Mayor McBackbone 

Sam Adams Speaks Up For Mega-Bridge Lane Cuts

MAYOR SAM ADAMS pulled a surprise move last week that should make greenies proud: He showed some backbone by pushing for a greener Columbia River Crossing (CRC) bridge.

The debate over the new 1-5 bridge to Vancouver has hinged on the number of lanes it will include. In 2008, project partners—after considering a flood of public input—opted to move forward with the "smallest bridge possible." But this winter, when the time came to actually choose the number of lanes on the bridge, Mayor Adams led the Portland City Council in voting for the fattest option available—up to 12 lanes.

At a Friday, June 5, meeting of nine CRC bigwigs, Adams took the first steps to make sure the planners take that "up to" seriously. Looking at ways to cut down the big bridge's big $4.2 billion budget, Adams piped up, "Is everything on the table, including lane capacity? I'd like to see that put on as choice on the 'menu of choices' we can be looking at for cost and performance goals." That request opens the door to cut the number of lanes on the bridge if planners need to cut the budget.

Adams also pushed to flip the current "stacked" plan, which would place cars on a top roadway and bikes, pedestrians, and light rail on a lower level of the bridge that some fear will resemble a cave.

"I would like a study on the potential for the transit and bike-ped to be on the top deck and the cars underneath," said Mayor Adams. The room fell quiet for a moment. "That's the first I've heard of that. Reversing the stack, will that work?"asked another project member.

Also up for debate are new bridge tolls. A peak hour $4 toll on the I-5 and 205 bridges would raise the most money and reduce traffic, but Vancouver City Council Member Tim Leavitt wondered aloud if "hard-working families" can financially handle such a hefty toll.

Money has already been a sticking point for the $4.2 billion bridge. When Leavitt mentioned reports that some Oregon legislators fought against approving $30 million for the project from the state's strapped budget, Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matthew Garrett got huffy.

"We will cut a ribbon on this project," Garrett said. "Make no mistake about that."

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