Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver
17th Legislative District
Recently, I sent out a transportation solutions survey to local citizens. Well over 300 people responded to the survey. This was an outstanding number of participants, but not entirely surprising. Finding solutions to our region’s growing transportation
congestion is critically important. For those of us who drive the Interstate 5 (I-5) bridge between Vancouver and Portland, the frustration level isn’t just rising, it’s boiling over.
Based on the responses to the survey, what I heard from the recent town hall I co-hosted, and the hundreds of letters, emails and calls from residents in our region, everyone seems to agree on this key point – we must address the woefully inadequate transportation system between Washington and Oregon.
Traffic congestion complaints dominated the comments people sent in to the survey. While there are a wide variety of preferences in potential solutions, ensuring traffic is significantly reduced was clearly the number one priority. Interestingly, the majority of respondents also indicated they currently have no interest in driving an autonomous vehicle, which is important to note for planning purposes.
Here is a small sample of the comments participants sent in:
“Capacity is maxed out even on off hours now. This is wasting millions of hours of commuters time, wasting fuel, and killing freight movement and thus limiting the economy. Oregon and Washington must work together to solve the problem.”
“We need new ways to move around our community. Just like I-205 opened up new ways to move on the east side, we need new ways on the west side as well. More bridges!”
“…another option is to add a bridge that is east of 205.”
“Simple…the current I-5 bridge has outlived its lifespan. Time to replace with an upgrade.”
“…I operate a nursery in Ridgefield and have trucks heading down to the Willamette Valley daily…I am a strong proponent of a bypass that starts north of Vancouver, and heads southwest towards Hillsboro/Beaverton and continues south towards Tualatin and rejoins I-5 after the I-205 interchange.”
“…my concerns are that the most practical solution will not be given its full consideration. The tunnel option has many positives to it for both sides of the river and light rail (heaven forbid) could be accommodated on one of the existing bridges.”
“The public transportation route is not a solution. We need to expand our freeway capacity as more people are moving to the state.”
“Light rail on the new Columbia crossing…YES.”
“no light rail.”
As you can see, there is a wide range of opinions and ideas. Yet, the point most people agree on is that traffic congestion needs to be drastically reduced. With that in mind, we must have a solution that draws traffic off the I-5 corridor in Clark County leading into Oregon. Ideally, this means building additional capacity with a new third bridge, or some other third connector. It is vitally important we have an alternative route directly off I-5 so commuters and freight trucks can get over to Oregon in an efficient manner.
Several people asked what my preference is for a solution. If it were possible to wave a wand and fix everything today, I would personally like to see a connector west of I-5 built. Drivers coming into Clark County could get off I-5 around Woodland or Ridgefield, then start heading west. This would enable commuters to get to the Hillsboro and Beaverton areas easily. It would also allow trucks and freight to have another connection seamlessly into the Port of Vancouver, then be able to continue into the Port of Portland, and on to southern Oregon. This solution would improve commute times and foster economic development.
I recently met with Oregon Representative Rich Vial, (R–Scholls), who introduced legislation this year, which would allow for the creation of local access public highways around the Portland metro if their local communities and governments wish to do this. I’m excited about the possibility this opens up for dialogue about a west side passage with colleagues and officials across the river.
At this point, the most important thing I can do is represent your choices in future discussions and next steps. This is why your feedback is important, appreciated, and very needed. On March 29, I’ll be co-hosting a telephone town hall with Sen. Lynda Wilson and Rep. Paul Harris. The community conversation, which is similar to a call-in radio format, will begin at 7 p.m. and last an hour. To take part community members can call (360) 209-6592. Once connected, you can listen-in and press * (star) on your telephone keypad to ask questions. Please feel free to contact my office if you would like further details on how you can participate.
If you did not have the opportunity to respond to the survey, and would like to share your comments or ideas, send me an email at [email protected], or call (360) 786-7994. You can also sign up for my email updates at www.vickikraft.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in Olympia.