Letters to the Editor for June 1, 2017

Oregon proposes $450 million ‘non-fix’ to Rose Quarter bottleneck

Oregon recently gained attention by proposing an $8.4 billion transportation package. A $450 million Rose Quarter “fix” was included. We know this two-mile, two-lane section of Interstate 5 is the real bottleneck for traffic congestion and freight mobility.

But after digging into the details, they are proposing to add ZERO new through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter. It’s an expensive “non-fix.”

They’ll add or extend “auxiliary lanes” for merging and widen shoulders, while building two “lids” across the top of I-5. But sadly, Oregon refuses to add any new through-lanes to I-5.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson told our community that one or two additional lanes are needed at the Rose Quarter, as there are crossing the Columbia River. He shared that at the river, we currently need four lanes in each direction, with up to eight lanes by 2060, unless a new transportation corridor is built.

Without any new lanes at the Rose Quarter, money spent upgrading or replacing the Interstate Bridge will deliver negligible results.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” said Peterson. The CRC demonstrated that fact by delivering only a one-minute improvement in the morning, southbound commute.

We recently built a new on/off ramp to I-205 at 18th Street for $40 million. These two, one-mile new lanes improved traffic flow very inexpensively. Oregon needs to address the Rose Quarter mess with new through lanes, before we talk about “fixing” the Interstate Bridge.

What could we buy for transportation with that $450 million?

Figg Engineering offered our community a “fixed price” East County Bridge for $860 million. Split evenly between Oregon and Washington, there would be $20 million to spare in Oregon’s $450 million Rose Quarter “non-fix” and both states would have a new, third bridge across the Columbia River.

Kevin Peterson estimated that an East County bridge would reduce traffic congestion by 15 to 20 percent on I-205 at the Portland airport and Interstate 84. This would a huge improvement for reducing eastside traffic congestion and improving freight mobility.

At the recent Transportation Town Hall hosted by Rep. Liz Pike, Linda Figg indicated that they could build a bridge farther east (Camas to Troutdale) for $800 million, because the river is narrower.

Everyone at the Transportation Town Hall agreed — we need new “capacity” for cars and trucks in our region.

The 2008 RTC “Visioning Study” proposed two new transportation corridors — one west of I-5 and one east of I-205. Portland has a dozen bridges across the Willamette River, let’s focus on adding new bridges and new transportation corridors across the Columbia River, before we “focus” on fixing or upgrading the Interstate Bridge.

Sadly, Oregon’s $450 million proposal will offer ZERO new through lanes at the Rose Quarter. It will remain a two-mile, two-lane section of I-5 that continues to have the highest accident rate of any section of road in Oregon. It will remain the bottleneck on I-5 in our region.

John Ley, Camas

Thankful for youth who helped restore Washougal Cemetery

The other day I went to the Washougal Cemetery to clean the family plots. To my surprise, a nice gentleman stopped and asked if I could use some help.

I replied I could and he sent four young boys to help.

The volunteers working were a very large group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church.

Needless to say, this was a blessing I will never forget. Thank you all.

Irma Hornbeck, Washougal