The Columbia River Crossing design, of course, is boxed in by all manner of restrictions, including the ludicrous height limits that owe to the proximity of Vancouver’s podunk Pearson Air Field.
But the most daunting constraint, notes Metro Council President David Bragdon, “is the restriction on the imagination of the two state Departments of Transportation.
“You have two DOTs that are just driven to build huge slabs of concrete. That’s what they do. That’s what they’ve done for the last 40 years. They engineer the biggest, baddest thing they can, and think about the design later, the budget later, the community impacts later.”
I’m kind of wondering how long it will take Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard to respond to Duin’s slam on Pearson Air Field, an historic site that Pollard has made clear is a vital part of Vancouver’s heritage and downtown future.
Sure, it’s disappointing that the presence of Pearson, and more to the point, PDX, means the FAA gets a say in bridge designs, but hey, that’s life. I suppose we could ask planes to dive steeply over a gorgeous cable-stayed bridge.
As for the attacks on the DOT’s by Bragdon, well, that’s not a new song, either. As I’ve posted before, the CRC project includes not just a new bridge but work on interchanges north and south of the bridge itself. You have a series of tightly packed, outdated on and off ramps with lots of cars changing lanes to get where they need to go.
My favorite example of a current substandard interchange is the entrance ramp from Jantzen Beach onto I-5 north, which is all of about 200 feet long, or about 10% of the length called for by modern design standards. The extra lanes on the bridge are designed to enhance traffic flow as traffic changes lanes to exit and enter the freeway. Right now it’s an absurdly dangerous situation, compounded by the “hump” in the middle of the bridge that allows some boat traffic to go through without a bridge lift.
Oh yeah, we often forget: the existing bridges are lift spans, the only ones on I-5, I believe. You could drive from the Canadian border to Mexico and the only place you would need to stop for boat traffic is in Vancouver, WA.
As for community impacts, notice Duin failed to even mention the fact that the new bridge would, if approved by elected officials and voters, finally bring light rail to Clark County. Strange how the holy grail of Oregon transportation policy is suddenly not a factor in this discussion.
Same for the desperately needed improvements for bicyclists, because right now I seriously don’t understand how cyclists can deal with going across the spans, with diesel semi-trucks two feet to the left and a thin railing separating them from a plunge into the river below on their right, with steel girders narrowing the sidewalk every twenty feet or whatever. You’d think a new bicycle facility would be something to get excited about, but the bike people in Portland don’t like the new design either.
Overall, it’s fine to find ways to improve the architecture of a new bridge. Duin likes the idea of a design contest, and so do I. That would be awesome. Maybe the bike path should include a minor-league baseball stadium or something, now that it looks like Washington state is going to allow Tax Increment Financing.
It’s also fantastic to insist upon ways to lower the costs, but let’s be fair about it. The relentless distortion of the bridge issue from certain quarters south of the river isn’t helpful, and the continuing dismissive tone towards Clark County residents (“podunk airport”) just adds to the rancor.
It doesn’t make any sense to build a bridge intended to last a century or more and build it too small, nor does it make a lot of sense to build a new bridge and fail to address the horrendous problems north and south of the I-5 bridge.
Nothing is going to be perfect. If one wishes to reduce the costs of the bridge, as some area members of Congress are suggesting, then that’s great. I would submit that will likely entail eliminating some of the interchange improvements and maybe a “mixing” lane or two, not only on a new bridge but along I-5 north and south of the bridge. The key question is at what point does it make sense to do nothing instead? Reasonable people can disagree reasonably on that point, if they wish.
I guess I just don’t understand why some in Oregon have to trash the entire project, the state DOT’s and Vancouver to propose improvements in the CRC. Not everyone in Clark County used to live in Portland, but that seems to be the attitude, and along with it comes a healthy dose of “screw them.”
Here’s a little something the lifestyle liberals in Portland might want to consider: your smug insistence on informing people of your superiority and attributing bad motives to the bridge designers is every bit as grating as that done by the righties in Clark County who also oppose the CRC.
Birds of a feather, you know.