Why Portland needs the Flanders Street bridge

Leslie Carlson

Something special is going on in Portland these days. Maybe it's all the national media attention; maybe it's the thousands of creative class types who move here every year. Maybe it's our music scene. Hell, maybe it's the weather. Whatever it is, we Portlanders seem to be setting the pace nationally for how to work and live eco-friendly, quirky lives.

You might say we're a national experiment--and so far, one that's working--on how to live well on less oil.

We've built today's reputation on the good ideas of those that came before us: land use planning, moving the freeway off our waterfront, investing in mass transit. What we absolutely shouldn't do at this point is to stop investing in good, innovative ideas. That's why I think City Council needs to approve and build the Flanders Street Bridge.

As I write, City Council is deliberating this bicycle and pedestrian bridge, which would recycle the old Sauvie Island Bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced. (BikePortland's Jonathan Maus is posting live updates, which include the testimony of a relative of 19-year-old Tracy Sparling, killed last fall in a "right-hook" turn accident near NW Portland).

The Flanders Street Bridge would allow for cyclists and pedestrians to cross I-405 (currently difficult and dangerous territory for walkers and bikers) and hopefully increase the numbers of bikers on the road to and from NW Portland, where counts are low. It would allow for the re-use a beautiful and historic span, which would probably otherwise be discarded or pieced out for scrap.

Most importantly, the Flanders Street Bridge would be another investment by Portlanders and our city into proving that there is life beyond cars and oil. That you can create a city where people move freely from place to place without polluting. That health and livability can be increased when we all drive less.

Build the bridge. Keep Portland weird.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Leslie, what would be the terminus points of this bridge once it was installed? (or re-installed, as the case may be?) It would go from where to where?

  • watcher (unverified)
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    Sorry Leslie, now is not the time. Adams wants to raise fees to the tune of a half billion to deal with thirty years of deferered street maintenance; maintenance that would benefit bicyclist, pedestrians, autos and freight. When you're that far in the hole you can't throw another 5.5 million (and based on history it will go way over) at an amenitie.

    You don't get dessert unless you eat your greens.

    Kudos to Tom and Dan for holding the line on this "emergency" ordinance.

  • (Show?)

    Update: looks like City Council defeated the proposal, so I'm not sure where it goes from here (it was an emergency clause and needed four votes in favor and only got three: Commissioners Adams, Sten and Leonard).

    Stephanie, I don't have a map of the project, but here's an artists rendering of the project looking east on Flanders from BikePortland. Looks like it just crosses the freeway at wherever the freeway runs--NW 16th? 17th?

  • (Show?)

    BCM:

    I believe they're already doing that, but Everett and Glisan can be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Both roads get a lot more thru traffic because the roads continue over I-405. I believe the idea is that Flanders gets a lot less traffic in that area, and adding a ped/cyclist only bridge would allow them to stay on that low traffic road. And that decreases the chances of there being a vehicle-bicycle or vehicle-pedestrian accident.

  • (Show?)

    bcm, have you tried Everett or Glisan on foot? at the best of times, like 3 am, it's still a threat to life & limb. the safest passage is to go down to where you can go under I405, but that's just a stupid solution.

    this city is full of deathtraps for those not driving cars. each morning, i have to wait for a break in the speeding flow of traffic coming west off the Ross Island Bridge. it's insane, but since it only affects losers like me who walk or bike, why bother? we haven't done enough for the cars yet, so tough.

  • (Show?)

    BCM, have another look. Both the alternatives you are suggesting are on major thoroughfares where they intersect with the freeway. They are terribly bike- and pedestrian-UNfriendly.

    That said, watcher makes a good point. I don't know how $5.5 million compares with building a new bridge (as opposed to recycling an old one.) If there's a significant cost savings (say, $5-10 million), I'd be inclined to go along with this. If not -- if such a bridge could be built from scratch sometime for, say, $8 or 9 million -- I'd say let's eat our greens before dessert.

  • (Show?)

    Pete:

    According to news reports, building a new bridge would cost $1.5 million less than the $5.5 million for reusing the Sauvie Island Bridge. A new bridge would be 12' wide, the "old" bridge 40' wide.

