A data driven Interstate Bridge solution 50 years into the future

How many vehicles would have to be removed from the Interstate Bridge to improve congestion?
Photo by Mike Schultz

How many vehicles would have to be removed from the Interstate Bridge to improve congestion?

By 2060, there might be 290,000 daily vehicle movements on the I-5 corridor. There may also be over 260,000 vehicles on the I-205 corridor. They act as a system, handling north-south travel and freight movement. How does WSDOT and ODOT plan to handle these 550,000 plus vehicles? That’s an increase of 250,000 vehicles above today’s level of traffic.

All of them are likely to be electric powered if Governors Jay Inslee and Kate Brown are right, mandating 100 percent of vehicles not be powered by fossil fuels well before 2060. But both the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and Portland’s Metro agree there will be a significant increase in the numbers of automobiles on the road in 2040.

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said last week “If we tell ourselves, we have no power to change things, then guess what, we really have no power to change things,” Hardesty said. “We’re actually building for 50 years into the future, this conversation would be going differently.” 

By 2070, 50 years into the future, there could be an estimated 610,000 vehicles seeking to cross the Columbia River if the growth that was projected for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) is continued into the future. The ODOT and WSDOT officials projected annual growth of roughly 5,100 vehicles crossing the river each year.

The RTC’s 2019 Regional Transportation Plan shows projected number of trips to Oregon in 2040 compared to 2015. Trips increase overall, with a majority done by auto. They project an increase in transit ridership, contrary to the decline C-TRAN has experienced the past decade. Graphic courtesy Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council
The RTC’s 2019 Regional Transportation Plan shows projected number of trips to Oregon in 2040 compared to 2015. Trips increase overall, with a majority done by auto. They project an increase in transit ridership, contrary to the decline C-TRAN has experienced the past decade. Graphic courtesy Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council

Interstate Bridge Replacement Program (IBR) Administrator Greg Johnson has promised to be “data driven.” That is what Governors Kate Brown and Jay Inslee promised when creating the program just over two years ago. His team will conduct a tolling and traffic analysis later this year, after a specific bridge design is chosen as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the project.

Johnson closed out the tolling discussion at the Executive Steering Group (ESG) meeting last week by saying his team is looking very closely at whether or not, and by how much, tolling can impact demand. “If we can change demand, by doing some of these things, we will come back to this group and say, this is what we found,” he said. “If we can’t change demand, on the other hand, we will come back to this group and say, This is what we found.”

Several members of the ESG were interested in using tolling to reduce demand, by creating a financial incentive for people to avoid driving. Vancouver Councilor Bart Hanson worries we’ll be creating “roads for the rich” if the price of tolls is too high.

The data on traffic

The IBR team will do a tolling and a traffic analysis later this year, but after they propose a final design for the bridge. Portland bridge opponent Joe Cortright has lamented that they will be doing the opposite of what Gov. Brown promised – a traffic analysis prior to determining the best solution.

According to the RTC, the number of vehicles using both the Interstate Bridge and the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge was over 304,000 in 2019, prior to the pandemic. The Interstate Bridge carried 138,500 vehicles and the Glenn Jackson Bridge carried 166,100. Traffic volumes have returned to “near” normal as the pandemic enters its third year.

ODOT reported that the I-5 bridge corridor had exceeded its design capacity in the mid 1990s. They further reported that the I-205 corridor had reached its design capacity limit a decade later, in the mid 2000’s.

The IBR team reported last fall that the northbound I-5 corridor is congested and a bottleneck seven hours a day, from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The southbound I-5 corridor is a bottleneck five hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) traffic projections used 2005 and 2008 data according to transportation architect Kevin Peterson. They indicated in 2030, the Interstate Bridge would carry 184,000 vehicles and 288,000 vehicles by 2058. The Glenn Jackson Bridge would carry 215,000 vehicles by 2030 and 261,000 by 2058. That indicates our north-south system would need to handle 549,000 vehicles just 26 years after the expected opening of the replacement Interstate Bridge.

