Letter to the Editor: Regional Transportation Council needs to act now

June 13, 2024by John Ley0

“New Normal” of reduced transit ridership and increased use of cars

The Reflector

Monday, June 10, 2024

Our Regional Transportation Council (RTC) recently said there is a “new normal.” More people are working from home — up 150%. People have resumed driving, but significantly fewer people are using transit for work in Oregon. They report that Clark County has added 39,000 new citizens — the equivalent of a new Ridgefield and new Battle Ground.

Yet Director Matt Ransom stated, “We shouldn’t immediately look to expand freeways.” He told us, “Don’t run first to widen the roadway because you have a little congestion.”

How long do we have to wait until elected officials begin widening roadways? How long do we have to wait until the RTC begins planning new transportation corridors? They never answer that question.

It’s been half a century since planning was underway for a new transportation corridor. It’s been over 40 years since a new transportation corridor and bridge were built. In 2008, the RTC “visioning study” was published. It said when Clark County’s population reached 1 million, we would need two new bridges and transportation corridors over the Columbia River.

Today, we are 110,000 people closer to that million, with 39,000 added in just four years. We have over 520,000 people today.

If it takes 10 to 20 years to plan and build a new bridge and transportation corridor, when will the RTC Board put those two new bridges into their 20-year transportation plan? Will they wait until the population hits 700,000 or 800,000? By that time we will be stuck in complete gridlock. Portland has the nation’s 12th worst traffic congestion!

Drivers and freight haulers will be cursing the lack of planning in the 21st century. The Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR), with only three through-lanes, is promising travel times will double by 2045.

The “new normal” tells us we should not be spending $2 billion for a 3-mile light rail extension. That money could build two or three new bridges over the Columbia River. We know this because Washington and Oregon will spend $520 million building a new bridge at Hood River and White Salmon.

Nobody believes the IBR’s fake numbers of 26,000 to 33,000 transit riders on the Interstate 5 corridor by 2045. Since there is a “new normal” with no increase in cross-river transit ridership, will the RTC board demand the IBR team update its transit ridership projections?

Here’s the math: We’ve added 39,000 new people, but only two more people are riding the I-5 C-Tran Express buses on an average day, down from pre-pandemic lows? That should scream “don’t waste money on high-capacity transit right now.”

The IBR is telling people that nearly half of the new bridge structure will not be for cars and trucks and freight haulers. They want to charge drivers tolls in order to pay for transit and biking and pedestrians who “might” cross the river on the replacement bridge.

We must act now to relieve traffic congestion and save people time! That is the people’s No. 1 priority!

John Ley


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