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Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Bridge Too Far

If we are going to build a new bridge for motor vehicles over the Columbia River, it needs to big enough for current needs and expandable so that it can meet future needs. It needs to be at least twice as wide as the current bridge and it needs to be expandable to 100 lanes of traffic. Too much? I don't think so.

Of course just building a bigger bridge isn't going to solve our congestion problems. If we really want so solve our traffic problems, we need to upgrade I-5 from the California border to Seattle. Doubling the number of lanes of traffic would be the immediate need, but I suspect that (if we ever got that built) it would become congested again within six months. If we quadrupled the number of lanes that might buy us a few years, as in maybe five years.

Such massive construction would have a big impact wherever you put it. You could spread it out by building several smaller roads, but then you will just have a smaller impact on more places.

On the other hand we could do something to reduce the amount of driving people do. One way would be cause a massive recession. Oops, did I really say that? People with less money to spend on gasoline drive less. Or we could raise the fuel tax another dollar a gallon. That would have the same effect. Might also help prolong the recession, a double bonus!

Maybe the internet and cell phones will help, and maybe they already are. I buy my books from Amazon now because I don't want to have to fight the traffic and parking to go downtown to Powell's, the only place I know of with a good selection of used books.

Raising the gasoline tax is unlikely, more people are more attached to their cars and cheap fuel than NRA members are attached to their guns. Of course, we could cut out the middle man by conquering Saudi Arabia. That might drop the price of fuel far enough that we could raise the gas tax without raising the pump price. Squashing Saudi Arabia ought to be a piece of cake compare to Iraq. Oops, I was thinking nobody lives in Saudi Arabia. Turns out there are almost as many people there as there are in Iraq (almost 29 million each).

Just imagine a one hundred lane bridge. If it was all one level it would be a quarter mile wide! You could make it multi-level, 10 levels of 10 lanes each. That would make it only 120 feet wide but 120 feet tall. Probably taller. What would you do with ten levels? For starters, you could put trucks on the bottom level. That would reduce the strength requirements for the upper levels. Half a dozen cars does not weigh half as much as a full loaded semi-truck. That would also reduce the overhead clearance requirements for the upper levels. So you have one level for trucks, one level for Northbound traffic, another for Southbound traffic. Add an upper level for pedestrians. Imagine putting a restaurant up at the top! Imagine if they had put a restaurant on top of the Fremont bridge. That would draw the crowds. With that many people, you would need parking, so we could devote one level to parking. Make a park out of the top level. It might be a pretty nice place.

There was one little issue that I heard about that involved Pearson Airpark. Because it was so close to the bridge, it placed a height restriction on the bridge. Well, Pearson is going to have to go. On the other hand, maybe we could relocate it to the top level of our new supercalifragilistic bridge.

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