VANCOUVER — Fulfilling her desired goal of presenting viable transportation congestion solutions and listening to the thoughts and concerns of Clark County citizens, Rep. Liz Pike held the third in a series of Transportation Solutions Legislative Town Hall meetings Saturday at Washington State University Vancouver’s Dengerink Administration building.
Pike began the series in February and continued it with a second town hall in May and the final of the three Saturday. The focus has been how to fix the transportation issues Clark County residents experience on a daily basis.
“Traffic congestion along the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 corridors between Portland, Oregon and Southwest Washington is getting worse,’’ Pike said. “Koin 6 News (in Portland) is reporting traffic volumes are up 300 percent from a year ago.
“Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd have pulled out of Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland,’’ Pike added. “Hundreds of thousands of shipping containers are now diverted to other West Coast ports, carried by trucks on our local interstate highways. Congestion will only get worse in our region.
“It’s time to move past the defunct Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project and focus on real solutions that will move people and freight through our region in the most efficient and affordable way.’’
Pike stressed that strong leadership is required now to address traffic congestion that is hampering this region’s economy.
“The solution is two-fold; create 50,000 new jobs in Clark County and identify new corridors to connect with Oregon,’’ said Pike, a Camas resident. “The former requires bold regulatory reform and a massive overhaul of Washington’s Growth Management Act. The latter requires a process whereby legislators from both sides of the river meet face-to-face to agree on a comprehensive plan that would address current and future transportation needs.’’
To offer those gathered Saturday a context for the transportation congestion issues facing Clark County residents, Pike led off her town hall with transportation architect and planner Kevin Peterson. Peterson, who also participated in the previous two town hall meetings, is a Washington resident with 35 years experience on transportation projects throughout the world.
Peterson is a strong advocate for new transportation corridors in the area. Referring to the failed CRC project, Peterson told the audience Saturday “that project killed discussions about new corridors. At the end of the day, there was no measurable benefit for that project.’’
Peterson also illustrated how traffic in the I-5 and I-205 corridors are already over capacity and informed those gathered that traffic on the two corridors would essentially double in the next 40 years.
New East County Bridge
Each of Pike’s three town halls included presentations for a new East County Bridge. At the last two meetings of the series, the presentation was given by Linda Figg, CEO and president of Figg Bridge Group.
Of all the proposals presented at Pike’s three town halls, the idea of a new East County Bridge was overwhelmingly the cheapest of the proposed solutions, at an estimated cost of $800 million.
The project, which would be located east of the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge likely near 192nd Ave. in Clark County and extending into Oregon, would provide four new traffic highway 12-foot lanes, two northbound and two southbound. The bridge would have wide safety shoulders — 8-foot inside and 10-foot outside in each direction. There would also be two, 12-foot multi-use protected pathways for pedestrian and bicycle experiences.
The bridge would be built with long spans to accommodate river traffic and would provide navigational clearances for Columbia River vessel requirements. It would also have gradual grades for better truck speed and mobility.
Figg displayed a company history of creating an environmentally friendly bridge design with long open spans to touch lightly on the river and context sensitive concrete bridge shapes that “provide beautiful aesthetics.’’
The sustainable, low maintenance concrete bridge would have a 150-year life.
Figg Bridge Builders has won three Presidential Awards through the National Endowment for the Arts. There’s only been five total for bridges, and Figg has won three of those five. The publication Roads & Bridges rated the top 25 bridges ever built, and named six constructed by Figg Bridge Builders in that list of 25.
“Each of those bridges that won an award was built because it was the lowest cost solution,’’ Figg told the audience Saturday.
Figg said the entire East County Bridge project could be completed in five years.
Practical Design Fly-over Near I-5
David Nelson, who lives in Vancouver near the I-5 bridge, once again presented his proposal for what he called a Practical Design Fly-over near I-5.
“The existing (I-5 bridge) has some significant issues,’’ said Nelson, who pointed out that the agreement for I-205 bridge had “15 pages and one drawing.’’
This project would provide four lanes in each direction over I-5, plus new SR 14 ramps in the form of a 2.2-mile bypass of Marine Drive, Hayden Island and the existing I-5 Bridge.
The project would convert the old bridge to local access and replace in the future with an at-grade local access bridge with lift span. It would also move the ship channel to the center of the Columbia River to avoid 95 percent of the bridge lifts.
Victory Blvd. intersection to Mill Plain Blvd. would require little new right-of-way acquisition.
Cost estimates for this project are $1.5 billion.
“There is a sense of urgency that our leaders don’t get,’’ Nelson said.
West Express Bridge/Tunnel
Bill Wagner, who also lives in Vancouver, has worked on development projects around the region. He was on hand Saturday to offer his proposal for a West Express Bridge/Tunnel.
“We need to stop thinking about bridges and start thinking about corridors,’’ Wagner told the audience Saturday.
This project is an eight-lane limited access corridor with three express lanes in each direction, flanked by dedicated high-speed merge and exit lanes in each direction, flanked by dedicated high-speed merge and exit lanes and featuring an elevated 20-mile bicycle and pedestrian path with horizon views of rivers, wetlands and the Cascade Mountain range.
The project would be built in five phases: Phase 1A and 1B, Vancouver to west Portland; Phase 2, west Portland to Beaverton/Hillsboro with tunnel under Forest Park; Phase 3, new 192nd Avenue Bridge to OR I-84; Phase 4, seismic retrofit of I-5 Bridge; Phase 5, Vancouver to I-5/north Clark County via Fruit Valley Road.
One estimate stated that this project could cost as much as $20 billion and take as many as 35 years to complete.
“Our two existing bridge crossings are gridlocked,’’ said Wagner, who welcomed the participation of Figg Bridge Group on his proposed project. “Let’s agree to this and get moving.’’
Many citizens on hand at Saturday’s town hall offered their input.
“My opinion is we need it all and we need more than this,’’ said Kyle Nickels, who works in the trucking business. “And, we need Oregon to fix their stuff.’’
Al Hayward suggested the lawmakers quit trying to work with Oregon and focus on getting help with the proposed projects from the federal government.
“We can take that and forget about Oregon and go right to the federal government,’’ Hayward said. “This is an interstate federal highway. They have the ultimate decision on it. Quit worrying about what Oregon thinks, what Washington thinks, and get the job done.’’
Robert Schalk shared a popular sentiment in the room Saturday.
“Everybody says we have a capacity problem,’’ Schalk said. “You’ve heard that word. We need to take that out of our dictionary. What we have is a lack of lane capacity.
“We need new corridors, multiple corridors,’’ Schalk said. “We need a west side bridge crossing. We need an eastside bridge crossing.’’
Phil Haggerty was yet another citizen who spoke in favor of more crossings.
“I believe additional travel lanes between Portland and Vancouver are important,’’ Haggerty said. “I believe just fixing the I-5 Bridge does nothing for us. It doesn’t give us any more avenues for transportation solutions.’’