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Highway building bill gets sharp rebuke at first public hearing – UPDATED

Posted by on April 7th, 2017 at 11:03 am

A lawmaker who wants to give cities broad authority to design and construct major new highways learned in a public hearing yesterday that there’s a good reason why our region hasn’t built one since the 1980s: Strong opposition from people who actually understand transportation planning amd the vast negative consequences of highways and the motor vehicle trips they encourage.

Republican house respresentative Rich Vial, who represents a rural district west of Tigard in Washington County, testified on behalf of House Bill 3231 on Tuesday. Rep. Vial’s bill has raised eyebrows because it would mark a significant departure from how transportation projects are typically planned, funded and built in Oregon. HB 3231 would allow cities and counties to form autonomous districts that would be able to create “limited access publicy highways” by excercising eminent domain if necessary and paying for the projects through private gifts, donations, tolls, new property taxes, and/or revenue bonds.

“We’ve constantly told ourselves if we can just get the right kind of alternative transit, more bike paths, more trains, more other types of transportation, that we would relieve the congestion. It has simply not happened and it’s time to do something different.”
— Rich Vial, Oregon State Representative

Put another way, if HB 3231 passed, city leaders could get together and build mega-freeway projects anywhere they want (they’re eyeing prime farmland) without adequate oversight of transportation agencies or our regional planning organization.

Rep. Vial and other backers of the bill are downplaying the bill’s intentions and potential influence. Washington County Chair Andy Duyck said in submitted testimony that the bill merely, “creates the potential for a conversation.” And Rep. Vial told members of the House Transportation Committee Tuesday that his bill isn’t about one specific pet project. “This bill is designed to allow us to look at a new way to do things,” he said. However it’s clear Vial wants to build a new freeway on the west side that would give people an alternative to Interstate 5 and Highway 26. Even after assuring fellow legislators his bill wasn’t just about one project, Vial said, “It’s important that I confess my hope is this [bill] could be a vehicle that would help us do something that has been needed for a long long time: to get a soluition to the congestion in Portland with an appropriate west side reliever route.”

Rep. Vial is frustrated that our region — unlike others around the country — hasn’t decided to build our way out of congestion (a strategy politicians love, but reality hates). During his testimony he tried to convince legislators that our approach of strong land-use policies and prioritizing transit — and to a much lesser degree, biking and buses — is a bad strategy. “For 30 years I’ve heard of the ‘Westside Bypass’ and other similar programs,” he said. “These programs have never come to fruition… We’ve constantly told ourselves if we can just get the right kind of alternative transit, more bike paths, more trains, more other types of transportation, that we would relieve the congestion. It has simply not happened and it’s time to do something different*.” (*Note: The Portland region has starved bicycling and transit infrastructure relative to highway improvements.)

“We can continue to tell ourselves that we’ll solve this with train, buses and bikes,” he continued. “But I think that is a lie we now need to recognize we can no longer afford to listen to.”

Comments like this are part of a distrubing new trend of normalizing the extreme step of building new highway capacity in our region.

About a dozen people testified at Tuesday’s hearing. While there was plenty of agreement with Vial that something needs to be done to fix “the traffic problem,” the bill seemed to only have tepid support from a few regional leaders. Only one person strongly praised the bill: John Charles from the Cascade Policy Institute, a libertarian think-tank. Charles said the lack of new highways in our region since I-205 was completed in 1983 is “unworkable.” “The other alternatives have their place,” he said, “But they haven’t worked and they won’t work enough in the future.”

“The bill is an unnecessary distraction and we urge you not to move it forward.”
— Kathryn Harrington, Metro councilor

Other testimony offered withering criticisms of the bill.

Meeky Blizzard, a former board member of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters who’s now retired after 16 years working as an advisor livable communities for U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, opposes HB 3231. She told committee members that building freeways is “simply a waste of money” and that the bill it would “undercut” the role of the legislature and counties in “planning their own future”. The lack of funding for highway mega-projects in our region for the past 40 years, Blizzard said, “Indicates a lack of support.” “And if you lack support for something, you don’t find ways to change the rules.”

Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten said the bill, “Is just poor governance.” He thinks transportation planning needs to be done in a holistic way with strong coordination between jurisdictions.

Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington also made the trip to Salem to oppose the bill. “We pride ourselves on collaboration,” she told the committee, “HB 3231 would authorizes a district that would operate completely outside this well-established process with potentially dire consequences.” Harrington warned that the bill would “ignore critical public protections,” that it lacks accountability, and it could lead to projects that would violate air-quality regulations. “The bill is an unnecessary distraction,” she said, “and we urge you not to move it forward.”

1000 Friends of Oregon is a nonprofit that fights for land-use laws that prevent sprawl. Their executive director Mary Kyle McCurdy testified against the bill as well. “This is an outdated concept,” she told the committee. “It will not build us the transportation system we need for this century and it won’t solve congestion.” McCurdy said if we want to fix congestion, “Mass transit must be upgraded substantially.”

And Kathleen Carl, a fifth-generation farmer from Marion County (where Vial and others have proposed a new highway), seemed personally offended by the entire premise of the bill — especially its provisions that would allow tolling districts to acquire farmland through eminent domain. At one point she referred to the planning concept known as “rural reserves” — land set aside by zoning law for farming that can’t be developed on and appeared to turn and ask Rep. Vial directly, “To say that you can now go through these rural reserves… What are you doing?!” “Once you put a road through things, it changes things,” she said.

UPDATE, 10:00 am on 4/12: Rep. Vial says, via his latest newsletter, that the bill is dead and will not get a vote this session:

“I was informed by the committee chair that HB 3231 would not receive a work session by the April 18th first chamber deadline, which prevents the bill from moving forward this session… I hope to work … to pass a statewide transportation package to ensure that we are taking proactive steps to address Oregon’s long-term transportation challenges.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

66 Comments
  • Holtz April 7, 2017 at 11:09 am

    After all, LA, Atlanta, etc. solved their traffic jams with freeway building, right?

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    • rick April 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      Yes ! They saw what Vancouver, British Columbia didn’t. Smog and concrete freeways.

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    • Bankerman April 8, 2017 at 10:20 am

      >> and Portland solved our traffic jams by building Max lines, right?

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      • Mark smith April 8, 2017 at 9:41 pm

        Traffic jams are “solved” by pricing the resource accordingly. Go out at night. Freeways are wide open..or Sunday morning.

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      • wsbob April 9, 2017 at 7:39 pm

        Light rail, locally named MAX, helped keep highway some to keep freeway and highway congestion from completely during rush hours, breaking down the function of those travels systems, for awhile. Also helped to open up opportunities for some of the people not able to have a motor vehicle, to meet some of their main travel needs, such as getting to work.

        With rail service, what happens…slowly where travel by motor vehicle for main travel needs, is still viable…is communities build up around the rail line, rather than willy-nilly across the countryside within driving distance. Even though rail and light rail costs a lot of money, investment in it to try and deal with regional travel needs and resulting congestion on the roads, and to counter tendency to sprawl, is essential.

        This westside bypass idea some people have been championing, is a nightmare. If it’s built, it’ll be an open land destroying disaster. Development business won’t care, because those in that business, stand to make money off development along the resulting corridor. They’ll take some of the money they pull off the development, and use it buy and live somewhere they don’t have to endure the mess they’ll have.

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      • nuovorecord April 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

        Name me one urban area, anywhere, that is vital and thriving…and doesn’t have automobile congestion. I’ll wait.

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        • 9watts April 10, 2017 at 3:30 pm

          Cities in countries with high gas taxes.
          OK since you asked. Freiburg, Germany.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty April 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm

            Freiburg has no auto congestion? Most German cities do.

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            • 9watts April 10, 2017 at 4:03 pm

              lots of ways to figure this. My hunch is that a higher fraction elsewhere is not concerned with—because they are not stuck in—the congestion that may still arise from time to time.