    According to Bike Portland:

    This historic bridge would also be a shot in the arm to the planned Flanders bike boulevard (which was negotiated years ago as part of a compromise on the Burnside/Couch Couplet project).

    And the Pearl District Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to support getting private funding for the project. They were going to try to get as much funding as they can so they can pay for "a big chunk" of the difference between a new bridge and moving the bridge (which varies from $1.5 million to $2.5 million)

  • (Show?)

    As I understand it, there are tentative estimates that a 15' wide new pedestrian/bike bridge at that location would cost around $4 million. However, reusing the Sauvie Island bridge would result in a 30' wide passage. Give the significant amount of bike and pedestrian traffic this bridge would likely see, 15' seems treacherous for bikes and pedestrians alike during peak usage. Also, the wider bridge could be used to provide access for emergency vehicles if necessary (though this strikes me as highly unlikely). Finally, reusing the span demonstrates Portland's commitment to sustainability by reusing the old materials efficiently.

    For those who think we don't need a bridge there at all, I think you are either uninterested in providing safe pedestrian and bicycle access to our streets, or unaware of the current conditions there. Crossing either Everett or Glisan on cycle or foot can be extremely treacherous and inconvenient as crossing is only allowed on one side of the street; the same side where cars are accelerating as they turn right onto the freeway. I've been nearly hit in these crosswalks numerous times. There is currently very little decent cycling or ped access from the Pearl to Northwest at all, and none between Couch and Johnson. If we are going to continue to be serious about pedestrian and bicycle access to our streets, a crossing at Flanders should be a high priority.

  • (Show?)

    OK, thanks.

    I've never owned a car and I lived for 8+ years on NW 22nd Place, just a few blocks from this proposed construction. I used to walk to the Pearl / downtown along Everett Street where the cars cross over 405 and there is a narrow sidewalk. It requires a high level of alertness and is certainly quite risky.

    Having said that, I think there are probably better uses for taxpayer money right now. I would make a contribution if it seemed realistic to pay for this with private funds. I don't think it's a bad idea, just a suboptimal way to spend taxpayer money at this point in time.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)
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    The reality check of what is going on in Portland today is a lot of wonky irresponsibility spending for snail rail streetcar toys, bike boxes to protect bicyclists from themselves because they refuse to abide by the rules of the road, and yes, even this proposal to relocate the old Sauvie Island Bridge as a Bicycle/Pedestrian crossing over I-405 – all of which lacks fiscal accountability and siphons away funding needed for needed street maintenance and basic services in Portland neighborhoods. The Flanders Street Bridge is yet another glaring example demonstrating how far out of touch with reality and inconsistent with the mainstream of Portlanders Commissioner Sam Adams’ excessive misaligned transportation spending priorities truly exhibit. The public's transportation dollars could be better spent and utilized to help pay to fix or replace the ailing Sellwood Bridge that 30,000 vehicles cross daily. Obviously Adams has no conscience about depleting public resources when it comes to financing his personal agenda whims and luxurious play toys. Apparently PDOT has plenty of discretionary dollars to spend when it comes to brokering back room deals with freeloading bicyclists and affluent neighborhoods making it obvious Portland does NOT need any kind of an assessed Street Maintenance Fee.

    Clearly the City Council’s vote on this matter will reveal which commissioners can demonstrate fiscal accountability, responsibility and restraint, and those on the council who can not! If the concept of reusing the Sauvie Island Bridge has any amount of merit; then a vote in favor of doing so MUST come with a stipulation that bicyclists, possibly through a bicycle tax, and the adjoining wealthy neighborhoods come up with the dollars rather than poaching the funding from other sources.

  • jonno (unverified)
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    Terry Parker writes a long screed about so-called "freeloading bicyclists".

    Not that old canard again. Between my job and my side business I pay income taxes on nearly $90k/yr. I own two pieces of property and pay taxes on both. Plus I drive a car and ride a motorcycle, paying fuel taxes and registration fees along the way.

