment are good points. A bit of rewriting before the proposal was put on the ballot, and it may have stood a better chance of passing. Multnomah County officials may have sought to keep the fee period open as a means of gathering money for future maintenance. Maybe that was reaching too far.

    4. Avatar Michael Miller says:

      Nice – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comment before with 91 recommendations 🙂

  4. Avatar mikeybikey says:

    So price congestion.

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      Congestion pricing?

  5. Jeff Speck on induced demand

    “In constrained road systems, the principle constraint to driving is congestion. Eliminating that congestion invites new drivers.”

    And he quotes:

    “Metro areas that invested heavily in road capacity expansion fared no better in easing congestion than metro areas that did not. Trends in congestion show that areas that exhibited greater growth in lane capacity spent roughly $22 billion more on road construction than those that didn’t, yet ended up with slightly higher congestion costs per person, wasted fuel, and travel delay”

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      The general subject can be found under the headings ‘Latent Demand’ and ‘Induced Demand’.

  6. Avatar Eric in Seattle says:

    Brilliant! We’ll BUILD OUR WAY OUT OF CONGESTION!!!! Why has no one thought of that before???

  7. Avatar Rob says:

    The Onion or April Fools joke?

  8. Avatar PNP says:

    I live in Washington County, so I use 26 when necessary. As we all know, it was widened several years ago, and guess what, it’s just as slow now as it was before the new lanes were added. Traffic congestion is like a gas: it expands to fill the available space. Paving over more land for motorized traffic will solve nothing.

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      The interchange at 26 and 217 has much less congestion heading Westbound in the morning. It is now free-flowing where it used to be stop and go, every single day. I don’t think this had as much to do with “wider” as it did being “smarter.”

      1. Avatar wsbob says:

        The highway to either side of the intersection you speak of, does flow more freely than before the redesign, though it also does still have stop and go traffic at times. As you wrote, ‘smarter’ rather than ‘wider’ is likely what’s helped the road here work better. Accomplishing this improvement involved a big, complex project, using some very wide radius exit loops.

        Congestion on Hwy 26 in Washington County definitely has increased over, say, the last 10-15 years, despite improvements such as, for example, I think, longer exit lanes at Murray Rd, Walker Rd and 185th exchanges. Source of the congestion most likely is, area growth, population increase, and… what to me seems to be poor community planning. Bringing a lot of people into a given area, with places they need to go being far flung from each other, it’s inevitable they’re going to have to flock to the streets and highways, primarily with motor vehicles, to get there.

        Haven’t actually read the Clackamas County Commissioners’ letter, yet. Maybe I will later today. I think I have an idea about why they have made a plea for (copying and pasting from this bikeportland story): “…increasing highway capacity…”. Plenty of citizens still believe the idea that highway congestion can be reduced by adding lanes to the highway. Basically, I think their saying this is for the most part, lip service to assuage the frustrations of some area citizens.

        Realistically, when the planners and engineers start looking closely at the numbers, they’re most likely going to find, it probably won’t be feasible to do much widening of the highways. For example, Hwy 217.

        1. Avatar Brian says:

          I have been teaching in Beaverton while living in Portland for 18 years. I haven’t noticed an increase in congestion since I have been here (commuting in the “opposite” direction. What I have noticed is a slight increase in bike commuting, though. I have also noticed more people using the combo method of bike and MAX, or drive and bike. All anecdotal of course, so take it for what it’s worth.

          1. Avatar wsbob says:

            I’ve lived in Beaverton longer than 18 years. Could be the 10-15 year timeline I suggested, doesn’t correctly frame the rise of congestion. I never commuted daily on that section of Hwy 26, but having used the road periodically over many years, I could easily note the rise in traffic over years. Huge areas of development almost directly adjoining parts of the freeway, offer some explanation as to where congestion is arising from.

            I guess when I say ‘congestion’, I’m not just suggesting stop and go traffic, but the vast increase in numbers of vehicles obviously on the road. Here’s a visual, real life example, to me, an alarming sign of increased congestion: westbound, starting to descend the hill on Hwy 26 at about the Hwy 217 exchange. From this vantage point, the road drops down in a long roller, flattens out and gradually rises again, affording a long view all the way out to Cornell Rd overpass. Approximately 2-3 mile distance, I’ll guess.

            Especially on wet, dark dreary days when people eastbound have their motor vehicles headlights on, it’s a nearly continuous line of dotted white lights. Cars ahead in the westbound lanes, showing their red tail lights of course, especially interesting when something causes someone far down the road to brake, resulting in a sequential brightening of other car’s tail lights down the line.