Citizens might wonder what our regional transportation planners are doing to handle that “old” projected increase of 250,000 daily vehicles crossing the Columbia River by 2060? Is it realistic to expect tolls to eliminate nearly one quarter million vehicles crossing the river each day?

Our RTC estimated the majority of the 30,000 increased daily trips across the Columbia River in 2040 would be by auto, in their 2019 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). 

“For trips to Oregon in the 2040 RTP, 86.3% are forecast to be taken by auto, 12.3% transit, and 1.4% non-motorized. The number of Clark County residents crossing the river to Oregon in 2015 is about 170,000 daily and 200,000 daily in the 2040 RTP which includes an I-5 bridge replacement. By 2040 the transit use is forecast to nearly double.

If the RTC is correct in their assumptions, an additional 25,800 trips (86 percent) will be made across the Columbia River using privately owned vehicles. If transit ridership doubles (opposite the C-TRAN experience of declining ridership on express buses), then 3,600 trips would be using transit.

Traffic growth has occurred faster on I-205 compared to I-5, according to the IBR team. This shows vehicle numbers for 2005 compared to 2019. The two freeways and bridges act as a system, handling vehicles and freight movement between the two states. Graphic courtesy Interstate Bridge Replacement Program
Traffic growth has occurred faster on I-205 compared to I-5, according to the IBR team. This shows vehicle numbers for 2005 compared to 2019. The two freeways and bridges act as a system, handling vehicles and freight movement between the two states. Graphic courtesy Interstate Bridge Replacement Program

“It’s going to be multimodal, because we know that the highway mode can’t handle all of the current and future needs through this corridor,” Johnson told CCT editor Ken Vance last fall. (Ken’s column here). 

“We know that there has to be other outlets and also other outlets like high capacity transit,” he said. “They look like walking and biking. They look like connecting and moving people in a way, that takes some of the pressure off of the automobile mode all together.” 

“Now, make no doubt about it, we know that currently there’s 143,000 folks in cars that want to get through this corridor,” Johnson said. “We are not going to build something that is going to seek to punish them out of their vehicles. But what we’re looking to do is give people alternatives.”

How many people can transit handle? 

The people have not said they want “alternatives;” they want to save time, driving in their privately owned vehicles. The data shows that. The 2018 PEMCO survey showed 94 percent of people in Portland and Seattle metro areas prefer their cars.

Three extensive community surveys conducted by Johnson’s team indicate 7 out of 10 people want to save time driving their cars; 78 percent in SW Washington.

Oregon Sen. Lew Frederick asked Johnson “how much time will people save?” The response was a convoluted ‘not much,’ as Johnson tried to thread a needle of people pushing to add no new lanes to I-5, which include Metro’s Lynn Peterson and Portland’s Hardesty.

Interstate 5 and I-205 function as a system, providing north-south transportation capacity for Oregon and Washington. How many vehicles would have to be removed from the two freeways in order to save people enough time to provide value for a $3 to $5 billion investment? 

C-TRAN has offered the only cross-river transit service in the metro area, with seven separate express bus lines. Ridership has been in decline for years, even prior to the pandemic.

Average weekday ridership on express routes to Portland:

  • 2016 – 3,040
  • 2017 – 2,874
  • 2018 – 2,844
  • 2019 – 2,892
  • 2020 — 971

That 3,040 “ridership” number means 1,520 single occupancy vehicles were taken off the road in 2016. While every little bit helps, the 1,520 vehicles is a rounding error on the over 300,000 vehicles using the two bridges each day.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program team shared that the I-5 corridor is congested with multiple bottlenecks in the program area. This 14-mile segment of Northbound I-5 is a bottleneck for at least seven hours a day, starting at the Capitol Highway. Graphic courtesy Interstate Bridge Replacement Program
The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program team shared that the I-5 corridor is congested with multiple bottlenecks in the program area. This 14-mile segment of Northbound I-5 is a bottleneck for at least seven hours a day, starting at the Capitol Highway. Graphic courtesy Interstate Bridge Replacement Program

Last summer, C-TRAN announced permanent cuts in all their service areas, including reducing cross-river bus service by roughly half. Ridership had declined by 58 percent at one point. Portland’s TriMet announced they don’t expect their transit ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels for six years.