    And yet some still have the nerve to call people like me "freeloaders" when we want to ride our bikes safely across town.

  • (Show?)

    Terry Parker, opposition like yours makes me want to reconsider my viewpoint.

  • littlevoice (unverified)
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    ...back room deals with freeloading bicyclists...

    I know, right? I mean, all this attention on Freemasons and Big Oil, when it turns out that bicyclists have been behind every back room deal in this country for over a century now. And, why do people continue to flock to Portland when clearly we're not doing things right here. Don't they see when they get here they're just going to have to live healthier, smarter, more efficient lifestyles. TP hits the nail on the head - it is NOT the people who demand that only cars be able to move about in the public rights of way that are obnoxious freeloaders, it's everyone else.

  • watcher (unverified)
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    Sadly, Terry and his ilk make the rest of us fiscal conservatives look really stupid. Most of us aren't stupid, and we outnumber the blowhards, but they overpower us with their high decibel level, and blatant ignorance.

    Please forgive him, for he is an idiot.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    ...Everett and Glisan can be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Both roads get a lot more thru traffic because the roads continue over I-405. I believe the idea is that Flanders gets a lot less traffic in that area, and adding a ped/cyclist only bridge would allow them to stay on that low traffic road. And that decreases the chances of there being a vehicle-bicycle or vehicle-pedestrian accident.

    <hr/>

    bcm, have you tried Everett or Glisan on foot? at the best of times, like 3 am, it's still a threat to life & limb. the safest passage is to go down to where you can go under I405, but that's just a stupid solution.

    <hr/>

    BCM, have another look. Both the alternatives you are suggesting are on major thoroughfares where they intersect with the freeway. They are terribly bike- and pedestrian-UNfriendly.

    Despite these Bush-like scare tactics, Google Street View tells a very different story.

  • (Show?)

    Leslie--

    Thanks for raising this. I live in that area and agree the bridge is a good idea. But other than for beauty, do we need the Sauvie Island bridge or ANY bridge? While I appreciate the elegance of recycling the old bridge, if we can perform the function for a million less, can't we satisfy the bycycle safety need and the urge for fiscal prudence at the same time? My impression's been that Potter and Saltzman are not-anti-bridge at all, just anti the extra expenditure. I really would love to get some clarification on that from soemone. Thanks.

  • (Show?)

    Despite your google map pictures, Brian, I've actually ridden on both streets and they are not safe. What's more, it's not somewhere I'd feel comfortable taking my kids along in the bike trailer or strolling with the family. The cars are much too close to the bike lane.

    BTW, because I'm arguing for a bike/pedestrian bridge to make Portland's streets safer for all non-car traffic...I'm like President Bush? I don't get it.

  • (Show?)

    But other than for beauty, do we need the Sauvie Island bridge or ANY bridge? While I appreciate the elegance of recycling the old bridge, if we can perform the function for a million less, can't we satisfy the bycycle safety need and the urge for fiscal prudence at the same time?

    My understanding, Marc, is that federal requirements for ped/bike bridges over depressed freeways are quite stringent and require a much narrower span over I-405 than the Sauvie Island Bridge would be. I think a federally-mandated bridge must be no wider than 15', while the Sauvie span would have been 40'. Anyone out there who can clarify that better?

    I haven't ridden over the Failing Street Bridge, a bike/ped freeway overpass over I-405 further north, but I've read that it's too narrow and not well-maintained.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    Leslie, I didn't quote you above, thus I wasn't referring to you when I said that the scare tactics put forth by others here are Bush-like. Read: Deathtrap

    The cars are much too close to the bike lane.

    You've just described half of Portland. Are we going to start throwing up bridges all over the city? I'm obviously being facetious, but if that's going be the rationale for this project, then we better be prepared for a radical alteration to our current infrastructure.

  • (Show?)

    we better be prepared for a radical alteration to our current infrastructure.

    Exactly.

  • (Show?)

    I have to agree with Marc on this one. I talked with folks about this a year ago, and once the fiscal differences were clear, I thought that this proposal, appealing as it seemed at first blush, would go no further.

