Tag Archives: I-5

Fixing the intersection at NE Broadway, Flint and Wheeler

We first met Paramount apartments owner and citizen activist Betsy Reese through our work on streetcar bikeway safety. Betsy has been working tirelessly for many years to improve conditions for people on bike and foot in her neighborhood.

Here is a video Betsy’s son Will put together demonstrating the chaotic and confusing conditions on the ground in front of the Paramount apartments.

Thankfully, PBOT has been responsive to calls for improving this intersection immediately, particularly in light of the high rate of bicycle-car collisions at this location.  As Jonathan Maus writes:

PBOT staff reviewed every recorded collision from the DMV and the Police between 2000 and 2010 and there were 20 serious bike/motor-vehicle collisions. 17 of those 20 were right hooks at Wheeler.

The momentum appears headed toward closing NE Wheeler permanently.  This is welcome news to neighborhood activists, some of whom are still dismayed that the city intends to move forward with an I-5 highway-widening project next door.  Stay tuned.

I-5/RQ and CRC Freeway Expansions: At the Crossroads of Portland’s Future

From experiences in the past, the Clackamas bike/ped bridge is likely to be deleted for cost savings as the project cost soars with inflation.

UPDATE: AROW joined the neighborhoods in voting NO to the freeway widening proposal.  The proposal still passed but will be up for future votes within the SAC and at City Council.  Further coverage:


The I-5/Rose Quarter highway expansion project presents a crossroads for Portland and the entire region. Much as the CRC is problematic, this project would further entrench our city in a piece of infrastructure destined for obsolescence.

Demolishing three good bridge structures to add one lane in each direction–while possibly receiving a few bike/ped improvements in the process–is absurd.

While there are certainly safety improvements worth making, ODOT itself admits that freeways are essentially their safest form of infrastructure in this 2009 report:

The number of crashes per million vehicle miles traveled on non-freeways for 2009 was 1.22. This is more than three times higher than the interstatefreeway crash rate of 0.38, and twice as high as the crash rate of 0.61 for other freeways and expressways. The difference between non-freeway and freeway crash rates indicates that freeway travel is safer.*

This statement, along with Metro’s recent report that main streets are deadlier than highways, raises important questions about how ODOT is choosing to spend $400 million for such small safety gains.  I think we could do a lot more to improve traffic safety with such a large pot of money. For instance, you could build out almost the entire Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 which would bring improvements to neighborhoods across the city.

Please write your comments on the proposed plan to ODOT Senior Project Manager Todd Juhasz or attend an upcoming public comment meeting.

Photo: Greenberry INC

In CRC news, today we’ve heard that River users said Columbia River Crossing too low, and planner ignored them

“The concept of taking a bridge and making it lower is so contrary to common sense,” said Tom Hickman, vice president of sales and marketing for Oregon Iron Works. “We’re kind of baffled how they got this far down the road without listening to the concerns. They seem to have just ignored us.”

Last summer, another review instigated by Kitzhaber and Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler deemed the CRC’s toll revenue projections to be inflated by nearly half a billion dollars. The CRC was relying on outdated and inaccurate traffic numbers, the review found.

Not surprisingly, the CRC is fielding some pointed criticism from area politicians, not a good thing for an organization reliant on the goodwill of Washington, D.C. and Salem and Olympia for financing.

“We are at a loss as to how such an oversight in this design could have occurred,” stated U.S. Rep. Jamie Herrera-Buetler and three other Washington Congress members in an April 30 letter to the CRC. “Given the importance of navigation to our region, we believe it is imperative that a new bridge not limit future river commerce.”

and If you’re still on board with the CRC, you’re doing it wrong.

Funding for the project seems to be in doubt as well. The feds just rejected the ask for a $1 billion loan, citing the lack of funding support from the Oregon & Washington state legislatures.

Many of the premises used to convince Oregonians that the bridge is vital and necessary have been outed as false.

And that barely scratches the surface. It’s been a hot mess for many months.