C-TRAN bus ridership peaked in 1999 at 7.75 million annual passenger boardings. It’s been hovering around 6 million boardings for the past few years. TriMet ridership peaked in 2012 and had lost over 5 million annual originating rides by 2019. The TriMet system currently has 1 million fewer boarding riders daily than before the pandemic.

Oregon Transportation Commissioner (OTC) Robert Van Brocklin recently said only 4 percent of people in Portland use transit. Other data indicates while some Portland neighborhoods use transit at a much higher rate, the broader metro area transit ridership remains low. Since the IBRP is a regional issue, how likely is it that the region will embrace greater transit ridership across the Columbia River?

An April 2019 OTC survey asked “what would you like transportation officials to do about traffic congestion?”  The responses indicated 51 percent want to “expand and improve interstates and interstate bridges.” Another 14 percent want to “expand and improve arterials”. That makes 65 percent of Oregon respondents want to expand vehicle capacity and improve roads.

Only 3 percent of respondents to the OTC survey supported tolling to and from Washington. Transit was supported by 11 percent, and carpooling and/or changing travel times was supported by just 6 percent. 

Is it possible for Johnson’s team to provide “incentives” for 50,000 or 100,000 people to give up their privately owned vehicles and ride transit or their bicycles?  The data shows people are avoiding transit in ever greater numbers. The data shows citizens on both sides of the river want expanded “bridges and freeways.”

RTC’s 2040 plan

The RTC projects transportation and travel demands into the future for Southwest Washington. Their 2019 RTP for 2040 shows automobile use as the overwhelming choice both now and in 2040, nearly a decade after a new Interstate Bridge opens.

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on an average weekday in Clark County in 2015 totaled about 8.3 million. By 2040, VMT is forecast to grow nearly 50 percent to over 12 million daily VMT.

In looking at mode choice, in 2015, 90 percent of all trips generated in Clark County were taken by auto, 1.6 percent transit, and 8.4 percent non-motorized (pedestrian or bicycle). The 2040 RTP forecasts 89.7 percent trips taken by auto, 2.2 percent transit, and 8.1 percent non-motorized. 

Metro’s 2018 Regional Transportation Plan for 2040 shows total daily trips growing by 2 million. The majority of trips will be taken by private vehicles. They project an increase in trips by transit, contrary to the decline in TriMet ridership for the past decade. Graphic courtesy Metro RTP
Metro’s 2018 Regional Transportation Plan for 2040 shows total daily trips growing by 2 million. The majority of trips will be taken by private vehicles. They project an increase in trips by transit, contrary to the decline in TriMet ridership for the past decade. Graphic courtesy Metro RTP

The RTC still believes cars will be the top choice for transportation in 2040. Metro agrees as well with their RTP projections.

For trips made to Oregon in 2015, the RTC reports 93.2 percent were auto, 5.7 percent transit, and 1 percent non-motorized. In the 2040 RTP, 86.3 percent are forecast to be taken by auto, 12.3 percent transit, and 1.4 percent non-motorized. Note the optimistic 115 percent increase in transit ridership.

The number of Clark County trips crossing the river to Oregon in 2015 is about 170,000 daily and 200,000 daily in the 2040 RTP which includes an I-5 bridge replacement. By 2040 the transit use is forecast to nearly double. The estimate appears to show roughly 25,000 transit trips of 200,000 total crossing the river.  

Portland’s Metro also has projections for 2040 in their RTP. They show a modest increase in transit ridership, compared to 2018. But the overwhelming majority of Portland area people will continue to travel via privately owned vehicles.

