River Clearance Isn’t The Only Thing Low About CRC

by lewwaters

By now the public is well aware of how somehow, designers of the bridge project to replace the aging bridges across the Columbia River along the I-5 corridor screwed up and ignored years of input from citizens and businesses of the minimum clearance needed under the bridge for river traffic. It’s received a lot of coverage on local blogs and in the media from Willamette Week, the Oregonian and our own little local crier, the Columbian.

To say the least, the ongoing project that has sucked up nearly $150 Million of the public’s tax dollars is the most contentious of projects this area has ever seen, as well as the most expensive with predictions of eventual costs approaching $10 Billion.

Since its inception, after Clark County voters defeated a measure to extend Portland, Oregon’s financially ailing light rail into our community by a large margin, the CRC has been a public project largely shrouded in secrecy, in violation of Washington State Open Meeting Law, ignoring or marginalizing citizen input while claiming they are open and transparent, championed by our own local town crier, the Columbian, also known to many as the unofficial daily newsletter of the CRC & Democrat Party.

Over the years, several citizen groups have formed to shed much needed light on this project, among the most notable Couv.com and Third Bridge Now, the latter recently receiving their 501c3 Non-Profit Public Charity status and “in their 12th year of promoting a Third Bridge and helping to educate our community on the need for good transportation infrastructure for jobs now and in the future” with your generosity.

501c3 status means that now, your donations are tax deductible and can be made through their home page. Donations will go a long way in helping Third Bridge Now continues as one of the most active groups deeply involved for 12 years now in advocating a common sense, affordable alternative to the massive project planned by the CRC while working to pull back the curtain wrapped around CRC and what all goes on with them.

Leading in Third Bridge Now’s efforts to shed much needed light into what goes on with CRC is Sharon Nasset, frequently seen at City Council, County Commission, CRC and most any other meeting concerning CRC. She has been relentless in meeting with engineers, local elected officials on both sides of the river and tracking down legislators in digging out information we otherwise but not be aware of.

Sharon recently contacted me not only to let me know Third Bridge now had received their 501c3 status, but also to reveal just how low CRC has stooped to push this project forward against strong public opposition. Amongst her concerns was how CRC has lifted information from their website and included it within their own releases, while not crediting Third Bridge Now (TBN).

Maps drawn and provided by TBN have appeared in CRC reports, not only not credited but minus some information that Sharon believes supports the views of many who see the project as currently planned as too expensive with little or no chance of resolving the main issue, traffic congestion through the corridor.

TBN provided a 2005 newspaper article showing what they propose for the corridor, contrasting what CRC claims they proposed.

In spite of claims made by CRC that all reasonable alternatives are thoroughly vetted, a letter received from the Clark County Commission admits no such vetting occurred on TBN’s proposal. A similar letter received from the Regional Transportation Council contained the same admission.

The RTC also admitted they relied on what information was provided by CRC to arrive at their conclusion, different than what was proposed and with far less information.

Admittedly, I am not as up to date on just what all CRC continues to hide or what all viable information they receive and ignore. But Sharon Nasset is and she is left feeling like “the big guys, stole our stuff and lied about it” in how maps have been lifted and information lost, proposals misrepresented to portray as inadequate and claims of properly and fully vetting what many feel could be viable and preferable alternatives not being vetted or properly studied while claiming they were.

As others have seen when speaking out on this project, seeing it brings more harm to our community than good, the powers that be do not wish to hear it and act as if what was decided to force our community to accept Portland, Oregon’s light rail against our wishes is chiseled in stone.

Voices like Sharon Nasset and more are being ignored and ridiculed, even when they have engineering support for a better solution that would cost far less.

What information I have included above is but some of what I was provided relating to how CRC is not being exactly open and transparent.

Sharon Nasset and Third Bridge Now need your help to continue exposing what is kept behind their curtain.

CRC should be stopped and investigated, giving taxpayers answers on just why so much money has been spent and alternatives that appear would work better and cost less are quickly cast aside, but claimed to be studied thoroughly.

