The I-5 crossing freeway fighters would actually say ‘yes’ to

Posted by on May 4th, 2022 at 11:09 am

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.

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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.”

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maxD
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maxD

this seems like a great start. I believe the height remains an issue- this bridge is too low for river-based industry and too tall for Pearson Airfield. I wish they would push leaders to look more closely at the immersed tube tunnel https://bikeportland.org/2022/02/23/the-overlooked-i-5-columbia-crossing-option-an-immersed-tube-tunnel-348880 or the Common Sense Alternative https://vimeo.com/22915646

Ethan J
Guest
Ethan J

This is probably a better deal, especially since we’re considering moving the entire MAX system in Portland underground anyway.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

I don’t think anyone is considering moving the entire Max system underground. There has been talk of a downtown tunnel, which would presumably bypass the steel bridge. But if that ever happens, which seems unlikely or very far off in the future, the rest of the system will continue to be a glorified streetcar.

Jared0
Guest
Jared0

“knows there needs to be a new I-5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland”

This is a faulty premise.

The current bridges have withstood the test of time, can be seismically upgraded, and can have boosted capacity and flow if congestion pricing is used.

There’s really no reason – other than pork-barrel politics – that we should be blowing $$$$$$$$$$$$$ billions on this highway expansion *in place of* building out a network of safe, equitable ways for people to get around.

(This isn’t to say it’s not strategic to agree with the premise, but it’s a false premise.)

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Is it possible for a 100 year-old counterweight lift span to be seismically retrofitted to withstand a 9.0+ Cascadia earthquake? I know the footings are too short, and that can be resolved, but the counterweight tower issue seems like a problem. I’m not aware of any 9.0+ certified bridges with this lift/counterweight design.

Jared0
Guest
Jared0

When asked during the CRC debacle, the answer was seismic retrofitting would cost $200m. Not sure what the level of earthquake that standard would fit.

Also, fun fact: ODOT’s own studies did not find a 9.0 earthquake would cause the bridges to collapse.

It’s pretty much fearmongering.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Suddenly we trust ODOT?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I found a more recent discussion with an engineer from ODOT. This indicates complete failure of the existing CRC bridges:
https://www.kgw.com/article/news/investigations/the-portland-bridges-that-will-collapse-in-an-earthquake/283-291062061

“I’m confident that it would collapse under a 9.0 earthquake,” said Johnson.

In a major quake, the drawbridge towers holding the counterweights would buckle, sending giant blocks of concrete into a free fall.

“That counterweight would come down just like a hammer, smashing through the bridge deck,” explained Johnson.

The bridges are primary structure, and you can’t change the physics of an earthquake event that lasts for 10+ minutes, and how those massive counterweights will respond. I’m not sure what the basis was for the $200 million retrofit quote, but I’m not buying it.

Jonathan K
Guest
Jonathan K

Structural engineer here. I’m pretty skeptical it would be cost-effective to strengthen the bridge. The towers would almost certainly have to be replaced. I have no idea what kind of foundations the bridge has, but liquefaction would probably be a problem. The truss spans would need a lot of beefing up below the deck and between the top chords.

Fatigue might be a bigger issue. There’s an upper limit on how much the service life of a bridge can be extended, because even steel starts to crack when subjected to thousands of loading cycles (80,000 lb trucks) every single day for decades on end. I’m sure ODOT’s keeping a close eye on things, and the bridge probably has plenty of life left. But it probably doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of millions strengthening a bridge that’s going to have to be replaced anyway in 20-30 years.

Jonathan K
Guest
Jonathan K

OTOH, seismic strengthening of the North Portland Harbor bridge (Marine Dr. – Jantzen Island) seems like something that should definitely be studied. The bridge was built in 1987, so it seems like it should be possible. The bridge is 8 lanes wide. Campaigning to save and retrofit this bridge would be a savvy way to keep a lid on through lanes. It seems like it could save a lot of money too.

https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/interstate-bridge-replacement-would-include-new-harbor-bridge/283-95436ae9-d2e9-4a7c-ac96-9a66e3b2fc51

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The fact that ODOT isn’t planning on re-using this span is evidence that they don’t really care about cost-control on this project. I think the Hayden-Vancouver spans need to be replaced, but the Hayden-Marine Dr span should be saved. No need to completely rebuild any of the interchanges from Marine Dr south, or Mill Plain north.

Gomer
Guest
Gomer

The foundation of the bridge is old growth redwood pilings driven into the river bed.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

The automobile is the most equitable way of getting around. Today, a poor person with a 15 year old Honda Civic travels in more ease and comfort than Louis XIV could’ve ever dreamed of.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

60% of car-free households are low-income.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

What percent of low income households are car free?

