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GOP candidate promises to end gridlock forever by adding a lane to each freeway

GOP candidate promises to end gridlock forever by adding a lane to each freeway

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce says he’s hit on an idea for solving the problem of people sitting in traffic on freeways: more travel lanes.

“Our current governor and government has no solution to our current gridlock,” he says in a new ad. “When I am governor, I will make sure we have added freeway lanes on all our major freeways. I’ll ensure that we have a new Columbia River Crossing bridge with added lanes. … Vote for Bud Pierce for governor and end gridlock once and for all.”

On his website, Pierce alludes to a “gas tax increase that goes primarily to build roads and bridges to ease gridlock.”

Since the state’s Constitution forbids spending gas taxes on anything but roads, that’s basically a longer way of saying “a gas tax increase” while getting in a false implication that more than a negligible amount of gas taxes ever go to anything else.

That said, let’s consider Pierce’s plan on the merits.

I-5 at Rose Quarter

The reason Interstate 5 goes down to two lanes at the Rose Quarter is that widening it would cost an estimated $350 million as of 2013.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

What would it cost to add a new lane to “all our major freeways”? Just for the Portland area, let’s assume he’s talking about the four he mentions (Interstate 5 and 205, U.S. 26 and state Route 217) plus Interstate 84.

Using the Troutdale and Hillsboro city limits on the east and west, the Columbia River on the north and the I-5/205 interchange on the south, that comes out to about 86 miles of freeway.

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute puts the cost of “urban highway capacity expansion” at $8 million to $12 million per lane-mile including land, development and construction. It’s not clear how that handles difficult points like the $350 million one at the Rose Quarter, but let’s say $10 million per mile.

Let’s also assume that by “lanes” Pierce means “one new lane in each direction.” (Though expanding capacity in one direction only might actually be a novel approach to traffic control.) That brings the cost to $1.7 billion.

Pierce also mentions a new Columbia River Crossing. Let’s take the $2.75 billion projected cost of that project as of 2013 and assume that Washington’s legislature would pay for half of it even without light rail, as long as it also didn’t have tolls.

Let’s also assume that road construction costs won’t inflate at all between 2013 and whatever year of the Pierce administration that construction would begin.





That brings the new bridge’s cost to about $2 billion, of which Oregon would be on the hook for $1 billion.

Pierce doesn’t mention that adding lanes to I-5 and I-205 would require new Marquam and Glenn Jackson bridges. To keep the costs down, let’s assume those bridges become bottlenecks.

This gives us a very rough estimate of $2.7 billion to add one lane to every overland freeway in the Portland metro area, plus a new Columbia River bridge.

This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. The four-cent statewide gas tax hike proposed last year would have brought in $103 million annually, and some of these freeway widenings could probably get federal matching grants.

traffic on i-5 -1

Federal taxpayers cover 90 percent of the cost of qualifying Interstate projects, compared to 50 percent of the cost of qualifying transit projects.

What about maintaining all that new pavement? That’d increase the future annual cost of the project, but not by so much that it’d fall apart.

There are still a couple problems with this plan, though.

One is that it raises taxes on people everywhere in Oregon but only widens freeways in Portland. Do all 308 miles of I-5 count as a “major freeway,” or all 371 miles of I-84? That’d at least quadruple the cost of Pierce’s plan, so maybe not.

His ad mentions “rural airports and rail improvements,” so maybe the idea is to win the support of Oregon’s rural population by promising to spend more lottery revenue on those projects.

The final question is the one raised by the very end of the ad: how widening freeways will “end congestion once and for all.”

If Pierce has discovered a way to make sure the next freeway lane is the one that never fills up, governments and taxpayers around the world will be overjoyed to learn about it.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Correction 12:10 pm: An earlier version of this article used $8 million per lane-mile for some figures and $10 million for others. It’s now adjusted to use $10 million, the middle of the VTPI cost range, throughout.

The post GOP candidate promises to end gridlock forever by adding a lane to each freeway appeared first on BikePortland.org.

