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Brian -

Thanks for this post. I think it's important to consider that while we encourage reducing auto use, automobiles are not going to go away. The gasoline-run automobile will lend itself to the hybrid car and in the future that will lend itself to the plug-in hybrid. These future options will limit greenhouse gas emissions, but the infrastructure - roads, bridges, highways, will need to be in place for years ahead. Building a bridge that accommodates lightrail, pedestrians, bikes, cars (in the forms they take now and in the future) and freight traffic is essential to the entire West Coast.

Mike M


As a Portland architect who has largely given up my car for a bike and a bus, I have to say that I am unimpressed with a need and design for the new bridge.

I understand the need to move freight along the I-5 corridor, but I feel that freight should be encouraged to use I-205 to go around Portland as much as possible. Tolling the interstate bridge would be one way to accomplish this. With modern technologies like EZ pass, adding tolls to the bridge should be possible without causing immense traffic backups. Frequent users will enjoy carpool lane status.

Another side effect of tolling this bridge would be to encourage people to live and work on the same side of the river. A toll will encourage people to either move closer to their jobs, or seek work closer to home. If both commuters and freight used the bridge less, there would be much less traffic. This would also alleviate the need to eventually widen I-5 through Portland, saving billions, and keeping the east side from being split by an even bigger highway.

Everything that I have seen through the process has led me to believe that we will likely be getting the blandest bridge that we can afford. This is just one more reason that I would rather see the current bridge modified and kept, rather then be replaced with something the design community will regret.

Alexander Craghead

I primarily drive, as one of my major frequent destinations is not easily accessible via transit. (These are the curses of being a suburbanite). However, I believe in transit strongly and can't wait for the day my community gets light rail.

This bridge in my view should not be built. The pricetag at which it weighs in is ludicrous when you compare it to what you could buy for the same money. Now I'm not advocating axing it to spend the money elsewhere, because I know that's not possible. But I am using alternative forms of measurement to get a grasp on bang for buck. When you see that this bridge will cost the same as 100+ miles of MAX or 400+ miles of WES, it is just stupid.

Also, considering the looming infrastructure crisis in this nation, it seems irresponsible to spend this kind of money on a questionable project such as this when it could be done cheaper via upgrades and free money up for much needed work elsewhere.

The existing bridge is fine, and could serve on for generations with the proper care and upgrades. This to me seems like another example of our modern throwaway culture, where we'd rather tear down serviceable infrastructure in favor of the new and shiny.

You're spot on regarding I-5 near the Rose Quarter. The same can be said of the I-84 interchange, and also up near Delta Park where the freeway necks to 4 lanes. These are problems, and transit advocate or not, a freeway that is disfunctional is of no use to anyone. Lets redesign these three locations and give the existing bridge the upgrade it needs. Lets show the nation that we don't subscribe to throwaway engineering in Portland.


funny, i was just talking about this last night.

just because you build a new bridge, doesn't mean the old one gets demolished. light rail between vancouver and portland has been on the table for years and will one day become a reality out of neccessity. the old bridge could be used as a light rail/bicycle/pedestrian crossing while the new bridge would serve the automobiles (which are never going away whether they run on imported oil or our collective hot air) and freight trucks (an undeniable neccessity for consumers of goods). until the day comes that a new bridge is built, i support the toll idea, however that costs a hefty penny to implement as well.

in terms of design, i really don't care what the thing looks like. it is an interstate and while that road serves as a gateway to portland, drivers are greeted with a heavy dose of suburbanism and chain stores. i would rather save money to build a designer bridge in the heart of downtown rather than on the outskirts. and i think a simpler bridge would add more focus on the existing bridge which would host more environmentally means of transportation thereby making it altogether more beautiful.


If I have learned anything in the field of architecture, it is the power, and danger, of aerial renderings. (Perhaps unfairly due to the 3d aerial images which were released), I have been viscerally opposed to this project as presented since I first saw its sprawling, spaghetti-like visage. When I first laid eyes on the CRC - as proposed - my heart sank. My mind spun as I had visions that I had been transported back to Los Angeles in the 1970s. Am I not in the Pacific Northwest? Hasn't everybody seen An Inconvenient Truth? Hasn't the paradigm shifted? Apparently not, or at least not enough. The existing bridges have received passing structural grades. Tolling has been demonstrated as a fair and effective method of asking the users of infrastructure to pay for it, while at the same time reducing overall demand. It is unconscionable that we are considering letting an albatross such as the CRC, as currently drawn, land at our northern shores as Trimet considers fare hikes and our Sellwood bridge crumbles into the Willamette. I commend our Metro Council representatives Liberty, Collette and Hosticka, who have raised their voices in support of a phased tolling alternative.

