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TriMet approves carfree bridge funding: What's in store for bikes?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 8th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

[Note: This story was originally published with an outdated bridge graphic. The one below is more current.]

Concept drawing of the bike/walkway on the new, carfree bridge TriMet will build over the Willamette.


At a board meeting this morning, TriMet voted to approve $127 million in contracts to construct a new bridge over the Willamette River as part of their Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail project. The bridge will be carfree, carrying only light rail, walking and biking traffic.

The width of the bike/walkway and just exactly how that space is "programmed" (to use planning-speak) has been subject of discussion for well over a year now.

Get Lost Ride -4
Mixing modes on the Hawthorne Bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus)

According to TriMet bike planner Colin Maher, the current design calls for 14 feet of bike/walkway on each side of the bridge and the space will be divided up like this: 6' 4" for walking, then an 8" buffer stripe, then 7' for biking. Also planned is additional width at each of the two towers ("belvederes"), which will bump the pathway out to 22'.

As a comparison, the Hawthorne Bridge is about 10.5 feet wide.

bike parking during bus mall construction
The exact plan for markings is
yet to be decided.

Much of the discussion about how to program the bike/walk space had to do with how to best separate the two modes. Initially there was talk of creating a vertical difference, or grade separation, between the bikeway and the walkway. Given the sometimes dangerous mix of modes that can occur on the Hawthorne Bridge, some sort of curb to physical delineate where people should bike and walk had some appeal. However, concerns about added cost of a curb and complications with maintaining it, disabled persons access, and other issues put that idea on the shelf.

Another interesting design issue this bridge will have for bike traffic is its 5 percent grade. That's pretty steep for a mixed-use facility (similar to biking up SW 5th Avenue to Portland State University). Given the tremendous amount of complaints the City of Portland already fields about interactions on busy and flat multi-paths, I expect lots of debate about how best to mitigate downhill biking speeds once the project enters final design.

At this point, no final decisions have been made in terms of striping, signage, or other methods of marking the bike/walk way. With a separated grade no longer an option, the talk will turn to how best to demarcate the biking and walking zones. Possible solutions might be different colored pavement, creative striping, and/or signage.

TriMet expects construction of the new bridge to start next year, with an opening in 2015. Learn more here.

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Comments
  • dan December 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Too bad they decided against a separated grade - that seems by far the easiest (and most effective) way to keep bikes and pedestrians out of each others' way.

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    • q`Tzal December 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

      .Grade seperation was agreed to ultimately be a hazard for cyclists (given that some pedestrians will be in the bikeway no matter what cyclist will have to change lanes to go around them. A grade separation would cause bikes to fall when wet) and an ADA violation for wheelchair access

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  • Joe December 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    like this..

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  • Jim Lee December 8, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    TriMet did a first class job with engineering design and public involvement on this bridge. They should be heartily congratulated, especially Rob Barnard, who led the project.

    The citizens' advisory committee, chaired by Vera Katz, has considered placing a "bikes only" path on one side of the bridge and "peds only" on the other. This would solve all problems of bike/ped conflict, which, as noted, will be exacerbated by the 5% grade, both on ascent and descent. It might be cheaper, too.

    I'd like to hear more discussion of this point.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      Jim,

      I might add something to the story about that initial proposal by TriMet to put walking on one side and biking on the other. In a nutshell, it didn't move forward because the Bike Advisory Committee, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, and the BTA all said it wouldn't be a good idea. Making any mode - especially walking - go out of its way is considered a big transpo planning no-no.

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      • A.K. December 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

        But "going out of your way" 50 ft. to the other side of the bridge to avoid mode conflicts doesn't seem like that big of a deal. If it were blocks and blocks of distance, I could understand...

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        • q`Tzal December 8, 2010 at 8:11 pm

          The historically proven conclusion, and accepted wisdom by the bridge committies, is that pedestrians basically can't be controlled. Like water or electricity they will follow the path of least resistance and signs are an unenforceable suggestion.

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      • jim December 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm

        In the other story about Barbur blvd the rendering shows bikes on 1 side and walkers on the other side. If they can do it there - why not on the bridge?

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  • David December 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Just out of curiosity and for comparison, does anyone know the grade on the Broadway Bridge approaching the peak in the middle?

