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February 23, 2013

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There are many issues here! but I want to comment on one only: tolling I-205.

Even with light rail (and in some ways because of light rail), the CRC is one messed up project. The current proposal is wildly oversized. See, for example, the guest opinion in tomorrow's Oregonian.

In its current form (and there are totally reasonable bridge solutions out there, but they've been marginalized), it would impose tolls only on I-5, and this would push a meaningful additional amount of toll-avoidant traffic onto I-205.

See also this 2010 letter from Clackamas County Commissioners to the CRC project.

Clackamas County is not actually crazy to want to have more attention given to tolling I-205 in the event that I-5 is tolled. On the contrary, this would be the best policy choice.

There may be grounds to criticize Clackamas County for their transportation planning, but the question of tolling I-205 probably shouldn't be one of them.

Brian: I don't know how it looks from Salem, but up here in Portlandia, train projects have trashed the bus system, which used to be pretty good; are bankrupting Tri-Met, the transit agency; and are tapping tens of millions from local government that are needed for other things. Did you know that $250 million, plus interest, of state lottery revenues are being spent on the Mystery Train to Milwaukie? That's money that could be better spent on other things.

There's also a major issue of local autonomy here. The majority of voters in Clackamas County don't want the expense, blight, and crime that come with a MAX line. But Tri-Met and the old county board rammed it down the majority's throats, which is why two commissioners lost their jobs, and now there's going to be litigation.

I support mass transit, and I think it would be great if people drove less, but these rail projects are not the answer to anything. There's a lot of construction money to be made by some well connected contractors, but it's not the best use of public funds. Buy more buses that pollute less. Create more diamond lanes.

The I-205 toll fantasy is not going anywhere, but the county would like Tri-Met to end the rail line in Multnomah County. That's not an unreasonable request.

"Watching the malady manifest from Salem, a southward rail-lacking point where we'd love to have light rail to Portland and high speed rail to anywhere, the craziness appears decidedly misplaced."

Don't know who the "we" is here. Certainly not our City leaders, Chamber of Commerce and Homebuilders Assn. who are all about a Third Bridge, and could care less about anything else. A group called NO 3rd Bridge is trying to stop it. Check out our Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/NO-3rd-Bridge/350926584998087?ref=hl

Bojack, if the debate in Clackamas County was about the best way to pursue alternative transportation/mass transit, I'd feel a lot better about what was going on there.

But this doesn't seem to be the case. The attitude appears to be Tea Party'ish, anti-government, we don't need no gummnint interference with our god-driven right to drive our own cars as slowly as we like on crowded freeways because, damn it, we're Clackamas County and we can do whatever we want.

Which reminds me of the same attitude surrounding Measure 37 and land use laws back in 2004. Back then a majority of Oregon voters were sucked into supporting an unworkable/unwise law on the basis of a bumper sticker slogan: people should be able to do what they want with their own property, under the laws in effect at the time they bought it.

This ignored several realities. No, people can't do what they want with their own property, because reality doesn't stop at lot lines. Or, at county boundaries. Why should light rail stop at the Clackamas County border, given that so many people travel back and forth across it? And government should be able to change laws without compensating people harmed by the change, if the overall effect is a public benefit.

Regional planning, especially in the Metro Portland area, makes a huge amount of sense. Clackamas County is dead wrong in thinking "we are an island, complete unto ourself." The fact that the county is considering tolling I-205 proves that point. County leaders want to be an island when it suits them, and part of the "continent" of the Metro area when it suits them.

Like I said, irrational. Yes, I can sympathize with the desire for voters to approve each and every thing county government, or any government, does. But this is neither practical nor wise. We saw that with Measure 37.

A few years after its passage, Measure 49 had to be passed to undo most of what Measure 37 wrought. Once people saw the effects of unfettered property rights, they wanted to go back to smart land use planning. I predict the same thing will happen with the Clackamas County rail phobia.

When light rail comes to the county, and people like it, the craziness of train phobia will become obvious.

Jim, good point. For me "we" are the people my wife and I associate with, who universally yearn for light rail to Portland, a street car system in Salem, and otherwise better mass transit.

You're right: the Chamber of Commerce, West Salem politician Dan Clem, county commissioner Sam Brentano, and other believers in traditional carcentric transportation are driving the push for a third bridge.

I'm hopeful, as you are, that "we" is going to turn out to be an actual majority of Salem area residents. The third bridge option being pursued would be a disaster. The last thing Salem and West Salem need is what amounts to a freeway cutting across Wallace Marine Park and residential/business areas.

At least three of the five Clackamas County Commissioners are anti light rail. In large part because they don't like being told what to do by "the Others"; their backers have coined the moniker "Portland Creep" . They are also against the Columbia River Crossing and are going to try to fight it come heck or high water. The same people that backed new commissioners Ludlow and Smith were also the people fighting against the $5 increase to help pay for the Sellwood bridge; saying it was in Portland, it was their problem. So, this begs the question. How on earth do they think they have any right to determine whether a new bridge is built, which by very rough calculations (WAG), 15 miles from anywhere in Clackamas County? am I the only one the sees the irony? Is Portland going to start a "Clackacreep" campaign?

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