The Columbia River Crossing (CRC), one of the largest public works projects in the history of the Portland/Vancouver region, is turning to local citizens and stakeholders to generate alternatives to the current version of the $3.6 Billion project proposal to reduce congestion and enhance safety, livability, and mobility.

PPS Senior Transportation Initiatives Director Gary Toth participated in the expert panel to review these community-generated proposals and said that the 14 alternatives were geared towards “21st Century solutions.”  He estimated that a State DOT might have paid millions in consulting fees for similar suggestions.

This approach to involving local stakeholders and experts represents a new direction in transportation planning: instead of being asked to react to completed plans, the community is asked to generate alternatives themselves.

Gary brings lessons from his decades of experience as a civil engineer and project manager at the New Jersey State DOT (NJDOT) as well as a warning that the traditional single-minded idea that highways must be “wider, straighter, faster” isn’t always better.

One proposed draft concept for the Columbia River Crossing Project

You can watch the entire video by clicking here.

Skip to minute 33:00 to hear Gary share his insider’s view of decades in a transportation culture that believed in “eradicating congestion… and that wider, straighter, faster was better, that bike-ped and transit didn’t work.  We bundled everything into one big solution and spent decades trying to pound those solutions through.  We trained ourselves to believe that we couldn’t invest outside our own highway system… that we couldn’t partner with local communities to use their road network, or the private sector. We based everything on narrow transportation performance measures and we believed that community building wasn’t our business.”

The Columbia River Crossing is a $2.6 to $3.6 billion proposal “to reduce congestion, enhance mobility and improve safety on I‐5 between SR 500 in Vancouver and Columbia Boulevard in Portland. The project will replace the I‐5 bridge, extend light rail to Vancouver improve closely‐spaced interchanges and enhance the pedestrian and bicycle path between the two cities. The project would be funded by federal and state sources, as well as tolls,” according to the Washington and Oregon State Departments of Transportation.

More information about the plan is available on the CRC project website and you can read a summary of the panel’s recommendations here.