            In short, the road is filled to capacity, right now. Has been for years. The noise, heat, stink of all those motor vehicle’s engines running. Doubling, tripling, quadrupling the width, and or number of lanes making up Hwy 26, assuming that was much of a realistic option at all, I wonder that anyone could really imagine this approach could somehow reduce the roads’ congestion.

    2. Avatar Mike says:

      That is most likely due to the single lanes on the east side of the tunnel. It doesn’t matter if you have 8 or 14 lanes to the west if it all funnels down to 1.

  9. Avatar Tim Davis says:

    I just wrote a long letter to (using the awesome link that Alex provided:, and I encourage as MANY people as possible to do the same! It might be the only way to stop this insane proposal (from all-too-predictable Clackamas County) from actually becoming reality.

    Many points to address in the letter to Carlotta Collette, as people have pointed out beautifully: induced demand, 1950s thinking, building cities for *people* rather than cars (both parking and inching along), typical misguided thinking about how to solve congestion, falsely claiming that such a project would be “good” for the environment, etc.

  10. Avatar q`Tzal says:

    No amount of evidence can alter the way fervent believers want the world to be.

    1. Avatar Swan Island Runner says:

      All too true, no matter which side you are on.

      1. Avatar Rob says:

        Yes, though this does not imply that the truth is split equally between sides

      2. Avatar q`Tzal says:

        I, myself, am a firm believer in Reality(tm).
        Some people, however, believe there is no spoon.

  11. Avatar Scott H says:

    I want so badly for metro to respond with ‘pay us for the Sellwood bridge.’

  12. Avatar Paul says:

    Why not? Didn’t Southern California manage to thwart traffic jams by widening their freeways?

  13. Avatar davemess says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  14. Avatar Granpa says:

    It is thinking like that which gives retrograde old white men a bad reputation.

  15. Avatar Spiffy says:

    increase highway capacity? for who? certainly not the people… you can see in the top photo that they’re all a good 20 feet or more apart… they have plenty of room…

    capacity for machines? mobile dens? there are plenty of those on the road already, at less than 25% capacity…

    so no, you don’t get more capacity… use the capacity you have now and then we’ll talk…

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      What I see in the picture is the other direction. Most freeways operate directionally, heavy inbound in the AM, heavy outbound in the PM. The better solution, as is done in Seattle, Vancouver, BC, etc., is reversible lanes. 2+2+2 could be repurposed as needed based on demand. The end result may still be the same, if you build it, they will come.

      1. Avatar Brian says:

        Driving in B.C. for just that reason is much nicer. It is such a common sense approach that I a surprised it hasn’t been implemented more frequently in the U.S. I assume it is because of the $$ needed to repurpose dividing medians and signage.

        1. Avatar q`Tzal says:

          Seattle uses a cheaper gated median expressway for I-5. No moving barriers, very few entrances, quasi-bus rapid trans lanes with exclusive exits to park and ride facilities.

          Dallas-Fort Worth uses the moving barrier system. This is more flexible for reassignment of potentially all lanes but is more expensive and doesn’t provide priority lanes for BRT.

          Of course Americans have no incentive to not drive everywhere for everything other than the epic waste of time. Average Car Heads spend so much time driving that they can’t expand their imaginations or worldly frame or reference to conceive of transportation that isn’t automotive.
          Everything is cars or trucks so the only possible solution is more roads, more lanes and more width.

          The car is everything and everything is the car: nothing else important exists.

      2. Avatar Pete says:

        They started this in Boston many years ago with a truck that moves jersey barriers in the morning and again in the evening. It works quite well. What also worked was eliminating the pinch points in the city with the Big Dig. The end result is good, then again we all know how that project went…

    2. Avatar Mike says:

      20 feet apart would be the minimum safe driving distance at 4 mph using the 3 second rule. So you are saying we need to make the highways much much more dangerous before we consider doing anything?

      Oh, I get it – you think all these people are going to carpool, as if carpooling to go shopping, vacation, going for food, visiting others, etc makes any sense to the majority of what these people are doing. Sure.

      Gas is at it’s lowest cost in how long? Car companies are still giving away vehicles at no financing cost.

      Increasing highway capacity is certainly for the people, just not for you. It may only be a temporary fix, or it might not improve anything, but it is certainly for the people.

      1. Avatar nuovorecord says:

        60 years ago, our grandparents thought that having freeways criss-crossing our cities would be a good thing. We’re having to deal with the resultant mess that well-intentioned but ultimately mis-guided thinking created. Planning is rarely for the people that are living in the current timeframe, but rather for those who are a generation or two to follow. Do we want to just simply double down on what was an obviously bad decision by our predecessors? I say NO.

