The “New Normal” should mean no light rail and total focus on reducing congestion

June 4, 2024by John Ley0

The RTC Director: “we shouldn’t immediately look to expand freeways”

Fighting for common sense, using last month’s report to the RTC Board. I use their words to expose the fallacy of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program wanting to waste $7.5 billion, including $2 billion on a 3-mile light rail extension that nobody will ride.


At last month’s Board meeting, we were told there is a “new normal”. More people are working from home; people have resumed driving; but significantly fewer people are using transit for work in Oregon. We were told that Clark County has added 39,000 new citizens – the equivalent of a new Ridgefield and new Battle Ground.


Yet director Ransom told us “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 you DO begin widening roadways? How long do we have to wait until you DO begin planning new transportation corridors? You 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 over the Columbia River was built.  In 2008, you published the RTC “Visioning Study”. 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 10-20 years to plan for and build a new bridge and transportation corridor, when will you put those two new bridges into your 20-year transportation plan? Will you wait until 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 “new normal” tells us we should NOT be spending $2 billion for a 3-mile light rail extension. THAT could build 2 or 3 new bridges over the Columbia River. We know that because Washington and Oregon will spend just $520 million to build a new bridge at Hood River & White Salmon.


Nobody believed the IBR’s fake numbers of 26,000 to 33,000 transit riders on the I-5 corridor by 2045. Since there is a “new normal” that includes no increase in cross-river transit ridership, will you demand the IBR team update their projections on transit ridership?


Let’s do the math. You’ve added 39,000 new people, but only TWO more people are riding the I-5 C-Tran Express buses on an average day? 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 #1 priority!


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