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Mayor tries to ‘Lift the fog’ around his Sauvie span decision

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 9th, 2008 at 9:05 am

Mayor Potter listening to testimony in
support of the Sauvie span at City
Hall last week.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Mayor Potter has issued a statement to help further clarify his decision to vote against a proposal that would have allowed PDOT to turn the old Sauvie Island Bridge span into a new crossing of I-405 in Northwest Portland.

Potter made his decision at a key Council vote on the project last Wednesday. Prior to that vote, expecting he would be unable to attend the Council meeting, he issued a memo outlining why he did not support the project.

After his "no" vote, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) wrote on their blog, "Why is Mayor Potter opposed to this potential landmark project? Apparently the Mayor didn’t understand where the money would be coming from."

Perhaps in response to the BTA, Potter published a statement on his website yesterday to clarify his position.

Here's the statement:

Lifting the fog around my Sauvie Island Bridge vote.

Last week, I voted against an interesting proposal to place the old Sauvie Island Bridge across the I-405 at N.W. Flanders. I wasn't against what I agree is an innovative idea - I just think there are higher priorities for our transportation dollars.

Some folks have misunderstood basic points around my vote:

  • Safety is an issue citywide - it's absolutely true, I don't like children walking to school in the street.
  • SDC's [System Development Charges, fees paid by developers to account for their use of transportation infrastructure] can be used to build sidewalks.
  • I wasn't interested in using money earmarked for bicycle safety to make up for private donations that were still lacking.
  • I wasn't supporting the 15-foot bridge as an option, especially after it was explained that the $3.5 million price tag was a "best guess."

Like Commissioner Saltzman, I was concerned about a sole source contract for so much money.

[Potter then referred readers to his memo.]

Portland resident Tim Davis is a supporter of the Sauvie Bridge span re-use project. He emailed Potter urging him to change his vote, saying if the project falls through it would be the, "biggest lost opportunity I have ever seen in Portland's history."

Here is how Potter responded to Davis' plea:

I understand the passion our community feels for bikes, and I remain supportive of making improvements to the City's bike infrastructure. However, we must balance our entire community's needs with our available resources, especially as we head into economically uncertain times, and I believe this issue is one of City priorities. Children and families in East Portland, for instance, continue to walk in the streets because the sidewalks promised by officials in the past have not been built. These funds could finally begin that construction. I believe that we must prioritize those transportation projects that will provide basic services to the greatest number of Portland's citizens.

I am also concerned about the accuracy of estimated expenses around this project. As Commissioner Adams noted in his opening remarks in Council, the cost estimates for a new 15-foot span are closer to educated guesses. I am similarly concerned about the estimates for moving the Sauvie Island bridge, as well as why the City would issued a substantial contract to a single firm without the opportunity to bid it to other contractors. I do not want to leave the City in a position to pay far more than expected.

I appreciate your interest in this project, and I hope that Portland's Transportation Office (PDOT) will return with a proposal that addresses Council's concerns.

In both of these responses, Potter continues to talk about Portland's transportation funding priorities and building sidewalks.

Looking north on NW Glisan, the only way to cross I-405 going westbound in the area around NW Flanders.

I visited the area around where the bridge would go yesterday and found that the safety of the existing crossings is even worse than I though. Everett and Glisan Streets are one-way, multi-lane thoroughfares that are only safe for motorized traffic (and all but the most skilled and fearless bikers and walkers). The sidewalks are narrow and the intersection crossings are daunting.

Looking north on NW Glisan (one block north of Flanders).

Is East Portland deserving of, and have they been promised bike and ped improvements? Yes (along with many other areas). Residents of Northwest Portland have also been promised improvements to NW Flanders that have yet to materialize (until the Sauvie span opportunity came up).

Portland was promised improvements to NW Flanders back in 2002 as part of the Burnside/Couch Couplet plan.

Not only is the Flanders/I-405 area in urgent need of a safe, comfortable, and efficient alternative to Everett and Glisan, but the community is rallying around the Sauvie span project. Even with the project in limbo, businesses are pledging thousands of dollars, residents have their checkbooks ready, area schools (whose students need sidewalks) are eager to get involved, and neighborhood leaders are passionately supportive of the project.

This is not an either-or situation. If the Sauvie Span project goes through, it will not result in any less bike safety improvements in East Portland. And as for East Portland -- what projects would you like to see funded? Let's fight for those too and see if Mayor Potter is ready to go to bat for them. Use his talk to make him walk.

Despite media soundbites and sensationalism, and the poisonous City Hall political environment these days, the bottom line is that we've got unanimous support of the idea from City Hall.

The Mayor claims he "agrees it's an innovative idea," and that, "he's supportive of making improvements to the city's bike infrastructure." Commissioner Saltzman -- the other "no" vote -- said he is also in support of the Sauvie span re-use idea, but that he just wants to have a better contract situation.

