If you have ever crossed the Columbia River on I-5 during rush hour, you know you need to be prepared with some good radio to keep you company; the bottleneck will undoubtedly bring you to a standstill. On average there are about 135,000 trips taken over the bridges every day by car, bus, bike or foot — Washingtonians commuting to work in Portland, truckers driving loads along this busy North-South corridor, people heading to Seattle, British Columbia, or California.
Most people agree it is time to do something to improve the traffic situation on the I-5 bridges. But that’s where much of the agreement ends, and in fact the proposed solutions raise more questions than answers.
What should a new crossing look like? Should it be one huge new bridge? Or a small new addition to accompany the two that already exist? Will increasing the capacity of the bridges just create urban sprawl and negatively impact the environment? Should the crossing accommodate public transportation? If so, what kind? Vancouverites have traditionally been opposed to light rail, but is it now time for the MAX to head across the river? Who should pay for this massive project? Should there be a toll?
There are public hearings tonight in Vancouver and tomorrow night in Portland, both designed to solicit comments on an Environmental Impact Statement that reviewed five possible alternatives to the current I-5 bridges.
What do you think of the proposed scenarios? Three Metro councilors think they are too much, too fast. They suggest putting a toll on the bridge to reduce traffic now, and to consider improvements once money has been raised by the tolls.
What do you think is the solution to congestion at the I-5 Columbia River Crossing?