Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Portland, Vancouver USA Port Officials Offer Support to Columbia River Crossing Project

Officials at the Oregon Port of Portland and Washington state port of Vancouver believe that the construction of the Columbia River Crossing Bridge needs to move forward quickly and have set a goal of 2012 for the start of construction.

The Columbia River Crossing is a bridge, transit and highway improvement project for five miles of Interstate 5 from State Route 500 in Vancouver, Washington, to approximately Victory Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. The CRC development team is studying a replacement I-5 bridge over the Columbia River with light rail extending to Clark College.

The leaders of the two ports claim that the CRC, which has raised concerns from local leaders like the mayors of Portland and Vancouver, is needed to help the flow of truck and vehicle traffic on the congested stretch of Interstate 5 freeway between the two cities.

The official website for the CRC project claims, "If no changes are made, congestion will grow from today’s six hour daily traffic jam to 15 hours per day by 2030. This section of I-5 has an accident rate about double that of similar urban highways in the region. Narrow lanes, short on-ramps, and a lack of safety shoulders on the bridge contribute to accidents. Bridge lifts stall all traffic using I-5, add to unsafe driving conditions and increase accident potential."

Following public statements last week from the governors of both Oregon and Washington supporting the CRC, port officials quickly chimed in with their own support.

Vancouver top executive Larry Paulson told Oregon Public Broadcasting this week that ,“We need to plan for the future. I think in terms of the bridge the future is now.” The head of the Portland port, Bill Wyatt, also told OPB, “If we don’t do something about it, nature will. These bridges are really old, they’re seismically unfit, and they’re not serving the needs of our region."

Both agreed with the two governors' statements that the project should be kept to a target of 2012 for the start of construction.

Opponents of the CRC argue that the project will lead to increased sprawl and that current funding mechanisms are inadequate to continue forward at an accelerated pace.

The mayors of Portland and Vancouver, along with a Clark County Commissioner and the head of Metro transit agency officially asked the governors of both states to reexamine the CRC. Since the governors' voicing of support for the CRC, the four have sought to have certain points and impacts fo the project clarified, including the potential for more sprawl in the project region.