Need congestion relief? Build more bridges

What happened the last time a new transportation corridor was built? That’s a question everyone should ask, now that our legislature is considering rebuilding the I-5 Interstate Bridge.

When the new I-205 corridor opened in December 1982, I-5 had almost 110,000 average daily vehicles crossing the Interstate Bridge. The next year, traffic counts dropped 18.6 percent to 89,000 vehicles. That’s 20,000 fewer cars and trucks on I-5 the next year!

It took a decade to exceed 1982 I-5 vehicle counts. Now that’s congestion relief!

In the ensuing 35 years, our population has grown by over one million people to about 2.5 million. Portland has the nation’s 12th worst traffic congestion due to a lack of investment in roads and building new transportation corridors. Exacerbating the problem are more trucks on the I-5 corridor. The Port of Portland lost marine shipping capacity caused by shipper Hanjin’s recent departure, putting more trucks on I-5 to Tacoma and Seattle.

The original transportation plan was to build a westside transportation corridor completing a “ring road” around the downtown core, once I-205 was finished. Sadly, Portland killed the second phase of the ring. We’re living the traffic nightmare that was guaranteed to follow.

A westside corridor is needed, connecting north Clark County to Highway 26 near Beaverton-Hillsboro. This will provide relief from everyone presently forced through the three-lane Vista Ridge Tunnel in downtown Portland. Representative Rich Vial recently introduced a bill allowing for the creation of such a corridor in Oregon’s legislature. His proposal offers two possible routes connecting I-5 near Woodland to Highway 26 in Hillsboro.

Needed next is an eastside corridor providing relief for I-205. Our own Regional Transportation Council (RTC) provided for both new east side and west side corridors in their 2008 “Visioning Study.” The mayors of Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview are on record supporting a new eastside bridge, connecting I-84 at Troutdale with Highway 14 near Camas.

Build more bridges and transportation corridors to reduce congestion and improve freight mobility. Portland has a dozen bridges and transportation routes across the Willamette River. Why should we be limited to just two corridors across the Columbia River?

What happened the last time we built a new transportation corridor? A decade of relief!

John Ley, Camas