CRC Voters Guide: Portland Mayor & City Council

 

The CRC is a project aiming to widen 5 miles of the I-5 Freeway between Portland and Vancouver. Here is a rundown of where the candidates stand on the state’s most expensive project to date, based on responses to questions from Portland Business Alliance, Portland Afoot, Bike Walk Vote, and the Oregon AFL-CIO.

PORTLAND MAYOR: EILEEN BRADY vs. CHARLIE HALES vs. JEFFERSON SMITH

Portland Business Alliance asked: Do you support the Columbia River Crossing project as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and will you advocate for state and federal funding for its construction?

BRADY: Yes. I have fully explained my position on the CRC on my website. I support Governor Kitzhaber’s plan to push for initial federal approval of the environmental impact statement, and once we have that, we must scale the project to a financially realistic option that gets Oregon a safe bridge now, increases multi-modal transit across the Columbia River and puts our tradespeople to work.

HALES: No. I support a fundable, buildable project and I don’t believe the current proposal meets those tests.

SMITH: No. While this cuts my likelihood of earning your endorsement, my preference in three words would be “smaller, quicker, cheaper.” Key funding streams are doubtful. If I’m wrong, it won’t matter much — the current City Council has voted on it, and the State and Feds have the conch. If I’m right, we’ll need a Plan B — something smaller, quicker, cheaper that prioritizes seismic safety and freight mobility. And we’ll need to unite the various interests; as mayor I would work for that.

Portland Afoot asked: The CRC project continues to make headlines for its inability to clear political and engineering hurdles. Given the uncertain state of the CRC project, would you ever sign off on a bridge without light rail, a bike/walking route and tolling?

BRADY: I can’t imagine doing that.

HALES: No. That’s an easy one.

SMITH: I will base my decisions on the facts, and I have tried to be careful about committing in advance to things with a price tag attached. I am committed to active transit, and I know that it can save significant dollars and contribute to better health in the region, and that will be part of my calculus.

Bike Walk Vote asked: There has been a huge amount of pressure to build the most expensive public works project in the region’s history, the five-mile long highway project known as the Columbia River Crossing. Despite being a multi-billion dollar project, bicycle and pedestrian facilities involved are substandard, including an under-highway mile-long path that is mostly only minimum-width and a five-block corkscrew detour into Vancouver, all for a facility designed to serve the next 100 years. The project is diverting billions of dollars from other regional priorities to build an expansion that won’t solve congestion. What are your views on the mega-project? What, if anything, will you do to stop funding for this mega-project until it becomes consistent with our biking, pedestrian, and climate goals, as well as our budgetary priorities? Would you work to stop the City of Portland from lobbying for funding for it at the state and federal levels?

BRADY: I support moving ahead on this public works project. However, we need to value engineer or “right size” it. We need to find a fiscally responsible forecast for revenues. And we need to be clear about the governance and who has what liabilities for this project. The Legislature is beginning to answer these questions. With the Governors now clearly in the lead, we have a regional project that is moving forward. I give a lot of credit to Treasurer Wheeler and economist Joe Cortright for helping to clarify the assumptions of this project. I know many people are tempted to say we should restart this project entirely, especially since we have spent over $140 million just in the planning phase. It appears that government has once again run amok in getting us to this point. However, if we restart this project it may be another 6 to 10 years (or longer, given fiscal constraints nationally) before we can leverage the federal funding for a similar project. By that time the cost of materials may have increased significantly. We may lose our opportunity to extend light rail to Vancouver, install a bike and ped Columbia River crossing, add seismic upgrades to our bridge, increase safety and travel time for our freight and auto drivers and put people to work at the same time.  I strongly support starting a congestion tolling/pricing program as soon as practical to help financially support this project and help address environmental impacts that come from idling and congestion.

HALES: I have been consistent in my answer from day one of my campaign – I believe in a fundable, buildable Columbia River Crossing, and the one on the table is neither. It’s disingenuous for candidates to say otherwise at this point (much less than to say different things to different audiences). We are at a point in time in this process where not only do we have an opportunity to reduce the cost significantly but to make sure the key components, like light rail and other transportation options, are duly accounted for in the final result. You know my record… from stopping the Water Avenue Ramp to insisting on a two-lane Sellwood Bridge that respected the Tacoma Main Street plan, to insisting that the Yellow line be sited in two former travel lanes on Interstate Avenue. I will make sure that the City of Portland stands for, and lobbies for, projects that advance our values… and can actually be built. The CRC is finally starting to move toward what I have been saying since last June.