As Airbnb moves to Old Town, Portland’s skilled work boom outpaces CRC’s job promises

As Airbnb moves to Old Town, Portland’s skilled work boom outpaces CRC’s job promises

Last (and cold) sunrise of 2010-6

Job engine?
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Multnomah County alone has created more new “professional and technical service” jobs in the last three years than the Columbia River Crossing was projected to create throughout the region, in all sectors combined, by 2030.

It’s a fact that was underscored Friday by Mayor Charlie Hales’ announcement that San Francisco-based startup Airbnb will move 160 employees and its North American operational headquarters to Portland’s Old Town area.

That was the latest sign that Portland’s tech sector is in the middle of an historic boom — and a stark contrast with the freeway-rail project, once called essential to the region’s economy, that seems to have been killed by the state legislature one week ago.

According to the Columbia River Crossing project team’s own calculations, the long-term economic impact of increasing the capacity of Interstate 5 would be to create 3,441 more jobs around the region by 2030. That’d be about 0.15 percent of the region’s future workforce.

But even as the consensus around the CRC project collapsed (leaving behind, of course, hundreds of millions of dollars for other local priorities) Portland’s central city became a new hub for white-collar service employees at tech companies like New Relic, Walmart Labs, Urban Airship and eBay.

It’s added 4,000 new jobs in the professional and technical services industry since 2011, according to state estimates.

The federal “professional and technical services” category includes lawyers, architects, engineers, computer programmers, researchers, advertisers and commercial photographers.

“Computer programming jobs are up 15 percent in the last few months — that’s fantastic,” state economist Christian Kaylor said in a December interview. “Multnomah County is creating in the last three years, on average, 20,000 jobs a year.”

The county’s key advantage in this job growth, Kaylor said, is its huge supply of skilled labor, driven by an apparently overwhelming desire of college graduates to live in Portland.

“People with college degrees are disproportionately moving to the City of Portland and almost actively avoiding Washington County, Clackamas County, Clark County,” Kaylor said. “Which is also new.”

Leonard Barrett of Beam Development said in October
that employers are increasingly trying to locate in places
employees find desirable.

It’s not as if good walking, biking and transit options are the only factors, Kaylor said. But he thinks they’re “huge” in the city’s appeal.

Kaylor said he’s actually worried about the economic future of Clackamas County, which of all the region’s counties seems to be struggling most to attract young residents.

“The City of Portland is growng five times faster than Clackamas County — that’s just nuts,” he said. “If you look at just the population 18-64, Clackamas County is shrinking. … To have so much job growth centered in an urban area in a region — this is something we haven’t seen since the 1940s with the Liberty Shipyards.”

This is a trend we’ve seen here at BikePortland in our coverage of the commercial real estate scene, which has been investing more and more in bike-friendly facilities, locating close to homes that appeal to bike-friendly workers and choosing office buildings that are close to active urban places like food cart pods.

“To stay relevant as an employer, you have to create places where people really want to be,” developer Leonard Barrett said last fall.

The zombie is finally dead: ODOT will “shut down” CRC project

The zombie is finally dead: ODOT will “shut down” CRC project

ODOT Director Matt Garrett-1

Good move Matt!
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s real this time folks. It’s over. ODOT has just announced they will “shut down” the Columbia River Crossing Project once and for all. Here’s the full statement just released by ODOT Director Matt Garrett:

“On March 7, the Oregon Legislature adjourned without reinstating construction funds for the CRC I-5 Bridge Replacement project. As identified in Governor Kitzhaber’s January 27, 2014 letter to legislative leadership, the project will begin the process of orderly archival and closeout. We have the fiduciary responsibility to close out the project in a systematic, retrievable manner in order to adequately preserve a decade of research, environmental reviews, community involvement, and detailed engineering work for potential future use. We will archive work products according to Oregon record retention requirements.

Expenditures will be reduced immediately; further design and deliverable development will not occur. The project will shut down completely by May 31, 2014.

Conclude Staff and Agency Agreements

ODOT, WSDOT and TriMet will begin demobilizing agency staff. Each agency will be responsible for necessary personnel actions.

We will issue stop work orders on consultant contracts on or before March 15, 2014, including instructions to record the current status of the work product and contract amendments to archive work products and conduct contract closeout. We will release consultant staff once they have archived and catalogued their work products.