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        • Uptowner April 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm

          I’ll bite. The TomTom Index of Traffic congestion lists these 5 lovely cities as having the lowest traffic congestion on the planet.

          Dayton
          Knoxville
          Indianapolis
          Kansas City
          Omaha

          How’d they do it? Simple: focus only on car mobility and ignore access. So you can drive fast there, but you’ll need to a travel quite a long distance to get anywhere, so you don’t actually save any time. How they did it: massive freeway spending, coupled with incredibly low-density development, a hollowed out center city, and widely dispersed jobs. Oh yeah, and you better save up for a car and gas, cause your only option is the car. So let’s make Portland more like Dayton, where you can drive fast, but it still takes you just as long time to get places.

          http://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/trafficindex/list?citySize=LARGE&continent=ALL&country=ALL

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty April 7, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Why do we need a bill to have a conversation?

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    • 9watts April 7, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      Like lots of what our Republican friends say it is code, obfuscatory, mendacious.

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  • K Taylor April 7, 2017 at 11:33 am

    “a strategy politicians love, but reality hates” – heh! 🙂 Thank you for your great reporting on this issue, Jonathan. I work for transportation planners, and have asked many of them what needs to be done to relieve congestion. Their answer is generally that if people are still piling onto the highways (which they are, by the thousands), that means they’re willing to put up with the congestion, so the need to expand capacity is not as urgent as everyone making it out to be. Also that the only real solution to congestion is toll roads and bridges, with tolling’s regressive impacts offset by the proceeds going to really build up transit, bike and ped facilities – making convenient transportation more truly affordable and practical for people without money or outsize bravery. Toll roads are rarely congested – just like a bowl of candy people have to buy by the piece is always fuller than one with ‘free’ candy paid for by everyone’s taxes (including the diabetics).

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    • dan April 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Toll existing roads and add congestion pricing, please!

      “I just want to create the potential to have a conversation”…about tolling existing roads 🙂

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      • paikiala April 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

        dan,
        that requires a change in Federal rules.

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    • rachel b April 7, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      Yay, K Taylor! That really is the answer. Approved by traffic engineers, no less! 🙂

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    • wsbob April 9, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      “…I work for transportation planners, and have asked many of them what needs to be done to relieve congestion. Their answer is generally that if people are still piling onto the highways (which they are, by the thousands), that means they’re willing to put up with the congestion, so the need to expand capacity is not as urgent as everyone making it out to be. Also that the only real solution to congestion is toll roads and bridges, with tolling’s regressive impacts offset by the proceeds going to really build up transit, bike and ped facilities – making convenient transportation more truly affordable and practical for people without money or outsize bravery. …” k taylor

      Working tor transportation planners sounds like it could be interesting work. I hope it is for you. If they truly think, as you from talking to them, were led to believe they do, that congestion is not that bad as long as commuters are willing to put up with rush hour, bumper to bumper congestion, I’d have to say they’re crazy: rush hour congestion is terrible. No amount of point fix-its, like on Hwy 217, or I-5 near the Rose Quarter, are going to relieve that congestion.

      The transportation planners have a job to do…and I respect that to the point its due…but their ability to render solutions to road congestion problems, sufficient to meet the needs of a population capable of an unforeseeable end to growth, is limited by many different things. Those simple rationales they’ve given you, which you’ve paraphrased in your comment, in no way can resolve the road congestion issues the region is facing.

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      • Wells April 10, 2017 at 2:06 pm

        I figure ODOT has earned commendation for recent projects: Grand Av Viaduct, Hwy 26 westside overpasses, 217-to-Hwy 26 ramps/bikeway, I-205 bikeway/MAX, emergency repairs, etc. The I-5 entrance southbound redesign @ Rose Quarter appears logical. I have way more problems/concerns with Wsdot than ODOT. Lest we forget, Wsdot led the CRC commission, alongside both Port authorities.
        Mr Wyatt can live somewhere else and pretend to be a Portlander.
        The screen door is slamming on his behind.

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      • paikiala April 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm

        first world problem.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 10, 2017 at 5:18 pm

          Well… this is the first world.

