Many cities have eternal debates about a Massive Transportation Project, debates that can go on for so long that the debate itself feels like a piece of infrastructure. In Portland, it's the Columbia River Crossing, a $4b proposal to build a massive new bridge and freeway expansion to replace the old, narrow and congested I-5 bridge at the state line. Most sustainable transport advocates that I know hate the plan with a passion, and it's increasingly an issue in the current mayoral race. A number of small-government types are equally unhappy about the $4b pricetag.
The issue with the CRC is that the interstate freeway is really the only way of getting across the river, for any mode except freight rail, for miles around. Since both sides of the river are urbanized, that's obviously a recipe for congestion. If you define the problem as freeway congestion, of course you'll think of a freeway solution. But what if you focus on the challenge of providing alternatives so that local traffic doesn't need to use the bridge, and so that transit competes effectively with cars to reduce future traffic growth?
That's the premise of a "Common Sense Alternative":
The basic idea of getting local traffic (including local freight) out of the bridge congestion, and creating transit alternatives, makes all kinds of sense. It's also a set of small projects that can happen in phases instead of one massive one. Smaller budgets are demanding incremental solutions, not massive do-or-die projects. Given the opposition to the CRC from both ends of the spectrum, I wouldn't be surprised if the answer doesn't end up being something like this.