Better alternative to CRC: Third Bridge

third bridge

by Ron Swaren

The “Third Bridge” from Portland to Vancouver most commonly refers to a concept also called “The Western Arterial.”  It is also called the “Port-to-Port” bridge, and was analyzed as an alternative by the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council in 1999.  The Western Arterial was originally considered by the CRC project, but was dismissed because it was outside of the “(I-5) bridge influence area.”

Well, no…really?

Now that the CRC project is (hopefully) dead, we should be able to get to realistic solutions.  The big economic news in the area is that the Silicon Forest is gearing up for its next big wave of expansion.  And with it will come increasing traffic congestion on the I-5. However, since the construction of the Fremont Bridge and I-405 back in the 1970’s the contribution of traffic on to Interstate 5 from the western parts of the Portland Metropolitan area has been a factor planners have been slow to reckon with. And the burst of growth in high tech industries in the Beaverton Hillsboro area has been the largest contributing factor to I-5 congestion and now there will be more.

Here’s a popular concept of what the connections of the Western Arterial route could be, and please note that this is not a canyon like Interstate freeway.  This has also received general, popular recognition as an effective alternative:

Start in Vancouver, WA at the I-5 and 39th Street exit. Conveniently, Washington State Route 500 also ties in here. Go west (possibly underground) to Fruit Valley Rd. and head south. This eventually ties in to an extension of Mill Plain Blvd. and wends its way on Thompson Ave. to the banks of the Columbia. Cross just west of the BNSF bridge and connect in near North Portland Rd. This connects Vancouver to the Rivergate area and the loop of N. Marine Drive and N. Columbia Boulevard. Head across the Willamette at the west end of this loop from N. Ramsey Blvd.

Connect to Hwy 30 with an interchange, and then head NW near the Newberry Rd. area.  Connect to NW Kaiser Rd. and then to NW Cornelius Pass Rd. and then on to US 26. This puts it in the heart of planned expansion in this industrial area. There probably is a need for a tunnel under Skyline Blvd. since it would be a steep incline to go over the summit.

This is a shortcut, as opposed to going down Interstate 5 and then out US 26, and should appeal to both mass transit and to alternative transportation (i.e. cyclists). What deters many would be transit users are multiple transfers and lengthy rides.  Shortcuts work to every traveler’s advantage. And, for the most part, it makes use of existing Rights of Way.  This can be a standard four lane highway—-there are also concepts for an additional east side crossing, which can also alleviate some of the general interstate traffic burden. This route will also go close to METRO’s West Side Trail system.

By using metal arch bridges fabricated on land, as was the Fremont, costs can be controlled. The CRC project with its concrete structure and risky, over the water construction, had a combination of expensive methods. Admittedly the Western Arterial would not be cheap, but it serves an area that presently does not have good access. It also allows for a large “travel shed” since numerous routes in both Washington and Oregon can intersect it, providing an alternative for traffic which is now confined to I-5. It also allows for an express transit bus system via the major highways.  Supplemental routes (such as NW Cornelius Pass Rd) can have very limited, modest improvements. Vancouver has ample room for growth in its downtown area and there are three major industrial areas which can be served by the Arterial.  Oregon also welcomes the tax dollars that Washington residents bring in.

(Ron is a resident of the Portland area, has been involved in transportation issues and participates in the UN World Urban Forum. As a commercial journeyman carpenter he has built some of the major structures in the Portland area and believes that costs on public works need to be dramatically reduced.)

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Posted by at 07:17 | Posted in Columbia River Crossing, Transportation | 12 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    Washington county is Oregon’s engine of economic growth. A west side bypass of Portland city proper is practically possible if the big businesses of Washington county get behind it. This is key because Kitzhaber and Metro among others are mostly made of concrete with inabilities to acknowledge the role of new road capacity and land use deregulation in unleashing the u^per economic potential of the outer west side of the Portland-Vancouver Metro area.
    Most new businesses want industrial parks with their own parking and campus like setting. You see this all over the U.S. but Metro is a big drag on such developments here. A new west side bypass and land use deregulation would unleash this economic development. So, it’s going to take some real powerhouses to crack the soviets in the likes of the Governor and Metro. Time to encourage big business in Washington county to bull dozer away the soviets.

    • conservativly speaking

      Thank you. The I-5 bridge is not broken, stop messing with it!
      Mr. Clark is correct, a third bridge makes better sense and sooner construction gets under way the better.

      As far as light rail traipses North and Clark County taxpayers concur, make allowances for cost effective usage of the BN rail bridge.

      Picture this: Even if ship passage occasionally impedes rail traffic, the swing bridge recovery time is far faster than gridlock issues attending I-5.

      As far as tolls go, leave I-5 and 405 alone. A third bridge will pay itself from users where time and money relationships matter.

      As for Metro, Multnomie might like it but Clack and now Wash counties realize the (superfluous) layer of regional government as a bad trip to the bank to pay for overdrafts drawn by Portland creeps and PERSnatchers

  • Chucky

    As Ron knows, the CRC studied this option and determined it was a good idea that would do absolutely nothing to reduce congestion and improve safety in the I-5 corridor. His plan is a solution without a problem, meaning there is no money for it.

    • Ron Swaren

      Chucky, maybe they just weren’t reading analyses that show Washington County will be the largest in the state in two decades or less. Have you heard of Intel?

    • Kage McClued

      As Chucky should know, no plan that didn’t bring light rail into Vancouver was ever “studied” and all other plans were rejected out of hand.$25_billion_bribe.html

    • Aj Gomez

      If thousands of cars and trucks per day use it to get west and back, then it must relieve congestion. Even crossing all the way up at Woodland would get some trucks off of I-5.

  • .

    The Jul 3 Oregonian primarily culled 3rd bridge favoritism letters. Why is that? Is it part of their cut back in home delivery for some inexplicable reason?

  • Aj Gomez

    39th may not be the best way back to I-5, but I love the idea of a west side bridge!

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