    There really isn't anything "historic" about the Sauvie Island Bridge, other than it was the first bridge to the island. The design isn't really that special. It would be wider than the proposed alternative, but no one has really told us whether that extra width is desirable or necessary.

    And while I support reuse, it is usually RECYCLE and reuse. It is not always the case that reuse is better than recycle, and this seems to have been one of those times.

    Finally, I am not particularly pleased with the way this was brought up, as an "emergency" measure, with little public discussion and debate. Is this the kind of inclusive public involvement we can look forward to under the Adams's mayoralty?

  • SYK (unverified)
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    Terry Parker, You prove your total ignorance yet again. My niece was following "The Rules". She was in the bike lane designated by the city and stopped at a red light. Check your information before you pontificate on about things you have no knowledge on. Next time I see your name, I will skip the comment because I know it will be the yada yada blather of a pathetic soul that just wants to see their name in print.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    Leslie, I'm well aware of peak oil. That's a topic for a later time and I'm sure you and I would agree on many of the solutions.

    A Flanders St. bridge is not one of them though. It's expensive and unnecessary. It's meant to make a statement, not fix a problem. In a perfect world, with unlimited funds, the former is OK. There are issues in Portland that require much more attention and money though.

  • Jeff Smith (unverified)
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    My God People Think About This.

    We Need A Bridge For Bicycles & Foot Traffic In NW Portland Before A New Bridge In Sellwood ??? Or A New Fire Station, Or A (Get The Idea)

    Tell City Council To Spend Money On Things We Need Not Want.

  • (Show?)

    OK, I get the fiscal argument. And while I do think it is valid, it probably would have been more fiscally prudent to leave I-5 along the river and forego Waterfront Park. It might also have been more fiscally prudent to develop Forest Park and get more tax revenue for the City.

    For me, there's something about the creation of iconic and vibrant public spaces that has value, too, rather than just picking the least costly option.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)
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    It is obvious bicyclists don’t like the term “freeloader” attached to their mode of transport. Consider however a bigger bridge project - the 4.2 billion dollar Columbia Crossing Project. A percentage, approximately 50 percent or better, of that entire project will be federally funded and come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The money in that fund only comes from the federal tax on motor fuels that only motorists pay when using their vehicles. One part of the Columbia Crossing project includes spending multi-millions of dollars to provide a 20 foot wide bicycle crossing and related bicycle infrastructure for a small number of users as compared to motorists. Yet the Columbia River Crossing Task Force so far is only addressing charging tolls for motor vehicles. Hence, if motorists are tolled to use the crossing, and bicyclists can use the crossing for “free” – the term “freeloader” rightfully applies.

    Furthermore, income taxes and property taxes in Oregon for the most part (one exception being urban renewal districts) do not pay for streets, roads, bridges and bicycle infrastructure. Being polite, I won’t go so far as calling people stupid or ignorant who think they do, but they should know better before making posts suggesting that type of spending occurs. The money for roadways comes from taxes assessed on motorists. When a person drives, they pay a fuel tax user fee to use the road. When they leave the car in the driveway and ride a bike or use transit, at that point, they move from paying a tax for using paved transport infrastructure to using it for free thereby generating “one less driver that is one less transport infrastructure taxpayer” – hence the term “freeloader” again applies to bicyclists because they are not paying a user fee while others in cars and trucks beside them are. Bicyclists offensively proliferate any and all excuses not to pay for what they use and want, however there is a large financial cost and footprint like it or not to provide specialized bicycle infrastructure – and that infrastructure, those infrastructure costs, need to be paid for by the bicyclists who use and directly benefit from it. When bicyclists support and pay a reasonably applied direct tax on the bicycling mode of transport to pay for bicycle infrastructure, the word freeloader will no longer apply.

  • (Show?)

    BCM, do you ever actually drive/bike/walk in this city (and particularly the area concerned)? Your picture (beautifully augmented by some mad MSPaint skillz) completely fails to address the concerns of my post (though since I wasn't directly quoted, I don't know if I was intentionally exempted from the "Bush-like" smear).

