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For change, reduce trips

MY VIEW • Congestion tolls would help more than new bridge
by: L.E. BASKOW, A big new Columbia River bridge for Interstate 5 would only mean more traffic and more pollution, according to Lenny Anderson. Congestion pricing is a better solution to reduce traffic, help fund transit improvements and encourage car- and vanpools.

In its effort to reduce congestion and move freight, the Swan Island Transportation Management Association started five vanpools from Clark County in recent years; only two are still in operation, due to lack of demand for $70-per-month seats.

Maybe the drive across the Columbia at peak rush hour is not that bad. The price is tough to beat: Aside from what it costs to gas up for the commute, the trip is free.

Yet with the growing consensus that global warming is real, it seems strange, in an Alice in Wonderland kind of way, that the Columbia River Crossing group continues to recommend a big new bridge as the solution to congestion across the Columbia River.

That solution would result in 80,000 new motor vehicle trips per day over the river, and consequently, through the neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland.

But any increase in trips will increase carbon emissions and undermine other efforts to address global warming and meet carbon reduction goals set by the state Legislature.

London solved both a congestion problem and a transportation funding problem with one simple act: congestion pricing for trips into Central London. Anyone entering Central London during the day must pay a fee.

When the fee was proposed everyone thought the mayor of London was committing political suicide, but now he's more popular than ever. The fee works, and people love it.

We should do the same to reduce congestion across the Columbia River.

Congestion pricing, that is, variable tolls on the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 Columbia River bridges (excluding transit, carpools and bike crossings) offers a solution that:

1. Reduces congestion, gives freight priority, and lowers per capita vehicle miles traveled.

2. Provides funds for expanded transportation options like light rail, bikes, vanpools and arterial bridges.

3. Ensures more efficient management of existing bridge capacity (there are currently 14 lanes across the river).

4. Does not penalize North Portland residents who have reduced their carbon footprint by living closer to work, unlike those Portland workers who have chosen to increase their carbon footprint by living in Clark County, farther from their workplace.

Let's walk the talk. The governor, Legislature and local officials all have accepted the scientific and political consensus around global warming.

Now it's time to adopt a solution to congestion over the Columbia River that helps reduce global warming instead of adding to the problem - and protects the quality of life of residents in Portland's neighborhoods.

Swan Island Transportation Management Association is ready to support as many new vanpools as congestion pricing across the Columbia will generate - $70 per month will look like a bargain.

Lenny Anderson is project manager at Swan Island Transportation Management Association and was a member of the Governors' I-5 Corridor Task Force from 2000 to 2002. He lives in Northeast Portland.