Max Rockbin

Has anyone on the I-5 project discussed the possibility of buying (and closing) the Pearson Airfield? It's a small airfield It has to be a drop in the river compared to the ridiculous cost of the overall project, yet it seems to be the major factor dictating the design.
Runway 8-26 is 60 feet wide and 3,200 feet long. The runway is marked with Basic striping and has Medium Intensity Runway Lights.

Pearson Field has 150 T-hangars as well as tiedown facilities. The airport serves as home base for approximately 175 aircraft.
More than anyone wants to know about the Portland Airfield biz model:

Ice Man

The current I-5 bridge is a transportation nightmare. I ride my bike and commute but also have occasional site visits and trips that necessitate driving across that rancid bridge. Like I said, it's a nightmare. I don't argue that the price tag is ridiculous but from a transportation standpoint, it's broke. And saying people should take the bus instead is not the answer cause we all know that not everyone is on the bus Gus. And not everyone can afford to buy a house close-in and be able to ride a bike and be snotty about those who drive cars. Snot me.


"...we will likely be getting the blandest bridge that we can afford." Mike M

"just because you build a new bridge, doesn't mean the old one gets demolished." goose

"When you see that this bridge will cost the same as 100+ miles of MAX or 400+ miles of WES, it is just stupid."

"The existing bridge is fine, and could serve on for generations with the proper care and upgrades." Alexander Craghead

I agree with all those thoughts. Of the features that eventually may be part of the planned mega-bridge, an architecturally adventurous, beautiful CRC bridge design probably has the least likelihood of happening. (Is there even a reasonable place to move Pearson?)

The CRC mega-bridge just perpetuates bad trends; promoting cross-river home to job commutes, sprawl, congestion, wasteful gas consumption, and on and on.

Just for pure silly fun, I liked this comment over on blueoregon:

comment, Columbia River Crossing-Profiles in Courage

"One alternative: buy every commuter a segway. You could buy 1.3 million of them. And since there aren't that many commuters, you could buy 500,000 segways and still have enough to update the bridge." Anon Insider


I'm not particularly interested in blowing $4.2 billion - probably the total infrastructure dollars over the next 20 years for the region - so that we can rebuild a couple of freeway interchanges for the 'Couv, and add a couple of auxiliary lanes to a bridge corridor that already exists, to help some sales-tax dodging Vantuckians.

I mean, give me a break. We could build like 21 miles of subway for that kind of money! Sheesh...


Oregon should adopt a sales tax to allow less reliance on (and some relief from) property tax and slow the growth trend of residing in the tax dodging bedroom community of Vancouver. Induced traffic is real, if more lanes are built more will be filled, and the bottle necks will just happen further north and south of where they currently take place. If the CRC is realized as the 12 lane roadway that's being proposed, it will set the region back 50-100 years.

Mike M

"Not everyone can afford to buy a house close-in and be able to ride a bike and be snotty about those who drive cars."

It's all about choices. People in Vancouver could and would live closer to work if it were more uncomfortable to cross the river to get there. I think that the more we can influence people to make the right choices, the better.

Also, how long does it currently take to drive from a home in Vancouver to a job in Portland, 30 minutes? I can't possibly believe that there isn't decent affordable housing within 30 minutes drive of Portland on this side of the river.


"It's all about choices. People in Vancouver could and would live closer to work if it were more uncomfortable to cross the river to get there."

That's really very offensive.


what is offensive about it? i think it is offensive that people live so far from their work so they can have 4000 square foot homes and dodge taxes.


...and force those of us who can walk to work to pay for it!


I don't know if you Oregonians realize this, but us vancouver folk still have to pay the oregon income tax on any income we make in oregon. Not to mention we pay sales tax on our everyday items. So really not much of a tax break living on this side of the river.


There is an exhibit of Artworks
of a Green Park-Roof Design for the Columbia Crossing Bridge at
the Lucky Lab Brewpub NW on nw
Quimby st. above 19th.
The Park Roof protects drivers from winter weather, controls pollution run-off , and
eliminates expensive lifecycle
re-painting by protecting the structure from the elements.
The Park Roof would be a world wide destination and landmark
bringing visitor acclaim and dollars. It can be our Golden Gate , our stunning symbol of a Green Future.