Investigative journalists used to look out for taxpayers in exposing such misuse of taxpayers’ dollars, but now are part of the problem, helping block citizens’ views of just where and how our taxes are spent.

We need to support Third Bridge Now and Couv.com to be keep abreast as the curtain is slowly rolled back.

We also need to fully vet candidates for office to support and vote for those willing to pull that curtain back and not just blindly support CRC and Portland’s light rail.

CRC has sunk to new lows in how it appears that they misrepresent alternatives and lift material from others without including full information.

20 Comments to “River Clearance Isn’t The Only Thing Low About CRC”

  1. The Expert Review Panel had a website I was informed. I went to the C-tran website to look it up, and couldn’t find it during the months the panel was meeting up until they issued their report. For example, It wasn’t listed in a section devoted to high capacity transit helpful links. http://www.c-tran.com/brt_files/resource_info/links.php

    When various Clark County cities voted on the CRC replacement of 3 thru lanes with 3 thru lanes in each direction on the I-5 bridge, plus light rail alternative in 2008, they did so without public hearings in the cities to gain input. I asked the city about it at a meeting they held, and Camas City Councilor and C-Tran board member who voted for the light rail LPA Linda Dietzman explained that the mosquito board didn’t often hold public hearings either. I doubt the mosquito board has any $10 BILLION projects on the drawing board.

  2. A third bridge won’t solve anything, and isn’t a practical solution. The two eastern bridge solutions would have no impact on the I-5 bridge. Any traffic on those bridges will only affect the 205 bridge. The west bridge solution has many of the same issues that the current I-5 crossing does, and is literally a bridge to nowhere. The community of St. Johns will certainly object to what such a project would do to their quiet little community. All traffic that uses a new western bridge will go where, exactly? St. Johns doesn’t need it. It will either have to come down Lombard to reconnect with I-5, which will just add more congestion, or it will be dumped off into highway 30, which is certainly not prepared to receive such traffic. The St. Johns bridge cannot absorb this traffic, so you will need a bridge over the Willamette that will be nearly as expensive as the Columbia river crossing. Going to Hillsboro via this route would be impractical unless you continue the freeway over Cornelius pass – a very expensive proposition that Oregon is not likely to fund. No, this third bridge idea is not very well thought out at all.

    The current bridge MUST be replaced or supplemented. More spans are not a solution, because they would all suffer from the existing problems. Bridge lifts guarantee traffic problems. The hump in the channel span reduces sight distance to less than 100 yards at one point, which is the major contributor to traffic slow downs – notice that afternoon traffic is at a standstill south of the bridge, yet exits the bridge at 50 mph on the north side.

    Replacing the existing bridge is not viable. The height required would make the deck of the new bridge nearly as high as the existing lift towers. Think of the monstrosity this thing would be, how long the approaches would have to be to make this a reasonable solution by keeping the sight distance reasonable. Forget about freeway access to Highway 14 and downtown Vancouver. Close Pearson airfield, there would a bridge in the middle of the flightpath.

    The problem is one of geography. The 205 bridge has the advantage of a relatively steep bank on the north side and a long run-out on the south thanks to Government Island. The St. Johns bridge has a steep bank on both ends of the bridge, giving it plenty of clearance. To best appreciate a new CRC, think of the Marquam bridge or Freemont bridge, only longer. Imagine the approaches for these dominating the skyline of Vancouver (Remember that the Freemont launches from a pretty high embankment, but soars over a huge rail yard and industrial area). Yeah, that’s a pretty ugly solution, isn’t it?

    One viable solution that was projected to cost about the same, but avoids all the downsides of a new bridge is to dig a tunnel. Drop it in just north of Ft. Vancouver, and bring it up near Portland meadows. Leave the existing bridge in place. They went under the English channel, for Pete’s sake, why not the Columbia?

