"I can improve on the I-5 / Interstate Bridge committee," I thought confidently as I read today's article. It seems silly to me to remove the two existing bridges just because they might fall down in an earthquake -- we've known for years that the county courthouse has been unsafe and are only just now getting around to picking a site for its replacement -- but the leading alternative seems to be to build a new bridge next to the existing bridges and then tear the old bridges down. The cost of doing this is estimated at $2.2 billion.
So I got out my map and looked for alternatives. A bridge to the east? Difficult, because the farther east the bridge, the lower it has to be, to avoid interfering with planes landing at the airport. But if the bridge is too low, then it blocks barge traffic on the river. A bridge to the west? Easy enough from Hayden Island to Vancouver, but from Portland to Hayden Island the bypass road would likely run through wetlands.
And how should we design and build the bridge, surely a point that the public relations folks at ODOT must have in mind after watching Portland's tram project balloon from $12 million to $55+ million.
Then it hit me. ("Oh, no," said Mrs. Laquedem.) The distance from Hayden Island to Vancouver is about the same as from North Macadam to Pill Hill. And while $55 million is expensive for a tram, it's cheap for a bridge.
I think you see where I'm going with this one. For $2.2 billion, we could build 40 trams at $55 million each to ferry people across, or rather over, the Columbia River. Doppelmayr would likely give us a bulk discount. Each tram has two cars, and each car can hold about 30 people. With a trip time including loading and unloading of about 5 minutes, the trams could carry 1200 people (40 cars times 30 people/car) each way every five minutes, or twelve times that in an hour. That's 14,400 people per hour each way -- 28,000 people per hour total. At 1.5 people per car, that's equal to about 18,000 cars per hour, or 9000 cars each way every hour.
A modest improvement is to reduce the number of trams but to cover a longer distance. The ideal southern terminus is at the Expo Center transit station, so riders of light rail can connect seamlessly to the interstate tram. I can envision commuters entering the parking lot at the Vancouver end, following the signs that will say "Park and Glide."
And, because we know that the $55 million tram at North Macadam has spurred umpteen hundreds of millions of new development (PDC says so), the $2.2 billion megatram should spur $billions. Let's build it!