SMITH: It is no secret that I have had major questions about the CRC. Key funding streams are doubtful. $300–$450+ million from Oregon will require an unlikely gas tax increase or the setting aside of already committed projects (which doesn’t boost jobs, just shifts them); $450+ million from Washington will require moving ahead in the queue of three other major projects; to get federal money will require us to count on the Tea Party Congress that I doubt wants to give it to us; and Oregon’s own Treasury Department has challenged the tolling math. And there are no clear answers on who will cover cost overruns. From the beginning, we should have prioritized a solution to address freight mobility, cost consciousness, safety, and was in line with our approved climate goals – and de-prioritized local Interstate commuting, particularly single-car occupancy commuting (or moving more of Portland’s economy over to Clark County, where speculators can avoid Oregon income taxes and Oregon land use laws). If I’m wrong, the current City Council has already voted on it. If the project is indeed nearly fatally challenged, I will support solutions that prioritize safety and freight mobility. I will not support lobbying for funding a project without greater confidence in its soundness, and that it meets Portland’s and Oregon’s priorities. As a legislator, I sat on the Transportation and Economic Development Committee, where I promoted alternative options and helped raise questions that kept the legislature from rubber stamping the project. Just last week, the Governor suggested removing interchanges and exploring a Plan B. If we get serious about a Plan B, I am intrigued by a common sense alternative that spreads commuters, freight, lightrail, bikes, peds over more than one crossing. Overall, let’s lead with facts. Part of the problem is that we’ve led with lobbying, rather than with facts and math. To quote a former Metro President, “I knew there was a problem when every time I raised a question, instead of hiring more engineers, the promoters hired more lobbyists.” And while we paying consultants and lobbyists, we aren’t building a project or solving the problem. Let’s get it right first, and do lobbying second.

Mayoral candidates were asked at the Oregon AFL/CIO Mayoral Forum: Please share your position on the Columbia River Crossing.

BRADY: “Let me share it again. We need to build that bridge, you guys! Lets build this bridge, lets not miss this opportunity, period.  We can have a safer bridge; safer traffic situation; we can work with the seismic… improve that seismic… I want a bridge standing if there’s an earthquake here you guys.  We got to get people out, we got to get emergency vehicles in, period; we have to manage the freight issues.  We have to get that lightrail to Vancouver.  Lets build that bridge and lets get on with it.  I’m tired of these projects that are being stalled at our city. We need action oriented leaders and you’re going to find that that’s all I’m interested in.  Thank you.”

HALES: “I’m in favor of a fundable, buildable project.  I want that bridge built, I want the Sellwood bridge built.  I have a record of actually getting projects done and not doing shelf studies, which is what we’ve done so far on this project. So lets find a version of that project that we can do, and get it going in the first year of my term.”

SMITH: “So I know what I’m supposed to say. I know what I’m supposed to say.  And I know what’s riding on it.  I really want to be Mayor, and I know that the way I’m about to answer this question may put this in jeopardy, but I also want you to know that when you ask me hard questions I’ll tell you what I think, and what I think is this: I see four income streams for this project, $450 million dollars from the State of Oregon that I don’t see 36 votes for a gas tax increase, nor do I see $450 million dollars in projects we want to cancel.  I see $450 million dollars from the state of Washington and my friend in the State House says that’s fourth in their queue.   I see one point blank billion dollars from a tea party congress I don’t think wants to give it to us, and I see our own treasurer saying the tolling math doesn’t work.  I know I’m supposed to just say “Build Baby Build”.  If I’m wrong, it won’t matter very much; the City Council has approved it.  If I’m right, we need a plan B, and we need a plan B that prioritizes safety, and that prioritizes freight mobility, and that doesn’t – on the altar of Vancouver commuting – and I like Vancouver too – get us a project that we just want to get done. ”

NOTES: Jefferson Smith is actively campaigning on the CRC issue.