Great! We all agree this is an opportunity worth fighting for. Now, let's all focus on how to make it happen. Let's not let politics get in the way of this rare opportunity to make our city a better place to live in.

=====

-- Stay tuned for more coverage of the ongoing effort to Save the Sauvie Span. Read my extensive coverage of ths story here.

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Comments
  • DJ Hurricane April 9, 2008 at 9:46 am

    He needs to do more lifting, because the fog is still there - because other improvements need to be made, I can\'t support this innovative one? Doesn\'t make any sense to me. Seems the much easier explanation is partisan politics, i.e., taking down Sam to support Sho.

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  • wsbob April 9, 2008 at 9:50 am

    \"Children and families in East Portland, for instance, continue to walk in the streets because the sidewalks promised by officials in the past have not been built. These funds could finally begin that construction.\" Tom Potter/ Mayor, Portland, Oregon

    Is that last statement true, or not? If it\'s not true, why did Potter make that statement? He\'d be well advised to be sure before he says something like that.

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  • toddistic April 9, 2008 at 9:54 am

    The fact that the project would be awarded to a single company without going out for bid should take this plan off the table. I find Potter\'s responses justifibly sound.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Potter sez:

    \"Children and families in East Portland, for instance, continue to walk in the streets because the sidewalks promised by officials in the past have not been built. These funds could finally begin that construction.\"

    Isn\'t the funding for the ped bridge earmarked for Pearl/NW only (both the SDC portion and the TIF portion)? If so, Potter\'s statement is false and misleading.

    Potter also sez:

    \"I wasn’t supporting the 15-foot bridge as an option, especially after it was explained that the $3.5 million price tag was a “best guess.\"

    So that sounds like he\'s opposed to any bridge improvements in the Everett/Glisan area. If so, that\'s just unacceptable -- every crossing from Burnside to Johnson requires walking across a freeway onramp.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Toddistic (#3) -

    The emergency proposal that was shot down last week would have created the sole-source contract. Since that\'s failed, my understanding is that this can now be put through a competitive bid process. We just need to make sure the bridge doesn\'t go to the scrap heap in the meantime.

    Seems like the details are a bit fuzzy here -- anyone got clarification?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 10:08 am

    RE: the competitive bid.

    The plan now is to put the plan out to a competitive bid, as that is what Saltzman said had to happen for him to support it.

    Also, I understand the sole-source vs. competitive bid issue. Of course we all want competitive bids... but there are cases (like this one) when sole-source makes sense.

    Kuney owns the bridge and they have significant expertise and experience with this specific bridge because they\'re the ones that are already under contract with Mult. County on the Sauvie Island project.

    They already have a team assembled to carry out the project and there is a very high likelihood that they would present the most competitive bid.

    Bottom line is that once the bids come back, it will end up costing the city more than if the initial plan would have gone through.

    When/if that happens, you can bet the local media and Potter/Sho/Saltzman will be all over it... saying how much the project\'s cost has increased, etc...

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  • 2GOAT April 9, 2008 at 10:25 am

    I guess Potter’s feeling guilty about wasting $1.5 million on Vision PDX since it sure seems to be in the scrap pile.

    He also appears to be reneging on the approval for any kind of Peds/Bike Bridge as determined by safety needs assessed back in 2002.

    Is he suffering from Short timer’s syndrome, since he decided not to run for a second term. Did he do this because he was disillusioned by politics? What happened to leadership and vision?

    The contractor in question won the county bid to build the New Sauvie Island bridge, and came up with a high confidence estimate for the creative disposal of the Old Sauvie Island bridge.
    Nature, provides the time constraint. (i.e. river flow and the tides)
    We don’t have the luxury of waiting indefinitely for other contractors to come up with their plans and estimates.

    This is definitely a case where the greater the delay, the more you will pay.

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  • bahueh April 9, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Jonthan, similar things were said about Halliburton at the onset of the Iraq war...no bid contracts are in no-one\'s best interest, especially tax payers...assuming one contractor (Kuney)will be awarded is short-sighted.

    again, what\'s the hurry and why must it be installed by December?

    there are many, many prefabricated alternatives that would be cheaper and could be installed quite quickly.

    http://www.excelbridge.com/owners/types.asp?gclid=CJG2w6jNzpICFRwsagodPh7OGw

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 10:32 am

    \"Jonathan...again, what\'s the hurry and why must it be installed by December?

    Again bahueh, I never said it \"must\" be installed by December. I said it will be installed by December.

    And there\'s not really a hurry. Kuney has stepped back and realized the significance of this project. They are no longer demanding that PDOT makes a commitment (which is why the emergency thing happened).

    \"there are many, many prefabricated alternatives that would be cheaper and could be installed quite quickly.\"

    \"could be installed\"... but when? where\'s the guarantee?

    With the Sauvie span we are guaranteed it will be installed soon. we are guaranteed it will be 30 feet wide.

