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ODOT will delve deeper for Oregon City bridge closure access solution

Posted by on August 11th, 2009 at 11:11 am

Oregon City Mayor Alice Norris (left) and
Clackamas County Chair Lynn Peterson learn
about the bridge from an
ODOT engineer.
(Photos: ODOT)

Last Friday, the Oregon Department of Transportation hosted a tour of the Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge. The bridge is slated for a major, two-year renovation project and ODOT is faced with having to figure out how to maintain non-motorized access across the river during the closure.

So far, ODOT has not figured out a solution and they are acutely aware that bike advocates, elected officials and other community members want to make sure that adequate, non-motorized access options will be provided for.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) Advocacy Manager Michelle Poyourow was the sole bike advocate on Friday’s tour. She joined (bike-riding) Clackamas County Chair Lynn Peterson, Oregon City Mayor Alice Norris, local business leaders, bridge engineers, and others for an up-close look at the bridge and the challenges faced by ODOT.

ODOT’s Jason Tell (right) speaks with tour
attendees, including the BTA’s Michelle
Poyourow (far left).

Poyourow told us that during the tour, business owners and elected officials “made it crystal clear” that having a bike and pedestrian connection across the river during the project was a must.

Poyourow said she plans to watch this project very closely. “We have hundreds of members who live in Oregon City or West Linn or Lake Oswego, and even farther away, who need that multi-modal river crossing.”

ODOT’s Region 1 manager Jason Tell — who has been very supportive of bike-related issues in the past — has taken the reins on this situation. In a telephone interview this morning, Tell told us that he felt the tour was very positive and helpful. “It helped everyone understand the challenges,” he said, “and now they realize why we haven’t yet found a solution.”

Tell confirmed that he will form a group of stakeholders from the County, the City, and the community to delve deeper into finding a workable solution. ODOT will hire a consultant to review the options on the table so far and Tell sees they’ll meet with the contractor’s union to ask their opinion as well.

The Oregon City Bridge
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Among the options on the table are a shuttle over I-205, a protected shoulder on I-205 for non-motorized traffic (which Poyourow says wouldn’t be acceptable because riding on the highway would be “so loud and dirty and unpleasant and scary”), some type of path attached to the bridge during construction, or a ferry across the river.

Tell said the ferry idea is something they’ll take a closer look at. He said Oregon City owns a dock about one mile from the existing bridge that they say could be a ferry boarding area. That detour would likely be fine for people on bikes, but not so easy for people on foot. To make it easier for pedestrians, Tell said they could complement the ferry service with a shuttle service to the dock.

Tell also said just a shuttle is still an option. He envisions a specially-equipped bus that could fit 10-15 bikes at a time and that would take people across the river via I-205.

I asked Tell if he could guarantee that an adequate access solution would be found. He stopped short of any commitment, but he did say this is the “toughest situation” he’s ever seen and that ODOT is “trying very hard” to come up with a soluion.

Poyourow says she doesn’t have a favorite solution yet, but she’s optimistic that one will be found. She prefers to see the problem as a potential opportunity to bring the community together and perhaps even create a new, permanent bicycle and pedestrian connection between Oregon City and West Linn.

Tell said he’s also heard feedback of wanting a new, permanent path for biking and walking. “Right now, we have to solve this immediate problem,” he said, “but by having all these people at the table, if they have ideas and get excited about it, it could lead to something like that.”

Learn more about this project at ArchRehab.com or browse our previous coverage here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Vance Longwell August 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I’m confused, since when are bicycles prohibited from using this bridge? For that matter, how are they gonna fit cars on a bus.

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  • Brian G August 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Vance, bicycles are not currently prohibited from using the bridge. But during it’s ensuing 2+ year closure slated for Jan ’10, bikes/peds will not have access, as currently announced. Cars can take the nearby 205 bridge.

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  • RonC August 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    It’s an interesting problem. I agree that cycling across the 205 bridge would be very unpleasant. But it’s not impossible if correctly partitioned off. Walking it would be just plain awful.

    Since Oregon City is a pioneer of the public elevator, why not put in an elevator on each bank down to a public dock? Then a small ferry could shuttle pedestrians and bikes back and forth. After the bridge work is done, there could still be recreational utility for the docks. Seems like costs would be quite high for an option like this, but I’m just brainstorming…

    And speaking of high costs, do I dare dream of an OHSU style tram? Put it closer to the falls and you could charge per ride, have frequent user discounts, and market it as a tourist attraction.

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  • Vance Longwell August 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks Brian G. The article reads like they are still going to have lanes open during construction; that’s my mistake. So, cars have to take a, what, six mile detour? Yikes. That’s like a 1, maybe 2, dollar detour.

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  • Vance Longwell August 11, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I agree that cycling across the 205 bridge would be very unpleasant.

    You know, that bridge went through the same thing the CRC is going through. Environmentalists, and livability people came out of the wood-work to demand those facilities be added to the bridge, post design. This cost millions, and millions of dollars.

    The opposition pretty much held the position that nobody would use the facilities, after-all, what kind of person rides a bike that far? Nonetheless, world-class bicycle facilities were added to that bridge at an enormous expense measured in money, community man-power resources, the environment, and inconvenienced highway users.