In addition, the project has intergovernmental agreements in place with agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Multnomah County Drainage District. We will close out these agreements this month with formal stop work orders.

Archive and Catalogue Work Products

We will archive and catalogue all work products, past deliverables, and permit documentation in their current state. The following types of work products exist:

Environmental documentation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statement(s), the federal Record of Decision and required re-evaluations.

Financial analysis, including extensive documentation required by the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, a transit operations and maintenance agreement, the investment grade analysis, and work products related to application for a federal TIFIA loan.

Recent cost estimates for elements of the Oregon-led project and the project’s history of risk-based cost estimating.

Geotechnical research and reports that have been informed by the drilled shaft and driven test pile program.

The bodies of work that led to receipt of the U.S. Coast Guard General Bridge Permit and Section 401 water quality certification in Oregon and
Washington. Work efforts required as part of the Section 404 flood and wetland and 408 navigation and levee impact permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were underway and will be archived. Other permitting plans and work products will be catalogued.

Draft design build procurement document for the River Crossing Bridges and Approaches

Documentation and summary of the robust public involvement program, including comments, advisory group activities, outreach presentations and public information materials.

Work efforts to support right of way plans and utility relocations. Development drafts of procurement documents, including those intended to guide construction of the Columbia River bridges.

Vacate Office

The project occupies one floor of the Vancouver Center building. The lease is on a month-to-month basis, so there is no penalty for early termination. ODOT facilities will coordinate the retention of computers, phones, and furniture; ODOT fleet services will coordinate vehicle disposition.”

Read more at The Portland Mercury and The Oregonian.

As legislators hold hearing on CRC, some are already looking at cheaper plans

As legislators hold hearing on CRC, some are already looking at cheaper plans

A 2011 rendering of the proposed Columbia River Crossing.

Two veteran state legislators, one of whom was a key swing vote in support of last year’s Columbia River Crossing funding plan, say consensus is building for scrapping the freeway-rail expansion plan and starting over.

Both said they doubt their colleagues will re-approve the existing proposal, though a public committee hearing Wednesday afternoon is likely to advance the debate.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick and state Rep. Lew Frederick — neither of whom have conferred on the issue — both said Tuesday that a new, much smaller truck-and-train freight bridge would solve the key problems facing the river crossing with far lower costs.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick

“I’m not saying don’t replace the bridge,” said Greenlick (D-Northwest Portland), whose amendment last year, withholding Oregon funding unless Washington’s legislature also approved the freeway plan, turned out to be pivotal. “I’m saying find a new way to do that.”

Both legislators, however, noted that they have no idea “what the heck’s going to happen,” as Greenlick put it, at tomorrow’s hearing in the House Transportation and Economic Development.

The governors of Oregon and Washington declared the project dead last summer after it failed to pass the Washington state senate. But Gov. John Kitzhaber later revived a slightly cheaper version of the freeway plan with a proposal for Oregon to handle the entire project, including the use of eminent domain to acquire property near the Washington bridge landing and the collection of $50 million a year in tolls, mostly from Washington residents.

State Rep. Lew Frederick (D-Northeast Portland)
(Photo: Portland Public Schools)

Frederick (D-Northeast Portland), who gave a passionate floor speech against the freeway plan when it passed last year, said Tuesday that events since then have moved many of his colleagues toward his camp.

“A lot of things were promised in the last session regarding the CRC, and many of those things simply did not pan out,” Frederick said. “We’ve also seen revelations about the potential backup of tolling on 205. And of course since that time we’ve had the Washington state legislature say no. … All of those things for me indicate that there’s not even the grudging support, in some cases, for some of my colleagues.”

The bridge’s loudest supporters, however, are two of the most powerful politicians in Oregon: House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-North Portland), head of the House Democratic caucus, and Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Two weeks ago, The Oregonian reported that state Senate President Peter Courtney had “backed away” from supporting an Oregon-only project.

Frederick said Tuesday that the coalitions for and against the freeway-rail project are hard to describe.