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  • wsbob April 9, 2008 at 10:44 am

    \"there are many, many prefabricated alternatives that would be cheaper and could be installed quite quickly.\" bahueh

    If you have it, give us more information about how you are certain that alternatives on the site you\'ve provided the link for, would be cheaper and could be built more quickly.

    From the interview editor Maus conducted with the Sauvie contractor, Max Kuney, I\'d venture a guess he\'s a straight up guy. He\'s been talking with the city, and I hope those officials would propose to him that he try eliminate a lot of budget uncertainty by considering offering a guaranteed price for doing the job, if city council agrees not to subject the project to a lengthy competitive bid process. If that\'s do-able, the decision to use or reuse might be more clear for everyone.

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  • GLV April 9, 2008 at 10:58 am

    \"Isn\'t the funding for the ped bridge earmarked for Pearl/NW only (both the SDC portion and the TIF portion)?\"

    SDCs can be spent anywhere, including portions east of the City east of 205. So, Potter is at least partially correct about the sidewalk thing.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 11:15 am

    An FYI on PDOT and sidewalks in East Portland...

    PDOT is working right now on a major project to improve NE 102nd Ave.

    They\'re building and improving sidewalks. It\'s a $5.5 million project.. .with $500,000 of that coming from local System Development Charges.

    Here\'s a link to the project on the city\'s website.

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  • solid gold April 9, 2008 at 11:20 am

    i actually agree with Potter on this. really, NW portland and close-in SE have been getting the lion\'s share of bike/ped improvements. it\'s like if an intersection isn\'t totally easy for a novice biker, then it\'s \"dangerous\" and in need of \"improvement\". uhm, have any of you ever biked past 70th street?

    unfortunately, our \"transportation activists\" have focused pretty exclusively on NW and close in SE. why? because that\'s where they live, and consequently, that\'s where EVERY rich person in Multnomah Co. lives. funny how the rich neighborhoods in PDX get all the nice perks like streetcars, MAX lines, bike lanes, bike bridges,, etc, and past 82nd street, they still DON\'T HAVE SIDELWALKS. portland has fast become the city of NIMBY liberals.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson April 9, 2008 at 11:23 am

    \"there are many, many prefabricated alternatives that would be cheaper and could be installed quite quickly.\"

    The Sauvie island bridge IS prefabricated, AND could be installed quite quickly. It is also the exact dimensions needed for a bridge over I405 at Flanders street, and strong enough for emergency vehicles. I don\'t know where you think you are going to find a bridge for less money that meets all of those criteria.

    As a bonus the bridge has history, and would be a visual symbol of how much Portland cares about sustainability both with it\'s reuse of an existing structure, and how it promotes walking, and biking.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 11:31 am

    \"NW portland and close-in SE have been getting the lion\'s share of bike/ped improvements.\"

    solid gold,

    the NW part of that statement is a huge misperception. In fact, even though it has a grid street network and is very dense (two factors that usu. mean high bike use), NW Portland has surprisingly low rates of bike usage.

    this is likely because the streets are narrow and they carry a lot of high-speed car traffic.

    Don\'t let the ritzy residents fool you... NW Portland is not anywhere near as safe and comfortable for cyclists as inner SE.

    \"it\'s like if an intersection isn\'t totally easy for a novice biker, then it\'s \"dangerous\" and in need of \"improvement\". \"

    You\'re exactly right! Portland is not building the bikeway for people like you. It is focusing on the novice biker. And for the novice (or kid, or grandma), the area near NW Flanders is definitely \"dangerous\" and in need of improvement.

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  • bahueh April 9, 2008 at 11:33 am

    so the center span is what? about 300 feet?
    costs are included on that one website I linked...
    at 300 ft, costs for a new, painted, lead free span would be somewhere in the ballpark of $150K - $270K+ (highest estimate on that site would be around $420K). seems a bit cheaper than the current proposed price tag of $1.5M for simply moving the bridge and another $1M for painting it and another $1M for new footings.

    construction and raising costs aside...I think my point is proven. no way is moving the old span a cheaper alternative. sorry, guys.

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  • bahueh April 9, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Jonathan, you\'re advocating for a \"guaranteed\" waste of money...

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  • bjorn April 9, 2008 at 11:35 am

    #13 I attended the NE Portland Streetcar workshop last night at Grant High School. According to the maps we looked at and the feedback that was taken Portland is looking at adding streetcars to neighborhoods where they make sense and they have community support. On the big map I saw several areas east of 82nd that are being looked at. The possibility that these lines could be either connected to a downtown system or operate as local circulators both exist. The city is having 5 workshops, and the one for east portland is next week.

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/04/01/streetcar-system-plan-workshop-e/

    If anyone from NE missed last night\'s meeting but would still like to be involved it is not too late. The city website has contact information for the planners working on the streetcar project, and they urged us to let our neighbors know that the process is going on so that they could comment. Streetcars may be downtown right now, but I think they will be all over our city soon.