Total daily trips will increase by over 2 million, roughly one third of the 6 million daily trips in 2018. While Metro projects TriMet’s transit ridership will more than double by 2040, it handles well under one million of the 8.5 million total projected daily trips.

Bikes and pedestrian travel are and will remain rounding errors, when it comes to crossing the Columbia River. Johnson’s own data shows people using  “active transportation” in the “hundreds,” not thousands, nor tens of thousands.

Traffic numbers for both the Interstate Bridge and the Glenn Jackson Bridge are shown by 5-year periods from 1985 to 2019. Transportation architect Kevin Peterson used 2005 and 2008 CRC data to project vehicle numbers for 2030 and 2058. The future growth estimated about 5,100 new vehicles crossing the Columbia River each year. Graphic by John Ley
Traffic numbers for both the Interstate Bridge and the Glenn Jackson Bridge are shown by 5-year periods from 1985 to 2019. Transportation architect Kevin Peterson used 2005 and 2008 CRC data to project vehicle numbers for 2030 and 2058. The future growth estimated about 5,100 new vehicles crossing the Columbia River each year. Graphic by John Ley

The IBR promises data is coming in the next few months. Will Johnson be true to the data? How will the IBR team, and how will ODOT and WSDOT propose to handle the 100,000 additional vehicles expected for 2030, two years before a replacement bridge opens? How will they propose to handle the expected quarter million more vehicles expected to cross the Columbia River in 2060?

Both Governor Jay Inslee and Kate Brown promised to be “data driven” when they created the agreement in Nov. 2019. Brown promised to get the data first, during the press conference. Sadly that hasn’t happened, two years into the project. 

Johnson’s team promised a “data dump” was coming this spring, during last week’s meeting of the ESG. Citizens will be watching closely to see if the final proposal from Johnson’s team is data driven.

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jim
6 months ago

Why would any knowledgeable person expect transit market share to increase? Transit has been on a 100 year decline since the introduction of affordable cars (except for gas rationing during WWII). And for good reason:

Reason #1 – Transit Is Slow
Most transit is much slower than driving, and a lot of transit is slower than cycling.

Reason #2 – It Doesn’t Go Where You Want to Go
Most transit is oriented to downtown, a destination few people go to anymore. If you don’t want to go downtown, transit is practically useless.

Reason #3 – It’s Expensive
The transit industry claims that transit saves people money. But the truth is that, for most people, it costs a lot less to drive than to ride transit.

Reason #4 – Lack of Privacy and Security
Compared with the aura of security offered by riding inside of an automobile, many people avoid transit because they feel vulnerable and threatened by other riders.

Reason #5 – Our Cities Aren’t Built for It
Housing, jobs, and other destinations are so diffused throughout American urban areas that they don’t generate the large numbers of people moving from one point to another that mass transit systems need to work.

Reason #6 – Infrastructure Is Crumbling
Rather than maintain transit systems in a state of good repair, the transit industry has chosen to build more transit lines that it can’t afford to maintain. Transit riders respond to delays and dilapidated transit by finding other methods of travel.

Reason #7 —It Doesn’t Carry Freight
Carrying large packages, suitcases, or shopping bags on transit is awkward at best and impossible at worst. Anyone who expects to travel with such cargo, even if only some of the time, will do best with a car.

Reason #8 – Life Is Complicated
Transit works best going from point A to point B if you happen to be near point A and want to get to point B. Transit doesn’t work well for trip chaining, going from point A to point B via points C, D, and E. Because life is complicated and people don’t want to spend all their time traveling, trip chaining works best in an independent vehicle such as a car.

Reason #9 – It’s Demeaning
“Exact change only.” “Carry proof of fare with you at all times.” “No food or beverage.” “No playing music aloud.” “Take off your backpack and put it between your legs so we can cram more people onto your transit vehicle.”