"what is offensive about it? i think it is offensive that people live so far from their work so they can have 4000 square foot homes and dodge taxes."
"Also, how long does it currently take to drive from a home in Vancouver to a job in Portland, 30 minutes? I can't possibly believe that there isn't decent affordable housing within 30 minutes drive of Portland on this side of the river."

My wife works in Portland, I work in Vancouver. We live in Vancouver. We are not moving to Oregon so I can pay $5,600 a year in taxes on top of the amount she already pays. It is just not economically feasible for us. Our house is 1300 sq ft, not 4000. She commutes downtown 11 miles to work and I commute 7 miles the opposite direction. It takes her not 30 minutes but a full hour to get home. I would consider myself an environmentalist. I don’t like it that we are driving CO2 emitting cars any more than you do. But at the same time, I don’t think we should have to feel guilty for having an 11 mile commute. And I don’t think that 11 mile commute should take an hour.


Has anyone heard of C-TRAN? Maybe people from Vancouver could just take the bus to the Expo Center Max (Lines 41,44,47).


Everyone should go to http://smarterbridge.org/ and read the facts on why building a horrendously expensive new bridge is unnecessary and will increase sprawl and global warming without ultimately reducing congestion.

Even the proponents acknowledge that this bridge's need is based on outdated assumptions, like $2/gallon gas. The claim that we need a whole new bridge to facilitate freight traffic is bogus: according to transport expert Chris Smith, trucks and other goods shipping accounts for at most 13% (some say less than 10%) of the traffic over the bridge. I'd like to know how much of the traffic is single occupant commuters who got huge price breaks by buying in sprawly Clark County and now expect the rest of us to subsidize their lifestyle choice by paying thousands of dollars per taxpayer (I don't recall the exact figure) for this boondoggle.

The current bridges are structurally stable. They should toll the current bridge, use the revenues from that (and the federal money not used to build a new one) to fix the on and off ramps, some seismic overhauls, and install light rail across the river (preferably replacing current traffic lanes, but at most adding a new crossing for light rail, bikes and pedestrians). Then let the good citizens of Clark County pay for decent bus connections to the new light rail station there. If they're not on the bus now, they should be. Why should Portlanders subsidize their anti enviromental, inefficient and wasteful choices, especially now that the chickens are finally coming home to roost with $4/gal. (and soon higher) gas? It's better for the region's economy and the planet's environment for commuters to reduce car traffic (as is already starting to happen with high gas prices) and use buses and light rail and maybe actually bike or walk a block or three to the bus stop. If they're too lazy or cheap to do so, fine, but don't make those of us who've paid higher costs to live close to where we work pay for their laziness, cheapness and shortsightedness.

This is the biggest single policy decision we face over the next decade or so. Rather than building a 1950s solution to a 21st century problem, we should use the remaining available federal money to fix potholes and build sidewalks and bike boulevards and light rail in Portland, not subsidize land speculation, global warming and wasteful sprawl culture in Washington.


"If they're too lazy or cheap to do so, fine, but don't make those of us who've paid higher costs to live close to where we work pay for their laziness, cheapness and shortsightedness."

Again, offensive. Dismissive of people who don't make a certain amount of money.

Maybe this bridge is a bad idea. But looking at a city that has doubled its housing prices in about five years and then telling people they're lazy if they can't afford to live closer to work is a worse idea. Except maybe anonymously, on the internet.


For those interested check out this link to the 'design' of the new I-35 bridge that collapsed last year in Minneapolis.


Should we expect any better, I sure hope so.


Great topic that is certainly reminiscent of the freeway building days of the 1960s -1970s. As has been said already, more lanes will only lead to more people using the bridge. Once that fills up, then what? When do we say "No More!"?

About two years ago, I went to a program at PSU where the CRC was discussed. Since they were looking for feedback, I suggested they use the original historic span for light rail and/or pedestrian & bicycle use, while replacing or fixing up as necessary, the second existing span. Basically, I thought it was a good idea to keep the same number of car lanes but add the light rail/bike/ped component while preserving what really is a major transportation landmark. Boy did they think I was crazy!

It has been pretty clear that dollar signs are driving the project and many folks in power seem resigned to the fact that "it's gonna get built" which is exactly how many of our area freeways were constructed. Money was on the table and nobody besides those having their neighborhoods ripped out (until the early 1970s)had the nerve to question the need for more freeways. I thought that era was over but it has reared its ugly head once again. The point is, the new behemoth of a bridge can be stopped, it just takes both political will and persistence. Keep urging folks like Robert Liberty, 1000 Friends, etc...to keep up the pressure in questioning the need for the planned CRC.