    While we’re waiting for this to happen, there are some things that can be done to mitigate existing problems. Force tractor trailers transiting north to south to take 205. In the I-5 corridor tractor trailers making local runs should be required to stay in the right lane only. They cannot maneuver/accelerate/decelerate well enough to be in any other lane in heavy traffic. Yeah, it will take longer for them to get around. Too damn bad. They should schedule their highway time off of peak hours.

    The I-5 northbound was never tried without the HOV lane since they added the third lane. This should be tried on an experimental basis to see if it affects the average wait time to get on the bridge.

    Signs should be posted at the approaches to the I-5 bridge and actually on the bridge like those in the McHenry tunnel in Baltimore to maintain 50 mph. Too often traffic opens up and some dim bulb on his cell phone doesn’t notice and has a half mile of open freeway in front of him while he pokes along at 35 mph.

    Oh, yeah, and start enforcing the laws against cell phone use without a headset while driving.

  3. PS. I’m not sure if the city of Vancouver held a public hearing on the CRC/light rail alternative.

  4. The current bridge must NOT be replaced…. ever… without asking. And the entirely unsubstantiated claim that two additional bridges won’t assist the problems with the I-5 corridor simply can’t pass the straight face test.

    The issue of bridge lifts in no way is worth addressing by the theft of $10 billion or the local theft of $100,000,000 a year plus… to start…. in tolls rammed down our throats without asking that will blow a hole in our local economy and make small business suffer in ways we can’t even begin to quantify…. since the businesses depending on that disposable income will now go under since they will no longer get that money… ever… since it’s going to pay Marc Boldt’s tolls.

    The facts are clear: the entirety of the CRC is a scam cooked up to get the dull-normal morons running Vancouver to bite for loot rail extensions. And now, another hundred million will be wasted to solve the issues that shouldn’t have BEEN issues in the first place.

    That’s the ruling of the Oregon Supreme Court, a ruling the slime of the democratian has never once acknowledged…. since acknowledging it is to admit they were fooled…. because they want to BE fooled.

    No one’s been fired over this scam. No contractor has been sued… no refunds of the tens of millions wasted have been demanded or provided.

    The current program is idiocy. The rip off of billions is unconscionable. And replacing the current bridge will accomplish absolutely nothing except to blow a large, permanent hole in our local economy as the families of 65,000 commuters who, you would think would be the most benefited by this scam, have yet to be, and in fact will never be, asked.

  5. The most objectionable aspect of the CRC, as proposed, is the inclusion of “light rail” — a fadish transit proposal that would be a financial drain on the Clark County/Vancouver community for generations to come. Already the various rail transit systems in Portland are a financial disaster … and extending that disaster to Southwest Washington surely isn’t in our best interest. The central planners who focus on traffic and housing issues are attempting to implement Agenda 21 (which emphasizes high density housing and public transit “solutions”) and thus are attempting to foist a “transit solution” that is unwanted by the community. (The planners want to force us to live in “transit villages” with densities of 20, 30 or even 50 units per acre — and “units” would be cut floorspace to well under 1000 square feet for a family of 4. Google “agenda 21” to learn more of this “sustainable housing” idea.)

    The existing I-5 bridge is congested, in part due to an on-ramp just before the bridge itself. Drivers always have a psychological reaction to entering a structure (whether a tunnel or a bridge with structure above the roadway) that causes a brief slow down. It is notable that the eastbound Caldecott Tunnel (in Oakland, CA) is seriously congested during the afternoon commute … as traffic from a minor freeway enters just before the tunnel entrance. What is immediately obvious is that this high level of congestion does not occur in the westbound (morning commute) direction as there is no significant traffic entering the flow of traffic just before the tunnel. The current Columbia River Crossing has this last moment on ramp situation in both directions at both ends of the bridge. Traffic becomes backed up accommodating the flow of new traffic.

    The overhead structure and narrow lanes also have a traffic slowing effect, especially to those who are less familiar with the crossing. Since I-5 is a cross country highway (as well as serving local commuters) there are always some percentage of travelers crossing the bridge who have never (or infrequently) encountered the bridge in the past. This contributes slower moving vehicles to the traffic flow.