“People would like to put it into a particular model that they know, the Republican/Democrat model — that doesn’t hold up,” he said. “There are some business groups that are very very supportive and there are a few who are not, and there are unions who are supportive and there are a few who are not.”

For his part, Greenlick said the freeway plan never made much sense to him, though he reluctantly supported it last year.

“My objection to it all along was there were far better options that were cheaper,” he said. “It got past the point of no return.”

If Kitzhaber and Kotek’s Oregon-only plan fails, Greenlick said, the legislature should act quickly to find a better plan.

“I think we immediately need to start looking for a new way to do it,” he said, suggesting a truck-pedestrian-rail bridge, including a bike connection, as a cheap way to take pressure off the existing spans. “That would be a much cheaper option and then if one of those two bridges failed, then you’d have a way to deal with it.”

Frederick said he thinks a local freight bridge to Hayden island is the ticket adding that replacing the downstream railroad bridge would also reduce I-5 bridge lifts by making it easier for large ships to keep a straight course down the Columbia.

“Everyone realizes that any sort of bridge is going to be disruptive,” Frederick said. “The question is what is going to be the benefit.”

Frederick predicted that tomorrow’s hearing will have “rather energetic conversations,” and it’s far from clear where things are headed. Opponents of the freeway project, including Plaid Pantry economist Joe Cortright and Oregon Walks, will be testifying in opposition. You can get details about the hearing, contact committee members and track the event live from the committee’s page on the legislature’s website.

As legislators hold hearing on CRC, some are already looking at cheaper plans

As legislators hold hearing on CRC, some are already looking at cheaper plans

A 2011 rendering of the proposed
Columbia River Crossing.

Two veteran state legislators, one of whom was a key swing vote in support of last year’s Columbia River Crossing funding plan, say consensus is building for scrapping the freeway-rail expansion plan and starting over.

Both said they doubt their colleagues will re-approve the existing proposal, though a public committee hearing Wednesday afternoon is likely to advance the debate.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick and state Rep. Lew Frederick — neither of whom have conferred on the issue — both said Tuesday that a new, much smaller truck-and-train freight bridge would solve the key problems facing the river crossing with far lower costs.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick
(D-NW Portland)

“I’m not saying don’t replace the bridge,” said Greenlick (D-Northwest Portland), whose amendment last year, withholding Oregon funding unless Washington’s legislature also approved the freeway plan, turned out to be pivotal. “I’m saying find a new way to do that.”

Both legislators, however, noted that they have no idea “what the heck’s going to happen,” as Greenlick put it, at tomorrow’s hearing in the House Transportation and Economic Development.

The governors of Oregon and Washington declared the project dead last summer after it failed to pass the Washington state senate. But Gov. John Kitzhaber later revived a slightly cheaper version of the freeway plan with a proposal for Oregon to handle the entire project, including the use of eminent domain to acquire property near the Washington bridge landing and the collection of $50 million a year in tolls, mostly from Washington residents.

State Rep. Lew Frederick (D-NE Portland)
(Photo: Portland Public Schools)

Frederick (D-Northeast Portland), who gave a passionate floor speech against the freeway plan when it passed last year, said Tuesday that events since then have moved many of his colleagues toward his camp.

“A lot of things were promised in the last session regarding the CRC, and many of those things simply did not pan out,” Frederick said. “We’ve also seen revelations about the potential backup of tolling on 205. And of course since that time we’ve had the Washington state legislature say no. … All of those things for me indicate that there’s not even the grudging support, in some cases, for some of my colleagues.”

The bridge’s loudest supporters, however, are two of the most powerful politicians in Oregon: House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-North Portland), head of the House Democratic caucus, and Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Two weeks ago, The Oregonian reported that state Senate President Peter Courtney had “backed away” from supporting an Oregon-only project.

Frederick said Tuesday that the coalitions for and against the freeway-rail project are hard to describe.

“People would like to put it into a particular model that they know, the Republican/Democrat model — that doesn’t hold up,” he said. “There are some business groups that are very very supportive and there are a few who are not, and there are unions who are supportive and there are a few who are not.”

