My view: Bridge plan does nothing that three columnists promise
Susan McLain, Lee Beyer and Annette Cleveland promise "the new I-5 bridge will be future compatible and climate-friendly."
They cite a 1912 quote: "we should not build the bridge for today … but for the next 40 years." Yet the $5 billion Interstate Bridge Replacement they are touting does none of that.
If built, the bridge will open in 2032. It will have just three through lanes and a single auxiliary lane for traffic to merge on/off the freeway. It will have variable rate tolls, charging the highest rates during rush hour congestion when most people travel.
Yet regional traffic growth indicates the bridge will need five through lanes in each direction in 2030, two more than the IBR team will build. Forty years in the future, transportation architect Kevin Peterson calculates the I-5 corridor will need at least nine lanes in each direction in 2070. McLain and friends refuse to build a bridge "for the next 40 years."
The IBR's Greg Johnson reports that in 2045, just 13 years after opening, fully half of I-5 rush hour traffic will be stuck in congested traffic traveling zero to 20 mph. How is that "climate-friendly?" It's not!
They refuse to fix the one problem people want solved — reducing traffic congestion and saving time. Over 70% of people want reduced traffic congestion. Morning travel times will double, taking 60 minutes to go from the I-5/I-205 interchange in Salmon Creek to the Fremont Bridge, up from the current 29 minutes. This is after spending $5 billion on the IBR and another $1.4 billion at the Rose Quarter.
The "double tolls" on I-5 (one for the bridge and a second for driving I-5) will cause thousands of vehicles to divert onto north Portland side streets. ODOT predicts 130,000 vehicles will divert into neighborhoods to avoid tolls once congestion pricing is fully implemented. That is the equivalent to every single vehicle using the Interstate Bridge last year diverting into your neighborhood. How is that "climate-friendly" let alone "equitable" for north Portland residents?
ODOT touts an equity-based tolling program to allegedly provide "relief" to minority and poor residents. Yet every "free" or reduced price vehicle traveling I-5 will add to congestion. And when congestion goes up, so do the tolls, penalizing other hard-working people who don't get the "benefit" of the free or reduced rate tolling programs.
The double variable rate tolls to use the I-5 bridge will likely increase the number of vehicles diverting to use the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge, adding to its congestion. Again, how is that "climate-friendly?"
The McLain-Beyer-Cleveland "solution" pushes MAX light rail for $1.3 billion into Vancouver. Yet the MAX Yellow Line can only carry about 1,000 people an hour on their two-car trains, and travels 14 mph. If all those passengers come from Clark County, there will be no room for north Portland residents. How is that equitable?
We can and must do better. Delivering value for taxpayers' transportation dollars means significantly reducing traffic congestion and saving people time. After all, that is what the people want.
A new bridge could be built for under $1 billion. Let's use scarce transportation dollars wisely.
John Ley lives in Vancouver, Washington. He ran for District 18 in the Washington House of Representatives until, in July, a judge ruled him ineligible because he did not reside in the district.
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