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          • 9watts April 10, 2017 at 5:34 pm

            That was a long time ago.
            I don’t think by any reasonable measure we’re First World anymore.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty April 10, 2017 at 5:37 pm

              From Wikipedia:

              The concept of First World originated during the Cold War and included countries that were generally aligned with the West and opposed to the Soviet Union during the Cold War (including all NATO countries). Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the definition has instead largely shifted to any country with little political risk and a well functioning democracy, rule of law, capitalist economy, economic stability and high standard of living. Various ways in which modern First World countries are often determined include GDP, GNP, literacy rates and the Human Development Index.[1] In common usage, “First World” refers to the rich nations of the world.[2]

              We almost exactly match that description.

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              • 9watts April 10, 2017 at 5:42 pm

                “well functioning democracy,”
                = joke?

                “rule of law,”
                =for white people sort of, unless they’re poor and live in places like Louisiana

                “capitalist economy,”
                = I guess, FWIW

                “economic stability”
                = not really. which stratum of our society do you have in mind as experiencing this?

                and high standard of living.”
                = higher inequality than all comparable nations.

                “Various ways in which modern First World countries are often determined include GDP, GNP, literacy rates and the Human Development Index.[1] In common usage, “First World” refers to the rich nations of the world.[2]

                = Yeah and we’re at the bottom of all comparable nations for those indices.”

                “We almost exactly match that description.”
                Not in my book.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

                Compared to places that are not “first world” we have all of those things. Sure, we could both name dozens of problems that we have related to his definition, but overall we have it pretty good. “First world” is not the same as “without flaw”.

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              • 9watts April 10, 2017 at 6:52 pm

                “overall we have it pretty good”

                Sure you and I and our peers. But your qualification just shows how self-congratulatory and now obsolete the term First World has become. The whole point of this ranking was to put ourselves on top. Now that we aren’t on top anymore by any meaningful measure, continuing to assign that label to ourselves in 2017 is laughable.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 10, 2017 at 6:58 pm

                I was responding to the slightly obnoxious “first world problems” dismissal by pointing out those are totally legitimate topics for discussion because we exactly meet the definition of “first world”.

                I did not mean to suggest we cannot improve.

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  • rick April 7, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Freedom of speech, but just wow. Great way to ruin farmland. The I-85 freeway just collapsed last week in Atlanta. It carried over 220,000 cars and trucks. The public transit is now jammed. New classes of bike commuting offered this week for free. A jungle on side streets.

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    • Kate April 7, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      I haven’t been following this closely, but I’d be fascinated to learn more about the immediate and long term mode shifts and travel behavior as a result of the I-85 collapse. I’d love to see some reporting on this, and selfishly, to use it as a case study in my own work.

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      • B. Carfree April 7, 2017 at 8:36 pm

        Just take a trip back in time to 1989. When a small section of the Bay Bridge went down during the Loma Prieta quake, along with some other pieces of unnecessary roadway, some interesting things happened. First off, total bridge traffic (three other bridges from the (L)East Bay) fell off as people heeded calls to drive less. The reduction was reported as almost entirely due to people no longer driving across the bay multiple times per day. Also, there were a number of quotes from people interviewed at BART stations who had never before taken the train across the bay and were delighted with the system.

        A non-immediate impact was the creation of the Capitals Corridor train line from Sacramento to San Jose. It was a delight to go from a couple of long-distance trains per day along that line to fifteen trains each way. One barely needs to check a schedule before heading down the the station because the trains run frequently enough to make it no big deal to miss one. Boy, could the Cascades line ever use some increases in service. (Note, Oregon once had very frequent service from Eugene to Portland, as in about hourly, but that was nearly a century ago. Time to bring back good ideas from our past, imo.)

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    • bikeninja April 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      The I 85 freeway collapse is a harbinger of things to come for happy motoring. Most steel rebar reinforced concrete infrastructure has a useable life of 50-60 years and most of it was built 50-60 years ago. These dead-enders like Vial will still be ranting from the front seats of their rusted out immobile cars permanently stuck in their front yards 20 years from now when the auto age has ground to a halt from lack of driveable infrastructure and the collapse of the petroleum industry.

