As a long time resident of North Portland, I have had to grapple with the late afternoon traffic congestion on I-5 northbound as many of the Washington residents that work in Portland but live in Washington make their way home at the end of the work day. This is combined with commercial traffic from the airport (PDX) and Port of Portland facilities entering the northbound lanes of I-5 from Marine Drive. When you couple this with a highway system and a bridge across he Columbia River that wasn’t designed for the traffic loads of today you have a perfect set-up for almost daily traffic jams.
So how do locals avoid being jammed? Because of the Columbia River, a lot depends on your final destination and some preparation ahead of time. So, here are five strategies for minimizing the time you spend sitting in a car in a parking lot that looks like a highway.
The first way to avoid the hassle of traffic jams at the crossing of the Columbia River is to take advantage of the region’s public transportation system. C-tran runs buses from the Vancouver WA area which connect with Portland’s Trimet bus system as well as the light rail MAX system. C-tran even has express service to downtown Portland.
Timing is everything! Typically, the afternoon jam begins forming between 3:15 pm and 3:40 pm, so if you can time your journey to arrive at the Columbia River before 3:00 pm you should be able to avoid the worst of the traffic.
Interstate Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Provide alternate routes north for those days when a big jam has traffic backed up for miles on I-5. Interstate is best if your ultimate destination is Washington State or beyond, but MLK is best if your ultimate goal is shopping on Hayden Island.
Taking I-205 as an alternate is a possibility since that is the second bridge across the Columbia. You would, however, have to travel miles to the east (Lombard is the best street for getting there from I-5) and the traffic would be heavy on I-205. This would not be a good strategy unless your final destination were north of Vancouver WA…say Seattle.
Check out the situation ahead of time online. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has many well placed webcams that are accessible on the internet. Traffic updates are also available from ODOT via Twitter.
Sources include C-tran and the Oregon Department of Transportaion