New bridges, vehicle capacity and transportation corridors needed

The Vancouver City Council recently passed a resolution supporting a replacement of the Interstate Bridge. The Clark County Council is considering a similar resolution. This effort is simply a means to resurrect the flawed Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Bringing Portland’s bankrupt light rail into Clark County remains part of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Commission’s (RTC) 20-year transportation plan, and Portland Metro Area Joint Policy Advisory Committee’s (JPACT) regional transportation plan.

John Ley
John Ley

The current “focus on I-5” discussions are triggered by Oregon’s outrageous efforts to toll both I-5 and I-205. Southwest Washington leaders know part of people’s outrage is “we’re getting nothing in exchange for the tolls we’ll pay.” These leaders are hoping to piggyback on Oregon’s efforts, by tying a replacement I-5 bridge to Oregon’s tolls. “For just a little higher toll, you’ll get a new bridge” is what they’ll ultimately claim. Their replacement bridge will be light rail ready – “high capacity transit” is what they’ll say.

The real “bottleneck” on I-5 is the 2-mile, 2-lane section of I-5 at the Rose Quarter. It has the highest accident rate of any section of road in Oregon – three times the accident rate of the Terwilliger curves. Even after Oregon spends $450 million on the Rose Quarter under HB 2017, (half of which will be wasted building two concrete “lids” over I-5), the Rose Quarter will continue to have the highest accident rate in Oregon.

What is needed are new through lanes at the Rose Quarter. What is needed is a new transportation corridor, reducing traffic on I-5. The creation of the I-205 corridor reduced I-5 traffic by 18.5 percent (1982 vs. 1983).

Until the Rose Quarter is fixed by adding new through lanes, any money spent on a replacement Interstate Bridge will be wasted, delivering negligible results. The CRC’s $3.5 billion “fix” provided only a 1-minute improvement in the morning, southbound commute.

Some will say the Interstate Bridge is “unsafe.” That’s not true, as both WSDOT and ODOT report the bridge is safe. See article here. .

Again, this effort is simply a means to resurrect the flawed CRC, including bringing Portland’s bankrupt light rail into Clark County. Mass transit is not a solution to resolving traffic congestion on I-5. Presently only 1,499 people ride C-TRAN’s “express” bus service to Portland. That’s a rounding error of the 300,000 average daily Columbia River crossings. Light rail would merely take some of the 1,499 people off buses, putting them on light rail. It will attract no new riders.

Portland has the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation because its leaders and officials have refused to add vehicle capacity for nearly four decades. They have refused to build new transportation corridors.

We need new 3rd and 4th bridges across the Columbia River. The southwest Washington RTC’s 2008 “Visioning Study” identified this a decade ago. Oregon Representative Rich Vial has courageously proposed a much-needed western bypass. Something similar was part of a 1970s regional transportation plan.

Regional population has doubled since I-205 opened. Another 750,000 people will be here in 20 years including a half million new jobs and cars. Adding new vehicle capacity and new transportation corridors is the only solution that will solve traffic congestion problems.


John Ley


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