Compiled from a series of posts beginning at http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=12694
and collected at http://www.debunkingportland.com/why_don't_ride_transit.html

RCxyz
RCxyz
6 months ago

ODOT will have to significantly increase their ‘punish driver’ strategies to get any of that mass transit to work. Even then, the mass transit will not be financially sound.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
6 months ago

Any new bridge would no doubt have toll gates thus causing huge traffic jams even worse than the old bridge.

John Ley
John Ley
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael Walsh

Michael —

Both ODOT & WSDOT (and the IBR team) expect no “toll gates”. They will use electronic toll collection systems, like what is used in the Seattle area for I-405 and other tolled bridges and roads. FYI.

If you don’t have one of the electronic transponders on you windshield, they will take multiple photos of the car, it’s license plates, and the driver. They will mail you a bill, with an added handling charge to cover a small part of the mailing and personnel costs to collect the toll.

Margaret
Margaret
6 months ago

For the previous CRC I-5 bridge replacement,
average weekday vehicle count across the I-5 Bridge per CRC
2005 – 134,000 vehicles , 2006 – 3300 bus trips 
Annual Express Bus trips across the River in years 2016-2020 is lower than that.
However rosy predictions made for huge spike in Transit trips (light rail or bus) by CRC
2030 178,500 vehicles     20,600 mass transit trips, of that, 18,700 on light rail
Is that realistic after a decade of declines in bus ridership?

Chris
Chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Margaret

The goal was to have lightrail running every 10 to 15 minutes during peak hours. May not be realistic given demand but would probably be doable with upgrades to the system at the time.

John Ley
John Ley
6 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris —

“Yes”, with a follow on question. What are the “upgrades”, and what is the cost of the “upgrades” for the MAX Yellow line to carry 18,700 people on an average weekday?

Do we have to save “capacity” for Portland residents? Or can Clark County residents use 100% of that capacity?

Those are the biggest questions surrounding light rail. And then of course, not many people want to travel 15 MPH to get to downtown Portland, to then change to a different light rail line or switch to a bus. But for now, we need to see how many MAX trains would need to be run, in order to carry that 18,700 people.

Frank Hood
Frank Hood
6 months ago

Is this article “news” or “editorial” ?

Dreni
Dreni
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Hood

Looks like speculation to me. I prefer facts

Dreni
Dreni
6 months ago

There are a lot of “could be”, “may”, and “might” statements. I prefer facts over suggestions.

John Ley
John Ley
6 months ago
Reply to  Dreni

Drenj:

One of the “problems” is that the “facts” that were cited in the article, came from 2005 and 2008 ODOT & WSDOT data. There are no “updated” facts on traffic projection numbers for the program to use.

Therefore, the best we could do is to use data from the RTC and from Metro in their 2040 Regional Transportation Plans (RTP). Because those were “future” projections, and didn’t come from ODOT or WSDOT or the IBR team, I stated them, and then said the vehicle numbers “might” be 250,000 additional vehicles.

None of us know what technology will be in 40 years, that changes how people travel. None of us know for sure, how much or how little, paying tolls will impact the number of vehicles crossing the Columbia River.

And that’s all part of the story.

Gov. Kate Brown “promised” in the Nov. 2019 signing ceremony to do an updated traffic survey BEFORE the program offers the right “solution”. That has not yet happened.

We pointed out the “fact” that the IBR team has said they will proposed a “modified LPA” prior to conducting the tolling and traffic analysis.

We added as many “facts” as we could reasonably gather. We asked the RTC’s Matt Ransom for some updated numbers. He said his staff “might” get back to us by the end of the week.

Dreni
Dreni
6 months ago
Reply to  John Ley

Why report speculation about what the future “might” hold? If you don’t know, and nobody knows, what’s the point in guessing? This isn’t news…it’s painting your picture of might be.

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
6 months ago
Reply to  Dreni

Would you prefer to wait until 2040 to see what we should have built in the ’20s?
We can only predict, speculate what the future “might” hold (unless you have a crystal ball and can tell us).

Dreni
Dreni
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Walker

“Maybe” we won’t need a bridge at all because we “might be” in flying cars or teleporting.

