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Metro headed in wrong direction on I-205

Interstate 205 has only two travel lanes from Oregon City to the Stafford exit. Interstate 205 has only 5.9 miles of two lanes in each direction out of its 37-mile length through Oregon and Washington. Since I took office on Jan. 7, 2013, one of my key focuses has been to get Interstate 205 expanded to three lanes in each direction. As Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard has said, this portion of Interstate 205 is not Clackamas County’s problem; it’s a regional and state-wide problem. With an additional lane, more goods, services and people would be moved.

John LudlowWhat has been the most recent feedback from our regional government, Metro? In an article in the Portland Tribune on Nov. 14, Metro spokesperson Craig Beebe says that “in the long run, congestion actually ends up being really bad anyway because that lane fills up with more cars.”

“Beebe says Metro is placing emphasis on using the existing road network better, increasing connectivity and boosting funding for the transportation plans already approved,” the article says.

How could we be better “using” an existing road or highway if it is in gridlock?

Mr. Beebe also shared this: “A multi-prong strategy that encourages people to get out of their cars is more effective in the long-run.” Now he’s speaking “Metro” language. Mr. Beebe does not seem to remember that trucks cannot take light rail, nor can business service companies. Metro is encouraging people to get out of their cars, but that hasn’t worked well in the past. By allowing more and more congestion, Metro is trying to force you out of your car.

Since Interstate 205 is an interstate roadway, we should acknowledge that interstate travel is drastically affected as well.

“In the long run, congestion actually ends up being really bad anyway because that lane fills up with more cars,” Beebe says. Instead of heaping praise and money on light rail projects (the last one cost more than $200 million per mile) Metro should be advocating for an additional lane on Interstate 205. That cost would be in the $250 million range. Certainly, “on its own,” the additional lanes on Interstate 205 will not get us to the transportation goals, but it would be a great start.

Mr. Beebe’s comments were echoed recently by Clackamas County’s Metro councilor, Carlotta Collette, at a Clackamas County Business Alliance meeting. She, too, said, “Why build it when it will just fill up.” Collette mentioned that the project would not be in the $250 million range, but that it would be over a billion dollars. Why would that be? One can only surmise that Metro would want light rail running from Oregon City to Interstate 5. Fortunately, that decision would be in the hands of all Clackamas County voters to decide.

So evidently, other than more bicycle pathways, trails, rail and buses ... the roadways? Metro says why build or expand roads when we know “that lane fills up with more cars?”

Just think what our state would be like if the Oregon Department of Transportation, counties and cities all ascribed to that same philosophy.

John Ludlow is chairman of the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners.

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