    If you look just to the right of your graphic, you will see that the Everett has just crossed 16th Avenue. In case you've never actually been to the intersection yourself, traffic here is moving right-to-left. Just after crossing Everett, 16th splits and two of the three lanes become an on-ramp to I-405. This means that cars speeding down Everett and inattentively turning right onto the freeway (which is a significant proportion of traffic, I assure you), do so by cutting across the bike lane and crosswalk, frequently endangering anyone who may be crossing. This is also due to poor visibility due to on-street parking west of 16th. Your image also fails to illustrate that on the other side of the road, there is no sidewalk or bike lane. Glisan is set up in a similarly hazardous manner.

    Google is really nifty, I agree, but it's no substitute for actually knowing what you're talking about.

  • littlevoice (unverified)
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    "Bicyclists offensively proliferate any and all excuses not to pay for what they use and want, however there is a large financial cost and footprint like it or not to provide specialized bicycle infrastructure – and that infrastructure, those infrastructure costs, need to be paid for by the bicyclists who use and directly benefit from it."

    So I expect that you support Sam Adams' street fee proposal that generates revenue based on trips generated? I do, even though it will cost me more, I'm all for paying my share. Look, we all pay for roads, even as you rightly say, most of it comes from gas taxes...but that tax is passed along to me in the cost of my clothes, the cost of the food I eat, and everything else I consume that somehow gets to me via a road. And the need for freight dictates our transportation needs as much as for car travel, so you simply can't say that the only money comes from people like you who drive. I don't feel sorry for you if you pay more because you use the road more and you're out there in the car by yourself, tearing up the roads waaay faster than my bike ever will. When you pony up the costs of all the externalities from your use of your car, then you'll be talking.

    I stay in my little lane so that I don't clog up your lane and we're both safer. If you don't support more ways to take me even farther from your lane, like a dedicated bridge, that's simply illogical. And as far as the fiscal argument, sometimes doing the right thing simply costs more, but in the long run, the benefits accrue.

  • (Show?)

    We Need A Bridge For Bicycles & Foot Traffic In NW Portland Before A New Bridge In Sellwood ???

    I believe that the Sellwood is under Multnomah County's purview, if I'm not mistaken?

  • (Show?)

    No strong opinion here, just more data points...

    I lived in NW for a couple of years with bike as my main transportation, and never had any problem cruising down Everett St. (in fact it's a fun stretch) when heading east, I'm not sure I understand the need for a Flanders bridge.

    Walking I never had any problem up around Everett but I agree there aren't enough paths over 405. However my first request would be for putting sidewalks and crossing signals on both sides of Burnside there. But I guess I'm more a Burnsider than a Pearlite. ;-)

  • Wells (unverified)
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    I've crossed the Glisan and Everett bridges many times, both by bike and walking. They ARE death-traps! It's their freeway entrance ramps that encourage motorists to accellerate through the marked crosswalks. They're comparable to other death-trap entrance ramps around Portland -- Sandy Blvd to westbound Banfield freeway, NE Broadway to northbound I-5, Couch to northbound I-405, etc.

    Though I'm all for a pedestrian crossing at Flanders, the old Sauvie Island bridge may not be the best fit. Awhile back, a study considered capping certain blocks over I-405. (Bridge the Divide, I think it was called.) The blocks between Glisan and Everett were determined to be good candidates, nevermind that the final proposal for the double-block was a hideous parking garage that cut off the pedestrian corridor. The study had many flaws, including that one. Still, the old Sauvie Island Bridge is incompatable with the basic vision that came out of the study. The less expensive though narrow pedestrian crossing does fit the future potential for capping I-405. Capping the freeway, while maintaining the Flanders pedestrian corridor, is still a good idea.

  • (Show?)

    We Need A Bridge For Bicycles & Foot Traffic In NW Portland Before A New Bridge In Sellwood ??? Or A New Fire Station, Or A (Get The Idea)

    Personally, I would certainly prioritize a new Sellwood Bridge over this project. However, since the Sellwood Bridge is the financial responsibility of Multnomah County and not the City of Portland, your comparison is irrelevant. Pretty sure the fire station is in the same boat. Dunno about "Get The Idea."

