Report: Traffic projections ‘invalidate the transportation rationale for the CRC’

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traffic on i-5 -1

Tolls and traffic projections for the CRC project
raise new questions.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Economist Joe Cortright says new traffic projections from a previously undisclosed report reveals an inconvenient truth about the Columbia River Crossing project. The plan to toll the existing I-5 bridge span (starting in 2016) would lead to nearly 50,000 people per day opting to drive over the I-205 bridge instead. As a result, not only would I-205 (and its feeder routes I-84 and SR 14) become jammed during rush hour, but there would be a significant decrease in traffic on I-5 which raises new questions about the wisdom of spending $2.7 billion to significantly expand its capacity.

This analysis is detailed in a new, 12-page report by Cortright’s firm, Impresa Consulting Inc. (PDF). Cortright obtained the underlying data via a public records request from the CRC and the records come from a traffic modeling report performed by CRC contractors CDM Smith.

Here’s more from the summary of Impresa’s report:

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As CRC re-birth looms, activists launch phone tree campaign

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Anti-CRC event at Crank Bicycles-3

Like the project itself, anti-CRC activism is back.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As you might have heard thanks to reporting by the Willamette Week, the Columbia River Crossing project is very much alive. Oregon legislators who once said cooperation from Washington was imperative, have conveniently scuttled that narrative and are preparing to push the project through regardless of any bi-state partnership.

However, as the CRC readies for another starring role in Salem in a few weeks, a coalition of grassroots activists who have been working for years to stymie the project have once again come together in hopes of convincing legislators that it’s a bad idea. Organized by Bike Walk Vote, a political action committee, their new effort is called, “Operation CRC: Commotion & Ruckus Campaign.”

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BTA, enviro groups send anti-CRC letter to Kitzhaber

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(Graphic: 1000 Friends of Oregon)

It appears that regional non-profits might be finally awakening for a fight against the Columbia River Crossing project.

This morning, 11 organizations — including 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Sierra Club, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance — laid out their opposition to the CRC in a strongly-worded letter addressed to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. The letter was also sent to legislative leaders and key staffers at the governor’s office.

In the letter, the non-profits made their case against the project and urged Kitzhaber to vote against funding the current CRC plan. After the project was left for dead back in June, it has come roaring back to life in the last month. Now, backers want Oregon to go-it-alone with a plan that puts our state in an even dicier financial position.

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The Columbia River Crossing is alive

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OK. Maybe not.

It may be a hot Friday afternoon in the middle of August, but the president of the Oregon Senate has spent it making calls to key legislators, counting votes for a possible resurrection of the Columbia River Crossing.

That’s the latest word from Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), a longtime backer of the CRC who said a one-day special session that would include a new deal on the big highway-rail project is possible, but not likely.

“I would say right now the chances of a special session are at best 50-50, maybe not even that high,” said Monroe, a former Metro councilor who sits on the Business and Transportation Committee and the special committee regarding the CRC.

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A new ‘Common Sense’ vision for a Columbia crossing

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Anti 12-lane CRC Ride-38

Could a new bridge plan save money
by putting the old one to use?
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As the Portland region’s freeway planners lick their wounds over the death of the Columbia River Crossing, one of the region’s longstanding anti-freeway warriors is seizing the moment of quiet to push a new plan that he says would be far less expensive.

Jim Howell, a longtime citizen activist and former TriMet bus planner who helped lead opposition to both the Mount Hood Freeway and the Columbia River Crossing, has an out-of-the-box idea:

  • Scrap most of the highway enlargements that were part of the Columbia River Crossing.
  • Build a new eight-lane highway bridge immediately upstream of the current Interstate Bridge.
  • Repurpose the Interstate Bridge as a two-lane local street, a light rail crossing and a pair of dedicated cycle tracks.

Interesting? You bet. Howell, the volunteer strategic planning director for the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, says the whole thing would cost $1 billion, compared to the Columbia River Crossing plan’s $3.1 to $3.5 billion.

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It’s starting: Vancouver event seeks “alternative” Columbia River crossing ideas

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CRC Rally-121

Want a smarter bridge? Show up tomorrow.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

That didn’t take long.

Less than two weeks after the Columbia River Crossing was proclaimed dead, a non-profit in Vancouver is hosting an open house to gather “alternative proposals” to the “failed megaproject”. The event is being organized by ThirdBridgeNow.com, an advocacy group that has been pushing their vision of the I-5 crossing for years and who have been re-energized after the demise of the CRC.