I suggest anyone interested check out the upcoming Toward CarFree Cities conference at PSU in mid-June. www.carfreeportland.org
Their free "public" day in June 17th and I know there will be at least one program discussing the CRC. In the interests of shameless self-promotion I will be involved in a program on the Mt. Hood Freeway, discussing, among other things, the fact that Robert Moses had nothing to do with that road - blame the State Highway Division (now ODOT) and Glenn Jackson, of that lovely I-205 bridge fame, for such wonders as the East Bank and the ill fated Mt. Hood Freeways.


You can't count I-5 as only 2 lanes at the Rose Quarter. Because vehicles can also use I-405 on a parallel route, there really is no "bottleneck" there unless you *must* use I-5.

As for the bridge being wider — most of those lanes are for exits to and from Vancouver: SR 14, SR 500, Main Street. 14 lanes sounds wide, but 8 of those 14 lanes are just to get people out of the mainline I-5 as early as possible.

As for the comment that Portlanders shouldn't subsidize Vancouver's road — on the same front, why should Vancouver continue to subsidize Portland's train? They pay income tax in Oregon but get nothing. And damn if they'll use MAX just because we tell them to.

We need to give both sides of the river options or nothing will get done.


This bridge shouldn't be built as the CRC currently envisions it. In my opinion, there are two major characteristics of this proposal that are deal-breakers:

1) Its 12 lanes would be completely out-of-step with the rest of the regional freeway system.

2) A 4.2 Billion USD investment should be a mandate for an iconic design, yet the current proposal would be aesthetically atrocious.

Life in the US will change drastically in the coming decades. Car use will probably stagnate, and mass transit usage will increase dramatically. The costs associated with driving- the price of gasoline, tolls, the cost of road building and mainteinence, will continue to rise.
Regardless of public acceptance, a rise in gasoline taxes will be necessary and imminent.

Those "good ol' days" of cheap gasoline are over - forever. Not just cheap gasoline, but cheap food too.

I can accept that some powerful lobbies want this bridge to be built. I understand why. But it is difficult for me to understand how citizens of this region would consider supporting this bridge. I'd be interested to hear valid reasons of support from a proponent of this bridge- just why it is a more important investment (at 4.2 B USD) than other transportation priorities, like mass transit, given the new era the US is entering.


The existing bridges are very
sub-standard structurally. They are long past their Design-Life!
They were made with a lower strength steel and connections [rivets/bolts] than are considered Safe today. They have been under harsh weather , with less than proper paint protection for decades. They are a danger to you and yours Today!


I'm strongly in favor of Oregon jobs for Oregonians. But decommission Pearson Airfield.

To convert it to high density housing and mixed use, convenient to a mass transit link to Portland, Ft Vancouver Park, a downtown Vancouver that could be charming, and the industrial/ port areas with good jobs nearby, could represent a win-win.

Companies could open telecommute offices in the development making Vancouver employees Oregon income tax free, demotivating an I5 commute.

Classic redevelopment opportunity. Inevitable.

The old Vancouver neighborhoods North of Ft Vancouver and otherwise surrounding downtown Vancouver are the next St Johns/ Alberta. (Well actually Milwalkie is, so the next next.)

Double J

The current bridge is overloaded and sub standard structurally, I live on Interstate and I see the daily overflow. Also, let's think about seizmic concerns... a not so unthinkable 8.0 would liquify the earth that the current "wooden" pilings are surrounded by to 75 feet and we would lose lives. Sheesh this is I-5 not merely some north south arterial subject to just Portland and Vancouver's concerns... this is the damn aorta of the West Coast.

Look, there are many conflicting arguments and a big budget ... so let's get a serious architect (like UN Studio, or Hadid etc.) and have them build the greenest bridge ever built... A serious architect should act as a lightning rod for all of these concerns, one that forges a coalition of these seeming unharmonious needs and concerns.

Harmonizing the cacophony is what great architects do. It is the biggest project of its type on the West Coast and its time to stop turning it into a blind man's elephant of minutia.

There is a big picture opportunity here that shouldnt be squandered.


Is there anyone in the architecture/design community in Portland leading efforts to ensure that a quality project is built? Or are we all just going to be left to complain and lament the missed opportunity.


Just clarification-

"Portlanders shouldn't subsidize Vancouver's road — on the same front, why should Vancouver continue to subsidize Portland's train? They pay income tax in Oregon but get nothing."