        1. Actually, 60 years ago, at least here in Portland, our GrandParents were anti-Freeway. That’s what created Tom McCall Waterfront Park, that’s what killed highway 26 expansion that linked the east and west sides of it together across south Portland, and that’s what killed several other proposed highways.

          I-205 made the cut, but only because it was supposed to relieve congestion on I-5. Look at how well that worked out.

          Imagine how Portland would be now if we’d built those other six highways!

          1. Avatar Psyfalcon says:

            We must have hit some sort of time warp.

            The Mt Hood freeway was cancelled in 74, the same year Harbor Dr was closed. That makes it… 40 years ago.

            They were busy planning that freeway in those 20 previous years.

            1. The push back on the number of freeways started as far back as the 50’s. The original Freeway plan for Portland called for fifty freeways crossing the region. This was later modified to only about a dozen. Of those only about five got built. Discussions about removing Harbor Drive started as early as the mid 60’s before I-5 was completed, and have colored our freeway building since then. 205 only got built with some pretty huge compromises and boosterism (and partially why it’s the Veteran’s Freeway.)

      2. Avatar 9watts says:

        “Increasing highway capacity is certainly for the people, just not for you. It may only be a temporary fix, or it might not improve anything, but it is certainly for the people.”

        Hardly, dude.
        Just going by what you say above, how does this make any sense? It might not improve anything but it is certainly for the people? Can you say pandering? I think we can and should hold each other to higher standards than this.

      3. Avatar Chris I says:

        The people of Los Angeles and Houston apparently got what they wanted. How long is the average commute in those cities, again?

      4. Avatar Spiffy says:

        you think all these people are going to carpool, as if carpooling to go shopping, vacation, going for food, visiting others, etc makes any sense to the majority of what these people are doing.

        yes, it makes sense…

        I carpool for shopping, vacation, food, and socialization… many others could (and do) as well…

        it’s a choice I made by getting rid of my car…

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          My vote for comment of the week….
          Thanks, Spiffy!

        2. Avatar Mike says:

          Obviously it does not make sense to the majority, or they would be doing it. Personally I like doing things on my own schedule.

          I think it is fantastic that you have other people to do your driving and therefore don’t need or want to own a car. Perhaps if I drove 200 miles each way to work every day for however many years you did, I would feel the same way.

          If you want to pitch in for gas, you can car pool with me.

      5. Avatar wsbob says:

        “…Increasing highway capacity is certainly for the people…” Mike

        For the people’s use with motor vehicles, exclusively? Fifty, sixty years ago, even longer, freeways connecting cities in the metro area, were a good idea. Relatively small population, modest development outside of Portland, left those highways sparsely used compared to today. Truly, the highways, freeways to be specific, weren’t congested back then, even during rush hour. Here in the metro area for some years, they really did epitomize the ideal of swift intercity travel by personal motor vehicle. Exponentially growing the suburbs in ways that obliged people living there to rely everyday on those freeways for basic needs, changed all this.

        Most people that have some access to visual news media, have seen images of some of the mega nightmare freeways in big cities across the nation. It seems that few people like traveling on, or living next to those roads. They’re already wider than the Portland areas’ widest freeways. How much wider, for how much increase in motor vehicle use capacity, should they be made, for what particular gain? Making freeways that already are, guessing here, 150′ in width, half again as wide, twice or more: what are the consequences of doing this?

        Talk about doing it, without thinking, it may sound like the thing to do. Realistically, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. Why duplicate the nightmare of L.A.’s freeway system, here in the pacific northwest? To do so is a bad course of action. People move here, to get away from that.

      6. Avatar El Biciclero says:

        I read Spiffy’s comment a different way. The actual people, minus the cars, would be sitting there plenty of distance apart. It is the giant machines people haul around with them everywhere that take up all the space. So in that sense, widening roads is not for people, it is for their cars.

        Really, though, how much road capacity will be “enough”? How many lanes of freeway on various sections around Portland would you say would eliminate congestion? How long would it be until congestion crept back up and we had to add more lanes? I suppose at some point, freeways would need so much space that enough destinations along those freeways would have to be removed so there would be just enough places to go for the number of people who wanted to get to them, and the zen-like balance would be achieved.

  16. Avatar Andyc of Linnton says:

    From the photo it looks like the number 16 bus in the left lane.
    Awesome! Cross-town B.R.T.!
    Oh, yeah, it’s probably just heading to the garage, huh? Dangit.

  17. Avatar VTRC says:

    Clackamas County politics at their subtlest. Just the Stop-Portland-Creep crowd trying to demonstrate their position in the Culture War.

