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Bike tourism workshop in Wilsonville highlights need for new bridge

Posted by on February 13th, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp (R) chats with OHSU Nursing student Jen Akeroyd about active transportation links in the region.
(Photos: Patrick Croasdaile for BikePortland)


The rolling country roads around Wilsonville make for a great place to ride. At the Wilsonville Bicycle Tourism Workshop last week, stakeholders discussed strategies aimed at harnessing the area’s scenery as a means of bringing more riders into the area to spark economic activity and boost job creation. The workshop was part of a countywide initiative led by Travel Oregon and the Clackamas County Tourism Commission.

“With the growth of the city, I don’t feel like I can comfortably ride [Wilsonville Road] to Newberg. It feels like the bricks are falling. We need the French Prairie Bridge.”
— Pat Rehberg, Wilsonville resident

While the group discussed a variety of topics aimed at getting more people to bike (and spend money) in the area, one issue dominated proceedings: the lack of an adequate river crossing for walkers and bikers in the area and the need to build the French Prairie Bridge, which would connect Wilsonville to Oregon’s marquee bike tourism route — the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.

Many at the meeting expressed the belief that an improved river crossing at Wilsonville — either by way of the French Prairie Bridge, improved vehicular/shuttle services, or re-striping the shoulder of the I-5 (Boone Bridge) — would open up a plethora of possibilities for bicycle tourism in the region. In light of recent revelations about the Canby Ferry’s uncertain future, discussion of a permanent link across the Willamette River is all the more pressing.

Concept drawing of French Prairie Bridge.

Following presentations by County and City officials, Pat Rehberg — a local active transportation advocate — took the floor to share her view of conditions for recreational cyclists around the city. A Wilsonville resident since 1998, she said, “I wish I could say [recreational cycling] has taken off like wild fire here. Unfortunately it hasn’t.” Rehberg explained that this was in large part due to the lack of an adequate river crossing in Wilsonville.

“The longer I lived here, the more it seems like the biking opportunities are shrinking. With the growth of the city, I don’t feel like I can comfortably ride [Wilsonville Road] to Newberg. It feels like the bricks are falling. We need the French Prairie Bridge. You cannot safely ride the Boone Bridge anymore since the City gave Charbonneau a dedicated lane headed northbound.”

Stakeholders and County/City officials
discuss strategies for increasing
bicycle tourism.

Mayor Knapp responded to Rehberg’s comments by saying that the City Council was skeptical of the bridge’s value to the community. He also believed that South Metro Chamber of Commerce was standing in the way. Regarding their combined opposition to the bridge, he said,

“They’re looking at the $20 million price tag and that’s all they see. Right now, if we voted on it, it would fail. This is really unfortunate because the bridge would benefit everyone. The Chamber ought to be very interested in bike tourism, and this bridge is one of the keys to making it a reality. There’s not enough recognition that the bridge and connectivity are what we need, nor are there enough people talking about it and supporting it.”

Jennifer Johnson, the Chamber’s representative at the workshop indicated that the Chamber was not opposed to the idea of a bridge. Relaying a message from the group’s president, she said the Chamber did not feel that the City had stressed enough of the bridge’s potential economic benefit for the community or addressed it’s potential impact on the Old Town neighborhood in Wilsonville.

While the City is stalled on action regarding the bridge, Wilsonville is making gains in its efforts to improve connectivity within the city. Jeff Owen, the City’s Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, has been instrumental in these improvements.

In an email sent to me following the meeting, Owen wrote, “The absence of a safe crossing over the river for non-motorized travel in Wilsonville, both commuting and recreational, remains to be a huge mobility barrier for local residents, employees, business interests and potential tourists alike.” He was happy, however, that the group had many short-term ideas, which would help spur bicycle tourism (educational events, cyclocross racing, shuttles, way finding signage, bicycle friendly lodging, and even a bike skills pump track).

Whatever the result of the bicycle tourism workshops in the area, it is clear that they are spurring dialogue and highlighting many of the challenges and opportunities for biking in Clackamas County. When it comes to Wilsonville, further discussions about the potential economic impact of increased tourism will hopefully spark interest in building a dedicated active transportation link across the Willamette River.

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  • Chris Daniel February 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    As a possible alternative, why not bring back Boones Ferry — next to the railroad bridge — just for non-motorized traffic? The old north landing is on public land, if I recall correctly; and the south landing is now a marina.

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  • Andrew Seger February 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    For funding and support it would seem to make sense to bundle this crossing with a new commuter/high speed rail bridge. Access to much larger amounts of federal funding. $20m for a ped/bike bridge in hostile clackamas county seems like a stretch in the near future. I’d rather pin my hopes to a mup/service access point along the Oregon Electric Line right of way. (http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/RAIL/docs/Passenger/Open_House/Route.pdf)

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    • Chris I February 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Not sure if the traffic levels would warrant a double track bridge, necessitating replacement of the existing single track bridge. If this is the case, or if the existing bridge is at risk of failure, I think your idea is great.