JimK
Guest

Of course congestion pricing works by hurting low income people by increasing their cost of travel. Since low income people are more likely to be minority, that is a racist proposal.

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

Seems silly to cap it at 6 lanes. Why not build as many lanes as possible (within a reasonable budget)? It doesn’t mean they have to be used for autos.
2 lanes each way for cars
1 lane each way for bus
1 lane each way for train
1 lane each way for pedestrian/bike
1 lane each way for emergency vehicles
1 lane each way for some future use we can’t even predict today

one
Guest

Because they would ALL become auto lanes (For mostly single passenger vehicles.) How about right now we put in 24 hour HOV lanes in on every highway. That’ll help get people and goods, cargo and transit moving.

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

Ahhh, you have a crystal ball that can see into the future!!!!

SD
Subscriber

Let’s embrace SOVs by giving them a protected lane for vehicles that are small enough to double the capacity of a typical single lane and have top speeds of 50 mph.

Transportation Engineer
Guest
Transportation Engineer

HOV lanes result in stop and go traffic in all the other lanes, causing massive CO2 pollution from thousands of barely moving vehicles, polluting the adjacent neighborhoods with massive concentrations of pollution. They should never be used.

SD
Subscriber

Interesting. There must be well-done studies to support this, if true. Could you share the evidence, Transportation Engineer?

cc_rider
Guest
cc_rider

Your 14 lane mega freeway would be impressive to see as everyone merged down to three lanes in either direction in Portland. I think it’d redefine traffic jam

soren
Guest
soren

Both of the options include more lanes across the entire five-mile project footprint, resulting in either an eight or 10 lane bridge.

This billion dollar plus freeway expansion is just as unnecessary and unsustainable as ODOT’s IBR. I say NO to the “1000 Friends of Developers” I5 expansion and YES to minimal seismic upgrades and a dedicated BRT lane.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I think you missed that text you’re quoting is the ODOT proposal and the Just Crossing Alliance opposes that.

soren
Guest
soren

Thanks for the important correction.

I still believe a new 6 lane bridge and associated freeway upgrades are unnecessary. Commutes will likely never recover to 2019 levels and the rapidly worsening and unavoidable climate crisis will almost certainly decrease VMT in coming years.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

How would climate change reduce VMT? If anything, with it being so hot, people would want to spend less time in the heat walking, biking, or waiting for a bus and more time in their air conditioned cars?

Transportation Engineer
Guest
Transportation Engineer

Gasoline to power the cars will become prohibitively expensive, if not outright banned. The new vehicles will be EVs in 10 or 20 years. Maybe in the future if we have another period of prosperity, perhaps due to fusion energy, we can go hog wild on freeways and bridges.

Ethan J.
Guest
Ethan J.

We’d still have to deal with the other problems cars cause.

  • Avoidable deaths from car crashes
  • Wasted space used by parking
  • Dangers to pedestrians and cyclists
  • The cost of owning, maintaining, and driving a car
  • Addressing the racist design of the road system
Watts
Guest
Watts

All of these points (except possibly the last one that I don’t understand) will be addressed by automation.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Right. All of these self-driving cars that they keep telling us are just a few years away. We are decades away from a level 5 vehicle that can drive in all weather conditions. And when they do eventually show up, there’s a good chance they will increase congestion:
https://www.traffictechnologytoday.com/news/autonomous-vehicles/new-study-finds-driverless-vehicles-could-create-more-traffic-congestion.html

soren
Guest
soren

Give that many human beings are incapable of level 4 (at least some of the time), I enthusiastically welcome our robot overlords. Just having more drivers that don’t experience road rage and don’t want to “teach me a lesson” would be a very welcome change.

Waymo EVs are now picking up passengers in SF:

https://blog.waymo.com/2022/03/taking-our-next-step-in-city-by-bay.html

Steve
Guest
Steve

Parking will be addressed?

soren
Guest
soren

I think it’s possible that parking for human drivers in urban centers will be markedly reduced in favor of massive multilevel uber/lyft/waymo/? EV garages.

Post-fordist capitalism will squeeze every drop of blood out of the working class.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

How about the many problems caused by public transit?

Inability to provide door to door service
Fixed schedules that force people to wait at stations
Large number of empty seats

soren
Guest
soren

I expect “work from home” will continue to become normalized and I also expect that the uber-ization of transportation will accelerate once automated EVs are prevalent.

