portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article portland metro

More Freeways in Portland's Future?

Plans are now under way to add four more lanes across the Columbia River along with other new auto capacity to serve Vancouver commuters that will create tremendous pressure for new sprawling development throughout the region.
Your help is needed to prevent the region from taking a major wrong turn. The little-publicized I5 Transportation and Trade Partnership is moving to take the first steps toward increasing auto traffic throughout the region. Plans are now under way to add four more lanes across the Columbia River along with other new auto capacity to serve Vancouver commuters. If these plans go through, they will create tremendous pressure for new sprawling development throughout the region. Please attend the I-5 open house next Wednesday, November 6th at the Kaiser Town Hall or contact committee members directly (list at end) to let them know your position:

Here are four talking points (more details below):

1) Preserve the current two-lane limit on I-5 southbound traffic north of Lombard;

2) Extend light rail to downtown Vancouver, where compact development already exists and supplement it in the long term with express commuter rail;

3) Add better connections to I-5 at Columbia Boulevard to get truck traffic off local community streets;

No other new capacity should be added in the corridor until Vancouver and Clark County establish land use patterns that encourage the use of transit and reduced reliance on the automobile.

1) Currently, I-5 north of Lombard limits commuter traffic from Vancouver to two lanes southbound in the morning. This reduces the traffic in downtown Portland, Lloyd Center, I-405, Swan Island and other employment areas. It encourages the 50,000 people who commute from Vancouver to work in Portland to use transit where it is available.

While the original purpose of the I-5 Trade Corridor Study was to improve freight movement in the corridor, having three continuous lanes in this section will make things worse. It will replace the southbound lane reserved for traffic off of Columbia Boulevard, a major freight corridor, with an acceleration lane, forcing freight traffic to merge with southbound commuters where it now has a new lane. One plan calls for the new lane to be reserved for commuters who carpool. While encouraging carpooling is good, this will leave the lane now used by freight filled with single-occupancy autos.

2) Interstate MAX currently will stop at Expo. Extending it across the river to Vancouver would allow Vancouver commuters to use it without having to first cross the Interstate Bridge. Downtown Vancouver already has the compact development that is ideal for light rail. With the current land uses in other parts of Clark County light rail beyond downtown will simply become a series of park and ride locations. Commuter rail is a better option for park and ride operations. It is less costly than light rail since it uses shared track and it can provide "express" service to downtown Portland without multiple stops along the way.

3) Improvements to the Columbia Boulevard I5 interchange would help both freight movement and get trucks out of local neighborhoods. Currently freight coming out of the important industrial areas in the Columbia Corridor has a southbound lane open to it. Northbound access is off Denver with traffic going through the Kenton neighborhood center. Improvements to the interchange would provide direct northbound connections while preserving the reserved southbound access.

4) Portland has shifted from letting transportation define land use, to determining land uses and then planning transportation to support it. Unfortunately Washington doesn't have the same strong land use laws that Oregon has. The result is that new housing developments are sprawling all over Clark County. The market for those homes is people who work in Portland. Until Vancouver changes their land use, any new capacity over the river will just feed the sprawl. There are other options on the table. Commuter rail, expanding light rail and adding a local bridge for light rail between Vancouver and Jantzen Beach.

While the task force has talked about regional cooperation for the last six months, Washington has unilaterally expanded I-5 in Vancouver to 3 lanes in each direction. At the same time, they have cut back transit service to Portland. Portland has already added an HOV lane northbound to handle commuter traffic to Vancouver but Washington has refused to extend it to their side of the river.