“Come be part of the solution!” reads the event flyer. ThirdBridgeNow.com also lists nine steps they say can be taken now for “immediate congestion relief on I-5”:

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Did we learn anything from Portland’s newest dead freeway?

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Anti 12-lane CRC Ride-12

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Columbia River Crossing highway-rail expansion project died with a whimper two weeks ago, and Portland’s low-car transportation advocates have just started to rub their eyes and organize their celebrations.

With this big project in the rear-view, we want to ask the BikePortland community what the Portland region has learned.

To inspire your thoughts (and further actions) here’s a roundup of some ways the Portland area is adjusting to a post-CRC reality:

Celebrations: The meme factory workers at OMG CRC WTF are organizing a celebration July 22 at Velo Cult to recognize the victory and talk about what’s next. There’s also what looks like quite a crowded happy hour this Friday at Produce Row.

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I-5 bridge (not that one) collapses, spin begins

Cover of today’s Seattle Times.

In case you haven’t heard, a bridge on Interstate 5 north of Seattle collapsed and toppled into the Skagit River last night. Two cars fell into the river but amazingly no one was seriously hurt. Reports say it was caused when a large semi truck hit a steel beam truss which caused the bridge to wobble and then crack.

Almost immediately, folks wondered how this eye-popping infrastructure failure would impact the discussion around the Columbia River Crossing project. And almost immediately, the spin began from the pro-CRC side. Here’s a snip from a Portland Tribune story posted this morning:

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CRC update: Astroturf, Alice, and more cheerleading in The Oregonian

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Graphic from Washington For CRC on Facebook.

If reports on Twitter are to be trusted, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is all set to sign The CRC Bill (HB 2800) into law on Tuesday. While that’s no surprise, there are a few other items related to the Columbia River Crossing project that have recently caught our eye.

— A reader has tipped us off to WashingtonForCRC.org and what looks like a classic astroturf campaign. And by that I mean a corporate PR effort made to seem like an organic, grassroots lobbying effort. Now that Oregon has effectively signed-off on it, it looks like the pushers of this controversial mega-project have wasted no time trying to improve public sentiment on other side of the river. It’s a smart move, given that if the project’s outlook doesn’t improve in Washington soon, it won’t move forward. WashingtonForCRC.org comes complete with a super-slick website listing “facts” about the project (which are taken directly from paid CRC consultants’ talking points), an active Facebook and Twitter presence, and even a cute logo of a bridge with a heart on it.

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Oregon state Senator Chip Shields explains why he voted for the CRC bill

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Senator Chip Shields.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Many of you where surprised and disappointed when Oregon State Senator Chip Shields voted in favor of HB 2800, a.k.a. the CRC bill. Shields is a Democrat who represents the north and northeast Portland district that will be most immediately impact by this massive freeway expansion project.

Shields’ vote was surprising because many of his constituents urged him to vote no and he is someone who understands the impacts this project will have. No one knew why Shields voted yes because he hadn’t responded to any constituent emails about the bill. Until now. Several BikePortland readers have just sent me a note from Sen. Shields that explains why he voted yes.

Read Shields’ full email below (emphases mine):

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Oregon Senate passes CRC bill 18-11

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Sen. Chip Shields, who represents
north and northeast Portland, was one
of 18 yes votes.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Senate passed HB 2800 (the CRC bill) today by a vote of 18-11. The vote comes just a week after the House passed it 45-11. The bill will now be signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber.

The bill was carried by Senators Lee Beyer and Bruce Starr, both of whom spoke at length about the project’s benefits and urgency.

Beyer said “the time has come” before rattling of a list of conditions in the bill that must be fulfilled before Oregon can sell $450 million in bonds. One of the questions he offered an answer to was whether or not the $27 million per year bond repayments will impact other transportation projects. That has been a key concern from opponents of the project and has not been clearly answered by ODOT and CRC staff. Beyer said on the Senate floor today that the answer is “To be frank, no and yes.” He said since the project wouldn’t begin construction until 2014, no other priorities would be impacted until then. “On the other hand,” he continued, “the [Oregon] Transportation Commission and the his legislature is always in a position of having to prioritize projects since there’s never enough money. In transportation funding, there’s a sense of everyone taking its turn. And at this point, because of its impact on the entire state economy, the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project is on the top of the list.”

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