For his part, Greenlick said the freeway plan never made much sense to him, though he reluctantly supported it last year.

“My objection to it all along was there were far better options that were cheaper,” he said. “It got past the point of no return.”

If Kitzhaber and Kotek’s Oregon-only plan fails, Greenlick said, the legislature should act quickly to find a better plan.

“I think we immediately need to start looking for a new way to do it,” he said, suggesting a truck-pedestrian-rail bridge, including a bike connection, as a cheap way to take pressure off the existing spans. “That would be a much cheaper option and then if one of those two bridges failed, then you’d have a way to deal with it.”

Frederick said he thinks a local freight bridge to Hayden island is the ticket adding that replacing the downstream railroad bridge would also reduce I-5 bridge lifts by making it easier for large ships to keep a straight course down the Columbia.

“Everyone realizes that any sort of bridge is going to be disruptive,” Frederick said. “The question is what is going to be the benefit.”

Frederick predicted that tomorrow’s hearing will have “rather energetic conversations,” and it’s far from clear where things are headed. Opponents of the freeway project, including Plaid Pantry economist Joe Cortright, 1000 Friends of Oregon and Oregon Walks, will be testifying in opposition. You can get details about the hearing, contact committee members and track the event live from the committee’s page on the legislature’s website.

Visualizing the cost of local transportation projects

Visualizing the cost of local transportation projects

More than just about anything else on BikePortland, we write about street projects — and, if our records are any indication, you like to read about them more than just about anything else, too.

But what do they cost, really? Sometimes it’s hard to visualize.

So we gave it a shot:

visualizing Portland-area transportation investments

Graphic by BikePortland. The area of each circle corresponds to the cost of each project.

It’s worth noting that most of these projects were or would be funded by combinations of state, local or federal tax dollars — and in the case off the CRC through tolls, too.

Readers of the site will probably be familiar with every project on this list, except maybe the 11-block Northeast Prescott Avenue sidewalk project between 105th and 116th, which picked since it was just dedicated last month.

Here are some links to coverage of the others, from most to least expensive:

— Our coverage archive of the highway and rail expansion across the river to Vancouver is here. (The state legislature will decide in the next few weeks whether to build this project without Washington’s approval.)

— TriMet’s 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail rail extension, including most of the future Orange Line, will include a yet-to-be-named multimodal bridge between the Division Street area and South Waterfront.

— The biggest single item on the City of Portland’s working transportation wishlist is $850 million over 10 years for basic street maintenance, mostly repaving work.

— PBOT’s plan to invest over six million dollars into a network of high quality bikeways and other street design updates downtown is already funded and in the planning stages.

— The new Sellwood Bridge is scheduled to open next year near Portland’s southern border.

— The 2.5-mile, two-lane Sunrise Corridor highway in Clackamas County, under construction until 2016, is the first new highway in the metro area for 30 years.

— From 2007 to 2011, the state built a new viaduct south of the central eastside where Southeast Martin Luther King Boulevard becomes McLoughlin Boulevard.

— The Portland Bike Share system has reached a closed-door agreement with its primary sponsor but is awaiting a signature and announcement.

— Work will start on the Williams Avenue safety project, adding buffered lanes to the region’s busiest on-street bike route, in late July or early August.

— Last year, Southeast Division Street got traffic signal upgrades, median islands, bike lanes and two fewer general travel lanes between 60th and 80th Avenues.

Kudos to Transitized, a Chicago-based blog about “modern transportation in cities,” whose similar infographic last year inspired this one.

People have a lot of things going on in their lives, and the scale of projects like these can be bewildering. Sometimes, it helps to take a step back and put the tradeoffs before us in perspective.

Latest Columbia River Crossing proposal scales back bike facilities (updated)

Latest Columbia River Crossing proposal scales back bike facilities (updated)

Current bike infrastructure on much of Hayden
Island: signs and sidewalks.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Even for the many Portland-area residents who ride bikes but aren’t inclined to object to expensive urban freeway expansions, the Columbia River Crossing has always had one small thing going for it: it’d widen the Vancouver-Portland bike crossing and simplify the maze of trails required to reach it.