    BTW, do you always write everything in sentence case, or just this post? It's oddly unsettling.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
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    I'd say it's worth the extra $2 million to get what could become an iconic pedestrian and bicycle bridge. At 40' wide, there's room there for benches, planters, public art, maybe a Benson Bubbler at one end. The bridge could be improved with a good paint job (and even lit up at night with solar powered LEDs.) And if the City needs to pass the hat to raise private funds to make up the difference between a boring 12' concrete bridge and this one, I'll throw in.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    BCM, do you ever actually drive/bike/walk in this city (and particularly the area concerned)? Your picture (beautifully augmented by some mad MSPaint skillz) completely fails to address the concerns of my post (though since I wasn't directly quoted, I don't know if I was intentionally exempted from the "Bush-like" smear).

    Nate, thanks for noticing my MS Paint skillz. And no, I wasn't addressing your post when I replied.

    I live in Portland. I do drive and walk the area in question. As for walking, I have never felt unsafe while doing so.

    I don't bike anywhere in Portland simply because it's too narrow everywhere (SE in particular) -- the bike lane on the Everett overpass is the standard, not the exception. Adding one safe part on the journey isn't going to change my mind and it's certainly not worth the money when we have far more pressing issues at hand.

    Perhaps I could have been persuaded before the tram, but not now. It's just a waste of money.

  • (Show?)

    Furthermore, income taxes and property taxes in Oregon for the most part (one exception being urban renewal districts) do not pay for streets, roads, bridges and bicycle infrastructure. Being polite, I won’t go so far as calling people stupid or ignorant who think they do, but they should know better before making posts suggesting that type of spending occurs. The money for roadways comes from taxes assessed on motorists. When a person drives, they pay a fuel tax user fee to use the road.

    Actually, it's been quite some time since the gas tax paid for the entire cost of roads and bridges. The cost to build and maintain has surpassed the amount brought in through the gas tax for quite some time now.

    In 2002, federal and state gas taxes paid for 70% of total state revenue for roads. Due to greater fuel efficiency, more hybrid cars, and people driving a lot less because of gas prices, that number is dropping. And it's our income taxes, property taxes, etc. that make up the difference.

  • (Show?)

    Leslie,

    I apologize if I seem cynical, but deploying the word "iconic" seems to be the standard strategy in Portland these days for something that is fiscally unsupportable.

    The Forest Park and Eastside Esplanade comparisons are complete red herrings. No is suggesting NOT building a bridge, just not using the Sauvie Island span.

    Why use this bridge at this way at this time? Is the additional "iconic-ism" that will be gained over the alternative structure worth 1.5 million or more? Should we just bow down before "iconic" and just toss fiscal responsibility out the door?

    All this is multiplied by the way this was brought up. Why at the last minute? Why under emergency consideration?

    This seems an awful lot like the current Federal tax rebate--a political election year ploy by incumbents looking to shore up their support.

    Sorry, I ain't biting. If this was a good idea, it should have been on the agenda a year or more ago when the bridge replacement was being discussed.

  • ws (unverified)
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    In the years to come will numbers of people deciding to use bicycles or walking to get around the city increase significantly? Seems likely, especially with rising cost and decreasing availability of gasoline for cars.

    Will bike/pedestrian capacity of the Everett and Glisan bridges, or the federally specified bike/pedestrian width proposed Flanders St bridge adequately meet the needs of this increase in bicycle and pedestrian usage? It seems as though quite a few people either haven't thought about that, or don't care.

    I wonder just how many people are going to feel as non-threatened as BCM in crossing the Everett and Glisan St bridges. Well, since it's no problem for him, maybe he would volunteer taking a post at one or other sides of the bridges and escort people safely across. I bet it's a sure thing that a lot of people that otherwise might, won't even consider making those crossings on foot or bike, just because of the hazard they represent.