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  • kiel johnson February 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    nice picture. glad to read that people are still doing things about bicycling in wilsonville

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  • Edem February 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    A bridge with bicycle right of way would be nice

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  • TVCB February 14, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Not mentioned (and one of the keys to having this bridge considered) is that the proposed french prairie bridge would serve as am emergency vehicle crossing for accident response and police if the freeway was blocked. Secondary response vehicles (such as tow trucks or heavy equipment) can not always get past a blocked freeway minutes after the first response shows up. Having an alternate route to cross the river is a serious strategic advantage for freeway safety and the main reason there is very little opposition to the planned bridge.
    Also when the freeway is blocked the city of wilsonville tends to shut down transportation wise.

    This was information I collected two years ago through interviews with city officials and project head after the bridge was on the drawing board for 5+ years and had finally received its first few hundred thousand dollars of planning funding.

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    • Patrick Croasdaile February 14, 2012 at 8:38 am

      TVCB, thank you very much for highlighting this aspect of the proposed bridge. The Fr. Prairie Br. would bring necessary relief to residents in need of emergency care when the Boone Bridge is locked up during rush/hour.

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    • Spiffy February 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

      more places for vehicles is not going to help the problems created by a blocked freeway… they need to address the issues causing the blockages, such as bad drivers… yeah right…

      I’m all for them selling the public on the idea that emergency vehicles can use the bridge, but then they better pull it from the final approval once they get funding…

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  • Spiffy February 14, 2012 at 9:43 am

    I’m opposed to allowing emergency vehicles on the French Prairie Bridge… it would primarily be used to access freeway accidents (which there are too many of and nobody cares about reducing) and would lead to lots of disruptions for bridge users with the constant flow of emergency vehicles abusing the privilege…

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  • Joe February 14, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I have alot to chime in on this subject, living in Wilsonville and working there for sometime. but always feel nobody really listens to the real objectives. cars,the ppl, Infrastructure. bridge is great but if you have a City that is built around auto traffic it is a hard balance. * we will get their one day * I said the same when I lived in San Jose,SF, and Las Vegas. NV.

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  • Art Fuldodger February 14, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Glad to hear people are working on this. The last time I rode the Boone Bridge shoulder a couple years back it was full — and i do mean full — of debris/trash/auto-related detritus & other assorted freeway flotsam & jetsam. A couple of roadies blew by me, riding the lane (!), I briefly considered & dismissed that, & proceeded to flat – and have never had a more dismal 1/2 mile walk then that to the Wilsonville exit so I could patch my tire.

    A little better ODoT maintenance would go a long way, but I imagine that shoulder fills up with crap very quickly.

    Boone Bridge gets you there, but beyond that it’s about as unpleasant an experience as one can have. The French Prairie bridge might be hard to justify in terms of benefit/cost, but telling cyclists that the shoulder of this I-5 monstrosity is their only connection over the river for 8 miles (to the Canby Ferry by road) or 12 miles west (to the Newberg bridge) is even harder to justify.

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  • Art Fuldodger February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

    And, on a geographically-related issue: has anyone else thought that a connection for bikes/peds from the east end of Charbonneau development through to Mollala River State Park? Would require a bridge over the Mollal river in the park, but otherwise the road from Charbonneau appears to run right up to the Park property. This would make an easy, low-traffic & direct connection for cyclists to the Canby ferry.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=45.292581,-122.708359&spn=0.028258,0.054159&hnear=Portland,+Multnomah,+Oregon&t=p&z=14

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  • Joe February 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

    The boones Bridge has even more debris then say 5 years ago. they also opened up a huge merge lane that is crazy long. me 5 years now car free life in this City tring to make a diffrence but as City grows the fokes pay the price,, more auto traffic! and ppl that run you down on Wilsonville Rd. * other areas around the city. just the facts. I know Wilsonville can do better and the drivers need to understand humans on the road. * even some of the ” riders ” don’t really ban together as one ” this needs to happen :)

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  • Joe February 14, 2012 at 11:07 am

    “The longer I lived here, the more it seems like the biking opportunities are shrinking. With the growth of the city, I don’t feel like I can comfortably ride [Wilsonville Road] to Newberg. It feels like the bricks are falling. We need the French Prairie Bridge. You cannot safely ride the Boone Bridge anymore since the City gave Charbonneau a dedicated lane headed northbound.”