CITY COUNCIL, POSITION 1: AMANDA FRITZ vs. MARY NOLAN

Portland Business Alliance asked: Do you support the Columbia River Crossing project as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and will you advocate for state and federal funding for its construction?

FRITZ: We must take action to resolve bridge issues. We need solutions for crossing the Columbia that can be funded and will work to improve freight movement. I am not yet convinced that the current plan is financially feasible, or responsible. With the current environment in D.C., I believe we would have more chance of receiving funding for a bridge that is scaled down and more affordable. We need it now.

NOLAN: We need to fix the I-5 bottleneck and meet seismic standards. I support a project that improves freight, is financially viable, benefits adjacent neighborhoods and can start work immediately. We should build the first great bridge of the 21st century, not a monument to 20th century standards. I am eager to apply my collaboration skills and ties to local, state and federal partners to help advance a workable solution.

Portland Afoot asked: “The CRC project continues to make headlines for its inability to clear political and engineering hurdles. Given the uncertain state of the CRC project, would you ever sign off on a bridge without light rail, a bike/walking route and tolling?”

Fritz: No. I voted against the big bridge, I was the only member of the City Council to vote against it, and I’ve consistently said that I don’t think it’s sustainable. … If we don’t have enough money for the big bridge, I’m interested in looking at the arterial bridge to Hayden Island, fixing the rail bridge, and possibly later looking at some modifications to the big bridge.

Nolan: The Columbia River project isn’t a bridge. It’s a highway project that runs five miles. … I think there are some very urgent needs in that segment of I-5. One of them is freight mobility, and the other is air quality and neighborhood amenities, which would include bike and pedestrian access. I could imagine how you could address both of those issues without building the bridge that has light rail on it. I like light rail … but if the best way to serve the I-5 corridor across the Columbia is through bus rapid transit, I’m not stuck on light rail.

Bike Walk Vote asked: ..What are your views on the mega-project? What, if anything, will you do to stop funding for this mega-project until it becomes consistent with our biking, pedestrian, and climate goals, as well as our budgetary priorities? Would you work to stop the City of Portland from lobbying for funding for it at the state and federal levels?

FRITZ: I spoke out and voted against the CRC in 2009. The decisions are made by the Mayor and the Project Coordinating Council. I was outvoted, and there isn’t a majority on the Council to challenge the positive lobbying for the funding at the federal level. So no, I won’t continue to beat a dead horse at the Council level.

As I said four years ago, I support building a bridge, or bridges, that can be funded. The solutions must be sustainable and affordable. I cast the lone No vote on Council on the original proposal, which eventually was rejected as being too big and costly. I am concerned that even the latest scaled down version cannot be funded at the federal, state, and local level. We need the good jobs from bridge- building, and the improved movement of freight, and we need them now. I believe we should build arterial bridges for local traffic, fix or replace the rail bridge, and further downsize the CRC . If my approach had been pursued from the beginning, I believe Union construction workers would currently be building the bridge, rather than spending one million dollars per month on overhead costs, with no measurable progress. I agree with Congressman DeFazio that as planned, the bridge will never receive adequate federal funding. My friends in the labor unions believe they can get federal, state, and local funding.

I have tended to focus on local issues where I have made a real difference, such as working with Transportation staff to stop waivers of installing sidewalks with new development. Community groups and individuals are doing a fine job of raising concerns about the CRC . I am the only major candidate for Position # 1 who has not stated unequivocal support for the CRC in its current configuration. I realize this isn’t the answer you were looking for, however I suggest it’s more in line with your position than my opponent’s.

NOLAN: We need to fix the I-5 bottlenecks both as it crosses the Columbia and at the Rose Garden/I-84 interchanges (in order to reduce energy waste, neighborhood congestion, and air pollution concentrations) and we need to meet seismic standards on the highway spans over the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. I support a project (or network of projects) that enhances air quality, improves freight mobility, is financially viable, benefits adjacent neighborhoods and can start work immediately. The currently approved “locally preferred option” does not meet all these standards. I have not yet studied the revised design released Thursday by the CRC staff, but it appears to create more problems rather than fewer, and moves away from addressing the most pressing needs (such as freight mobility and air quality).