    Bjorn

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  • bahueh April 9, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Daniel...
    who said this bridge needs to hold \"emergency vehicles\"...I believe its being proposed as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge, am I wrong? the point is to NOT have cars on it...

    now if this is something that is intended to hold future streetcars (heavier usage), i could maybe support it a bit more...

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson April 9, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Re #13

    I have sitting next to me a big packet on fixing 82nd I got at a PDOT open house in November held on location on 82nd avenue. The city is working on projects out there, and I don\'t think the bridge project effects them as they are too high a priority.

    Additionally if you looked at the Safe Sound, and Green Streets program more of the money is being spent out past 82nd that any other area of the city.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Jonathan (#15) writes:

    \"...NW Portland has surprisingly low rates of bike usage...this is likely because the streets are narrow and they carry a lot of high-speed car traffic.\"

    Very true. For this NW Portland homeowner, the most logical routes from the river to the core of NW are Burnside (out of the question!) and Glisan, which is not much better once the bike lane ends at 18th. You have to take the lane on an uphill, which is never fun for anyone involved.

    For a dense, gridded, transit-served neighborhood we\'re remarkably car-infested, which makes in-neighborhood riding unpleasant near any of the arterials. Luckily, walking is highly feasible but still risky due to too-fast drivers looking for scarce parking.

    Getting in and out of the area isn\'t all that great either, and I\'m a confident rider. A well-thought-out bike boulevard up Flanders would be an instant boon to NW ridership.

    So would a congestion charge, but now I\'m just dreaming...

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  • wsbob April 9, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    bahueh, #16, your point is yet to be proven based on my brief look at Excel\'s website. The cost estimates they offer are limited to the \"...conceptualization, design and fabrication...\" of the bridge span. All other costs including pier installation, moving and installation are extra and have to be hired out to an outside contractor.

    The only way to find out what the cost of installing such a bridge is, would be to get bids.

    Unrelated tip for everyone that wants to include a link in their comment: Check out the following web page and bookmark it if you like:

    html codes webpage

    Then find \'link\', and do the following:

    Cut and paste your link into the \'your domain\' area, and put whatever title you want into the \'site\' area between the two arrows. Then your link won\'t run off the edge of the page.

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  • Matt Picio April 9, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    2GOAT (#7) asked what happened to Mayor Potter\'s vision:

    My personal opinion? When he couldn\'t change Portland\'s form of government to the \"strong mayor\" system, that killed all his plans, and now it\'s just sour grapes. Possibly he\'s also trying to help Sam Adams\' opponent. In any case, Mayor Potter seems to all of a sudden be incredibly fiscally responsible, to the point of inaction. It\'s pretty unforgiveable, when you consider that this bridge benefits pedestrians even more than it does cyclists, and when pedestrians are routinely being killed by cars in NW Portland specifically because of the lack of safe crossings over the Interstate and major arterials. This bridge is necessary, not only because pedestrians and cyclists need to get across, but because reusing the Sauvie means the bridge can be in place a year or more earlier than the alternatives, and because a 30\' width means that cyclists and pedestrians can share the bridge without getting in each others\' way.

    (#8, #9, #10) Kuney *is* a straight-up guy with this project. He *wants* to work with the city. If the project goes through and if Kuney gets the contract, it\'s a major feather in the company\'s cap, and can potentially bring them a lot of business. That\'s worth a lot more than the $35k they would get by scrapping out the bridge.

    solid gold (#13) - It\'s not that conspiratorial. The inner city is where most of the people are, and because of the development pattern of Portland, it\'s where you get the most \"bang\" for your buck, transportation-wise. Hawthorne, for example sees bike commuters from Clackamas County, Milwaukie, Gresham, Troutdale, etc. Maybe 10-20% of the Hawthorne Bridge users are from Inner SE / Inner SW. Burnside at 142nd doesn\'t have near those numbers. The money mostly gets spent where the greatest need is. That said, the city does really need to fund improvements to 82nd Ave and 122nd Ave, along with a number of other arterials that are deadly to pedestrians, and I whole-heartedly support projects to improve those areas. solid, where are the problem areas in your opinion? Let\'s get some support for fixing those, too - this isn\'t \"either-or\", and we as transportation minorities shouldn\'t have to settle for 1 or 2 projects. Let\'s agitate for change!

    bahueh (#16) - Cheaper shouldn\'t be the driving factor. The Marquam bridge is cheaper than the Fremont - would you say that flat-decked monstrosity is \"better\"? All of our projects would be cheaper without the requirement that art be part of them, or if the designs were completely functional. It\'s environmentally responsible to reuse the Sauvie span. Otherwise, think of all the energy involved to cut it up with torches, truck it somewhere else, melt down the pieces, and form it into new steel products which are then driven to distribution centers, retail centers, and individual homes. Hell, saving the bridge for all we know could save 1,000 vehicle trips. (Think how many trips that bridge would generate if it became razor blades and food cans) The Sauvie span isn\'t cheaper, but its more responsible. We\'ve already paid the monetary cost, the resource cost, and the energy cost of manufacturing it. Sure, a concrete bridge is cheaper in the short-term, but is it more responsible? How long will a concrete span last? (hint - think \"less than 50 years\") The Sauvie span will last 100 years or more with proper care. Saving the Sauvie is the right thing to do unless money is the only thing you care about.