In addition, some Vancouver interests have begun behind the scene discussions with their counterparts in Washington County on a new Western Bypass from Woodland through Hillsboro to Wilsonville. It would go through Vancouver Lake wetlands, Sauvie Island and Forest Park. Vancouver developers have recognized the simple truth - we can't integrate transportation systems with two completely different land use patterns. They are looking for opportunities to win support for exporting the culture of sprawl back into Oregon. When traffic quickly overwhelms new capacity approved by the I-5 partnership moves congestion to downtown Portland, they will put their new bypass on the agenda as the solution to getting though Portland.
The partnership has a web site with details on all the different proposals under consideration: www.i-5partnership.com

Open Houses:

November 7, 2001
4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Kaiser Town Hall
3704 N. Interstate Ave.

November 8, 2001
4:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Hudson's Bay High School Commons
1206 E Reserve St.

Task Force Members:

Oregon Members:
Lenny Anderson - Swan Island TMA Manager
Mike Burton - Metro
Commissioner Serena Cruz - Multnomah County
Brian Fitzgerald - Market Transport
Stuart Hall - Liberty Mutual Insurance
Fred Hansen - Tri-Met
Henry Hewitt - Stoel Rives, LLP
Mayor Vera Katz - City of Portland
Dave Lohman - Port of Portland
Dick Reiten - NW Natural Gas
Jeri Sundvall - Environmental Justice Action Group
Walter Valenta - Bridgeton Neighborhood Association
Bruce Warner - Oregon Department of Transportation
Regena Warren - Enterprise Zone Community Commission

Washington Members:
Commissioner Ed Barnes
Jeff Beverly - SEH America
Lora Caine - Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association
Anne McEnerny-Ogle - Shumway Neighborhood Association
Larry Ellis - Bank of America
Lynne Griffith - C-Tran
John McKibbin - J. Simpson McKibbin Company, Inc.
Doug Maas - Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce
Alison Mielke -Friends of Clark County
Larry Paulson - Port of Vancouver Mayor
Royce Pollard - City of Vancouver
Commissioner Craig Pridemore - Clark County
Elson Strahan - Clark College Foundation
Councilman Dan Tonkovich - City of Vancouver


Citizens for Sensible Transportation
1220 SW Morrison Suite 535
Portland OR 97205-2224
Phone: 503.225.0003 Fax: 503.225.0333
Web: www.cfst.org Email: info@cfst.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.i-5partnership.com
phone: phone: 503.225.0003

until they make mass transportation... 06.Nov.2001 07:13

matchboy matchboy@tearitalldown.com

when they can make mass transportation work for more people, this will always be an issue.
coming from california, you guys have no idea what traffic can be like, and some of the only ways to improve that is to add more lanes.

you almost sound like you dont want people from Washingtion working here... is that the 'real' issue?

would it be different if they were building more lanes in congested areas in other areas of Portland?

i'm sure there are other issues regarding this, but i thought i'd let you all know that you have years before you know the consequences of bad highway planning.... but hopefully things will work out differently here.

no more cars 06.Nov.2001 11:55

phantom smasher

matchboy, i've got to take issue with your post. i don't think that adding more lanes anywhere helps anything. as fast as you can build the lanes they will get filled up. when do you stop? i grew up in california and lived for a while in austin, texas. i'm very familiar with traffic. i think the aproach for mass transit, lots of mass transit, is the best thing for the portland metro area. i don't think that people are opposed to folks from vancouver coming into portland to work, we just don't want a shitload of cars crowding the streets. clark county and it's residents are very pro-car and that's unfortunate. WHOA!! break is over. ride a bike. cars aren't the answer.

Traffic Sucks! 08.Nov.2001 10:26

Debra Walter lardebj@pinetel.com

I grew up in Portland and spent most of my adult life working there as a bus driver. The traffic has always been a problem there. I recently returned for a visit and couldn't believe how bad things have gotten. I think it should all go to mass transit all over the city. You can get anywhere you need to go by bus, ligh rail or whatever is available. The only vehicles that should be on the roads are school buses or commercial trucks. If you live where there is no transit then fine but other then that everyone needs to get out of those gas guzzling cars and take to the transit system. Portland used to be a nice place to live but from what I've seen it has gone to hell because people are getting way too lazy and down right mean.