BTA Board responds to Oregonian CRC editorial

Last week the Oregonian editorial board took a swipe at the cost of biking and walking pathways proposed by Columbia River Crossing planners. The editorial board also reminded readers that the core purpose of the project is “getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly.”

BTA Board Chair Mary Roberts and Board Member Stephen Gomez submitted this letter to the Oregonian in response:

“The Oregonian’s point about looking closely at the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is well-taken and examining the goal of the project is the most obvious place to start.

Rather than merely aiming to move more “trains, cars, and trucks” across the river, the goals ought to be to improve the quality of communities and health of the economy in the close surrounding areas, the region, and farther. However, building this bridge and seven interchanges would win the battle of peak-hour auto congestion but lose the larger, more significant war for an improved economy, better health, clean air, livability, and prudent investment.

This CRC proposal, if it were ever to get built, would be a $4 billion mistake. As conceived, it is, quite simply, money not well spent in creating higher quality communities. To be fair, it is a complex project with real needs to be met – such as improved traffic safety, transit access and freight mobility. But, the seven-mile project corridor lacks consistent bike-able paths and roadways, making this is a bike bridge to nowhere for cyclists.

I urge the project team to heed the community’s desires and envision a transportation corridor for the 21st century. This is the northwest, a bastion of creative thinking and environmental innovation. Surely we can do better.


Mary Roberts, BTA Board Chair
Steven Gomez, BTA Board Member”

The Oregonian editors also opined that “putting bikers below cars and trucks is shaping up as the best option” (though they didn’t mention that no other even moderately appealing options have been left on the table). The Columbia River Crossing’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory group may take some kind of action on the question at their August 26th meeting, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at 700 Washington Street, Suite 300, in Vancouver.

It is not clear what bike facilities will be planned that connect to the bridge – to the south, from North Portland, and to the north, from Vancouver – or whether they would be built as part of the CRC project.


Comments (5)

  1. Carissa Permalink  | Aug 18, 2009 03:03pm

    This is a well worded letter, especially this IF:

    “This CRC proposal, if it were ever to get built, would be a $4 billion mistake.”

    The BTA PR is getting savvier and savvier.

  2. Rob Permalink  | Aug 19, 2009 09:34am

    The Oregonian editors are obviously short sighted. Look at the I-205 bridge and its use by bikes and pedestrians. Its obvious that planning for bike and pedestrian traffic is essential. Heck, we need a bike thoroughfare from San Francisco to Vancouver BC! It can be called I-5B (for Bicycle). Along with an HOV lane they should add LOV lane…Low Oil Vehicle lane… on all roads.

  3. Emett Stasiuk Permalink  | Aug 24, 2009 03:03am

    Thanks for being our biking voice. I’d hate to think of the plans being laid without as much biking bias as possible, or we’ll just never attract more riders to that corridor. The river is just a big enough obstacle that many people will automatically dismiss the idea of biking, and we can’t have the designers stuck on that page.

    I’m imagining the ride from downtown Vancouver to Portland or vice versa to be a lovely and totally doable commute. Especially with the light rail to support it, since bike commuters might like an easy out if they get a flat or break a chain. But that’s Someday. In the future.

    Currently it is not so nice: bike lanes end, have hard to locate beginnings, never seem to go straight to the target, drop you on strange surface roads, and (like most bike paths) could always use more bigger brighter signs. On the Portland side, the worst part for me was the debris in the entire MLK northbound bike lane, what a mess! And need I mention, the bridge lanes suck!

    Fixing that commute will be great. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to bike it now. Thanks again -emett s

  4. Brent Bolton Permalink  | Aug 25, 2009 10:03pm

    Mary’s editorial is spot on and I second the above comments.

    The one piece I would like to add to the conversation is don’t automatically dismiss the bike lanes below the roadway option. I moved to Portland many years ago from a city that had such a bike roadway. Austin, Texas has had a bike/pedestrian path slung underneath a freeway for decades.

    I can report that it is quite pleasant to ride with almost no traffic noise and no car exhaust. Contrast that with riding the I-5 bridge on the downwind side, or the I-205 bridge where there is nothing but a downwind side since the bike lane is in the middle. And I won’t mention the freight train loud traffic noise.

    The key design element in the Austin bridge that makes it so nice is that it is far below the overarching bridge rather than immediately below. So sun and breeze readily reach its deck. The same design could work on the Columbia by including a lift section to accommodate passing boats. Such a lift would be far less expensive to build than one intended for vehicle traffic. Alternatively, the bike lane could be slung a lesser distance beneath one edge of the bridge to achieve much the same effect.

  5. Joseph Santos-Lyons Permalink  | Sep 06, 2009 11:46pm

    thank you BTA – this CRC is not serving our community!

    -Piedmont resident 2 blocks from I-5 and Lombard