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  • matt picio December 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Isn't the cyclist in the artist conception going the wrong way? Shouldn't it be with traffic for bikes, and bi-directional for peds?

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    • matt picio December 10, 2010 at 10:07 am

      Note to readers - there was a different graphic up when I posted the above comment.

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  • Dabby December 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Too bad this bridge is an un- needed project by a cash whore like Tri Met.

    Cutting routes, raising rates, building new train lines instead of using old right of ways, millions in new trains, now new bridges we will certainly have to pony up for....

    When will Tri Met be stopped?

    Build this bridge, and exclude Tri Met from using it is what I say....
    They don't deserve it.

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    • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      I think that you should check out some really bad public transit before complaining about TriMet. I grew up in Boston where the T (which in commuter's minds stands for "Torture" or "Terror") is a good example, along with Septa ("Septic") in Philly.

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      • GLV December 9, 2010 at 8:16 am

        I prefer "Inepta," but Septic works.

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    • Deborah December 9, 2010 at 10:13 am

      lame.

      I'm of the complete opposite opinion. I love TriMet. They do a great job for what they're costs are and the varied needs of the LARGE (and demanding) community they serve. I've never lived in a community outside Manhattan where the public transit was this good. When I don't ride my bike to work - I ride TriMet.

      This new bridge WITHOUT cars will be incredible. And I love the dedicated lanes for each use type.
      Yeah TriMet!

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  • Nick December 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I'm pretty sure the bridge will carry buses, too.

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  • Vinny December 8, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    It would be nice to have more details on how much of the path would be functionally usable. Does that 14 feet include any shy distance from the railings? On the Hawthorne Bridge I can pass close to edge of the pavement. The graphic above shows the railings leaning inwards, so take 6 inches off each side plus 6 inches for shy distance and we're down to 12 feet usable width.

    I thought the 22 foot belvederes were on the proposed cuts list back in September. Did these get saved?

    My thought, especially with the steep grade, is that TriMet should have a "20 is plenty" or "15 is fine" speed limit on the bridge. The buses and trains will only go 25 mph and they are physically separated. At 5% I can easily see people zooming down the bridge at 25-30 mph.

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    • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 6:34 pm

      How about we all get off and walk our bikes everywhere so that the slowest set the pace?
      7' of bike only lane should be plenty for bike- bike passing. slower traffic stay right.

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  • Don Arambula December 8, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    This will be a fabulous crossing. A simple separation treatment might be a black (not yellow!) 8" to 12" truncated dome paving strip (similar what used at Director Park) between the ped. and bicycle zones.

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  • BURR December 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    the worst thing they could do is underdesign by scrimping on the path widths, and the paths will be crowded and unsafe right from the start.

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  • Colin M December 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    The image is outdated - as Jonathan notes bike traffic will be on the inside.

    Also, probably the biggest concern with grade-separation was preventing people from using both sides of the path outside commute hours, especially during large events (Bridge Pedal, for example)

    Colin Maher
    TriMet

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    • q`Tzal December 9, 2010 at 9:47 am

      There are a lot of conflicting and cruddy images of this bridge, its intended users and it the crossing's final agreed apperance.
      I posted some links below: which ones are accurate?

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  • michweek December 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I hope they go back to seperating peds from bikes. And we need more signage on hawthrone. I don't know how many times I've come across bikes and peds going the wrong way and peds with their backs to me stepping out in front of me. Guh! When will people learn? One more thought, why don't they just make hawthorne car free versus building a whole new bridge??

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  • KWW December 8, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    For context, what are the grades on Hawthorne Bridge?

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  • 3-speeder December 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Will this new bridge be under the jurisdiction of the city of Portland or Multnomah County? The county maintains the other Willamette River bridges (I presume they still do), which has some consequence regarding bike path markings and jurisdiction of future changes.

    I believe this dichotomy explains why the Hawthorne bridge just has markings suggesting where bikes/peds should locate themselves, instead of an actual bike lane. The approaches to the bridge have bike lanes because the city has jurisdiction there.

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    • matt picio December 10, 2010 at 10:10 am

      Multnomah County maintains Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, Ross Island, Sellwood. ODOT maintains Marquam and Fremont. UPRR maintains the Steel. Presumably this bridge would be "owned" by Tri-Met, unless they surrender it to the county.