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  • Andrew Haliburton April 9, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    RE “Lifting the Fog…”

    I wish I could accept Mayor Potter’s statement – legitimate points but not convincing. What bothered me was the Mayor’s manner; I’m sure most people present would agree that his attitude was obstinate and his ears deaf to the staff and public appeals. I don’t think the Mayor’s posted statement clarifies anything, except to confirm that this is all politics, and is really about his personal attitude towards Commissioner Adams. By his demeanor at that meeting, he clearly couldn’t suppress it. What would be better understood would be an apology…

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  • Jesse Beason April 9, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I wanted to point out a couple of things:

    The SDC (system development charges) funding for a Flanders St. bike/ped crossing was passed by city council months prior to the council hearing.

    Total SDC funding is spread rather equitably throughout the city, based on geography density and type of modal capacity increase (freight, bike, ped). Check out the project map here.

    The crossing is going to happen, the question is what kind of crossing, when, and how wide.

    In an emergency, vehicles could indeed use the Flanders Sauvie Island Bridge.

    Moving the Sauvie span is a cheaper alternative compared to a new span @ 30 feet wide built today.

    The $3.5M estimate for a new 15\' span is indeed a low-confidence estimate, meaning NOT based on bids or similar projects. Given rising costs of concrete and construction materials, there is no clear estimate of what it would cost should Burnside/Couch improvements trigger the construction of a new Flanders span.

    We do not have enough data to assess the exact embodied carbon difference between reusing the Sauvie bridge versus a new (both 15\' or 30\') span, but are seeing if we can get there.

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  • Darrell April 9, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    RE: Sidewalks on the eastside

    I can vouch for this - I live near NE Davis and 67th - and there are a few blocks without sidewalks, or the sidewalks are from early 1900\'s. Now, this isn\'t so much an issue for me, but for my son who is 3 years old and learning to ride his bike. In order to ride around the block, there is one point where he has to ride in the road, which I don\'t like at all (I am with him the whole time, btw). Also, because the sidewalks in the neighborhood are so old, they don\'t have the dips at the corners, meaning wheelchairs, strollers, or 3 year olds with training wheels need to hop off and onto curbs, or catch a driveway and ride in the street until the next one.
    What about the childrens?

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  • kg April 9, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    The off the cuff, made up estimate of the concrete bridge is cheaper. That is all the 3.5 million dollar figure is a guess. Someone pulled it out of their ...

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    It frustrates me that so far it seems like Potter is trying to make this an either/or, us vs. them, Westside cyclists against Eastside familes debate. I hope this doesn\'t devolve into ugly zero-sum politics -- there\'s no reason we should have to fight over transportation dollar scraps!

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  • Russell April 9, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    solid gold #13 -

    I\'m going to reiterate Johnathan\'s point, but in a little more detail. Your argument that NW Portland has received a \'lion\'s share\' of the bicycle/pedestrian funding is erroneous. Yes, we got this spiffy little streetcar - that moves at the pace of a geriatric retriever with bad hips.

    Bicycle lanes: We have Glisan and Everett which run from 19th to 14th and a new bike box next to a freeway onramp at 16th and Everett. We\'ve got bike lanes on 19th, 18th & 14th, but all of those in NW are high speed routes as they\'re one way streets. Lovejoy\'s bicycle lane starts around 14th and is wedged between parked cars and the streetcar line. This is, perhaps, one of the narrowest bicycle lanes in the city. The bicycle lane along Broadway is alright.

    We\'ve got a lot of \'low-speed shared roadways.\' However, not a single one of them has any form of traffic calming or any deterrent to keep motorists from using the street. I live up Flanders so I bike it almost everyday and have experienced the joy of un-calmed streets with numerous stop signs. You get impatient motorists who try and blow by you in a 200ft block to beat you to the next stop sign, as they attempt to use Flanders, Johnson, Raleigh, or any number of other streets to circumvent traffic on the busier streets like Glisan and Everett. Note too that these side-streets are incredibly narrow and often have delivery vehicles parked taking up more than half of the roadway.

    Add to this that Flanders breaks at 405 and Johnson only runs till 9th. This means that in order to make a connection to the east side you either crossover to SW, travel down Everett, or run a zig-zag pattern along side streets to finally get down to the waterfront. There, however, is no true connection for bikes onto the Waterfront there, so you have to pop onto the sidewalk and cross at a crosswalk, which is illegal between Jefferson and Hoyt and Front and 13th.