With pro-CRC lobbyists hastily re-gathering votes for a possible Oregon-funded version of the project, it looks like the bike facilities are being scaled back.

During its years of planning and outreach, one of the features of the Columbia River Crossing concept was a shared-use path through Hayden Island that would put bike traffic at a different height (or “grade”) from auto traffic. A Sept. 25 memo (PDF) from the CRC’s environmental manager, however, shows that the new “phased” project would save money by indefinitely postponing the grade separation and sending bike and foot traffic through “at-grade intersections on Hayden Island.”

Does this mean a shared sidewalk with crosswalks, like there are now? A row of posts in the street? A painted bike lane? How steeply would bikes have to descend from the 116-foot peak of the crossing into Hayden Island’s street network?

It’s not clear — in part because, as we’ve reported, the project has never created a visualization showing what the crossing looks like from the street level.

When we spoke with longtime CRC supporter Sen. Rod Monroe in August, he said a dedicated bike path across the Columbia was “an absolute quid pro quo” for his and other Democratic lawmakers’ support of the project. But as close watchers of the project know, most of the CRC project isn’t actually the bridge itself. How many cost savings north and south of the bridge are necessary before lawmakers, voters and federal officials start thinking of this as a categorically different project? That’s not clear, either.

Columbia River Crossing spokeswoman Mandy Putney said she’d need to ask another planner for details. If they respond, we’ll let you know.

Update 11:21 pm: Columbia River Crossing spokeswoman Mandy Putney has responded with the answers: “On Hayden Island, there would be painted bike lanes. There is no shared sidewalk. … Our current conceptual plans illustrate a 4.5 percent grade. The design build contractor will be responsible for finalizing the grade and design.” (For comparison’s sake, 4.5 percent is about the slope of the road descending on Southeast Morrison Street at 11th Avenue.)

In related news, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney issued a statement today saying that he doesn’t think the CRC should be discussed at the legislature until the regular session begins in February.

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

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

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:

Starting in 2016, the CRC will toll the existing I-5 bridges; but the parallel I-205 bridges will continue to be free. Tolls will create a strong incentive for drivers to divert to I-205. Until now, CRC has claimed that diversion will be minimal; but a new study prepared by a CRC consultant CDM Smith confirms that tens of thousands of cars will shift to I-205, ultimately loading it to full capacity. Traffic jams on I-205 will increase travel times on I-205, and on connecting routes like SR-14 and I-84; economically important trips to Portland Airport will likely take much longer as a result.

Current daily vehicle traffic on the I-205 bridge is 140,000 vehicles per day and the diversion of traffic from I-5 would bump that number up to more than 188,000 vehicles per day in 2016, the report says. Meanwhile, traffic on I-5 in 2016 would drop to just 78,400 daily vehicles from its current number of 124,000 daily vehicles.

According to Cortright’s analysis of the CRC traffic modeling numbers, once the new I-5 bridge opens in 2022 (and tolls are raised even further), the diversion will get even worse and traffic on I-5 would plunge to “about the same level as 1972.”

“After spending more than $3 billion, the new mega-bridge will serve fewer than two-thirds as many motorists as use it today.”

Given these diversion numbers and the impact tolling the I-5 bridge is likely to have, Cortright comes to the conclusion that, “The people for whom the project is being built (I-5 bridge users) don’t value it highly enough to pay even a third of its cost (which is roughly what tolls will cover).”

Cortright also points out that the traffic projections by CDM Smith differs greatly from the projections included in the CRC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS); so much so that these new numbers “invalidate” the “dramatically wrong” FEIS numbers (as seen in the chart below)…

Going further, Cortright’s report bolsters his argument that CRC backers have ignored the decline in driving that has been underway in the U.S. for nearly a decade. “This forecast invalidates the transportation rationale for the CRC project,” he writes, “The CRC was based on the premise that a new, larger bridge is needed to accommodate growing traffic flows.”

We find these revelations especially troubling given the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) rationale against a road diet on SW Barbur Blvd due to concerns of “unacceptable” driving delays.

These latest holes in the CRC plan come as the legislature in Salem is due for a special session. While it appears “likely” that the CRC will see some action, the Governor has yet to lay out any specific plans to take it up.