    The other commenter mentioned reduced sight lines. While I have only crossed the river on the I-5 bridge a relatively few times, I can’t seem to recall feeling any visual limitations. (I do have 30 years of experience commuting across several bridges in the S.F. Bay Area, so bridges are not a memorable experience…) However, I’ll agree that a ‘hump’ in a bridge that causes a disruption in the general visual field will normally cause drivers to slow down until their comfort level returns.

    I don’t know that any of the existing difficulties (with last minute entrances to the bridge) can be resolved even with a new I-5 bridge in the same location. It would be better for the last on ramps to be at least 1/2 mile before entry to the bridge itself (so that the traffic entering the road can be assimilated before drivers have to deal with the bridge).

    While there is likely (well, almost guaranteed) to be objections by those most affected by the “third bridge” option, it is not without merit as an alternative to the new, very expensive CRC. It is not likely to solve every problem, but it might relieve congestion sufficiently to allow the existing span to continue as is for another 30 to 50 years. Obviously, when a commute hour lift occurs, traffic can be re-directed onto the alternative third span to reduce the back up that normally occurs. In every case where drivers are given additional options (more routes) the level of congestion tends to decrease. Planners tend to drive traffic into restricted corridors, reducing routing options and increasing congestion. (The Clark County set of arterials, collectors, and feeder routes is actually a decent plan for the general traffic flow in the county. There are sufficient alternative routes that traffic is generally not seriously congested except on a few very popular routes, such as the road between I-5 and Battle Ground.)

    The truck routing and lane restrictions have merit, but redirecting more truck traffic to I-205 is not a likely to provide much relief, as trucks who can use that route probably already are doing so if it is practical for them. Much truck traffic during commute hours consists of trucks enroute to make a morning delivery (or have made a late afternoon pickup) and are in the process of taking the most practical route in/out of town. I certainly know the frustration of dealing with large trucks on bridges as I frequently cursed my luck at being stuck behind an 18-wheeler on the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, when that occurred. But cities often make it hard for trucks to avoid driving during commute hours. I know truckers who must make their delivery by a certain time — but not before 8:00 AM. However, overnight parking restrictions in the local communities often force the truck to wait at a truck stop many miles outside the city even though the driver might prefer to have arrived in the early morning hours and waited for the delivery time on a side street near his/her destination. Also, truck redirection will probably add more traffic to I-84 (by truckers using I-204, then I-84) to reach their local destinations. That would simply move the problem, rather than solve anything.

  6. It’s the business expansion in Washington Co. that is the crux of the matter. Right now the main route between that area and Washington is I-5 unless you live way out east or are interstate thru traffic.

  7. No change either tunnel or new bridge will solve the congestion as the state of Oregon has no plans or intentions to reduce the congestion where it notoriously occurs daily at the I-5 strip on the east bank of the Willamette where it crawls through multiple on and off ramps feeding the bridges that go into the west or city center area, the Hwy 26 to Washington County and the coast, the I-405 links to downtown and the northwest industrial district as well as the St Johns’ bridge/north portland district and the Hwy 30 toward St Helens and again the coast, AND the I-84 traffic flowing east or west getting on or off the I-5 freeway. This whole mess of on/off traffic in very short distance occurs where I-405 cuts on the northend known as the Freemont bridge and continues through the Rose Quarter area to the Marquam bridge (also the southend I-405 bypass freeway) with no option for relief period without a massive rework into a double decker freeway system the whole distance. Portland has a problem and Oregon doesn’t want to pay for it. Replacing the bridge crossing the Columbia does not solve that problem and is simply put a developer and engineers dream job to line their pocketbooks with. Did I mention that Oregon doesn’t want to pay for it? So you tell me who will?

  8. As Carolyn has accurately described, under the CRC Locally Preferred Alternative as approved in 2008, massive southbound AM congestion is projected for 2030. In particular I am referring to the congestion from the I-5 bridge down to the I-5/I-405 split.