    Now then, pedestrian-wise the area is terrible. Parking is horrible so people, basically, park blocking the corners of the street, so vehicles don\'t stop the required 6ft back from the corner. Cars, instead, rush forward to completely block the crossings so that they can look for oncoming cars. This causes many problems for pedestrians. I have nearly been hit numerous times while walking/running along our \'calm pedestrian/bicycle friendly side-streets.\'

    So, please, solid gold, tell me where all of our bicycle and pedestrian facilities have gone? Perhaps that money was spent so that the wealthy condominium owners could walk safely in their own buildings?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    \"What would be better understood would be an apology… [from the Mayor]\"

    That\'s highly unlikely Andrew.

    Remember when Mr. Potter cut a measly $100,000 funding request to continue PDOT\'s work on the Bicycle Master Plan?

    Yes, he reinstated it. But no, he never apologized or even acknowledged that he might have made an oversight and that the community had every reason to be outraged.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Jesse (#25) -

    Your link to the list of SDC-funded projects indicates that the money is earmarked solely for the Flanders bike/ped bridge crossing. Other commenters here (GLV #11) have suggested that SDC dollars can be reapportioned elsewhere -- is that true? If so, what is the process?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    \"The SDC (system development charges) funding for a Flanders St. bike/ped crossing was passed by city council months prior to the council hearing.

    Thanks for reminding me about that Jesse.

    By the way folks, Jesse is a Senior Policy Director for Commissioner Adams.

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  • Qwendolyn April 9, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    What about the childrens?

    yeah, I was wondering that too.

    what about \'em?

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  • DJ Hurricane April 9, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Oh, children are way smarter than we give \'em credit for. For example, I don\'t know a single one with a full time job or kids. See how smart that is?

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  • Jesse Beason April 9, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    The project list for SDC\'s is approved every ten years. The reason being that many of these projects need layered funding with sources from all over (local, Metro, State, Federal), and committing SDCs early on gives them a better shot at securing those dollars and counting towards any required local match.

    Could that project list be amended?

    Yes. City Council, by resolution, can amend the project list. However, the list was created with a committee of around 50-60 folks from throughout the City, and so any changes would be something we\'d hope could happen with their participation.

    I should also point out that typically, we don\'t like to amend the list by simply adding projects, because unless we raise SDCs, that\'s just adding to an overburdened list already. We\'d instead identify what would have to come off.

    With the changes adopted by council in October 2007, transporation reviews SDC rates at least every two years with an eye towards the project list.

    A lot of this is found in Title 17.15 of city code.

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  • shane April 9, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I don\'t know if this helps, but here\'s how I see it:
    I manage an apartment building built in 1921 that has its share of ongoing plumbing issues. Let\'s say that the tub valve in unit #301 breaks. It\'s not an emergency, but there\'s a small drip and it\'s only gonna get worse if I let it go. I could spend a lot of time and effort in getting 3 bids to fix the problem, or I can just call the same plumber that\'s been working on the building for the last 15 years. I might be overpaying by $50 or $100 bucks, but I\'ve saved myself and the tenant in #301 a lot of time and dripping. Also, I know that my plumber has been around the building so much he can do it in his sleep. If I went with someone cheaper they might totally screw it up.
    Anyway, kind of a stupid analogy. I don\'t live in NW Portland and will probably not directly benefit from this bridge, but it seems like we should do it.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Jesse (#35) -

    Thanks for the clarification. What I\'m hearing is that SDCs can be reapportioned, but shifting these particular funds using a normal process would take about two years and significant community participation.

    Is it true that the TIF funding for this project cannot be shifted to another neighborhood? If so, which funds would be freed up for other priorities by shutting down (or spending less on) the Flanders bridge project?

    Opponents of the bridge have stated that this stopping this project could pay for other priorities elsewhere, but I\'m still not seeing exactly how the money would be put to use.

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  • BURR April 9, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    \"I visited the area around where the bridge would go yesterday and found that the safety of the existing crossings is even worse than I though. Everett and Glisan Streets are one-way, multi-lane thoroughfares that are only safe for motorized traffic(and all but the most skilled and fearless bikers and walkers).\"

    A bit of hyperbole there, Jonathan?

    These intersections certainly aren\'t the most bike friendly in town, and a large part of that is due to their association with I-405 freeway interchanges overlaid on the local street grid.

    But with a bit of training and care, they are negotiable by cyclists with average skill levels, so why raise the fear factor unnecessarily?

    Finally, if DMV/ODOT/PDOT a bit more effort into reeducating motorists regarding their responsibility to yield to and drive with care around vulnerable road users, it would go a long way towards improving conditions for cyclists at intersections like these.