    The city is changing, and so are people's needs. Going ahead with reusing the Sauvie Isl bridge for Flanders may be turn out to be more fiscally responsible than people imagine, if a little forward thinking is applied.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    I did a little research into these claims of the Everett/Glisan St. overpasses being unsafe. According to the Oregonian (based data compiled from ODOT), between 2003-2006 there were 0 incidents involving bikes. That's 0 guys, hardy the purported 'deathtrap' put forth by some in this thread.

    This isn't necessarily to say that your claims are manufactured and overblown; it's just that if you're going to cite 'safety' as the motivator, there are several places that are far more worthy of our money considering they have recorded multiple incidents:

    Bike accident map for Portland

  • ws (unverified)
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    Yes BCM. There's O incidents, because almost nobody wants to use those crossings, because they're deathtraps. That is not the way to promote walking and biking. Make travel by walking or biking so aversive that only the hardiest will consider it. What kind of thinking is that?

  • David M. (unverified)
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    Why can't the Portland Development Commission obtain private funding from developers? The developers have benefited exponentially from the Pearl District, so why can't they be called upon to give something back to Portlanders who have made the Pear district so wealthy?

    I am opposed to continuing using taxpayer money to line the pockets of the developers in the Pear district.

  • MT (unverified)
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    Funding question aside, the use of the old Sauvie Island Bridge makes sense from a number of different benefits. A 40 foot wide space can be turned into financial viable public center (just go to Europe and see what they would do with this space):

    1. Add shops in the center: coffee, restaurant(s), small vegatable stand, bakery, flower shop, book store. We could even add a small financial branch help with the subprime mortgage crunch.

    2. Public meeting space (see above fountain idea)

    3. possibility of adding a green space

    Why not do the whole enchilada....

  • (Show?)

    According to an article in the morning O, the actual scrap value of the Sauvie Island Bridge is $35,000. The $5.5 million price tag is based on a noncompetitive bid to install the bridge, by the company building the new Sauvie Island bridge. Given what we've seen locally (the aerial tram), nationally (Katrina) and Iraq, surely people can see the potential disaster in pursuing this bid as it is.

    And, no offense to whoever designed the original Sauvie Island structure, but it looks thoroughly ugly and ridiculous planted in Portland (in the artist's rendering).

  • Douglas K (unverified)
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    A 40 foot wide space can be turned into financial viable public center (just go to Europe and see what they would do with this space)

    I'm not sure that a 200 foot viaduct over a freeway -- without any sound walls -- would be a particularly attractive public space, but it's certainly true that a 40 foot width offers a lot more opportunity for creative experiments than a 12 foot walkway.

    That makes the competing price argument a choice between a bag of apples and a bushel of oranges. If we look at this as the potential for more than just a bike crossing, the higher price project may prove to be the bigger bargain. Pay $4 million for a 15 foot bike bridge, or $5.5 million for a 40 foot festival street with separated bike and pedestrian crossing, plus space for public art, vendors, and even some greenery. And we get it next year, instead of five years from now.

  • BCM (unverified)
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    I'm not sure that a 200 foot viaduct over a freeway -- without any sound walls -- would be a particularly attractive public space

    With that, let's summarize where we stand:

    Argument in favor | Result Safety | Invalid Public Space | Improbable 'Cheap,' Under $10 mil. | Unlikely

  • L. Seymore (unverified)
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    I happen to have ridden a bicycle (and driven cars and motorcycles) in and around Portland for the past 35 years. The big picture is more about operator behavior than where a given class of vehicle is operated.

    If one considers that all modes of personal conveyance are subject to the same set of traffic rules, the number of wheels and how the power gets to the road is immaterial.

    Dollars spent for education of operators and enforcement of traffic regulations (for riders and motorists alike), would eventually "force" cars and bicycles to peacefully coexist on the asphalt. And with that, less energy and resources would be expended figuring out where to cloister bicycles.

    The most cost effective solution would be operators merely riding and driving 'friendly,' leaving the ego on the shelf. How about taking that baby step, today? Go ahead and allow someone to change lanes ahead of you. It will not hurt, i can guarantee.

