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TriMet gets $254 million for new Willamette River Bridge

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 27th, 2007 at 9:02 am

[Via the Oregonian]

TriMet map shows proposed
bridge location (enlarge).
Graphic: TriMet

TriMet's plans to build a new bridge over the Willamette River for their Portland to Milwaukie light rail line got a big boost in Salem on Saturday.

The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction approved a funding bill (backed taxpayer and lottery bonds) that included $254 million to help build the bridge that is proposed to go from Riverplace to OMSI (see map at right).

Along with light rail, the "Caruthers Bridge" is expected to have a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facility (I hope to have a comment on this from TriMet communications czar Mary Fetsch later today).

The project, which is also expected to receive $500 million in funds from the federal government, is expected to be completed by 2014.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis June 27, 2007 at 10:05 am

    This is fantastic news. I am serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee for this project and I\'m really excited about it. One question people frequently ask (and I asked) is, Why a new bridge? The answer is that the Hawthorne won\'t support the light rail due to weight and the consensus is that the Ross Island is too far south to link up OMSI and Riverplace.

    Also, there appears to be no opposition to putting ped/bike facilities on the new bridge. And I\'m really hoping this will mean a better-engineered solution to the Springwater-Esplanade gap.

    Ironically, when this is all done I may be riding less. Some days when it\'s 35 and rainy I may be taking the train instead of riding. Maybe.

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  • Chris Smith June 27, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Note that TriMet is still evaluating the exact crossing location as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process and it appears likely that the western landing for the bridge will be further south, somewhere in South Waterfront, not at Riverplace.

    P.S. In the same allocation, we got $20M for vehicles for the Streetcar Loop project.

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  • peejay June 27, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Great news. Now for the details, such as the possibility of dedicated lanes/dividers for bikes and peds. Since bikers can be fairly trained to go in a particular direction and stay reasonably straight, but you can never get pedestrians to do the same, they really ought to be separated. If the bridge is being designed from scratch, it\'s a great time to get it done right, instead of the compromise we wound up with on the Hawthorne Bridge.

    Do I have faith that this will happen? Well, I wonder sometimes if TriMet can plan this right, based on my assessment of the soon-to-be Green Line, which inexplicably follows the exact same tracks as the Red and Blue lines until it reaches I-205. This is one of the poorest route decisions ever made in public transport since the original New York subway system was installed by many separate and competing companies. Sooner or later, someone\'s going to have to teach TriMet that a transport grid should look more like a net than a multistrand cable with frayed ends.

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  • Lance Lindahl June 27, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Hello Attornatus,

    I\'m also on the CAC for this project. I\'m happy to hear that there is at least one other bike advocate on this team, and I\'m looking forward to working with you.

    This project really has a chance to boost bike and pedestrian activity in this corridor and the new crossing on the Willamette is just one of these opportunity areas.

    Improving the bike and pedestrian nightmare at SE 17th and Powell where MAX will cross should be another goal.

    The proposal to build a light rail station at SE Harold Street would open up a bike and pedestrian route over the rail yard between Reed College and Sellwood-Moreland.

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  • Lenny Anderson June 27, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    As I recall the Green Line got pushed in front of the Milwaukie line by Clackamas county. TriMet does what the jurisdictions and Metro decide. Clearly there needs to be high capacity transit out the Powell/Foster alignment, but where do you put it? ODOT is not likely to give up a lane on Powell.
    Meanwhile celebrate the progress we\'ve made and look forward to the new transit, bike and ped options for SE Portland and Milwaukie.

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  • Ian Clemons June 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    This is really big news for Portland. A new bridge for Bridgetown is like a new skyscraper for NYC, a new massive casino for Vegas, or a...uh...new freeway for LA.

    Does anyone know if there will be a design competition for the new bridge? What sort of input from the community can be expected. Thanks!

    -IanC

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  • Matt Picio June 27, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Well, now I know why I didn\'t get picked for the CAC. ;-) Too many cyclists!

    I agree completely with peejay on the Green Line, and I doubt that the Steel Bridge will be able to handle the load during peak hours.

