first_imgAverage weekday traffic volumes on the I-5 and I-205 bridges, 2002 through 2011. In a decade of growth in Clark County, a bedroom community where a third of the workforce commutes to Portland, you’d expect to see traffic on the bridges crossing the Columbia River to worsen.It didn’t.Traffic rose just 1 percent from 2002 to 2011, according to the most recent counts available, even as the county’s population grew 17 percent.Critics of the Columbia River Crossing project have argued these figures cast doubt on traffic forecasts used to justify plans for a $3.5 billion new Interstate 5 bridge.The project’s environmental impact statement estimates that, if no action is taken, 184,000 cars a day will cross the I-5 bridge in 2030. Planners say daily traffic congestion — which engineers define as freeway traffic that moves at less than 30 mph — will increase, from four to six hours a day on I-5 to 15 hours in both directions by then.Yet over the past few years, drivers have taken their feet off gas pedals for a variety of reasons — high fuel prices, a poor economy and generational shifts.“People are driving less,” said Portland economist Joe Cortright, a critic of the bridge project.Planners estimated 143,700 vehicles would cross the I-5 bridge on the average weekday in 2010 –13 percent higher than the 126,900 actually experienced, Cortright points out.Project planners look past blips in the near term to focus on “long-range needs in the corridor,” Mandy Putney, spokeswoman for the project, wrote in response to The Columbian’s inquiries. “Traffic forecasts are not based simply on projecting recent trends, but on developing future forecasts of transportation use based on other variables including population and employment forecast.”last_img

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