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  • GLV April 9, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    jonno (#31) my point was simply that SDCs, unlike urban renewal funds, don\'t have to be spent where they are collected. So, had the 500K not already been allocated to Flanders (I didn\'t know it had, thanks Jesse. Wonder if Tom knows that?), it could have been spent on sidewalks in east Portland.

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  • Elly Blue April 9, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Burr, it isn\'t awesome for biking -- but you\'re right, it\'s far worse for people trying to navigate on foot. I\'d like to invite you to come out next Thursday as well and give it a try yourself. The fear factor in this case is way lower than it should be...people are way too used to just putting up with dangerous crossings.

    Agreed about actually educating motorists. But freeway speeds and pedestrians just don\'t mix, no matter how conscientious everyone\'s being.

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  • BURR April 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    You\'re exactly right! Portland is not building the bikeway for people like you. It is focusing on the novice biker. And for the novice (or kid, or grandma), the area near NW Flanders is definitely \"dangerous\" and in need of improvement.

    \'Novice\' cyclists don\'t remain novices forever, they acquire skills and are able to meet greater challenges over time. Designing everything for the lowest common denominator is neither necessary nor cost-effective in the long run.

    No one goes out onto high speed arterials their first day on a bike, and driving instructors don\'t take driver trainees out on the interstate the first day of class either, because interstate highways aren\'t designed for novice motorists.

    Designing all bike infrastructure for complete novices doesn\'t make any more sense.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    GLV (#39) -

    Understood. I was just using your comment as a reference, since it was a point of confusion for me. And it looks like the SDC number is $2,392,336 for the crossing, dollars which are not easily reallocated.

    I\'m not sure if Tom knows this. I think I\'ll write his office and find out.

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  • Matt Picio April 9, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    BURR (#38) - I don\'t think he\'s exaggerating much. I was over there, too, and I\'m fairly fearless on the roads, and I don\'t like those routes either. For pedestrians, they\'re horrendous. The whole area sucks - I almost got left-hooked at 16th & Burnside by an inattentive driver who wasn\'t using signals and turned instead of going straight. Everett and Glisan aren\'t quite as bad, but they\'re close - especially Everett, where all the cars just fly downhill when they have the chance.

    GLV (#39) - maybe, maybe not. Jesse was saying that they usually only drop projects, not add them. The sidewalks would have needed to be a identified project at the time the SDC funds were being allocated for funding to be guaranteed. Certainly SDC funds *could* be allocated somewhere else now instead of during the allocation process, but it\'s highly unlikely that they would, unless something else was dropped, and the Council was motivated to add it.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Jesse, if you\'re still around -- do you know how the ODOT federal grant portion of the bridge fund was allocated and if there are any restrictions on allocating that money elsewhere?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 9, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    jonno, the ODOT grant is through a program called Transportation Enhancements. That program only funds projects that have historical or iconic significance... and therefore would simply not be available for a standard, concrete bridge.

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  • BURR April 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Matt - I would say it is because of the freeway overlay; getting rid of the freeway entrances and exits would do more for cycling and walking in this area than any other fix I can think of, including a Flanders street bridge.

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  • jonno April 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. I take that to mean that the funds would not be available for eastside sidewalk improvements, either?

    So what portion of the project fund is Tom talking about using elsewhere? I don\'t see a realistic way for that to happen.

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  • Russell April 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Jonno - to go back to your earlier question in #35 about TIF. No, it is not possible to reallocate those funds. Tax-increment Financing is based on the future tax values of the surrounding land to repay debt incurred by the project. The idea is that the project will increase the value of the surrounding real estate, consequently that added value is able to help repay a loan. For this reason it is used in very specific areas. The South Waterfront project used a ton of TIF and it could, based on the fact that there was virtually nothing there before the development and now a hefty amount of property tax is being generated in that area. Wikipedia has a fairly interesting article about TIF with some great links if you\'re interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_increment_financing

    So basically that $2m is a loan based on what they believe the bridge will do to the surrounding areas property values.

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  • Former 49er.. April 9, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    A politician is only as good as the staff he/she hires. Clearly, Mayor Potter has made poor decisions in choosing his staff who are suppose to properly inform him on important issues to constituents.. The contract issue is one that could be easily solved with proper lawyer oversight. Potter\'s stance on this issue was made regardless of this facet.

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  • John Russell April 9, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    BURR (#46) If only it was so easy to cope with interstate-induced traffic.
    And I digress, but I honestly wonder why some politician hasn\'t put forth the idea that we simply cover the entire interstate up and put a nice park there instead. I could understand concerns about height and hazardous cargo restrictions, but many of the overpasses already don\'t meet clearance standards and the only major route branching off of 405 is 26, which already disallows the carrying of HC through the vista ridge tunnel.
    We\'ve already turned one highway into a beautiful park. Why don\'t we do it a second time? At the very least, we could cover it up, making it at least one less thing for pedestrians to worry about.