Note: I would like to see private TNCs banned and for all TNC-like transportation to be publicly-owned. I also understand that this is very unlikely.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

By what metric do you deem it to be unnecessary?

Transportation Engineer
Guest
Transportation Engineer

It’s working just the way it is. Not perfect, but gets the job done. If congestion causes less traffic, then the current freeway situation is as good as it gets for those who want less traffic.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Transportation Engineer
Guest
Transportation Engineer

Probably the best option. The nation is bankrupt already. When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, smart folks stop digging.

Racer X
Guest

As a frequent customer of this unsatisfactory bridge product ODOT/ WADOT service for many years, even as a reverse commuter…the lane / exit friction issue is >50% of the problem with this facility…so with the cap on lanes please reconsider eliminating the [direct] Hayden Island ramps from I-5 and closure of the Vancouver Downtown GP on ramp as a minimum to improve the interchange spacing. The relocation of the SR-14 ramps would help too, but I assume they are being dealt with.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

“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.”

What they mean to say is that more lanes will allow more people to travel the way they want, which harms their anti-mobility agenda.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Let’s be real clear here. We’re talking about an 8 or 10 lane primary bridge, PLUS a whole other bridge from Marine Drive/Expo to Hayden Island. That local service bridge is half of the common sense alternative, but in the IBR’s infinite wisdom they’ve taken that aspect, then decided they still need either a full or partial freeway interchange on Hayden Island because that local bridge would have too much truck traffic, so then that interchange is a major driver of the need for aux lanes. It’s absurd.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Maybe we can plan ahead for Iannarone’s vision and make sure the roads are easily convertible to urban camping.

JimK
Guest

ANYTHING that includes tolls or light rail is a killer. Keep in mind that this is a UNDER one billion project WITHOUT light rail and without extensive I5 intersection work and thus would not require tolls.
The rational approach would be to build ONLY a six lanes in each direction bridge for the current need. ALL other spending is non-esential and can be built as money becomes available.
If there were ever a true need for light rail in the future, then build it in the future. It makes ZERO SENSE to spend OVER ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS per each of the 1650 daily transit passengers to build a light a rail bridge. In any case that cost should be paid by the transit industry, not shifted to drivers as the previous project tried to do.
Likewise, all of the intersection rebuilding DOES NOT NEED to be done now, instead phase then in as the money becomes available. See No-Tolls.com

Jason McHuff
Guest

Do you believe that auto users should be responsible for all of what they use and cause, such as the portion of Portland’s billion-dollar Big Pipe project that went to pay for street runoff but was paid for by sewer ratepayers, or wars fought in order to keep oil prices low, or government-provided or mandated 100% subsidized parking?

JimK
Guest

Streets existed BEFORE automobiles, so their cost cannot be blamed on automobiles.

Nick
Guest
Nick

Sure but they weren’t interstate highways, so what’s your point?

JimK
Guest

Interstate highways were built 100% with user fees. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/interstate.cfm#interstate_funding

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Don’t engage with this guy. He is a well-known anti-transit activist. The idea that this could be done without light rail for $1 billion is insane. No basis in reality.

Paul
Guest
Paul

The tolls are the only useful part of the project. They can burn the toll money for all I care; the point is making people pay to cross.

JimK
Guest

Why would you like to see people, including those in borderline poverty, pay more to get to work? Especially since those most hurt will be minorities? Why isn’t this racist since minorities are over represented in the minority population?

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

They are already paying in time and fuel cost.

JimK
Guest

” saying even one new auxiliary lane will add auto capacity and induce demand without mitigating traffic.” It appears that someone has been exposed to ant-car propaganda. Here is the truth about induced demand: http://www.debunkingportland.com/roads/BuildWayOut.htm

mark
Guest
mark

Jim, your website is full of links that are old, dead, of questionable sources, or that don’t even support your arguments.

I'll pass you
Guest
I'll pass you

Lol. Every link I tried worked for me and supported his claim. And was from a far more reliable source than half of the studies I’ve seen promoted on BP.

damiene
Subscriber
damiene

Hmm. Dubious. My experience match’s mark’s – lots of broken links or inconclusive information. I’ve seen websites like this before – they’re cookie-cutter, and try to overwhelm one with so many links so as to make it a significant burden to go through them one-by-one. “Reliable sources” is of course in the eye of the beholder – most links point to DOTs who are in the business of building highways, so they have a natural incentive to view building highways in the most favorable light possible.

None of this intrinsically means this information is wrong, but it’s worth skepticism. If you and JimK want to use this information persuasively, you’ll want to dig into the sources yourselves and reproduce the most valuable parts, rather than just dumping a site full of links.