For more on Cortright’s latest analysis, check out the 12-page report.

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

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

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.”

“It’s crunch time! This is a call to action,” reads the group’s Facebook page. The method to their madness is a good, ol’ fashioned citizen phone tree. The campaign encourages everyone who opposes the project to pick up a phone and share their opinion with legislators. “Together, we’ll activate a mighty phone tree of citizens calling for change.” And they’re turning it into a game. Here are the rules:

1. Spread the commotion.

Comment here (on Facebook page) to let us know you’re in. Then invite your friends. Points awarded for participation.

2. Raise a ruckus. Pick an action that’s easy, fun, or meaningful to you.

* Write, fax, and call your legislators. Ask them not to support an “Oregon Only” CRC megaproject.

* Write a little letter to the editor of your neighborhood paper.

* Share your best and worst responses and juiciest stories. Leak state secrets, and craft your most cunning stratagems.

* Explain your opposition in a short article for BlueOregon, BikePortland, Willamette Week, etc and ask the editor to publish it.

* Whatever you decide, call five friends and ask them to do the same.

3. Let us know what you did! Again, participation = points.

And of course there are big prizes for winning. Prizes for winning this fight, say campaign organizers in the game’s tongue-in-cheek fine print: “The state will keep AAA bond raing, will be eligible for funding of schools and sidewalks. Winning residents enjoy reduced atmospheric CO2 (cool, refreshing weather), save money on tolls (savings can be spent on beer, bikes instead). Over $68 million reallocated funds immediately available for better projects, plus billions more saved…”

The most active players will be awarded weekly prizes for making the most calls, publishing the best letter-to-the-editor, coming up with the best ideas to “vanquish the project”, and so on. Check out the Operation CRC: Commotion & Ruckus Campaign page on Facebook for more info and stay tuned for coverage as the deadline for action in Salem approaches.

BTA, enviro groups send anti-CRC letter to Kitzhaber

BTA, enviro groups send anti-CRC letter to Kitzhaber

(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.

“A renewed effort to resurrect the project financed and supported only by Oregon raises the concerns we have long held,” reads the letter, “while adding significant risk to Oregon’s finances, and particularly to Oregon’s ability to meet the many transportation needs around the state.”

“Oregonians do not deserve contorted attempts to revive this dead project.”

The CRC plan is, “a fiscally, environmentally, and socially irresponsible proposal,” they wrote.

Beyond making their opposition clear and public, this tone and action against the CRC by these non-profits is significant because many of them sat on the sidelines when the project went rumbling through the Oregon legislature last session.

As we reported in February, leaders of the largest environmental and transportation non-profits in the state were worried that if they worked to stop the CRC, they would lose political relationships and influence for their agendas in Salem. When the project died, some of these non-profit leaders must have breathed a sigh of relief.

Jason Miner, the executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, called his groups lack of organizing against the CRC last time around, “embarrassing.”

Now, Miner and his coalition members are making their opposition quite clear. Here’s what I think is the most powerful paragraph in the letter:

“Please do not support funding for the current CRC plan. The proposed CRC freeway expansion remains bad public policy for Oregon and the Portland-Vancouver region. The proposal is contrary to efforts to foster vibrant, sustainable, and walkable communities that help reduce green-house gas emissions, air and water pollution, farmland loss, and habitat destruction. The current CRC proposal would result in a net loss in efforts to address the public health, safety, and environmental quality impacts of our transportation system. Oregonians do not deserve contorted attempts to revive this dead project.”

With another chance to stand up and fight the project as it takes a final breath in advance of federal funding windows that are soon to close for good, 1000 Friends is one of three organizations we called out in February that have now taken a their anti-CRC stance public. The others are the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Notably absent from the letter are the Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Those two groups represent nearly 20,000 dues-paying members and wield considerable political clout.

The other groups that have signed onto the letter include: Audubon Society of Portland, Coalition for a Livable Future, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Oregon Public Health Institute, Oregon Walks, and Upstream Public Health.

— Read more Columbia River Crossing stories in our archives.