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      • Mike 2 April 7, 2017 at 2:12 pm

        You don’t see automobiles being used in 20 years? Even if there is a collapse of the petroleum industry, do you really think people aren’t going to have a means of driving around? I mean, sure, Dubai is moving forward with drone taxis…
        But then again, the US is so far behind and with the new administration defunding education, it’s not like we will be bringing up a new generation of engineers to come up with alternatives. Maybe we will come to a complete standstill.

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      • Gary B April 7, 2017 at 2:14 pm

        “Most steel rebar reinforced concrete infrastructure has a useable life of 50-60 years”

        Can you expound on that; references? I don’t know why that would be true, as concrete strengthens with age. And countless examples indicate it’s not.

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      • meh April 10, 2017 at 10:13 am

        Except this piece of infrastructure collapsed due to a fire of started under the roadway in a works department storage yard. The plastic conduit stored there fueled the fire that led to the failure of the overpass. It didn’t just collapse from age.

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  • El Biciclero April 7, 2017 at 11:52 am

    “We’ve constantly told ourselves if we can just get the right kind of alternative transit, more bike paths, more trains, more other types of transportation, that we would relieve the congestion. It has simply not happened and it’s time to do something different.”

    Here, let me fix that for you:
    “We’ve constantly told ourselves if we can just get enough lanes on the freeway, more new streets and bridges, better paving, that we would relieve the congestion. It has simply not happened and it’s time to do something different.”

    The myth of “relieving congestion” is another one that needs dispelling. As has been discussed on other BP posts, and has been shown time and again with gigantic freeway projects, “congestion” at peak usage times (thanks to induced demand) is essentially a constant—it can not be relieved. The only question is how to distribute it. If we think of modes as pipes, and traffic (read “people”) as water, then the only question is how to distribute the flow. Currently, we have one enormous pipe, and a couple of dribbly little tubes. The question we need to ask is how to manage the constant level of congestion in the most energy- and space-efficient way. The way we’re doing it now, by trying to make driving a car easier, is the worst of both of those. I don’t know enough to intelligently debate the relative efficiencies of all travel modes, but it seems the two things the average person understands are time and money. It would seem that one heuristic that could be applied would be take some average trip distance, then adjust accommodation of modes so that a trip of that distance at peak times would cost a very similar amount of money and take a very similar amount of time. If I can drive to work (even with congestion) in half an hour (with the costs of driving hidden or considered to be “already paid for”), but it takes an hour and a half and an extra $2.50 to take transit, and an hour (and a few pennies) to ride my bike, which one am I going to pick if I optimize for comfort and convenience, which is the critical factor for most people?

    Another off-the-cuff notion occurs to me in thinking about how we measure “congestion”. Is it in trip time? Throughput? If it is measured in trip time, then the amount of “congestion” I experience on transit is about three times what I encounter on a “congested” US 26 in my car in the morning. Is it throughput? I would still bet the number of individuals whooshed into town in the morning via transit or bicycling pales in comparison to the number flushed down the freeway. If I’m right (which I can’t claim with numbers at the moment), then car “congestion” is again much less than other modes. I think we need to think more about how to relieve the “congestion” of non-car travel before we think about making more place-destroying freeways.

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    • 9watts April 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      superb.
      El Biciclero for Transportation Czar.

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    • Stephen Keller April 7, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      If I’m just going downtown, trsnsit wins, but if I’m going through downtown the car wins. If I’m going anywhere with one or more of my family, the car wins. Transit doesn’t scale well with groups travelling together like a car does. The bike would win to downtown, if it weren’t for theft problem.

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      • 9watts April 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm

        And if you get rid of the car, it all gets much simpler….

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        • Monkeysee April 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm

          For who?

