Would one of the nation's worst traffic bottlenecks qualify? I mean if you were going to spend twice the city of Portland's annual budget one one single project - would a nationally known and recognized traffic bottleneck be a good place to do so? If you wanted to spend four times the State of Oregon's education budget on a single 5 mile stretch of highway - would you want to cure something that was pretty bad - I mean really bad?
If you were going to ignore peak oil, or climate change, or air pollution, or gas price trends, or vehicle miles traveled trends, or economic advice - and build one single massive project that is likely to suck up regional transportation funds for decades, wouldn't you want to cure one of the sickest sections of highways in the nation?
Certainly you would.
And that is exactly what the Columbia River Crossing aims to do. To alleviate traffic congestion, in the nation's worst traffic bottleneck. Oh wait, according to "the most comprehensive country-wide perspective and city-by-city analysis" the nation's worst traffic bottleneck is in New York City, on the Cross Bronx Expressway and Bronx River Parkway interchange.
OK, so the current I5 crossing over the Columbia, what with all the outdated interchanges and lift bridge, and the limited number of lanes - surely is the second worst traffic bottleneck in the nation. Nope. Second worst bottleneck is also on the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.
OK, we can give it to them New York City folks - I mean they have LOTS of people. But the current I5 crossing over the Columbia is so bad that we want to spend several thousand dollars for every man woman and child in the region to build a whole new bridge. It is so bad it is in the top 5 worst bottlenecks in the nation. Right?
But the traffic is really bad on the current I5 Columbia River Crossing. I mean, all the politicians and the CRC task force have been telling us so. It has to rank pretty high. Maybe top 10?
In fact, according to the INRIX traffic scorecard the current I5 Columbia River Crossing, one which they want us to spend 4 billion dollars to "fix" is not even in the top 100 worst bottlenecks in the entire nation.
All at a time where fuel borders on $5 a gallon, climate change looms large on the horizon, suburban sprawling developments across the country are in trouble, and construction and raw material costs climb every single day - we are looking to spend more money than we spent on the Hoover Dam to fix a traffic problem that is not even in the 100 worst in the nation.
Sounds like a plan.
A bad one.
In fact, according to their data the worst traffic bottleneck in the Pacific Northwest is 520 in Seattle, barely making the top 100 list at 99th in the nation. It is also worth noting that the top 10 list of worst traffic congested cities reads like a who's who of "build more highways to solve congestion" proponents. Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, etc... Sure lots of highly populated areas show up on the congestion list - but it just goes to show you...
You can't ease congestion by building more roads.