The activists who make up the new Just Crossing Alliance (JCA) believes there needs to be a new I-5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland. But they want it to be the right bridge – and not one that’s just a freeway expansion in disguise.
Ahead of a vote this Thursday on a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the Interstate Bridge Replacement, members of the JCA have shared what they want – and don’t want – to see included in the plans. And they’ve issued their first-ever action alert to encourage others to follow their lead.
Last month, the IBR team announced two design options they’d like to move forward with. Both of the options include more lanes across the entire five-mile project footprint, resulting in either an eight or 10 lane bridge.
The JCA wants to cap it at six lanes (current width) and include congestion pricing, saying even one new auxiliary lane will add auto capacity and induce demand without mitigating traffic. The JCA also wants a partial interchange on Hayden Island to limit the impact of a hulking mass of concrete on residents, who have long been concerned over what a new IBR would do to their community.
“We would like to see an approach to the bridge replacement that takes a much broader view of the needs of our communities. Light Rail needs to connect to Clark College and the School for the Blind,” Abby Griffith of Washington’s Disability Mobility Initiative said in the press release.
Members of the JCA recognize the IBRP team has selected light rail as the transit mode to accompany the freeway expansion across the bridge, which they approve of. But they say this isn’t enough to distract from the continued investment in freeway expansion.
“These lanes aren’t a good investment, adding to construction costs without reducing congestion in the long-term.”
— Sarah Iannarone, The Street Trust via JCA
“While we are excited that the IBR team is supporting light rail, we’re concerned that the additional freeway capacity in the form of ‘auxiliary’ lanes (some of which could be as long as 5 miles long) will add as much as 1.3 million metric tons of carbon over their lifetime, equivalent to the annual emissions of 250,000 homes,” said The Street Trust Director Sarah Iannarone. “These lanes aren’t a good investment, adding to construction costs without reducing congestion in the long-term.”
There has been a good deal of concern from local officials who will need to sign off on the final design about the intricacies of the project. Metro Council made certain outcomes a requirement to continue funding the bridge replacement project – outcomes including decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and advancing racial equity – and the IBR team will need to show they’re taking these requirements seriously.
According to Brett Morgan, Transportation and Metro Policy Manager for JCA member 1000 Friends of Oregon, the alliance is trying to help leaders avoid the pitfalls of the original Columbia River Crossing saga that caused the entire project to die a decade ago. If the IBR team addresses environmental concerns about the LPA, stakeholders can work together to ensure a sustainable and well-functioning bridge project will actually come to fruition.
“Ensuring the LPA addresses all concerns, such as Metro’s Values, Actions, and Outcomes resolution, prior to asking for partner approval is critical to ensure local elected and government officials don’t feel constrained to vote yes due to the fear of losing funding opportunities,” Morgan said. “The Just Crossing Alliance wants to ensure leaders don’t run into the same issues they did 10 years ago with the Columbia River Crossing.”