Even with rekindled discussions about replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge, one thing is clear: A new bridge will not solve all the region’s transportation issues. Additional bridges across the Columbia River will be necessary, as will alternate modes of commuting. After all, an estimated 70,000 Clark County residents work in Oregon — enough to fill a new bridge almost from the moment it is completed.
Therefore, an article from Columbian reporter Jeffrey Mize caught our eye the other day. Mize set out to answer a question submitted by readers: “Why can’t Amtrak be used to commute to Portland from Vancouver?” Good question, and the answer is relatively simple: That’s not what Amtrak does. The quasi-public railway company provides mid- to long-range service between cities, but does not operate commuter lines to transport workers within metropolitan areas.
While we will leave Amtrak to do what it does best, the question then becomes whether or not some other company or agency can provide commuter service from Vancouver’s Amtrak station to downtown Portland. Even that would be difficult, considering that track operators are reluctant to make more room for passenger trains at the expense of more lucrative freight traffic.
Although there are many roadblocks to commuter trains in the region, the issue represents an important factor in talks between Washington and Oregon officials about a new I-5 Bridge. Multiple options must be considered in order to develop comprehensive transportation solutions.
One of those solutions might be a privately operated ferry from Vancouver to downtown Portland, as proposed last year. The Columbian wrote editorially that discussions about a ferry should not take precedence over a new bridge, but it could be a small part of addressing a big problem.