    In a July 2009 meeting with me, Don Wagner (Doug Fico, David Parisi attending) agreed to have a study done of the effectiveness of an additional Auxiliary Lane in reducing the congestion. At the end of August I received partial results, which later proved to be incorrect. CRC then said it had no time to do any more work on the study.

    Toward the end of 2011 I made a series of FOIA requests to understand what work had been done examining 2030 southbound congestion. In responding to the FOIA requests CRC provided the speed profile I had originally requested.
    (They now claim to have no knowledge of who requested it be done, when it was done, why it was done or who did it.)

    Comparing results between 2030 AM speed profiles with and without the auxiliary lane, results including the auxiliary lane show:
    1) North of the bridge congestion is eliminated, compared to 12 1/2 hours of congestion without the auxiliary lane.
    2) At the bridge congestion is eliminated, compared to 3 hours of congestion at 6 mph without the auxiliary lane.
    3) South of the bridge, leading to the I-5/I-405 split, congestion is reduced by 2/3. Without the auxiliary lane congestion is more than 50% worse than our “current” worst congestion.

    Citizens in Clark County have not been well represented on the CRC Task Force or on the follow on Project Sponsors Council. Little has been asked of Portland, while Vancouver will be torn apart by both the bridge and light rail.

    Catering to Portland sensibilities, the auxiliary lane that provides these benefits is not even on an approved list for future projects. The cost of the lane is estimated to be $150 million. There is no other project I know of that provides these benefits, including the multibillion dollar Rose Quarter project.


  9. Carolyn, I drive the I-5/I-405 every day. Your comments are accurate, but the congestion southbound is normally not that bad unless someone has an accident. There are surface street alternates when things get really bad. The hideous thing is I-5 northbound in the afternoon, and that’s what’s driving the need for a replacement crossing.

  10. what’s driving the CRC is “LIght Rail”, Sean a six year old kid could see that.

  11. And instead of just thinking of the Western Arterial route as diverting a portion of traffic from I-5, it’s more reasonable to think in terms of a regional “travel shed”. Thus a third bridge route, that utilizes Fruit Valley Rd as the main N-S thoroughfare, would also have surface connections to 39th, 4th Plain and Mill Plain, to Amtrak, and to a southbank street from the new downtown that will eventually be built on the waterfront. Given the topography of the land I think a tunnel could connect the existing I-5/39th exit (which also connects to Hwy 500 and Hwy 99) to Fruit Valley Rd. Perhaps just two lanes at this time. I suppose you could give the bike riders a segment in this, to get them off the surface.

  12. I-5 Northbound in the afternoon is not slowed by the three lanes North, it is slowed by the confluence of Interstate Ave, Marine Drive, MLK and other Delta Park traffic with the Ramp to and from Jansen beach/Hayden Island all squeezing onto I-5 at the bridge. How much of that traffic has just been through a similar homogenizing process at the Sylvan Tunnel?How much is from the NW Industrial area and Swan Island. How many would take a third Bridge on the West Side if such an alternative existed?

    The Cornelius Pass route was improved and set aside in anticipation of a highway a long time ago, nothing has changed there. Good design and actively partnering with the St. Johns Community will greatly eliminate the concerns as it can be demonstrated that a moderate sized commercial highway would improve safety on its streets while allowing them to retain the atmosphere of the neighborhoods. In the thirty plus years since the route was first proposed design practices, construction techniques and even materials have been introduced that would eliminate concerns for small and wild creatures, with a greatly reduced construction footprint. Such a structure would encourage growth in the NW Industrial area, and renewal in St Johns. Such a route would relieve a large portion of commercial and private vehicle traffic from both the Sylvan Tunnel and the I-5 Corridor and create an alternate route from the North and South to the Jansen Beach Shopping area. It is doable, it actually improves the quality of life for citizens of Oregon and Washington while addressing the cause of bottle neck congestion on I5. Best of all it gives all traffic an alternative to the other two structures should damage from earth quake or volcanic action render one or both unusable.