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  • jim December 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    What about E-bikes and mopeds? will they be allowed on the bridge? Which lane do skateboarders use?

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    • Dabby December 9, 2010 at 11:40 am

      Ebikes and mopeds should stay out of bike lanes and MUP's.........
      Not too mention rascal scooters and segways..

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      • eli bishop December 12, 2010 at 11:02 am

        ebikes have every right to be in the bike lane. i need a little boost to get up that 5% grade. ;)

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  • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    This is great news! Sure there will be issues as the project moves forward, but the news is that it is moving forward at all... each car free option makes the city a better place. IMHO and all.

    I do think some kind of physical seperation between the bike and ped lanes is a good idea- keeps the ped-spread down.

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  • Jim Lee December 8, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Jonathan.

    Descending bike traffic on TriMet's bridge will be a lot faster than on the gradual eastbound slope of the Hawthorne, causing a much greater speed differential, hence much more likelihood of dangerous interaction with pedestrians.

    Ascending bike traffic will be quite slow, and more wobbly, also interfering with pedestrians.

    We do not allow pedestrians in bike lanes, do we? Must be a reason for that! Do any of those organizations actually understand the dynamics of cycling?

    Typical "inside the box" attitude by BTA and its cohorts.

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  • Josh G December 8, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I thought the streetcar was going to cross on the new Sellwood Bridge. I know bikes are discouraged on the Ross Island Bridge, but from a biker's perspective, access much farther south than this would be a priority. Pie in the sky: why not a bike/ped Bridge at Bybee Blvd? Will the new Sellwood Bridge have super wide bike/ped lanes? I'll keep using the old Sellwood, but it's going to to be a long wait.
    Can I be the 1st to propose this be dubbed the Vera Katz Bridge?

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    • Chris December 9, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Nope, the streetcar was always scheduled to travel over this bridge.

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  • jim December 8, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Will this be a drawbridge or a high span? If its a high span- will it be easier to go on another bridge rather than climb the new one?

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  • Jim Lee December 8, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I estimate that grades on the new bridge will be somewhere between the Hawthorne and the Morrison.

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  • jim December 8, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    If it's that low of a grade then I assume it is a drawbridge?

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  • Red Five December 8, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Meanwhile the schools are trying to jack up our property taxes another 30 bucks a month.

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    • Andrew Seger December 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

      And for just five schools. All in inner Portland. No thanks.

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    • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm

      Oh my God they are trying to take away your right to a double grande mocha every day!

      Oh wait that would be more than 30$ a month...

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      • Red Five December 9, 2010 at 5:47 am

        Yeah Duncan believe it or not some of us have households to manage and own more than a fixie and skinny jeans.

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        • Duncan December 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm

          whatever dude you obviously do not know me- I own a a house, a car and a family here. I also want kids to go to good schools that my house has some value in 30 years, and thirty bucks a month is small change to pay for it.

          Besides hipsters dont drink mochas, they need something as thin and bitter as they are. :P

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        • Unit December 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm

          Yeah - better to shortchange the kids so we can get a new flatscreen TV and XBox.

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  • Ben Foote December 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Who will own this bridge after it's built? Which org will manage it's day to day maintenance?

    Will it be a Metro bridge maintained by the Multnomah County bridge management and maintenance staff?

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  • Jeff Holiman December 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I do like the concept of car free bridge. Perhaps consider making wider bike lanes for the increasing bike cargo rigs that are rolling out. Another thought: Because petro production has peaked combined with China's appetite for fuel increasing along with their currency value, we could have lanes on current city bridges become available for non-auto traffic sooner than we anticipate?

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  • q`Tzal December 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    For straight answers about this bridge:
    http://trimet.org/pm/library/bridge.htm

    This bridge has at no time been a drawbridge or lift span.

    Past Meeting Documents:
    November 10, 2009
    http://trimet.org/pdfs/pm/wrbac_meeting/docs/WRBAC_Presentation_2009-11-10.pdf

    Most recent document:
    Presentation to the American Public Works Association-Oregon Chapter, November 17, 2010
    http://trimet.org/pdfs/pm/wrbac_meeting/PMLR_APWA_Presentation_11_17_10.pdf
    page 30: shows a design constraint of less than 4.75% grade.

