The Metro regional government today released the findings of its forecast of the population and employment growth that would result from building a proposed $3.6 billion Columbia River Crossing project, if tolls are used to finance and manage the facility and light rail is part of it.
The agency finds that the proposal would have negligible impact on population and employment growth in Clark County, when comparing the projected growth that would occur with the project with the projected growth that would occur even with no change to the existing bridge. The project's most significant land use effect would be to boost North Portland employment by about 1.5 percent, making that area slightly more competitive than East Multnomah County.
Metro found that the project would increase growth pressure in Clark County, but tolls would mitigate that pressure. This analysis takes into account the effect of tolls and light rail in reducing vehicle trips across the bridge compared with the no-build scenario.
Metro Council President David Bragdon said he welcomed the results of the agency's analysis. He and other local leaders suggested that the Oregon and Washington highway departments conduct such a study several years ago, saying it would add credibility to the states' assertion that the project would not cause unwanted, low density suburban growth. Bragdon also said:
- "This is good information we have been waiting nearly three years for. These results show how Metro's modeling analysts work independent of any political leanings as they produce authoritative analysis of the region's growth. It's important for the public to remember that this growth forecast depends on several assumptions, including substantial investment in other parts of the region's transportation network, including the Oregon 217 corridor in Washington County, the Sunrise Corridor in Clackamas County, expansion of the MAX system to Milwaukie and land use and transportation improvements between Portland and Tigard.
- "Metro's study of the CRC underscores the importance of tolls and light rail to this project. The CRC's proposed tolls and MAX extension help Vancouver reach its goal of a compact, walkable downtown area while also improving access for households that live in North Portland and work in Vancouver. Vancouver's growth as a regional center is something we can all stand behind.
- "Along with the independent analysis the City of Portland recently commissioned by the URS firm which indicates that ten lanes works as well as twelve and at lower cost, this Metroscope work is providing some overdue evaluation of the proposed project options. I'd like to thank the Oregon and Washington transportation departments for agreeing to commission this study. If we had these results in 2008, when Metro and other local jurisdictions were asked to endorse the CRC, we might have avoided many of the contentious debates this project has inspired.
- "Now that we have this independent analysis, local and state leaders can focus on the other remaining issues and ensuring the CRC lives up to the region's goals for a more vibrant economy, with more walkable communities on both sides of the Columbia River."
Using the agency's nationally acclaimed Metroscope growth modeling technology, Metro staff developed a forecast of the growth that would be induced by a full build out of the CRC project, with a 10-to-12-lane bridge, light rail line and $2 rush-hour tolls each direction (tolls would be lower during off-peak periods). Staff also developed a growth forecast for the project with a "no-toll" scenario. Both the toll and no-toll scenarios were compared with a "no build" scenario for the year 2030. All scenarios assume the Portland-Vancouver region builds many other projects across the region, including improvements to Oregon 217 to expand capacity, large-scale highway improvements to the Sunrise Corridor in Clackamas County, expansion of the MAX system to Milwaukie, land use and transportation improvements in the corridor between Portland and Tigard, and expansion of the Portland Streetcar system.
Metro has found a full build out of the project, with light rail and $2 rush-hour tolls each way, would:
- Produce an extremely slight increase in residential growth in Clark County, compared with doing nothing. Clark County would have nearly 1,000 more households with the project in 2030 than it would have in the no-build scenario, growing to a total 250,600households. That's an increase of about one-third of 1 percent over the number of Clark County households in the no-build scenario. As of 2005, the county had 147,724 households. Northern Clark County would have virtually no household growth compared with the no-build scenario.
- Generate a 1.5 percent employment gain in North Portland, compared with the no build scenario, accompanied by slightly less employment growth in East Multnomah County and no impact to employment growth in Clackamas County. North and Northeast Portland would have 1,700 more jobs with the project in 2030 than the area would have in the no-build scenario, climbing to a total 112,600. Eastern Multnomah County would have about 700 fewer jobs, a decrease of nearly 1 percent, compared with the no build scenario. Job growth in Clark, Clackamas and Washington counties would see no change compared with the no build scenario.
Metro has found a build out of the project, with light rail and no tolls, would:
- Produce more household growth in Clark County, especially northern parts of the county, compared with doing nothing. Clark County would have nearly 1,800 more households with the project in 2030 than it would have in the no-build scenario, growing to a total 251,300 households. About a third of that growth would locate in northern Clark County.
- Focus employment growth in southern Clark County and north Portland. North and Northeast Portland would have nearly 1,500 more jobs, an increase of 1.3 percent over the no-build scenario, climbing to 112,400. Southern Clark County would have nearly 1,000 more jobs, an increase of about one half of 1 percent, compared with the no build scenario. Northern Clark County would have nearly 300 fewer jobs, a decrease of 1.3 percent, compared with the no-build scenario. Job growth rates in Clackamas and Washington counties would remain about even with the no build scenario.
Additional information which helps explain the Metroscope findings:
- Though the I-5 corridor has been identified as a national priority, 90 percent of trips across the river begin and end within the four county Portland-Vancouver region.
- Though the project does improve travel times, only about 3-4 percent of all trips in the region would be affected.
- Metroscope considers the travel time benefits and determines household and employment distribution in future years based on a macroeconomic model.