Boyd
Guest
Boyd

You must not have tried many links.

JimK
Guest

“Jim, your website is full of links that are old, dead, of questionable sources”
Please give a few examples from the page I cited.

RobW
Guest
RobW

Thanks BikePortland for keeping up on this project.

I am shocked that the Just Crossing Alliance favors the partial interchange on Hayden Island and this project decision point even includes that option.

Page 3 of https://www.interstatebridge.org/media/ce5olqsq/designoptions_communityengagementreport-final_remediated.pdf proposes 3 Hayden options.

“Hayden Island and Marine Drive Interchanges – Design options being considered for
roadway and interchange configurations include improvements to Marine Drive and a full interchange, partial interchange, or no interchange on Hayden Island. All options identify ways to connect local streets across I-5 and the island.

 Option 1 – Full interchange configurations allow direct access to Hayden Island for north- and southbound traffic on I-5.

 Option 2 – Partial interchange configurations provide ramps to/from the north to Hayden Island; a complete interchange at Marine Drive with access to/from the south is provided through the Marine Drive interchange and an arterial bridge connection between Marine Drive and Hayden Island.

 Option 3 – No interchange configurations omit direct access to Hayden Island via I-5; access is available through the Marine Drive interchange and arterial bridges from Portland to Hayden Island.”

Option 3 with local bridges from the Marine Drive interchange, a MAX stop and bicycle-ped connections is much more rational and cheaper. It meets the needs of Washington shoppers and Hayden residents. Option 1 was an idea to support a Port of Portland facility on Western Hayden Island that was abandoned. Ironically it was once considered for bulk coal loading.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Agreed. I’m shocked that they threw out Option 3 based on–from what I can tell–too many trucks going to and from Hayden Island if it were just an arterial bridge. How is that possible? The only semis on the bridge would be those making deliveries to the stores there–what, 20 a day maybe? I can’t fathom how an arterial bridge couldn’t handle that demand. I think more likely the minor inconvenience for WA shoppers was the real reason.

kernals12
Guest
kernals12

In 2009, Washington DC widened the Woodrow Wilson Bridge from 6 lanes to 10. In 2001, the bridge had carried 200,000 vehicles per day. In 2019, it was… 250,000 vehicles per day. That’s a 25% increase in traffic for a 66% increase in lane capacity. And this was over a period of time when the population of the Washington DC area rose by 29%.

If traffic does wind up coming back after expanding this bridge, ODOT should congratulate itself for allowing 66% more people get across the Columbia River and start planning a widening of the I-205 bridge or an entirely new bridge.

Douglas Kelso
Guest
Douglas Kelso

Better approach: get rid of the Hayden Island interchange entirely, and access Hayden Island via the Marine Drive interchange and the West Arterial Bridge.

Generally, this is a big improvement over the IBR. So it’s probably DOA.

John L
Guest
John L

Here is a pretty good writeup on CSZ.

I’ve been in two large quakes (in CA) so I’m far from a quake-denier. However, I think seismic concerns are often misused to stampede the public into unnecessary things, while the necessary things don’t get done because they don’t lead to outsized profit or gain.

https://www.clarkcountytoday.com/news/what-is-the-seismic-risk-of-the-cascadia-subduction-zone-and-earthquakes-in-the-pacific-northwest/

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Thanks, good read. I think when we speak of the odds of a major CSZ quake, people perhaps don’t understand how localized that magnitude will be–the 14% chance of M9 is anywhere in the CSZ region. There’s certianly a chance of large ground motions in Portland, but that’s quite unlikely to be the case even if the M9 CSZ happens.

Whether that probability makes the IBR necessary or not is another question, but we should definitely be honest about the risk we’re spending a billion dollars to mitigate.

Bridge builder
Guest
Bridge builder

As I recall the reason this project didn’t come to fruition 10 years ago, washdot didn’t want to contribute. They were already committed to SR520 and several other costly projects.

Let's Active
Guest
Let's Active

Looks like Hardesty is on-board with the 8-lane alternative, including light rail …
https://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2022/05/05/41921706/interstate-bridge-engineers-propose-eight-lane-design-with-light-rail

“City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the city’s transportation bureau and is a member of the ESG, said that while the bridge proposal is not what Portland leaders would have designed, it is a reasonable compromise.

“Today we see a recommended alternative that is not perfect and not what [the city of Portland] would have designed because it is likely that it could result in a marginal increase in automobile capacity,” Hardesty said during the ESG meeting. “But… we finally have before us a project design that appears acceptable with certain conditions that will help us make sure the project delivers on its goals.””