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Funding, construction hopes brighten for Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor project

Posted by on September 16th, 2011 at 11:07 am

Looking west from NE 82nd Avenue onto what could be the location of the first paved portion of the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor.

The Sullivan’s Gulch corridor project got some good news earlier this week. The City of Portland has revealed the project is under consideration for a federal grant that could lead to construction of the first segments of the path. PBOT also shared that they’ve engaged and are “working closely” with Union Pacific Railroad, who owns most of the right-of-way where the path would go (and who, so far, hasn’t been enthused about the project).

“It can be constructed as a shared-use path… Nice and wide, separated from the road and the railroad on our own right-of-way.”
— Paul Smith, PBOT

Back in April, the City of Portland officially began a planning process and set up a Stakeholder Advisory Committee that has been meeting monthly. Then last month, while the project got passed over for a $1.25 million federal grant, it got a promise of $500,000 thanks to City Commissioner Nick Fish (who oversees the Parks Bureau and would likely bike on the new path from his home in Northeast Portland).

Fish’s amendment was welcomed by Sullivan’s Gulch backers but it was just a promise and it had no real funding source attached to it. Now PBOT looks poised to find that money from another federal grant source.

Paul Smith, manager of the planning division for PBOT, shared with the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee earlier this week that they expect to get around $2-2.25 million from the federal government through ODOT’s Flexible Funds program.

With that allocation, Smith said PBOT is considering applying for $675,000 to build a 12 block section of the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor from NE 70th to 82nd Avenue. This 3,500 foot section is on right-of-way already owned by the City of Portland — an important point given that Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) is yet to cooperate fully with the project.

“It can be constructed as a shared-use path,” Smith said at the meeting, “Nice and wide, separated from the road and the railroad on our own right-of-way.” Smith has already met with the Advisory Committee and with project engineers CH2MHill to discuss the path’s alignment and other details.

One reason this project has moved slowly is because UPRR owns much of land around the existing rail tracks. As a Portland Tribune article reported recently, UPRR seems reluctant to negotiate a land-swap deal with the City. PBOT’s Smith addressed that issue at the BAC meeting Tuesday night.

“They [UPRR] did start off saying that the policy doesn’t allow longitudinal trail in their right-of-way,” Smith shared, “But it’s possible over time we can negotiate the ownership of the outer band of that property. They’ve agreed to work with us.”

Smith also reminded BAC members that discussions with UPRR on this project are similar to the process they had with the rail company years ago when PBOT wanted to create a biking and walking path on lower deck of the Steel Bridge. That process started in the same way, with objections from UPRR, but ended favorably.

The Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor committee meets again on October 19th and a discussion of the potential trail alignment is on the agenda. Applications for ODOT Flexible Funds are due by October 20th and the Oregon Transportation Commission will make grant award decisions in February 2012.

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Comments
  • Hugh Johnson September 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

    PLEASE make this happen!

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Andrew Seger September 16, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I hope someone at the city is using leverage from potentially lifting the brooklyn rail yard injunction to get UP to the table and get some concessions.
    (http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/09/union_pacific_and_its_neighbor.html)

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Chris I September 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      That’s a good idea. They might be willing to make that trade, given that the north edge of their ROW is essentially useless for a rail line due to the steep hill.

      Another option would be some state funding to help expand UP’s rail line through North Portland and replace the 1905 BNSF rail bridge to Vancouver.

      http://vimeo.com/21585967

      A 4 track line through NoPo and 4 track bridge with new lift section would resolve the S-curve problem on the river, open up UP’s line to more business, and provide space for additional Amtrak Cascades trains. We would also get the ROW from UP for the Sullivan’s Gulch trail.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • Andrew Seger September 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

        That’s such a good idea. Much rather give money to private rail companies than pave over more of Hayden Island. Perhaps use that carrot to build a MUP across the BNSF bridge over the Willamette as well? They get money we get bike paths everyone wins.

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  • Mindful Cyclist September 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I really, really, really hope this happens. I am moving weekend the easiest way for me to get downtown will either down Stark or Burnside unless I want to cut between several side streets since the grid gets a bit lost past 47th or so. And none of those three options sounds that great. This would be a very easy route for me to take downtown. I already take the Sunset Hgwy MUP home from work and it is a lot of fun going faster than cars on a freeway!

    So, here;s hoping!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Alan 1.0 September 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Great news! What happens at 70th? It looks like 67th & Halsey would be the logical place to terminate that segment.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Champs September 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Coming from Minneapolis, I’ve been missing something like the Midtown Greenway arterial. Linking the Springwater/Esplanade system with I-205 and Marine Drive would be quite a coup for both transportation and recreation.

    Forget the naysayers talking about crime issues—unlike the gulch, much of the corridor was disused industrial land. If you subscribe to the Broken Windows theory, development has improved the situation, as well as very occasional police and volunteer patrols. For the level of traffic it sees, the crime RATE is low, and reports make the news because they don’t report dog-bites-man stories.

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  • Mark Markovich September 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Sullivan’s Gulch sounds like a disease.

    “Well, sir, it seems you’ve come down with a nasty case of Sullivan’s Gulch. I recommend informing all your recent partners.”

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Paul Johnson September 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    When it’s built, I hope it’s segregated like the Riverparks Trail network in Tulsa, and not FAIL like the Esplanade and Willamette Greenway. At least make it a cyclist oriented cycleway like the Springwater Corridor was prior to Parks & Rec’s maintenance of the way as a cycleway ended, or as I 205 and the rest of the I 84 corridors already exist. Pedestrians have great thoroughfares on the eastside thanks to most roads having sidewalks with frontage, some dedicated cycleway infrastructure (or a segregated path at worst) is badly needed on the eastside.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kittens September 18, 2011 at 1:37 am

    Can’t wait. Lets hope they apply the lessons learned on the other MUPs in the area, like, the Springwater to Oaks. Please: turnouts and extra ROW to make use a pleasant experience for all.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Anton September 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Jonathan, you’re big on linguistics. What is the difference between a TRAIL and a CORRIDOR?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Joe September 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Imagine the springwater corridor with neighborhoods on all sides! This trail could see thousands of daily users when complete and building in pieces seems like the only way to get it going. This is great news!

    Recommended Thumb up 2

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