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  • Stripes April 9, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I think Matt (#23) makes a very good point when he says that this bridge will benefit pedestrians, as well as bicyclists.

    We mustn\'t forget that. I would be interested what people who walk around Portland on their own two feet think about this project? Painting it as a \"bicycle\" project unfortunately, has a degree of automatic stigma about it.

    But everybody is a pedestrian at some point in their lives. I would like to see the bicycle & pedestrian communities join hands to advocate strongly for this bridge together. What does the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition think of this bridge?

    The running community alone in Portland is formidable, and would likely be very supportive of the bridge (lots of runners from the Pearl District heading up to the west hills et al).

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  • BURR April 10, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I honestly wonder why some politician hasn\'t put forth the idea that we simply cover the entire interstate up and put a nice park there instead.

    John, this was a Vera Katz \'vision\', but it never went beyond that stage.

    The real problem is the mistake of running the highways right into and through the city core. Look at Vancouver BC; they rejected a proposal to run the highway into the city core and have never regretted it since.

    A politician with enough cojones might actually be able to remove highway 405 completely if the timing was right, but I realize that\'s a pretty big wish.

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  • Jesse Beason April 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    BURR,

    The vision of Mayor Katz was indeed that, but I think what isn\'t often communicated was that the idea was also to let the private market drive that much of that vision to reality.

    In other words, when property values for the downtown core reached a certain cost per block, it would be just as cost effective to \"cap\" a block of 405 as it would be to buy an existing block and make it \"shovel ready.\"

    I agree with you about the downsides of running highways through the city core.

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  • Matt Picio April 10, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    BURR (#46) - I agree with you there 100%. It\'d be great to remove the freeways and restore community across those huge dividers.

    John Russell (#50) - covering the freeware would be an enormously expensive proposition. The entire structure would need to be built to quake-resistant specifications. It would need ventilation with powered blowers, lighting, additional drainage, cameras and possibly other improvements. I\'d love to see it: Back in the 80s, the orthodox Jewish community in Metro-Detroit managed to get MDOT to cover huge portions of the under-construction I-696 because it would have divided the residents\' homes from their synagogues. The project was tied up in litigation for 14 years, but they ultimately won, and now there are 3 covered plazas, each about 700\' long. They were the first such project in US history, and the beams that hold them up already need to be replaced after 15 years - a $7.1 million project in itself.

    http://tinyurl.com/5sxou9

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  • John Russell April 10, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I would whole-heartedly agree that running freeways through urban cores was not a very well thought out idea. I strongly doubt any short-sighted politicians and businessmen would ever consider removing 405 entirely, but at least a well planned and pedestrian-friendly bridge over 405 at Flanders Street could significantly improve livability around the area.

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  • Ryan April 10, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Huh, I ride through that intersection on Glisan at least once a week, I\'ve never found it difficult. I just ride in the left traffic lane in a straight line past the left turn lane, motorists change lanes and pass as needed. Riding a straight line is pretty easy to do. If you follow the half-ass bike lane to the right, you\'ll put yourself among right-turning traffic which tends to make things more difficult. I\'m not going very fast either, usually 10-12 mph especially if I\'m pulling a trailer. Motorists have two choices: queue up or change lanes (I don\'t think they\'ll take the mythical third option of going through me).

    Everett is pretty easy too, just ride in one of the lanes in a straight line, stagger yourself to stay out of motorists\' blind spots and negotiate with drivers changing lanes. If you ride at the edge of the lane, you\'ll encourage unsafe passing or left-hooks. If you ride in that horrendously dangerous bike lane, you\'ll get doored or right-hooked.

    Hopefully the \"solution\" to the Glisan/I-405 intersection won\'t be the same as on Everett/16th; namely striping a mandatory blue bike lane that increases the complexity and danger of the intersection in the name of safety (can that logical contradiction be made any clearer?).

    If people want a more \"comfortable\" facility to navigate this intersection, make it optional (and actually safe). But don\'t tell people this is a dangerous intersection because it\'s not. I think it\'s more so an issue of attitude, not engineering. For once try a mix of education, enforcement and clarification of cyclists rights. I\'m sure those in power have the resources to conduct such a program.

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  • BURR April 10, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Ryan - I agree with you 100% that PDOT completely missed the mark with the bike lane and bike box on NE Everett at NE 16th. This \'facility\' should be avoided at all costs by cyclists concerned about their own safety. Taking the lane at this location is the way to go. A bike lane to the left of a right turn only lane would have been an alternative solution; PDOT completely dropped the ball on this one.

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  • Ryan April 11, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Huh, that sucks, I didn\'t know they put a bike box there. I hope PPD isn\'t currently enforcing that intersection, I gotta go to the store today. Cycling in this city is getting difficult; light-rail tracks, potholes, door-zone bike lanes and now unapproved traffic control devices!

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