    I think the wacky grooved "singing bike lane" might be a good idea on the downhill side of each bike way. At least the pedestrians that can hear their surroundings will get an auditory clue that there is something accelerating behind them.

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    • jim December 9, 2010 at 12:03 am

      Thanks for the link to the artists renderings. It is a beautifull design that will be nice for Portland.
      It must be a somewhat high bridge to have clearance for ships to pass under at high tide?
      It might be a good project for some students to make a model of this and run itthrough a series of tests, wind tunnel, shake rattle and roll test...

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  • BURR December 8, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Josh G
    <pCan I be the 1st to propose this be dubbed the Vera Katz Bridge?

    Please, gag me with a spoon, no!

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    • jim December 9, 2010 at 12:09 am

      Why not put the name up for auction just like they do for sports arenas. That would put a lot of cash towards the cost of the bridge. "Resers Crossing" "Safeco Way" "Aquafinas Aquacross"...

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      • jim December 9, 2010 at 12:12 am

        Or maybe better yet- just name it after the street that it comes closest to

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        • Duncan December 9, 2010 at 7:02 am

          I havent been a huge fan of Sherman since the whole Atlanta thing...

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      • CaptainKarma December 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

        I do hope you're being ironic..........

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  • Seth Alford December 8, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    I hope that they build the bridge structure strong enough so that, say, 5 years from now, when they decide to double the width of the bike lanes, the bridge structure can take the extra load.

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  • Steve B December 9, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I am really excited about this CARFREE bridge! I didn't notice the grade was going to be so much, I'm glad Jonathan was able to point that out. Anyone know what the climbing grade of the Fremont bridge is?

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  • was carless December 9, 2010 at 12:15 am

    I've gotta say, lets just take a page out from the Dutch and do it like the Erasmusbrug bridge in Rotterdam. Here's a picture of the separation from the pedestrian side (left) from the bikeway (right):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/milov/22231558/

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  • Red Five December 9, 2010 at 5:47 am

    Given obesity in a America, the grade of the bridge is fine. Portlanders especially have gotten heavier from all that PBR and could use the workout.

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    • Duncan December 9, 2010 at 7:04 am

      Not to mention having it pretty easy having few hills in this town.

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    • resopmok December 9, 2010 at 9:23 am

      now if only we could get more people out on bikes to take advantage of it. don't burn many calories sitting in your car no matter how many hills you climb.

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  • David Feldman December 9, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Two comments: One, a 7' path for cyclists seems luxurious--anybody else remember the Hawthorne bridge a long time ago, when you could see between the sidewalk BOARDS to the river? Two, it's wonderful news to see a major capital project in the works that will not serve private automobile operators, who are already grotesquely overserved in our society.

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  • Colin Maher December 9, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Re: bridge grades:

    The bridge reaches a maximum grade of 4.75% at mid-span. Grades on the approaches will be less than that. For reference, this grade is is similar to the scissors ramp at the North end of the Esplanade that takes you from the Steel Bridge to the Rose Quarter.

    Colin Maher
    TriMet

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    • Steve B December 10, 2010 at 12:03 am

      Colin, I really appreciate your participation in the comments. It's great to have answers to these wonky questions from Trimet. Thank you!

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  • oliver December 9, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Red Five
    Yeah Duncan believe it or not some of us have households to manage and own more than a fixie and skinny jeans.

    Yeah, some of us manage households with 2 cars, 5 bikes 2 adults 1 teenager and several pets. We were forced to change to cheaper coffee years ago.

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  • Jim Lee December 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Should be named for my friend Ray Polani, who started all this transit/train stuff forty years ago.

    Go Ray!

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  • Andrew December 9, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Should be named for either Earl Blumenauer, John Carroll or Charlie Hales.

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    • jim December 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      I would guess John Carrol would like to build some lofts on the east side of the bridge? That area may become the next hot spot

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  • RyNO Dan December 9, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Yea for Inner South East.
    After supporting (and paying for) all the lines to the other parts of town, after being promised and let down for going on 15 years, we finally get a Max train !! And a car free bridge as a bonus. W00t !!

