In the last few weeks, the staff working on the Columbia River Crossing project have put forward three options (described at the following website: http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/staffRecommendation.aspx
1) No Build Option.
2) A bridge with 10 or 12 lanes, with two of those lanes dedicated to bus transit
3) A bridge with 10 or 12 lanes, with two of those lanes dedicated to light rail transit.
The current I-5 bridge has 6 lanes. Therefore, the viable options being advanced by the staff (options 2 and 3) represent a doubling of the number of lanes over the Columbia River. This proposal poses a significant threat to the residents of North/Northeast Portland
At the present, there is no plan to widen a bottle-neck on I-5 at the Rose Quarter (beyond its current four lanes). The existing Columbia Crossing bridge's six lanes are a bit of a choke-point that keeps a surge of south-bound traffic from entering North/Northeast Portland. By significantly widening the I-5 bridge, to 10 or 12 lanes, the staff is in effect recommending a substantial increased traffic impact on the neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland. More south-bound traffic would be able to cross a larger bridge, and then would idle on I-5 right in North/Northeast PDX, or would move onto surface streets to try to get around traffic congestion.
It is important to note that the residents of North and Northeast Portland are a somewhat vulnerable population, which will benefit very little from increased traffic over a larger bridge. Research I conducted showed that around 15% of the residents that live on either side of I-5 in that part of town have asthma -- compared to 5% of residents in west Portland. Moreover, their neighborhoods have already been hit with significant traffic congestion problems (mainly caused by more affluent residents commuting between downtown Portland and Vancouver, WA). If the staff recommendations go forward, even more significant pollution and congestion problems will be experienced by residents of North and Northeast Portland.
It is surprising that the Columbia River Crossing staff is not considering a proposal that community advocates recommend: a new bridge with 8 lanes of traffic -- with two of those lanes dedicated to mass transit. This kind of bridge would retain the same number of lanes meant for cars and trucks (6), while supporting light rail or bus service on two additional lanes. This configuration would allow for a modest increase of overall transportation flows, while not inundating North Portland with a significant increase in vehicular traffic.
Please contact any community organizations, media representatives, and political authorities you know. Ask them to investigate this story. The Columbia River Crossing task force is close to accepting or rejecting the staff recommendations regarding the 10-12 lane bridge. The opportunity to bring the 8 lane option into public discussion is now somewhat dependent on public input...