A Highway Expansion Debate in Portland
"TriMet's general manager [Neil McFarlane] says four big projects — only one of them a light-rail line — must be built if the Portland region is to avert traffic gridlock in the next two decades," reports Peter Wong.
The other three big projects: highways. Wong lists each of three problematic bottlenecks cited by MacFarlane, with more detail in the article: 1) Rose Quarter in Portland, where Interstates 5 and 84 converge, 2) Highway 217 from Tigard to Cedar Hills, and 3) I-205, which narrows from three to two lanes in each direction between Stafford Road in West Linn and the George Abernethy Bridge.
MacFarlane acknowledged in remarks made to the Washington County Public Affairs Forum that "it might be considered unusual for the regional transit agency to promote highway projects in addition to the Southwest Corridor line proposed from downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village in Tualatin." However, MacFarlane says the regions leaders agree. Wong also reports that the Oregon Department of Transportation "has begun project development to estimate costs" on the three state highway projects.
Michael Andersen saw Wong's article, and took to the pages of Bike Portland to critique the assumptions behind MacFarlane's argument. Examining the city's performance on several metrics, reaching far outside considerations of congestion and mobility, Andersen decrees: "Every picture tells the same story: the freeway-poor Portland area is not only a non-burden on the state economy. It is the main force driving the state economy."
Then, the message Andersen hopes the region's get from that conclusion: "traffic congestion is not a cause of economic collapse. It is an effect of economic success."