See, that isn’t news…it’s silly speculation and completely unnecessary. “Might be” is a red flag any time I read “news” because it’s opinion and not fact. Some call it fake news.

Margaret
Margaret
11 days ago
Reply to  Dreni

RTC uses secretive modeling to predict the future, based on assumptions that are not readily available to the public. Such as overly optimistic forecasts of how many people will use light rail to bolster the most expensive transit option, light rail, vs the most economical and efficient option, public transit buses, vans, and vehicles that share the road with other vehicles and do not require fixed tracks below or overhead lines above. So far, the predictions made a decade ago about huge transit ridership increases have not come true, ridership has declined.

Tom Gentry
Tom Gentry
6 months ago

Thank you, John, for trying to illustrate the transportation issues facing our area. Kind of like grabbing a greased pig, isn’t it. Why isn’t the I-5 corridor looked at as an entity? We need planning like Portland had in the 70’s with a different result i.e., improved travel options rather than “ghost ramps”,

John Ley
John Ley
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Gentry

Tom —

Thanks for your continuing work on the Community Advisory Group.

The short answer to your question of “why isn’t the I-5 corridor looked at” is — because they “chose” to limit the area to 5 miles, when they submitted the LPA in the CRC, to the federal government for the EIS.

They are now TIED to that original EIS and by “choice”, they led you and citizens down a path indicating they “couldn’t” modify the “Purpose and Need” without triggering an entirely NEW EIS submission. Therefore they were intentionally hamstringing the current project to the old, FAILED CRC’s Purpose and Need, and EIS.

I believe they intentionally made the “choice” to limit the project area to 5 miles. That way they avoided having to talk about the Rose Quarter!

Portland does NOT want us seeking more lanes through the Rose Quarter to handle traffic better for the entire corridor.

But clearly, “common sense” says you have to discuss the entire transportation corridor. Especially when we’re talking about an investment of $3 Billion to $5 billion!

Because they REFUSED to address the Rose Quarter, the CRC was likely to FAIL because it provided only a ONE minute improvement in the morning commute.

All this gets back to the entire “purpose” of the CRC, which was providing a path for light rail, into Vancouver. Absent the MAX extension, the Portland leadership was not interested in talking.

All indications are we are back in the same mode now. They have intentionally tied the communities hands with the failed CRCs “Purpose and Need”.

That increases the likelihood of another failure this time. But we will see what the final recommendation will be, later this spring and summer.

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
6 months ago

What this opinion piece fails to consider is that it simply isn’t possible for everyone to commute in a single occupancy vehicle in a large city. With all the constantly expanding freeways in Los Angeles, you would think they would have free flowing traffic – nope, some of the worst in the nation. Not to mention that building a huge bridge would just move the bottleneck to North Portland where the freeway is 6 lanes. Portland would never agree to tear down thousands of homes (during a housing crisis none the less) to expand said freeway, regardless of how much Clark County wants it.

The best policies are to:

1. Build more housing closer to employment centers to limit the amount of people with long commutes.
2. Expand and improve public transportation to make it more competitive with driving.
3. Use congestion pricing to encourage people to drive outside of peak hours.
4. Pass incentives for major employers to spread out shifts instead of just having all shifts 9-5.

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
6 months ago

#1. It’s a bit late for that.
#2. Mass transit is a money hole and it’s getting worse.
#3. It hurts the people most who are unable to afford it.
#4. We already have shifts and we all ready have gridlock.

John Ley
John Ley
12 days ago

Rip City —

It is also “impossible” for mass transit to carry all the people desiring to cross the Columbia River on the I-5 corridor.

The IBR’s “choice” of MAX light rail means the Yellow Line can only handle just over 1,000 boarding riders per hour. Furthermore, the MAX trains can only offer seating to 40 percent of their passengers. The Yellow Line train only travels 14 mph because there is a stop every mile.

TriMet has now told citizens they expect the cost of the 3-mile extension of MAX into Vancouver to cost up to $1.3 billion. That’s $430 million per mile.