    And nobody uses it. Which is weird ’cause I think it’s pretty nice. Way better than swimming you whiners.

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  • RonC August 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Vance, the I-205 bridge is just a short distance north of the Oregon City bridge, but it has no provision for cyclists or pedestrians. Its probably less than 1/8 mile difference on the West Linn end, but maybe 3/4 mile or more out of the way on the Oregon City end.

    The OC end of the 205 bridge is strip-mall hell. The old OC bridge terminates in a nice little pedestrian-friendly downtown core area.

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  • RonC August 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Vance, I should clarify we are talking about the I-205 bridge across the Willamette at Oregon City, not the I-205 bridge across the Columbia.

    And by the way, I’ve swum across the Columbia numerous times. But for a regular commute, I’d take biking across any day.

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  • Vance Longwell August 11, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    RonC – Oh, right. Duh. I was wondering how the heck the 1-205 bridge was a viable detour. Well, the I-205 bridge across the Columbia has some awesome facilities.

    Weird. I’ve always heard the Oregon City bridge referred to as the Oregon City bridge. I’m still confused too. How can you get a shuttle bus across a bridge, but not a bike?

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  • RonC August 11, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Vance, ya gotta concentrate when you read these things man! There are two bridges in Oregon City. One is an Interstate highway (I-205)that will remain open, but has no sidewalk or bike lane. The other is the old local traffic bridge that needs work. That one is going to be closed for repairs, presumably for up to two-years. The shuttle bus would go across the I-205 Willamette river crossing.

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  • ah jeez August 12, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Michelle Pouyrewouirewouw: Take what you can get sistah! I-205 shoulder. With concrete barriers. At one time there was no bridge at all.

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  • Psyclist August 12, 2009 at 2:07 am

    A shuttle would be great, but my coworkers need the shuttle at 10pm Mon-Sat and 8pm on Sundays. Sometimes later.

    I am wondering how the bridge closing will impact those folks who don’t work 9-5 but have shift jobs.

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  • mmann August 12, 2009 at 11:41 am

    What if they string a burly cable and run a motorized mini-gondola across? I’m serious. And I’d use it. Probably not cheap, though.
    I am glad ODOT is taking this seriously and their feet have been held to the fire to make sure some provision for non-motorized traffic is provided. I think this would not happen in most other areas of the country.

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  • Mark C August 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    ‘…a protected shoulder on I-205 for non-motorized traffic (which Poyourow says wouldn’t be acceptable because riding on the highway would be “so loud and dirty and unpleasant and scary”)’

    How would this be any more scary than riding over the I-205 Columbia River Bridge, where you have traffic on both sides just on the other side of a concrete barrier? Or riding over the I-5 Willamette River bridge?, which I have done when the Canby Ferry was closed.

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  • RonC August 12, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Mark, I don’t have any ‘concrete’ data to confirm this, but my gut feeling is that there is significantly less shoulder space available on the I-205 Willamette River bridge than on the I-5 Willamette River bridge (Boone Bridge). The I-205 Columbia River bridge may be noisy, but has a generously wide bike path, especially considering it’s level of use.

    Don’t get me wrong though. I do think a bike path across the I-205 Willamette River bridge is probably feasible, but will need to be carefully studied and designed to make sure it does not end up causing traffic accidents with abrupt merges and no shoulder. Sadly, I think pedestrians will likely get the short stick, and be relegated to taking the bus across the river, since the I-205 alternative is a very long detour on foot.

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  • Vance Longwell August 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    No RonC – I’m being sarcastic. It just seems ridiculous to waste time on this when one can simply ride in the motorist lane. Even though it smells, and all.

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  • Anonymous August 13, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Vance, you gotta work on your delivery. There’s no drums and cymbals to announce the punch line.

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  • RonC August 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

    OK, I get the sarcasm this time.

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  • honkytonk August 13, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    There is no possible way it is going to be feasible to add a bike path to the old bridge or use a ferry. The only real option is to use I-205. True, it won’t be a fun ride, but as others have pointed out, neither is 205 across the Columbia.

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  • Bev August 17, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Since when is pedestrian or bicycle traffic allowed on an Interstate? So many of these comments sound like they think bikes can ride down the traffic lane of the I205 bridge like they do all over downtown. Non-motorized vehicles are prohibited. An attached path sperated from traffic would be doable in summer, but during 10 months of rain it would be a constant wall of 15 foot sprays coming off the freeway. You don’t get that on the old bridge. A tram would be Uber cool, a shuttle would be most cost effective.

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  • RS August 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    One shoulder on the I-205 Bridge protected with a Jersey barrier would be a great option for people that still want to walk or do not want to load there bike on a shuttle. For people that want to use the shuttle great but I would much rather peddle even if it does rain 10 months out of the year there, and there is 15 feet of road spray. Funny I ride year round across the old Oregon City Bridge and it does not rain nearly that much there. Must be that much further south.

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  • benji December 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Sounds like the study concluded that a shuttle across 205 will be the “solution”. Any ideas about how early they’ll open service? I commute across the bridge 6:30-6:45.

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