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          • 9watts April 8, 2017 at 8:07 am

            For everyone. But specifically I was thinking about the calculus on the part of the traveler/commuter. By leaving the car out of the equation *the decision* is simplified considerably.
            I know what you’re getting at: it is more work to bike, or something. But I’m not sure about that at all. Most trips we are told are well within the range of what can be accomplished easily by bike. And if you have a coat even in the rain. It is really (in my experience) mostly about habit and what you are used to….. and not having the car to complicate the choice 😉

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      • El Biciclero April 8, 2017 at 11:01 am

        “If I’m just going downtown, trsnsit wins, but if I’m going through downtown the car wins. If I’m going anywhere with one or more of my family, the car wins. Transit doesn’t scale well with groups travelling together like a car does. The bike would win to downtown, if it weren’t for theft problem.”

        So, we have to know what you mean by “wins”. We also have to remember that you are using the current state of things for your comparison, and imagine that your measures of “winning” could be addressed via some “congestion relief” measures for transit and bike use. If travel time suffers when taking transit instead of a car, then that seems to be a facet of transit “congestion” that needs to be addressed with more dedicated lanes and more frequent service during high-demand times. If the car “wins” with groups because transit is too crowded, then that is a throughput issue that again, should be addressed with more frequent buses/trains to reduce that aspect of “congestion” on transit. The bike “theft problem”, IMO, somewhat equates to a parking problem. If bike theft were taken into consideration when designing bike parking, then maybe more things like bike lockers or monitored garages—or even plain old staple racks that weren’t “out back by the dumpster”—would be provided. It’s hard to imagine two or three bike lockers in a single parking space would cost as much as three individual car parking spaces. It might even require paying a quarter or $.50 an hour to use a locker, but that’s still cheaper than metered street parking.

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    • Eric Leifsdad April 9, 2017 at 11:32 pm

      This article mentions the cost of congestion: that it really isn’t a big deal (why else would people continue to drive?) So, even if building more lanes actually relieved congestion, it doesn’t pay.

      http://plazaperspective.com/road-widening/

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      • El Biciclero April 10, 2017 at 9:41 am

        Yes. This article is excellent. What that bar graph of costs makes me think is that we need to think about what really justifies the expense of owning a car in the first place. Is it because we believe that if we make that “investment”, it will be the fastest, most convenient way to get anywhere at any time of day? What if instead we (ha, “we”—I’m going to get started changing everyone’s mind right…..now!) thought of cars as one of many viable ways of getting around—but boy, oh, boy, not at peak times, are you crazy? That’s what the bus and my bike are for. No, the car is only for those off-peak “emergency” or long-distance trips that we don’t want to have to over-schedule to plan for rentals or car-shares. Then would it really be worth the investment?

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

          That’s exactly how I think about it. And for me, yes it is. (Though I don’t think about a car in terms of an “investment” because it doesn’t really pay me back the way, say, a house would. It’s more like a computer — a tool that occupies a niche somewhere between necessity and nice-to-have).

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  • Mark smith April 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    The whole point of highways into the hinter lands is to facilitate suburb development. Suburbs generally lead Republican. Small towns have outsized influence on statewide policy. Suburbs can be easily gerrymandered with minimal push back. That’s just the first motivation.

    Republicans know that urban centers have no use for these Republican ideas so they are doing everything to keep the burbs alive and maybe even make a few new ones.

    If anyone wants to know how many lanes are truly needed, go outside around 8pm and measure traffic over a few weeks time on any freeway. It’s about two each way, at the very most. The rest are just for Suburb fleeing hour.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 7, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      The original whole point of highways was to provide for rapid military transport around the country.

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      • rachel b April 7, 2017 at 3:34 pm

        Ah. The military and porn. The two great motivators for invention.

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        • K Taylor April 7, 2017 at 4:06 pm

          I believe they were both involved in the invention of the Swiffer.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty April 7, 2017 at 4:09 pm

            Ah yes. Cammo Swiffer porn. An obscure but surprisingly robust corner of the internet.