    Lenny - more likely there will be a future push for a Milwaukie, Clackamas TC MAX line, which Tri-Met and Metro have been pushing for. There\'s room in the 224 corridor (most of it, anyway) for MAX. Pushing MAX down the Powell/Foster Corridor would likely be too expensive.

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  • Brett June 27, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    My cousin has been flying in from DC for the last couple of years to do engineering cost analysis for this project. Glad to to hear it sounds like it might be going forward.

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  • Martha S. June 27, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    A new bridge is indeed big news. I agree that there really ought to be seperated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians.

    I look forward to seeing this project move forward and seeing potential designs.

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  • a.O June 28, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I agree that the Green Line decision was bad, but it was predictable given the cost of creating a new track between downtown and 205. Hopefully another route east from the south end of downtown will eventually allow for more of a grid-like set of routes. Clearly, Powell needs a line. And it\'s also clear to me that there\'s no better way to emphasize the \"get out of your single occupancy vehicle and into public transit\" message better than taking a lane of Powell and dedicating it to the latter. I also like the symbolism of taking the former future site of the Mt Hood Highway and making it a Max route. I know, I\'m a dreamer.

    I\'m not sure what to think yet about the bike-ped separation. Mingling the two clearly slows down bikes, may be stressful for some people, and may be a bit of a safety issue, but is it enough of an issue to justify separation? How much more expensive is separation? I don\'t know, but this is an issue I\'m eager to hear more about from folks.

    I\'ll be looking forward to working with you too, Lance. And I think there is ample opportunity for everyone to get involved. I\'m often surprised that I don\'t see many people at the public meetings. And, at the risk of sounding a bit politically incorrect, I\'m a little dismayed when I see that I, at 34, am one of the youngest people in the room. This is not, in my experience, completely representative of the people who actually ride the Max or who will ride their bikes over the new bridge.

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  • Lenny Anderson June 28, 2007 at 8:49 am

    Original \"South/North\" proposal that was voted down in \'98 (it was a property tax measure) had MAX going to CTC via Milwaukie. That and an Oregon City extension are probably good candidates for the next round of funding, but don\'t forget Barbur Blvd to Tigard either.
    After the ugly Marquam bridge disaster, bridge design will be front and center. The Fremont cost a lot more than a comparable mean & potatoes version.

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  • peejay June 28, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Lenny:

    I hope you\'re right about bridge design. We\'re the Bridge City after all, and we\'d better have a bridge design that represents us well.

    a.O (is that the real A.O?):

    As for separation, it could be as easy as a painted line, just as long as the whole thing is wide enough, and people know that in the ped side, peds have right of way, and in the bike side, cyclists have right of way. And wrong way riders will be met with the utmost scorn and derision!

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  • a.O June 28, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Yep, the real a.O. Abbrev. is easier.

    I guess the first decision to confront in bridge design is drawbridge or high enough for clearance of ship traffic, right?

    Hawthorne is great, don\'t get me wrong, but to me it epitomizes the \"second-class\" designation of bikes as a transportation method. You get a strip that you share with pedestrians. These peds can go anywhere at any time and you have to yield to them. Often, you will not be able to safely pass them so you must wait for them. Imagine the howls of protest from motor vehicles so situated on a major artery through the city. I\'m not complaining about peds, I\'m just pointing out that a policy recognizing biking as a viable (and preferable) transportation method should be accompanied by some willingness to promote the efficiency of that method. On the other hand, I don\'t want to appear exclusionary. A painted line would probably work. Oh, and MORE COWBELL!

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  • alex June 28, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    does portland need to call in calatrava?

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  • dixon July 5, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    speaking of bridge design, is something going to be done to improve the awful morrison bridge for peds and bikes? talk about bikes and peds as an afterthought

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  • Lance Lindahl July 9, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Yes! Bike and pedestrian imrovements are coming soon for the Morrison Bridge. Funding was secured through Metro\'s MTIP program, and detailed plans have already been drawn up. The work is scheduled to begin once work on the Burnside Bridge is complete.

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