We should build the first great bridge of the 21st century, not a monument to antiquated 20th century standards. There is urgent work that could and should begin immediately on this corridor to create local construction jobs while by assisting local employers in expanding their payroll and benefitting neighborhoods through reductions in congestion and air quality problems. I am eager to apply my collaboration skills and ties to local, state and federal partners to help advance a workable solution that meets the needs of all modes.

CITY COUNCIL, POSITION 4: Steve Novick vs. Mark White vs. Jeri Williams

Portland Business Alliance asked: Do you support the Columbia River Crossing project as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and will you advocate for state and federal funding for its construction?

NOVICK: It seems to me that Congressman DeFazio has repeatedly warned that he does not expect enough Federal money to be available to support the project as currently scoped. Realistically, then, I’d like to see a phased approach, starting with components that can improve safety and freight movement within a feasible budget.

Portland Afoot asked: The CRC project continues to make headlines for its inability to clear political and engineering hurdles. Given the uncertain state of the CRC project, would you ever sign off on a bridge without light rail, a bike/walking route and tolling?

Novick: If you are talking about a new actual Vancouver to Portland bridge, no. … Given what we know are the effects of tolling on traffic, I think that it doesn’t make sense to have your whole project fixed in your mind before you’ve seen the effects of tolling. It should be a staged process where you toll before you decide what the whole thing looks like.

White: Personally, I don’t support the bridge at all. … I think it was done to force Vancouver to accept light rail. While I think that’s a good goal, I think its better to actually go to the folks in Vancouver, include them in the conversation from beginning to end. … Folks in Clark County actually want to consider light rail, but they don’t want to be told that they have to do it. I’m totally against tolling because all it’s going to do is force traffic over to I-205 and have very negative impacts on the communities of color that now exist in East Portland. Not cool, and [if I’m elected] not going to happen.

Williams: I served on the I-5 task force for ten years. … We kept asking for more information and we never received around diesel emissions, around potential air pollution. … Myself, representing the environmental justice action group (EJAG) was one of only two no votes on the entire task force. And we’ve been challenging the CRC ever since. It’s like the story that will ever end! But no, I would not support it without bike and ped, and what I would like to call a transportation demand management.

Bike Walk Vote asked: ..What are your views on the mega-project? What, if anything, will you do to stop funding for this mega-project until it becomes consistent with our biking, pedestrian, and climate goals, as well as our budgetary priorities? Would you work to stop the City of Portland from lobbying for funding for it at the state and federal levels?

NOVICK: My view is that when Peter DeFazio keeps on saying, in effect, “I don’t know what they’re smoking, I’m not going to be able to find the money for what they’re talking about,” people should listen. And that given what we know about the impact of tolling on traffic, you shouldn’t make final decisions on the entirety of the project until you’ve done tolling and seen the impact. I have to confess that although I was familiar with other objections to the project, I was not aware that the bike/ped aspects were substandard until I read this questionnaire. It seems to me that the primary economic argument for the project is that it would improve freight mobility; I would be comfortable with an affordable version of the project that would address that specifically. I recognize that as far as commuter traffic is concerned, there’s a lot of evidence is that “you can’t build your way out of congestion,” and that in this case the danger is you simply move the congestion point to the Rose Quarter area. I do think we need to be sensitive to the fact that you’re more likely to get Federal money for an interstate project than an Oregon-only project, and hundreds of millions of Federal dollars do create a lot of jobs, so I don’t know that we have the luxury of saying “we should oppose any version of this entirely on the theory that if it doesn’t happen we’ll get exactly the same amount of money for purely local projects.”

NOTES: It is not clear if PBA and BWV didn’t ask White/Williams or if those candidates didn’t submit responses.