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      • Mike Sanders April 7, 2017 at 5:05 pm

        The original bill creating the Interstate highway network signed by President Eisenhower used the name “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” The legislation called for freeways to be designed to allow military aircraft to land on them in national emergency situations. That provision has never been used, but it’s there. They were inspired by the autobahns built by Hitler during WW2 to move troops quickly to the front. When US troops invaded Germany, they used these corridors to retake the country more quickly than anyone at that time could’ve dreamed of. Now Trump’s Republicans are thinking of freeways as America’s primary freight routes. Keeping freight moving, they say, improves homeland security. Thus, cargo bikes won’t work. Build freeways instead. And the people be darned. They want to push transit thinking back 50 or 60 years, giving freeways top priority over local needs. It’s outmoded thinking, yes, but that’s how they see the world.

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  • Brian Amer April 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    This is my state rep. Great. 🙁 What a guy.
    I emailed him recently about supporting a bill to help with distracted driving, but never heard back from him. Another reason to support whoever runs against him next time.

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    • Vince April 7, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      Instead of waiting until next time, keep the pressue on him. Jonathan has made it really easy to connect with state legislators. Just click on the title of the bill, it takes to to the state gov page, and clicking on the sponsors gets you to an email link. Yes, this is a hint to all others that Salem might hear you if you speak to them directly rather than just talking among ourselves.
      And btw, my state rep is also supporting this bill. He has heard from me already and will get a call monday.

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  • Dave H. April 7, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    I’m not entirely opposed to expanding highway capacity around the state, provided a few rules are involved.

    No land use exceptions because there’s a new road. A new road doesn’t mean new development, it’s there to ease other roads that we’re already allowing new development on.

    There has to be a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to use the new corridor. A parallel path, adequate bike and sidewalk facilities (with an appropriate buffer for safety given expected speeds), or something along those lines.

    We have to spend about as much (within 2% maybe?) on the new roadway as we do on new mass transit and active transportation methods in the same region. $500 million for a new Rose Quarter I-5 from I-84 to I-405? Great, $500 million for transit and active transportation in Portland should make that about even.

    I’d be okay with a higher gas tax, registration fees, etc if we got that deal. It would cause a lot of transit, bike, and pedestrian investment across the state.

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    • Mike Sanders April 8, 2017 at 6:38 pm

      Requiring highways to have ped/bike paths alongside them makes sense. We have 1% for art requirements for public works projects like Max lines. Why not having X% of a highway project go to having a sidewalk or path next to it? I-205 has a paved path next to it. Why can’t we do that with freeways and major highways? Dallas/Fort Worth does have ped/bike bridges over freeways at semi regular intervals. We should, too. Something like the Springwater bridge over McLoughlin/99E, for instance. Remember, the SW Max proposal includes a path with it. Such ideas should be encouraged. Sadly, though, the small minds who run D.C. these days don’t want to encourage them, or understand the importance of such things.

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      • Eric Leifsdad April 9, 2017 at 11:38 pm

        The SW Max proposal includes mostly the same standard bike-felling track arrangements you’ll see all around streetcar and max with bikes as an afterthought / accommodations for some sort of wheeled 5mph sidewalk users. Probably not even going to get a protected bike lane on Barbur, it’s all just “yeah, obviously bikes” hand-waving to get your buy-in for the big spending shiny plan.

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    • Ron Swaren April 12, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      We need to look at transit solutions that would attract people—is it some drawback if they cost less, also? Montreal Quebec company TM4 manufactures electric drivetrain replacements for diesel buses and trucks. They have refined this idea and now are selling them to two major countries. They don’t have to go on to new buses; they are designed to retrofit to existing vehicles and simply replace the diesel equipment. Tri-Met should consider these to restore buses that they would otherwise be retiring and replacing with another diesel bus.The battery technology is so-so at this point, but it’s improving. Besides, companies like Proterra and EV Power are getting handle on that. Those two have also entered the commercial market. There are cities in our area (Victoria, Everett, WA) that have inaugurated double decker bus fleets—these are just as effective as a light rail system that would cost ten or twenty times as much. And if the overall cost is low—-maybe they should just make transit rides free? I know that would attract riders. I don’t get this dollar for dollar match. People do pay fuel taxes for certain purposes.