    1. Avatar Psyfalcon says:

      While allowing them to drive to Portland as fast as possible.

      Suburbs can easily become vampires sucking the life out of a city.

  18. Avatar Tim Davis says:

    I just got a nice response from Carlotta Colette at Metro! She highly encourages me to write to Clackamas County, but I honestly don’t know if it would do any good. That county is so stuck in a 1950s mindset that if you show them ANY sort of reason/truth/logic, they’ll interpret it as “liberal extremist” hostility or something, and they’ll dig their heels in even more (psychologists have unfortunately validated this in many studies).

    Anyway, here’s what she wrote back to me–it made my day and gave me some hope! So, keep writing to elected officials, everyone! 🙂 And thanks again to all of you for your amazing comments and specifically to Alex for providing this key link:

    Dear Tim,

    Thanks for your email. Have you also sent your comments to the Clackamas County Commissioners? I’m not sure if the attached link is one of the ones we have sent to Commissioner Paul Savas, who is leading the county in their effort to expand roads as part of the Climate Smart strategy, but we have sent him a lot of information similar to yours. Commissioner Savas has raised the same issues contained in their comment letter throughout the Climate Smart process. Our analysis came to pretty much the same conclusion as was in the article you reference.

    The Climate Smart strategy that is out for public review does include some street and road projects, but not for the reasons the county is suggesting. We are including some connectivity projects that make the transportation system more efficient. But the regional consensus is that adding more transit, managing parking in ways that are locally specific, and building communities where people have transportation choices and proximity to the services they need are the top priorities for reducing greenhouse gases.

    If you have not sent your concerns to the county commissioners, I would encourage you to do so.

    Thanks again,

    1. Avatar Carl says:

      Carlotta’s a great ally. If you live in Clackamas County, you’d be wise to follow her advice and send your letter to your commissioners. This email address will reach them all:

      Nice work!

  19. Avatar davemess says:

    So Clackamas just doesn’t want to “stop Portland creep” when it refers to highways?

    1. Avatar VTRC says:

      If its “smart”, “progressive”, or “liberal”. they want to demonstrate that they’re against it. It’s just some red meat to toss out going into elections.

  20. Avatar PdxMark says:

    Plus, as anyone from the red parts of Clackamas County or Vancouver will tell you, bike facilities and transit bring crime to a place, hence the need to oppose those sorts of facilities. Apparently, criminals never drive. That’s why you see so many big screen TVs on Max and on the backs of bikes. Fight crime… widen a highway…

  21. Avatar jeg says:

    Two words: Induced demand. More lanes mean more cars mean more pollution. No thanks Koch commission; I mean Clackamas commissioners, sorry.

  22. Avatar dan says:

    … Paving over more land for motorized traffic will solve nothing.
    Recommended 14

    Slightly off topic, but that’s what I thought when they paved the last two miles of the springwater corridor trail. Took a perfectly nice hardpack gravel/dirt multi use trail and turned it into a road for skinny tire bikes.

    1. Avatar jeg says:

      Congratulations on having a poorly thought out, emotional opinion.

  23. Avatar Curt Ailes says:

    I don’t expect even a majority of people who chose to live in Clackamas County to understand the concept of induced demand.

    If you are a county commissioner and you put your name to something like this letter, perhaps a bit of investigation by the experts would go further before making broad claims like this.

    Pretty disappointed in people who are suppose to be civic leaders.

  24. Avatar Dave says:

    Here’s a nice article on why this does not work at all. As others mentioned above it’s all about induced demand

  25. This is Autogeddon.

    “In terms of translating energy into transportation, there is nothing, neither animal or mechanical, that is superior to a human being on a bicycle…”
    -Kirkpatrick Sale, “Human Scale”, London: Secker & Warburg, 1980

    “The motor car…separated work and the domicile…It exploded each city into a dozen suburbs…until the open road seemed to become non-stop cities. It created the asphalt jungles….[It] ended the countryside [with] the car …a sort of steeplechaser. [It] destroyed the city as a casual environment…as the city filled with mobile strangers…”.
    -Marshall McLuhan, “Understanding Media”, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964

    “We value speed more highly than we value human life.”
    -George orwell, 1946

    “We have lost the physical experience that comes from a direct contact with the organic processes of nature…”
    -Herbert Read, “The Contrary Experience”, London: Faber & Faber, 1963

    As I said, we are in Autogeddon. What a shame we have made such a choice.

  26. Avatar pdx2wheeler says:

    So applying this logic to other aspects of our lives… Seems like we can lose weight by eating more food? Whoa, cool man!

