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Wednesday 02.09.11

« PIFF 2011 | Main | long weekend »

Columbia River Crossing: Still Planning Blind

cable-stay_CRC_sm.jpg
Cable Stay CRC design (not in favor because of Pearson airfield interference)

Since we have tracked the unspeakably difficult to track Columbia River Crossing bridge replacement project since the beginning we are due for an update. Last week Governors Christine Gregoire and John Kitzhaber (the two people with the most say in this project) rejected the ridiculously bad open box girder design and are considering three other alternatives. As of yet there is no serious designer attached to the project, simply a set of engineering options. This has been the greatest weakness of the project (which I've detailed in depth many times before). Simply put the project is extremely complicated and the CRC leadership is still looking at this as a series of standard solutions to a nonstandard project.

A major designer/architect would develop solutions that meet environmental, aesthetic, logistical and engineering concerns and be charged with selling it to the public, alleviating some of the political pressure on the politicians (allowing them to be budget cops rather than project salesmen). Considering the fact that; two cities, two states, cars, light rail, pedestrians, bikes, an airfield, river traffic and a delicate ecosystem are at stake here it's a job that would reduce all but the greatest designers to tears. Still, the process trudges on half blind to itself. Here is a link to the complete report. The bridge requires a top designer for fresh solutions, e-mail Gregoire and Kitzhaber demanding a more creative design and perhaps a design competition to bring in numerous fresh ideas. The Governors of both states are expected to decide on a type in the next 2 weeks so let your voice be heard. If you are a designer, ecologically or civic minded you have to do this.

compositedecktruss_CRC_sm.jpg
Composite Deck Truss design for CRC

The good news is that the "box girder" design is dead. The open box girder was essentially a flat overpass with all the aesthetic charm of a Walmart parking lot. With 12 piers in this el-cheapo design it was also very intrusive as far as ecological impact goes. The bad news is the governors are leaning towards the second cheapest alternative the "composite deck truss" design, it is in fact just as ugly as the open box girder and would require 10 piers. The governors are leaning this way because as they, "want the bridge to be built as quickly as possible at the lowest possible cost." The composite truss deck would also place pedestrians and bicyclists beneath the car traffic, and I'm certain the bike community simply won't get behind that.

cablestay_pedestrian_sm.jpg
Cable Stay CRC design (pedestrian view)

Cost and speed of construction are certainly important factors, but hardly the only ones... this is a showcase for our region, we should have a little more pride and create something beautiful that elegantly brings everyone together. There is even more impetus because the Federal Transit Administration is looking to support numerous major projects with surprising bipartisan support in congress. The CRC as part of I-5 is considered one of the most important projects on the FTA's plate. Other options are a handsome "cable stayed" design with only 3 piers and a "stayed arch" with 4. Both have major problems with Pearson airfield but as I've shown before, Zaha Hadid managed to design a very elegant but low to the ground design for the Sheikh Zayed Bridge. Truly a serious designer like Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, UN Studio etc. would help create a possible hybrid design we could all be proud of. Considering the overall cost of this project it makes sense to get more than just an overpass out of this. Besides the money will go back into the local economy providing a regional jobs stimulus. It could even boost tourism and help redefine Vancouver Washington's waterfront area as well as be a real talking point for the Obama when re-election time starts.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 09, 2011 at 16:10 | Comments (0)


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