Not to say that this isn't a commonly held view up North...but the Oregon income tax paid by Vancouver residents working in PDX goes to schools and prisons primarily.

You are correct though to the extent that Vancouverites pay the TriMet tax (can someone help on this?), though the TriMet tax goes primarily to operations - bus drivers.


keith.d there is a design advisory group but it is pretty toothless. this thing is being driven by the Feds and the state DOT's. It is being designed by traffic engineers for traffic engineers. the air strip is a red herring that the powers that be are more than happy to use to keep costs and creativity down.

if it must be built it must be fantastic. at least that's how i feel.


Somehow, reading this in the New York Times("The New, new city") made me think of the CRC discussion:

“In America, I could never do work like I do here,” Steven Holl, a New York architect with several large projects in China, recently told me, referring to his latest complex in Beijing. “We’ve become too backward-looking. In China, they want to make everything look new. This is their moment in time. They want to make the 21st century their century. For some reason, our society wants to make everything old. I think we somehow lost our nerve.”


i can not believe that we are even talking about a municipal airfield.

Surely the contentious nature of this debate is amplified by the lack of real leadership politically on either side of the river. This is bigger than both DOT's, a 39 member committee, Metro, etc. All these committees only serve to dilute the mission and design. Therefore we have a little bit of everything, without anything meaningful.

There were times when grand infrastructure projects at least had the window dressing of inspiration for the working classes. Go to the existing South-bound span bike path entrance. There you will find a tarnished bronze plaque dedicated with pride to the betterment of the life of the cities. Now we expect nothing more than cheap and fast. Even in utopia Portland/couver.

In this debate the clear divisions between citizens are laid bare: he wants something, I don't want to pay for it, not in my back yard. Like children quarreling. The Regan Republican mentality of every-man for himself is dead. Time for the new model of accepting our fare share of the cost of living in a civilized society.
I agree. No build is not a solution.

This needs to be a symbol of pride for the cities. A symbol of a better life. What the Empire State Blg is to skyscrapers, the Golden Gate to bridges. These are era's long since past. Those built on greed and individual freedom. In it's place a radical regionalism and community. Movement: the greatest American tradition!

What would a symbol of a better life look like? conversations with people, living, light, air, personal mobility. Not cars.


China, the country that's damming the Yangtze River, creating the world's largest man-made reservoir, thus demolishing many hundreds of square miles of natural environment, historic sites of human civilization, and almost inevitably increasing the human burden upon the earth's finite resources. From a development standpoint, that is the last country I would hope the U.S. considers emulating for further developments of its own infrastructure.

Kitty, I believe there are many people like you that find it extremely regrettable that so much money would be dedicated to the construction of a bridge across the mighty Columbia that lacks even the slightest spark of beautiful, creative aesthetic inspiration in it's conception. I don't want to see the airport moved for the POS crossing that's being planned. Pearson is more than a municipal airport. It's a historically important airport that continues to serve an important role for private plane owners today.

On the other hand, if a magnificent, beautifully designed bridge to cross the Columbia were seriously considered, I and I think many people would be receptive to the idea of finding someway to accommodate the airfield elsewhere. What are chances that such a bridge design will ever be considered? I'd guess, slim to nothing. If you consider this butt-ugly thing they want to lay over the Columbia costs $4.5 bil, probably add at least another billion to make it look like something everyone won't feel like throwing up on.

It's worth building new, or upgrading the existing structures for seismic considerations, but to do so for the purpose of accommodating expansion in the kind of employee residence to workplace commuting that has been going for decades now is just nuts. It's time to stop this self defeating pattern and move to a better way of doing things.


"A magnificent, beautifully designed bridge to cross the Columbia" would be designed if people in general (including our leaders) had any appreciation for aesthetics. But they do not. The proposed crossing, from the design perspective is atrocious.Prediction: The need for cars (or airplanes)will not derease, best thing that can (should) happen is new technologies that make them carbon neutral. Some kind of vehicle will be crossing the CRC in 2100 and it will not all be light rail. So, the infrastracture needs updating. The idea of doing nothing is preposterous.Even more preposterous is an apostrophe at the possessive "its" (as in "its place")
America in the 20th Century was not admired for its "radical regionalism and community" it was admired for its technology, science and for projecting the idea of modernity.

I am not disagreening with ws on China's hubris, my point was the "loss of nerve" ie the ability to think boldly about what is possible...

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