That is an outrageous waste of scarce taxpayer transportation dollars, when a $50 million C-Tran Bus Rapid Transit line could serve even more people from all around Clark County.

You want to “expand and improve public transportation”. That HAS HAPPENED and yet FEWER people are using public transportation today than ever.

C-Tran ridership peaked at 7.75 million annual boardings back in 1999. Ridership was hovering around 6 million boardings prior to the pandemic lockdowns.

TriMet ridership peaked around 2012, at the end of the “Great Recession”. Ridership is down several million annual boardings.

Furthermore, TriMet has built TWO new MAX light rail lines in the past decade. Yet ridership in 2019 was BELOW total ridership numbers when the Orange line opened in Sept 2009, and again when the Green line opened in Sept. 2015.

So adding very expensive new public transit doesn’t guarantee anyone will actually use it.

The simplest test of your recommended “solution” would be for TriMet to add some new cross river service from multiple neighborhoods in the Portland metro area. We could see “if” any new riders were attracted. The buses are infinitely more flexible in where and when they offer service.

Why doesn’t TriMet offer cheaper, faster bus service over the Columbia River into Clark County? Could it be there is no demand for public transit?

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
6 months ago

In addition to the I5 bridges being replaced, two new bridges will be needed for the increasing traffic load.
During the lockdown recovery, as airline flights were resuming, it was plain to see that as the traffic from Airport Way onto I205 increased, the gridlock south of Airport Way increased.
While Airport Way, Sandy Blvd, and I205 were becoming overutilized, I84 EB was underutilized.
I would propose a bridge over the Columbia in the Portland NE 181st/Airport Way corridor and connect to Camas 192nd. This is a no-brainer.
The second bridge is much more out-of-the-box.
We need to extend NW 78th St west, across a causeway across Vancouver Lake, immediately parallel the slough, over the river and Sauvie Island and tunnel through the hills NW of Linnton and connect to Cornelius Pass Road and NW 185th Ave, with additional access to Kaiser/Bethany.
All freight to/from Seattle to Washington county could bypass Portland. Daily commuters would have a direct connection between a major housing region (Vancouver) and a major employment region (Beaverton/Hillsboro).
There would be little need for Vancouver drivers to try to shortcut through the St. John’s neighborhood (which jams up SR30 and Germantown).
The 26 tunnel would be freed up for traffic NOT going north to Vancouver.
From I5 & 78th St to HWY 26 & Cornelius Pass road is 24 miles now. With this new bridge and tunnel, the distance would be 15 miles.
The drive time at 4:30 pm northbound is between 45 minutes and 1:25 hours. The new route wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, a savings of over an hour.
In all practicality, it would be better to build this new route before trying to replace the I5 bridges while they are in use.
Full disclosure: I don’t work or commute to Washington county more than once or twice a month. This is not my daily drive.

John Ley
John Ley
12 days ago
Reply to  Mark Walker

Mark —

You are describing what the SW WA Regional Transportation Council (RTC) identified as the “need”, in their 2008 RTC “Visioning Study”. They indicated TWO new bridges and transportation corridors were needed over the Columbia River.

They suggested two “options” for each new bridge and transportation corridor. One new bridge east of the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge could be at the location you suggest, connecting 181st in Portland to 192nd Ave. in east Vancouver. The other location would connect Troutdale to Camas/Washougal.

They also suggested a new bridge west of the I-5 Interstate Bridge. They also provided two “options” for that as well.

Here’s a news report on that visioning study, including the map the RTC provided showing all four suggested options for new bridges.

https://www.clarkcountytoday.com/news/regional-transportation-council-urged-to-revisit-2008-transportation-corridors-visioning-study/

Common sense tells us that every major city around the world has a “ring road”, which allows traffic and freight the ability to bypass going into the crowded inner core of the city.

We need a western bypass. We need a new eastern bridge to reduce vehicles on I-205 as well.

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