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  • resopmok April 8, 2017 at 6:49 am

    This is a joke, so get ready..

    Are you sure his name isn’t spelled “Vile?”

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  • SD April 8, 2017 at 8:01 am

    “…To start a conversation” sounds much better than “…To exploit the misconceptions and frustrations of voters, and curry favor with developers.”

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    • 9watts April 8, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Especially to those who aren’t wise to the sneaky ways of those who utter that particular phrase (typically white male Republican legislators up to no good).

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  • Randy April 8, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    One More Bike = Clean Air #healthcare

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  • Jim Labbe
    Jim Labbe April 10, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    “A lawmaker who wants to give cities broad authority to design and construct major new highways learned in a public hearing yesterday that there’s a good reason why our region hasn’t built one since the 1980s: Strong opposition from people who actually understand transportation planning amd the vast negative consequences of highways and the motor vehicle trips they encourage.”

    I am sure there were lots of smart people in the room pointing out the false promise of proposed new freeway expansions.

    But I’d say Vial (is that really his name) isn’t just clueless about transportation planning, he is also quite most myopic about the strong headwind new freeway expansion will encounter from the people, landscapes and neighborhoods the new freeways would inevitably displace. It is reactive opposition to change more than enlightened transportation thinking that has shaped past policy and investments in Oregon. Oregonians are notorious both in their cheapness in funding public infrastructure and in their opposition to change. So I very much doubt they are going to even help fund mega projects that will wreak havoc on their communities.

    Given all that, there is some value in devolving transportation funding and giving local governments flexibility in how they spend transportation funds.

    That was basically David Bragdon argued to the City Club back in 2015:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2015/11/steve_duin_david_bragdon_on_or.html

    But- as David Bragdon pointed out last year- what if

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 12, 2017 at 10:09 am

    UPDATE, 10:00 am on 4/12: Rep. Vial says, via his latest newsletter, that the bill is dead and will not get a vote this session:

    “I was informed by the committee chair that HB 3231 would not receive a work session by the April 18th first chamber deadline, which prevents the bill from moving forward this session… I hope to work … to pass a statewide transportation package to ensure that we are taking proactive steps to address Oregon’s long-term transportation challenges.”

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    • 9watts April 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

      I wonder if that means he succeeded; if he was able to start the conversation he expected to?

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  • Ron Swaren April 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    An intermediate highway that public transit, delivery vehicles and bicyclists (in the summer) can use would be a lot more cost effective than a Western Bypass. Transit works well if the distances are short and there are few transfers. So much of our area congestion now is due to traffic between Vancouver and Washington County and our present route is lengthy and congestion prone. A shorter route I.e. a NW Passage would keep this traffic out of the urban core, put it on a shorter route,and also connect several other intersecting routes, and should improve regional public transit. In other words a short cut–as opposed to the lengthy I-5 and US 26 route benefits all modes. And Port of Portland has stated that Washington County industries need better connections to the ports, so a Northern Connector route (US 26 to US 30 via Cornelius Pass Rd. area) would solve this problem and facilitate other transit at the same time.

    The ‘old” maxims’ are failing. Predicted 400,000 new residents in Portland, 200,000 in Clark Co. and huge increase in interstate traffic coming through Portland…..has changed everything. It can turn into the worst mess in the country, which would be hazardous for all. Or we can come up with some realistic, balanced solutions.

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  • Ron Swaren April 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    With summer coming it will one again appear that bicycles can be a realistic alternative to other, heavier, more energy consuming vehicles. I can see that the winter hibernation is over. Sure, they are still used on shorter inner city routes (but not so much) year round but on the longer routes they practically disappear in the long days of rain or even snow. Bus transit can work better—-if there are fewer transfers and if more routes are connected. We could do something about the lengthy and complicated Vancouver to Portland and to Washington County commuting conundrum that is harming our regional economy and turning into a big headache for interstate shippers. A shorter route—than the 20 mile I-5 and US 26 route—would benefit all modes.

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