I-5 bridge project lands on light rail to replace bridge

The light rail will be part of the Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Plan, bringing MAX trains to Vancouver from Portland.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, along with C-Tran, TriMet and Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle all agreed that light rail is the better option as there is greater demand, the system will maximize trips on the river and light rail aligns with equity and climate change goals.

According to C-Tran CEO Shawn Donaghy, MAX trains will also be able to easily connect to Vancouver’s expanding Vine bus system.

The program considered three options: shoulder bus, bus rapid transit and light rail. The light rail option will accommodate 266 passengers in a two-car train while a bus can hold 100 passengers, depending on the schedule.

“Light rail has a higher demand than bus rapid transit,” said John Willis, deputy program manager for the bridge plan.

According to Willis, light rail offers more competitive travel times than bus trips that require a transfer to the Portland Expo Center — and offers a greater chance of attracting federal dollars compared to bus options.

The alignment of light rail tracks will follow I-5, then take East Evergreen Boulevard to end near the Vancouver Community Library.

The I-5 alignment will also have less impact on properties compared to an option with MAX lines running through downtown Vancouver, according to Willis.

The program will continue to refine plans as impacts and benefits are better understood, Willis said. The announcement is a “taste” of the locally modified preferred alternative, or full plan for the bridge, at the May 5 meeting.

“We believe Evergreen provides the best opportunity to connect our modes, which we have in the C-TRAN network with TriMet’s light rail system, with the goal of avoiding the displacement or disruption of a already vibrant cityscape in downtown Vancouver,” said Donaghy. .

Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said light rail “adds a new fast option to our toolbox. It complements the existing and planned C-Tran system.

The City of Vancouver’s climate plan calls for net-zero emissions by 2040, and the light rail option is the best way to get there, according to McEnerny-Ogle.

Opposition

Not all politicians agree with the light rail option, which was a major reason for the failure of the last effort to replace the bridge in 2013.

U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler responded to the decision with disappointment.

“I couldn’t be more disappointed with today’s announcement that those responsible for replacing the I-5 Bridge are offering two final project options that do not include the rapid transit bus, while both would expand the Portland Light Rail Transit in Clark County,” she wrote in a statement on Thursday. “This decision runs counter to voters in Southwest Washington who have firmly and repeatedly rejected the introduction of Portland Light Rail in Washington State, as well as the enormous costs, limitations on river traffic and the public safety concerns that come with it.”

There were three votes related to light rail in Clark County, but none specifically gave voters the choice of a yes or no vote on light rail itself.

In 1995, Clark County voters rejected a 0.3% increase in motor vehicle sales and excise taxes for Clark County’s share of a planned light rail transit line. downtown Clackamas to the 99th Street area of ​​Hazel Dell by a 2-to-1 margin. In 2012, voters rejected a proposed 0.1% sales tax increase by C-Tran for fund the operation and maintenance of a MAX light rail line in the county with 56.51% of voters opposed. In 2013, an advisory measure on whether Clark County commissioners should oppose the streetcar if there was no countywide vote on the project was approved with 68.39% of the vote.

Safety is a concern with the light rail option, and the program is still evaluating options to provide a safe MAX train as it will cross jurisdictions on the river.

Auxiliary channels

Officials are evaluating three options for the new bridge’s auxiliary lanes, or short side lanes that give drivers distance to speed up or slow down before merging with I-5. The main benefit of lanes is safety and accident reduction.

The program looked at data models based primarily on 2019 data to assess the three options: if no bridge was built, a bridge with one auxiliary lane, and a bridge with two auxiliary lanes. The model examines what bridge metrics might be in 2045.

One of the main insights from the model suggests that travel times will not be much different in an alternative with an auxiliary lane: a difference of about two to three minutes in journeys in 2045 compared to no new bridge .

But in a two-lane option, while the morning commute time would not be much different than if no new bridges were built, evening peak hour congestion would all but disappear by 2045.

Roger Millar, CEO of the Washington State Department of Transportation, said that while the lanes don’t do much for traffic, they do improve safety, which is the primary goal.

The program is still studying models of how auxiliary lanes will reduce the number and severity of collisions.

The final decision for the alternate routes will be made at a meeting on May 5 to present the locally preferred modified alternative.

Jose P. Rogers