    If as Caroline has suggested a tremendous southbound traffic bottleneck is anticipated by 2030, has not much of that concern has been addressed with the addition of third lane through Delta park?

  13. “If as Caroline has suggested a tremendous southbound traffic bottleneck is anticipated by 2030, has not much of that concern has been addressed with the addition of third lane through Delta park?”

    Oh yeah, That delta Park Lane just allows south bound traffic to join the madness more efficiently. Nevermind!

  14. Jack, that may be so, and I certainly don’t advocate brining light rail to Clark County, but a new crossing is still required, because I’m damn tired of the times it takes me an hour and a half to get home from work.

  15. Sean & others – If you check the past work that has been done to what is being proposed now, which is three through lanes plus shoulders plus an weave/merge lane for that short area near Jantzen Beach on both sides. Tell me what the difference between the current proposal and what there is now? The only difference I see is some safety shoulders, a merge lane, light rail and the end of the draw bridge.

    Is this really worth three to four billion dollars?

    Second, I would lIke to thank Michael Andersen – http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/08/president_obama_moves_to_jumps.html#incart_river_default

    Seems Ray Lahood wants to (copy from the Oregonian:) “..The move, confirmed Friday evening by a White House official, is designed to clear away federal barriers to the jobs-rich project, which has been beset by squabbles over its design and cost by assorted interests in Oregon, Washington state, Congress and among local officials.

    “The Administration is committed to doing its part to help communities across the country move forward with these critical projects as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement to be released on Monday. The Oregonian was given an advanced copy.”

    My comment – Seems some one wants to speed up the process and get the locals out of the way, once and for all.

    src of this Link: http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2012/08/president_obama.html

  16. One smaller note, there is going to be a Joint Transportation Committee, CRC Oversight Subcommittee this Monday morning at 10am at WashDOT off 112th Avenue and 50th Street.

    WSDOT, SW Region Headquarters
    11018 NE 51st Circle
    Vancouver, WA 98682

    No materials were listed on the CRC website as of 11am on Saturday, August 18th. So if they have any thing, it will be directly at the meeting. Hope to see others there other than me, Ann Rivers, Paula Hammond, Jim Moeller and several other Puget Sound state legislators… And possible Eric Florip or Andrea Damewood or whomever from the paper they send to cover it.

  17. Sean, please look at my comments above. The project in 2030 does indeed relieve northbound 2030 PM congestion. But in the AM, 2030 south bound congestion is more than 50 % worse than the current worst congestion, which is PM northbound congestion.

    If it takes you an hour and a half to get home from work now, what is your reaction to congestion 50% worse than that when in 2030 you try to get to work in the AM?

    The new crossing replaces the current intolerable PM congestion with AM congestion in 2030 that is 50% worse!

  18. Sean – There is a CRC report entitled “Components Step A Screening Report”, 3/26/2006. The report can be accessed from the CRC Library. It contains in Section 5 a discussion of various crossing components including a tunnel, either as a supplement (Section 5-7) or a replacement (Section 5-13) for the existing bridge. What do you think of their conclusions?

  19. The “purpose” Jeremy is to spend the nation into total bankrupcy as fast as this Socialist Administration can. That’s the reason for the “speed-up”. There’s an election coming , you know and zero obummer can see the writing on the wall.He can see his miserable, incompetent butt back out on the street where it belongs.

  20. Sugel – I just want to confirm for you that this idea was talking about extensively in the late 1970s or early 80’s. And it was canned. I like the the idea but not sure it is going anywhere now. Same as the idea to connect up Highway 501 near Ridgefield to Beaverton because of an important National Wildlife in the area and other bird sanctuaries and advocates that make our little snowbird bunnies civil!

    If you want, ask the Port about them, they deal with them all of the time when they want to even “THINK” of building across that lake or near it. Same for your idea.

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