The Rose Quarter Conundrum for ODOT

by lewwaters


Prof Dean



Oregon Welcomes You


The Rose Quarter conundrum: how to reduce I-5 congestion and get Clark County commuters to pay for it?

The solution seemed so obvious with the CRC – light rail and tolls.

1) Build humungous parking garages for Portland employers on the cheaper Vancouver real estate (paid for by the Clark County commuters who work in Portland; sort of a user fee) and build a light rail employee shuttle service from the Vancouver parking lots to the Downtown Portland office towers. Let’s see, with 2,900 parking spaces (provided we don’t let anyone else use them, like Clark College students, shoppers, or those new apartment dwellers) we can take 2% of the daily traffic off of I-5.

2) Make the light rail visible to the commuters. That way, when drivers are sitting in congested traffic watching their temperature gauges climb they’ll glance off to the side and see all those light rail passengers waiving their thanks for paying the tolls that paid for their own swift 1 hour commutes. You see, that is the current problem at the Rose Quarter – there is plenty of light rail there but it’s not visible. Make it visible people!

3) Tolls are a traffic management device. Only the rich are willing and able to pay them. The rest of us resent them and try to avoid them if we can. On average, 40% of drivers will choose a toll free alternative instead of paying even a modest $2.00 toll.

4) But, the Rose Quarter is not the Interstate Bridge. When Portland Mayor, Sam Adams, said “No tolls, no bridge” he meant no bridge unless it’s paid for by Clark County commuters who work in Portland.

This is known as the Adams Doctrine.

Tolling the Rose Quarter section of I-5 will only capture about 20% of the Clark County commuters and place an undue burden of the costs on actual Portlanders.

No, I’m out of ideas. I know the Mayor of Vancouver, Tim Leavitt, tossed around some pretty innovative ideas to avoid a public vote on light rail in Clark County. Perhaps ODOT could hire him as a consultant like Tri-Met did.

12 Comments to “The Rose Quarter Conundrum for ODOT”

  1. You mean Tim “The Tool” Leavitt.

  2. Can you imagine what traffic would be like if the Rose Quarter section of I-5 were tolled??? Holy cow….that would back traffic all the way to Woodburn in one direction and Woodland from the other at least (can’t forget…Corbett from the East)…even WITH the transponders! Now that’s Freight and traffic(im)mobility, the original focus of the project in the first place. Oh yeah…I forgot. Transit Mobility was moved up on the list the day THEY chose the current LPA and started changing the information from what they originally sent to the Feds.

    Oops…did I say that??? How UN-Uhmeruhkin! Im s’posed too aksept duh werd uv duh self-prowklamded ecksperts az fakt ‘cuz dey klame two no wutz gud fer uhs! Renembur???

    Im fergittin’ deez daze.

  3. HEY…JOSEPH!!! No insulting Tim the Toolman Taylor. He grunts better! He’s not a grunt.

  4. Having experienced 30+ years of BART in the San Francisco Bay Area….

    1. “Free parking” was offered at all suburban BART parking lots. Now that BART is well established — and it was quickly found that the BART parking lots fill rather quickly during the day — all suburban station lots have parking charges of $30~$45 per month. A few stations, which had smaller parking lots) have had multi-story parking garages built. But demand for parking always seems to exceed supply. Of course, BART parking and train service is HEAVILY subsidized by the general tax payers, both with municipal bonds (used to fund construction) and with direct tax payer subsidies taken as a property tax and a sales tax add on in the counties served (even partially) by BART.

    It is unlikely that a Vancouver-located parking garage could ever be built large enough to truly satisfy demand — and limiting parking to transit patrons only will require additional and likely expensive administrative overhead.

    2. Make trolley cars visible to commuters? BART is very visible to commuters. Many voters (who regularly drove to San Francisco to work) supported BART so that OTHER folks might get off the freeways. Net result is that the Bay Area did not build an additional bay crossing that was proposed (to “give BART a chance”) AND BART has had negligible improvement in freeway/bridge traffic. Indeed, a few years ago, when there was a BART strike there was almost NO noticeable impact on the traffic loads of the parallel highways and bridges.

    Having trolley cars on the CRC is a prime reason that it cannot be built tall enough to accommodate existing river traffic. So the trolley cars would cause serious economic job losses in Clark County.

    3. Politicians NEVER understand the unintended consequences of trying to “play with” economic solutions. In the SF Bay Area, toll free “HOV” lanes were set up to encourage car pooling. Almost immediately “casual commuting” began. Near BART parking lots, queues of HOV lane bodies formed, and willing drivers could pick up the necessary 2 passengers (HOV requiring 3 or more riders) so that the riders avoided the $3.00 and up BART fare and the drivers got an express lane to the bridge plus no toll.

    Most of the morning “car poolers” rode BART in the reverse direction — to pick up their cars in the then “free” BART parking lots. (Note that “free parking” simply means that the lots were paid for by the tax payers.) This cut substantially into BART revenues and lowered bridge toll revenues as well. BART established parking fees, paid INSIDE the paid area of the stations. Casual car poolers then started parking on the city streets around the BART stations — a few enterprising folks opened paid public parking lots (at a relatively low price) to accommodate the casual car poolers.

