Traffic in Portland

I live on an island between Oregon and Washington.

Dividing the two states in the area where I live is the Columbia, and to cross the Columbia, we have the Interstate Bridge. This bridge was originally built in 1917. In 1958, a new bridge was added right next to the old one, and a hump was added to allow for vertical clearance, thus avoiding continuous bridge lifts. Once the southbound bridge was completed, the northbound side was closed for repairs and to also add the hump. These bridges were obviously not built to withstand the amount of traffic that they have to endure every single day; the humps that might have helped to avoid bridge raises 50 years ago now cause that part of the bridge I-5 to slow down considerably, and, in turn, making an already hellish traffic jam even worse. That’s problema número uno.

The insane amount of out-of-state people moving to Oregon has turned my afternoon commutes from an average of 45 minutes three years ago, to one hour this year. Portland gained over 40,000 new residents between 2014 and 2015. This means that the roads that were already past full capacity have now gotten even worse, and the people driving these roads have started not caring anymore about being courteous to their fellow drivers. I see the stupidest stunts made every single day, from people cutting others off for no reason whatsoever, to idiot texters who think it’s a great idea to let someone know how bad the traffic is while they’re driving in it. You can always tell when the guy or gal in front of you is texting by the very slow driving and always with at least three car spaces in front, and then the slamming of the brakes when one realizes that he or she is getting too close to the car in front. I wish I had a sticker on my dash that could be read by the texter in front of me from the rearview mirror that says: STOP TEXTING AND DRIVE, YOU MORON. You know–like ambulances, who have the word AMBULANCE on their hood, so you can read it from your rearview. That would be nice… The extreme influx of people and the reckless drivers is problema número dos.

What would also be nice is if the people who run this town (as well as those who help run Vancouver, Washington, who gives us Portlanders the pleasure of 60,000 commuters from that neighboring town every weekday) could start doing something about this insane situation. I’d wish I could add “before it’s too late,” but we are so past that, it’s not even funny.

Let me describe to you what my commutes this summer have been so far. You would think that summer traffic would be better than the rest of the year, right? After all, the school buses are nowhere in sight. But no. Summers suck. Big time.

I leave Lake Oswego, which is 16 miles away, at four pm, and drive on the highway at highway speeds for about 10 minutes, if I’m lucky. After that, my speed is reduced five to 20 miles per hour the rest of the way. I tend to usually stay on the highway, but sometimes I get off and drive arterial streets, but am forced to get back on the highway a few miles before my exit. The reason is that the last few entrances to the highway before my exit tend to be packed–everyone getting on during the four-hour afternoon rush makes for even worse issues for people already on the highway, who have to let in immense amounts of cars onto an already packed road. The very last exit, the one I get off on for the island, is the absolute worse. People just cannot grasp the idea of perhaps not trying to get on the highway at the very beginning, where the white line is still a solid line, so their incompetence backs up traffic in that spot even worse. For example, my last commute was 1.5 hours; the last six minutes of that was driving the last .3 miles trying to get on the island. That’s problema número tres.

traffic hell

I grew up in Miami.

My Italian mother taught me how to drive assertively (though my husband would most likely say it’s aggressively), but also taught me to drive defensively, by trying to predict the idiotic moves drivers tend to make. I have my hand near the horn practically at all times, and, unlike most Portlanders, I actually use that big round squishy thing on my steering wheel when needed. However, all of this daily driving and having to deal with bad drivers and even worse traffic has seriously taken a toll on me and my mental well being. I have turned into such a bitter person when I’m behind the wheel that I sometimes contemplate how nice it would be if all of those California license plates I’m seeing every day would just disappear somehow…

So. What to do? Well, I only really have two options:

  1. Get a job in Vancouver, WA, on the other side of the river. However, there’s a reason why 60,000 Vancouver commuters work in the Portland metro area–the jobs on this side of the river are better. I just got a nice promotion recently, which means that there is really nothing nearby in Vancouver at my salary and area of expertise; or
  2. Move. Sure—I could move closer to the suburbs, near my job. But that would also mean moving away from the best neighbors I’ve ever had, the coolest environment I’ve ever lived in, and living on land again. Screw that.

Looks like I’m stuck where I’m at until I win the lottery and can:

  1. Move to a floating home on the Willamette River; or
  2. Get the hell out of Portland altogether (if I win really big) and move to Costa Rica. 🙂

Vancouver to Portland commute time up 300%



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