  27. Avatar Joe Adamski says:

    polluting to clean up the air… this is as believable as ‘fighting for peace’.

  28. Avatar gutterbunnybikes says:

    Toll booths on the I-5 and 205 Columbia crossings would do far more to reduce congestion on all the highways in the city than adding lanes.

  29. Avatar Peter W says:

    > Metro estimates that this set of investments would cut regional carbon emissions per person by 29 percent over the next 20 years.

    Per-capita reductions mean little on a planet with an increasing population.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      How could that possibly be true?
      Oh, I know. They mean 29% less than some pencilneck estimated they would have grown without these changes. Familiar but deceiving. So the model probably suggests per capita emissions would continue to grow, just not as fast.

      1. Seasonal Ghostbusters reference there, 9watts? 🙂

        On the policy question, I think the 29 percent is supposed to come entirely from the investments in non-car transpo.

  30. Avatar ed says:

    Pretty simple: if widening roadways and converting as much surface to motorized transport as possible it follows that Southern California (evidently Clackamass County’s aspiration) would be a utopia for motorists then right? After all virtually nowhere on earth has so much accommodation been given to motor vehicles. Driving should be fast, safe and stress free, with uninterrupted and plentiful roadways given over purely to moving vehicles from one place to another. Writing this from California now on a visit the absurdity of that presumption is … let’s say “apparent”. Please send the county’s commissioners to greater LA (I’ll presume they have never been there or perhaps anywhere outside of Clackamass county) to survey the happy motoring dreamland that comes as result of their vision 😉

    An ex-Milwaukee mayor put it well: “building more lanes to relive a traffic problem is like letting your belt out a notch or two to solve a weight problem”

    1. Avatar Trek 3900 says:

      Actually Portland freeways are more congested than most I’ve seen in the Bay area or in LA and it is largely because there are not enough lanes in the Portland area. They had more space down there to add lanes. Their slow times don’t last as long as they do here.

  31. Avatar A Lynch says:

    There is so much evidence against this idea that refuting it should be a slam dunk. The same gains in CO reduction could be made using Demand Management strategies in a much more cost-effective manner. Not to mention that the only way to reduce emissions in the long term is to alter people’s behavior. Making more lanes to drive in (unless it’s BRT exclusive) does not alter behavior away from SOV.

  32. Avatar Jacob says:

    Widening roads to fight traffic (and climate change) is like loosening your belt to fight obesity.

    1. Avatar El Biciclero says:

      Is it a “not enough road” problem or a “too many cars” problem?

      1. It’s a “too many people dependent on cars because of bad lifestyle choices” problem. 🙁

  33. Avatar Craig Harlow says:

    Conversion of more lanes and lane miles to HOV would be a good start. An easier sell than tolling, though I do like tolling. MUCH more $$ for promoting smart transportation choices, spanning from elementary school to wide-reaching promotional campaigns would be a legit budget item. Not sure what I think of adding budget for lobbying for California-style legislation to mandate a proportion of high-efficiency autos sold, but I think it’s worth discussing.

  34. Avatar Zaphod says:

    I’m just going to leave this here…
    Recommended 15

    This should be the beginning and end of the conversation.

  35. Lenny Anderson Lenny Anderson says:

    Clackamas county commissioners should step up and advocate for inclusion in the RTP a new expressway connecting Oak Grove to Kruse Woods. It would extend 217 thru Lake Oswego (double decked over the RR alignment), with a big interchange at SR43 in downtown LO, then across the Willamette River thru Oak Grove to connect up to I-205. They could fund the local share with county gas tax, vehicle registration fee, and a property tax bond measure. Its a new road everyone can love!

  36. Paving to protect the climate is akin to fighting fire with gasoline. HOV lanes, gas taxes, and toll booths will do much more to relieve congestion, especially if accompanied by ample investments in efficient modes, such as walking, cycling, shared jitneys (Dial-a-Ride for All)and rail.

  37. Is there anyway to retort back to this type of insane nonsense and offer the commissioners a free ticket to move to Houston or something? (Even though I think THAT city is starting to realize road widening is inane along with the red herring of congestion too). 🙁

    This type of report is just horrifying and depressing in so many ways.

  38. Avatar Trek 3900 says:

    If TriMet PAID people to take MAX or the bus it would not make a dent in freeway congestion as long as gas is less than 5 or 6 dollars per gallon. People want to drive. It’s warm and dry, you can listen to music or talk radio, put on make-up, text, talk on the phone, drive by StarButts for a latte, and YOU DON’T GET EBOLA! Cars are a win/win.

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