 

Paving the Way for the CRC: Upcoming I-5 Highway Expansion Meetings

Despite staff assertions that this project has absolutely, positively nothing to do with the 5-mile long CRC project, in reality it is one of the biggest hurdles for pushing I-5 expansion upstream.  As Evan Manvel writes on Blue Oregon:

For all the number of times the mega-project’s staff and consultants call the CRC a “long-term, comprehensive solution,” it’s anything but. The southbound traffic congestion barely changes – in fact, the congestion is projected to be worse in North Portland post-project than if we did nothing. The project’s Independent Review Panel – people hand-picked by the CRC-backing Governors – found: “Questions about the reasonableness of investment in the CRC bridge because unresolved issues remain to the south [near 405 and the Rose Quarter] threaten the viability of the project.”

The Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability along with PBOT and ODOT are deep in the process for deciding the outcome of the freeway expansion project: new larger interchanges, demolishing bridges that are in good structural shape, adding travel and merge lanes, extending on and off ramps.. which they want to marry with a vision for a high density, multi-use, multi-modal Rose Quarter.

Here is their most recent announcement on upcoming meetings:

N/NE Quadrant and I-5 Broadway/Weidler Plans
Please noteNEW LOCATION FOR SAC MEETING THURSDAY!
 
The N/NE Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting tomorrow, has been moved:
 
SAC Meeting #13  Meeting Packet
Thurs, February 16, 2012, 5:45 – 8:45
NEW LOCATION: ODOT, Region 1 Headquarters, 123 NW Flanders, Conference Rooms A & B
 
At the meeting, staff will seek Stakeholder Advisory Committee approval of the proposed concept for the overall N/NE Quadrant Plan and for the base freeway improvement project. These concept plans will then be used as a basis for developing more detailed proposals and additional analysis in the next phase of work.
 
Additional Upcoming Meetings
Stay involved by attending upcoming N/NE Quadrant Project meetings (see calendar for additional details as they become available). Approximately one week prior to the meeting, the agenda and other materials will be posted here
  • Stakeholder Advisory Committee Meeting #14 – Thursday, March 15, 2012 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Calaroga Terrace, 1400 NE 2nd.
  • Land Use Subcommittee Meeting (TENTATIVE) – Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 5 to 7 p.m., location to be determined.
 
About the N/NE Quadrant and I-5 Broadway/Weidler Plans
The N/NE Quadrant and I-5 Broadway/Weidler Plans (N/NE Quadrant Project) is a collaborative effort by the City of Portland and Oregon Department of Transportation. It is part of Phase II of Central City 2035, the City of Portland’s effort to update the 1988 Central City Plan, providing detailed planning for the Lower Albina and Lloyd District areas. Working jointly with the Oregon Department of Transportation, this project will also explore options for I-5 freeway and local transportation improvements near the Broadway/Weidler Interchange.
 
For more information about the N/NE Quadrant Project, visit the project website: www.portlandonline.gov/bps/cc2035/nneq or call Karl Lisle (503-823-4286) or Stephanie Beckman (503-823-6042).
 
Sincerely,
The N/NE Quadrant Project Team

Responding to the Oregonian’s Unabashed Support for Pricey Highway Mega-project

Our region’s full-steam-ahead approach on the highway capacity project known as the Columbia River Crossing continues to astound those of us who believe the numbers don’t add up.   The Oregonian’s Editorial Board has never been shy about its support for the CRC mega-project but their latest diatribe, “A misfire in design need not be a CRC setback” was off base. 

Below is the unedited letter I submitted.  The sentences in italic were edited out.

The Oregonian’s 2012 priorities include unemployment, education, hunger and homelessness, and the Columbia River Crossing mega-project. Some questions for you: How many homeless families could you shelter with $4 billion? How many meals could you feed to the hungry?  How many teachers could we keep in the classroom? As our scarce resources dwindle, pushing for an unfundable, wasteful freeway expansion project creates no jobs except for consultants who already made over $130 million (5 times more than originally estimated). Shame on The Oregonian for demanding more of the same.

The Oregonian claimed, “Numbers do count” – and it remains true. In the short legislative session coming up, our leaders can protect our shrinking future budget by unshackling Oregon from money spent planning an unbuildable freeway project. Instead of spending billions to shave one minute off the I-5 commute, let’s focus on priorities that will truly improve conditions for all Oregonians.