    Of course, your proposal will work differently — but there will be unintended consequences and it will not work anywhere near what is expected. People are simply too creative to do what central planners think they should.

    4. Naturally, politicians love to have “other people” pay for things. That’s what politics is all about. San Francisco politicians grumbled for years about the commuters coming into their city each day “and not paying for city services.” (Though few commuters caused serious police problems, did not require fire services to protect their homes, and generally spent a lot of money in the city that supported numerous restaurants, drug stores, and other convenience shops.) San Francisco imposed a variety of taxes intended to ‘catch’ commuters — but there were (state) constitutional issues that made it difficult to target ONLY commuters. So ultimately a “payroll tax” was imposed on businesses. This caused the large employers “to follow the employees home” and move many back office operations out of the downtown S.F. headquarters into suburban office parks — cutting the number of commuters and the revenues received by those businesses that served this mobile population. Oh, yes — these new office parks tended to NOT be adjacent to the BART lines (rail/trolley service is NOT flexible), so many more drivers were put on the region’s highways to get to these new office parks.


    I would be more than happy if Tom Leavitt found other employment — hopefully something more productive than in politics or other government service.

  5. The numbers for LRT or BRT in Vancouver do not pencil out and never will at least in the time frames the FEIS is intended to cover. The mayor said in his statement at the C-tran retreat that the FEIS was completed in 2006. So those numbers are not current and I wonder how many people realize that they do not actually amount to a hill of beans since the project was not even designed yet, actually it still isn’t. It is the future of our community to consider how we employ ourselves rather than let Portland do that for us. We will never be able to do that as long as Tim holds his seat. He stated that the project was a regional project (so I don’t think it belongs on an interstate/national project bridge) and therefore Vancouver could not do it since it was the C-tran job to do it in their capacity as a regional transit providing agency. He also said that the smaller rural cities shouldn’t have c-tran service because it was too costly. So he wants all of us to pay for a very few of us to ride and he wans those who do pay to be stuck without service fo their money? That was my take on what he said. I agree, he needs a different job.

  6. Carolyn, I cannot fathom the mindset of the leadership when they’re banking on a crossing project to mystically bring a flood of jobs to our city. Why is it they have to wait for a pipe dream that will all but kill downtown? Why not bring the jobs first, then work to acquire the funding for a functional and safe bridge to be built or rebuilt the way it was originally intended? Do they not realize that closed businesses and empty buildings mean less money for the city (and they’re STILL starting the Waterfront Project, soon)???

  7. Leadership is really stupid and they don’t care at all, Goldie

  8. “Oregon Welcome your Washington Taxpayer Money”

  9. “Welcomes”

  10. Jack, part of the problem is when these guys and gals are initially elected. They all think they know what’s best for our county. They believe the other guy’s ideas are flawed and refuse to agree to something they see as a waste. Nothing gets accomplished. Some…they give in to pressure and change their story much to the frustration of the voters. Others…they stick to their agenda like flies on glue and acquire such a pompous, “I’m better than you” mentality when discussing the issues…they’ve forgotten why they were elected in the first place. Again, nothing accomplished. They’ve beaten this into the minds of the taxpayers, the voters…for so long, that many have thrown their hands up and have blocked it all out, much to the frustration of those of us who have stuck it out, who will continue fighting it to the end. And there will be an end to the battle of the crossing project. I just hope it’s a decision which won’t push Clark County over the edge and into permanent economic depression.

  11. According to the CRC DEIS, there are only about 3300 commuters crossing the river on buses.
    Consider half of them going south, and the other north, that’s only 1650 in one direction.
    Portland is already the smallest city to have light rail, and Vancouver smaller than Portland.
    CRC is planning 2900 parking places?
    The unspoken reality is that express bus service, affordable,working today, and faster than light rail, will likely be halted if light rail is forced upon Clark County. In Portland express bus service was cancelled where ever light rail was introduced in order to force people onto the light rail. Express bus service would have to be cancelled here too, to even partially fill the planned parking, or the light rail cars.

    The already built underutilized Vancouver parking garages/spaces do not appear to have been considered in the “environment” of the environmental impact statement.
    “Debt from Vancouver’s parking program pulls nearly $1.25 million a year from the city’s general fund,”

  12. Oregon does not have $450 million for its share of the CRC light rail project – they will have to use tolls. They have taken interchanges out of the CRC that will have to be built later – with tolls. Map 21, the new federal transportation funding plan, calls for future funding to come from TIFIA loans – to be paid back with tolls. I drove into North Carolina by way of the West Virginia Turnpike (I-77) – I had to stop and pay a $2.00 toll every 10 miles or so. West Virginia almost went bankrupt over the project which, after overruns, cost nearly $700 million.”The final cost for the entire modernization of the West Virginia Turnpike was $683 million, more than $300 million over original estimates.[5] It was also one of the few interstates that received 90% federal funding and permission to charge a toll, due to extremely high construction costs.” – Wikipedia Get set for the CRC to smash all former records for costly debacles.

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