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  • Lenny Anderson December 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Bravo TriMet for a new bridge that serves MAX, Streetcar, three bus lines and the increasing number of folks on bikes and on foot. Now if we can just tear down the Marquam and rip up the eastbank freeway, so we can all hang out on the East Portland beach!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 9, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Please note that I've just updated the main image of the bridge in this story with a newer one that reflects the most current design... see it below and sorry for any confusion my original, outdated image caused:

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    • jim December 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks for the clarification on that

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  • Hart Noecker December 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Good Lord, give that bridge some color!

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    • jim December 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      Just don't make the mistake of tring to paint concrete, it looks so bad when the paint starts coming off, and nobody is going to go repaint the bridge

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  • Dabby December 9, 2010 at 11:51 am

    It sounds like Tri met has pulled the wool over all of your eyes....

    Go ahead, let them over spend and take over our streets.......
    Drive around admittedly unable to safely operate machinery, build what we don't need instead of using what is there, you know, screw shit up royally.

    I for one am not going to just sit complacently around and let supposed public transportation do whatever the hell they want, while cutting services to those who really need them.

    I am going to make some noise...
    Will it matter? Who knows...
    Will it be heard?

    Hell yeah...

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  • Joe December 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    GG of Portland? haha

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  • Jim Lee December 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for the update, Jonathan.

    This will be a super facility, but given the grades and the sparse development at the west end it will not generate nearly the bike traffic that the Hawthorne did.

    But if one is going down Clinton to OHSU it will be a godsend!

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  • Dabby December 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Well,

    I guess it is not ok to disagree with Tri Met then,
    as comments against them are moderated......

    And here I thought that differing opinions are what allow proper ones to be made.

    So much more to say...

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  • Dabby December 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Oh it came back.
    Weird. Please retract sarcasm above..

    I do love Bike Portland.
    My opinions just don't play well with others.....

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  • CaptainKarma December 9, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    This bridge should have a very nice view if it is a high bridge. I hope there will be a pull-out or two so folks can rest if they need to, fix a flat, and admire the view,.

    Also, the design is begging for holiday lights and/or some kind of laser light display.

    As for a bridge name, I'd vote for:

    The Leslie Nielson Car-Free Causeway.

    It was he who said "Truth hurts. Maybe not as much as jumping on a bicycle with a seat missing, but it hurts." (Naked Gun 2 1/2)

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  • dwainedibbly December 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    !

    q`Tzal
    For straight answers about this bridge:
    http://trimet.org/pm/library/bridge.htm
    This bridge has at no time been a drawbridge or lift span.
    Past Meeting Documents:
    November 10, 2009
    http://trimet.org/pdfs/pm/wrbac_meeting/docs/WRBAC_Presentation_2009-11-10.pdf
    Most recent document:
    Presentation to the American Public Works Association-Oregon Chapter, November 17, 2010
    http://trimet.org/pdfs/pm/wrbac_meeting/PMLR_APWA_Presentation_11_17_10.pdf
    page 30: shows a design constraint of less than 4.75% grade.
    I think the wacky grooved "singing bike lane" might be a good idea on the downhill side of each bike way. At least the pedestrians that can hear their surroundings will get an auditory clue that there is something accelerating behind them.

    Singing grooves? Great idea!

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  • Roger Averbeck December 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

    A suggestion to help promote and celebrate the new bridge once built:

    For just one day per year, perhaps a Sunday in August, close the bridge to bikes and pedestrians.

    On this day, allow cars, pickups, SUV's will be allowed to drive on the multi use path. Make it a family friendly event - bring the kids, dogs, Grandma! Set up drive through "rest stops" on both ends of the bridge, with a free car wash / bio swale, DEQ emissions testing, etc.

    Event registration fees can help pay for the new bridge, with a special discount for Clackamas County residents!

    Any suggestions for naming the event?

    "Bridge Drive"?
    Sunday "Drive Day"?

    Just one day per year...

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    • Steve B December 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      LOVE THIS IDEA!!

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  • Eben December 10, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Is anyone still calling this the Caruthers St. bridge? That's a name I heard floating around in the early planning stages and one I'm partial to considering I grew up on Caruthers St. up around 34th.

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    • Lance Lindahl December 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      It is no longer planned to be built on SE Caruthers, so that name is unlikely to be used now. However, there is still a chance since the Fremont Bridge doesn't line up with Fremont Street either.

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      • jim December 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

        Maybe name it after the architect

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