    Keep Portland weird, indeed; but let's also keep the traffic flowing safely, okay folks?

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    BCM, I bike EVERYWHERE in Portland, and often think that we spend too much money on unneeded affordances for bikes. This is not one of those cases.

    The proposed bridge would make a dramatic difference at this location. When traveling along Flanders in either direction, one must divert to the busy street, then CROSS the busy street to get to the bike lane/sidewalk, which CROSSES freeway entrances and exits, before returning to Flanders Street.

    Now, I would personally never even consider using Flanders Street in its present state -- that much hassle pretty much defeats the purpose of putting wheels underneath me. I travel along Glisan or Everett, and am comfortable doing so.

    But if we want to move toward bike routes that are somewhat separate from ultra-busy downtown streets, this sort of project is necessary.

    You left "unfriendly" out of your summary list above. It's not the same thing as "unsafe."

    All that said, the stuff that's come out in this thread makes me think Saltzman and Potter did the right thing; if we can get it done for less, we should. 15' is plenty wide.

  • carl (unverified)
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    Build a public space over a freeway, without sound abatement??? That would be really unpleasant. Plus, does anyone remember that we live in a seismically active zone? Does this $5.5 million dollars include seismic retrofitting? Or do we not care when the next earthquake hits and all the vendors and such fall onto the freeway?

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    This all reminds me of an excellent short video on "bike boulevards." It makes a clear case of why bike lanes in existing high-traffic city streets are inferior to separated lanes. The Flanders St. bridge would be a lot closer to the "boulevard" concept. Well worth a watch:

    YouTube bike video

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
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    'Cheap,' Under $10 mil. | Unlikely

    Based on what? The price of the bridge is known. There's no possibility of material overruns. The price of transporting the bridge to the Flanders street site is known; the technology isn't new and there aren't likely to be any surprises along the way ("oops! We didn't realize there was wire overhead!"). The price of installing is the only place where there might be room for cost overages, and given that "putting in a bridge" is something that's been done routinely for, oh, decades now, I don't see much risk of a cost overrun. It's not like the I-405 retaining walls are an unknown quantity when it comes to soil stability.

    This isn't a speculative project like the aerial tram. $5.5 million probably means $5.5 million, or within a few percentage points thereof.

    Safety | Invalid

    I walk across those viaducts sometimes. With the traffic going on and off the freeway at Glisan -- yeah, that one's scary, and I've nearly been hit a couple of times. Everett's a little safer, but still intimidating. It doesn't help that the sidewalks are on the "ramp" side of the bridge where all the cars are turning to enter the freeway. Of course, you could walk on the other side... but there's no sidewalk.

  • ws (unverified)
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    "15' is plenty wide." Pete Forsyth

    What do you base that on? I'm just curious if there are some numbers indicating that 15' will be wide enough to handle bike/pedestrian capacity 10, 20, 30 years down the road. 15' may be wide enough for today, but I'm not sure that would hold for the future, given that both walking and bike riding are increasingly common in town as a means of commuting and recreation.

    Sure, the 15' concrete bridge will allow passage also, but again, will it be sufficient for anticipated increases in pedestrian/bicycle traffic in decades to come? That seems like an important consideration. This town, Portland, is changing. It's likely to become more populated and more visited in the future than it is today. It does no good to build for today's needs without taking into consideration those of the future. By the time the 15' concrete span finally gets built in 5 years, it may already be insufficient for bike pedestrian needs.

    I think there's been some confusion about what's meant when the Sauvie Isl span at Flanders was described as a destination point. Theoretically, I suppose some shops and whatnot could be located on the bridge, and some people commenting even have suggested that. More realistically though, the Sauvie Isl span would be a destination point simply by the ease in which it would enable passage from one side of I-405 to the other. People wouldn't actually be hanging out, lounging around drinking tea and coffee on the span. That seems kind of ridiculous to me.

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    <h2>For those talking about private funding for the bridge, as I've already pointed out, the neighborhood association there already voted to seek out any private financing they can to cover as much of the difference between a new bridge and reusing the Sauvie Island bridge as they can.</h2>

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