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“Breaking the eggs to make the omelet”

July 18, 2013

Here’s a story in the New York Times of Portland and that other Vancouver – now that the Washington legislature refused to help fund a new Columbia River Crossing.  It’s actually two interconnected stories:

… cities are taking the lead. As recession and government downsizing have squeezed federal and state options, and partisan stalemate politics have crippled some state capitals, local leaders have pushed the front lines of change, if only by necessity.

“The cavalry is not coming,” write Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley in their recently published book, “The Metropolitan Revolution,” which lays out case studies of urban self-assertion and innovation. “With each illustration of partisan gridlock and each indication of federal, and also state, unreliability, metros are becoming more ambitious in their design, more assertive in their advocacy, more expansive in their reach.”

… officials say that they can at least start breaking the eggs to make the omelet. The old plan had a sense of inevitability, they said, that nothing could be changed for fear of unwinding the many delicate political compromises built in over the years. A new plan would put everything back on the table.

As the two cities explore possibilities for a different kind of crossing, they are also able to take into account the changed transportation landscape, pioneered in Portland:

The truth, transportation data suggests, is that the entire Pacific Northwest is developing its own unique transportation profile.

Since 1990, for example, per capita gasoline use has fallen in many states. But Washington and Oregon were at the front of the pack, with greater percentage declines than any state but Nevada, the Sightline Institute, a research and environmental advocacy group based in Seattle, reported in an analysis of federal and state data.

As we enter the post-Motordom era, constrained finances and stalemated government may actually be the factors that accelerate the transition. 

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