Seventy-eight percent of Southwest Washington citizen’s top priority for the Interstate 5 Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) project is reducing traffic congestion and saving time. Overall, 70% of Portland metro area citizens have the same priority. Yet, the planners and key oversight committees appear to be on the verge of approving a project that fails to deliver what the people need and want.
According to the IBR team, by 2045 traffic congestion will double. Fully 50% of rush hour vehicles will be stuck in traffic going zero to 20 mph. Furthermore, travel times will double. Going from the I-5 and Interstate 205 interchange in Salmon Creek to the Fremont Bridge will take 60 minutes, up from 29 minutes today. That is after spending $5 billion on the IBR and another $1.5 billion for Portland’s Rose Quarter project.
Even worse, Oregon wants you to help pay for the Rose Quarter project with variable rate tolls. The IBR is also recommending variable rate tolls on the replacement bridge. People will pay double tolls to drive I-5 for work or recreation in Portland. They will create “roads for the rich.” Most people have no option when they report to work.
In the failed Columbia River Crossing (CRC), they estimated $8 tolls potentially costing people $2,000 per year.
The current proposal is to replace the current three-lane bridge with another three through lane bridge. This is worse than the failed CRC because they want only one auxiliary lane for merging and weaving. Three auxiliary lanes were on the table at one point, but legislators and elected leaders were never given the chance to say how big the bridge should be.
They were never given the choice to pick transit either. Our C-Tran Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is cheaper, faster, and seats more people than Portland’s MAX light rail. C-Tran’s BRT costs $5.44 per boarding passenger versus MAX’s $8.24. A BRT bus can seat 60% of passengers whereas MAX only seats 40%, leaving the majority standing. The MAX Yellow Line travels only 14 mph whereas C-Tran express buses travel nearly twice that speed.
The failed CRC was a “bridge too low.” The current proposed 116 feet of clearance for marine traffic is about to be rejected by the Coast Guard — another bridge too low.
The IBR team implies they can’t build higher than 116 feet. Administrator Greg Johnson told legislators a “moveable span” could cost $400 million, an attempt to scare them with a huge price. The I-205 bridge has 144 feet of clearance.
The failed CRC would pay $86.4 million in “mitigation” to three up-river firms which need clearances up to 150 feet. Adjusted for inflation, the mitigation costs are now above $100 million of taxpayer dollars.
Here is a suggestion. Eliminate the $1.3 billion MAX light rail extension. Choose a $50 million C-Tran BRT line, save $1.25 billion, and build a higher bridge. Or they can use some of the savings to add a “movable span.”
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