    Above ” ” So true, check this out riding home from WES last night car gets pissed because I Idaho stopped she lays on her horn from way far away and wasnt even near her, she turned out to my my nabor, some commuity. ahh sped away at about 60mph.

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  • Joe February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am

    If you can build new buildings all around and not invest in new modes of transport it is still built around the auto culture. the kids pay the price, most drive kids to school along with the 2-3mile trip waste. owning a car seems to be the norm. * sprawl hurts *

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  • GlowBoy February 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I’d sure like to see SOME sort of improved access across the river for bikes. I know that improved access to the Willamette Valley from the Portland metro would greatly increase tourism … including from yours truly.

    Last summer I took my son camping at Chamoeg with my cargo bike. Needless to say, I wouldn’t even THINK of taking a young child over the Boone Bridge. So, fortunately, we managed to find a pleasant (but circuitous and hilly) route using rural roads south of Oregon City. We then returned via OR 219 and Newberg, a crossing that isn’t terribly pleasant but FAR better than I-5 would have been.

    Bottom line: neither route was as direct or safe as could be. If cyclists could get past the river more directly and safely, many more would.

    I do recognize, though, that increased tourism is unlikely to pay the $20M cost. We need to provide a better crossing because it’s the right thing to do. Actually, I really like the idea of bringing back Boones Ferry … probably would cost a fraction of a bridge (which is why the pioneers used ferries in the first place).

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  • Chris February 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    “[...] potential impact on the Old Town neighborhood in Wilsonville”?

    What a joke. If residents of Old Town can live with Albertson’s, Walgreens, Sonic Burger, self-storage facilites, an auto shop, a ‘doggery’ (ha!…suburbs) and the cavalcade of motor vehicles visiting these businesses, I’m sure that pedestrians and cyclists can be accommodated.

    Having lived there, I can say that Wilsonville is a suburban hell surrounded by glorious vistas. It’s better with WES now, but it’s basically an expanded strip mall with disillusions of filling every single-family home. But, I guess it’s no worse than the rest of the country. It can only be sustainable if there is accessible transportation FOR EVERYONE.

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  • Joe February 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Chris
    “[...] potential impact on the Old Town neighborhood in Wilsonville”?
    What a joke. If residents of Old Town can live with Albertson’s, Walgreens, Sonic Burger, self-storage facilites, an auto shop, a ‘doggery’ (ha!…suburbs) and the cavalcade of motor vehicles visiting these businesses, I’m sure that pedestrians and cyclists can be accommodated.
    Having lived there, I can say that Wilsonville is a suburban hell surrounded by glorious vistas. It’s better with WES now, but it’s basically an expanded strip mall with disillusions of filling every single-family home. But, I guess it’s no worse than the rest of the country. It can only be sustainable if there is accessible transportation FOR EVERYONE.
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    hey Chris, I hear ya I’m tring to see the good to come its been 5 painful years of bike transport VS car PEOPLE. I’m an outlaw in this City why? because I live a green way of life teaching my kids life its what you make it. car free for 5 years in Oregon now. fokes drive everywhere in this city. old fokes drive when then should use other means. * my kids see me ride year around * might have impact some day * also really want a safe route outta the City heading North too.

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  • Dave February 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    This is so needed, and its disappointing that the Wilsonville City Council is so hostile to it. I live in Woodburn, a city that’s a bicycle nightmare of its own right, but I never ride north because I can’t get across the river. As there is no bus from Woodburn north either, it makes it difficult to leave the area without a car.

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  • Joe February 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Dave
    This is so needed, and its disappointing that the Wilsonville City Council is so hostile to it. I live in Woodburn, a city that’s a bicycle nightmare of its own right, but I never ride north because I can’t get across the river. As there is no bus from Woodburn north either, it makes it difficult to leave the area without a car.
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    Dave when you have huge auto parks selling cars with the ” No BULL message ” makes you think. some burbs are like living on a remote Island. The old ferry doc is awesome and could be used but you have boat house nightmare. * hope someone is reading this *
    sees the need for fokes to connect * never forget this
    young man from Bend Oregon tring to get to Canby on Friday last train no buses running. I rode him to I-5 said he was ok. I could tell he was a racer and rider. but warned him of the dangers. I would have rode him all the way. just the kinda dude I am.

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  • Joe February 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    thread dead…. its all about $$

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  • Patrick February 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

    The Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce would like to clarify some information in the above article.

    First, to portray our organization as against this project simply isn’t true. We simply do not have any specific information about the feasibility of this project.

    We value bicycles not only as a alternative transportation solution, but also as a great way to bring new tourism dollars to Wilsonville. If we find out a bridge can’t work because of financial or environmental limitations, perhaps we can find another solution such as a water taxi or ferry across the Willamette River in Wilsonville.

    Local elected officials are very aware of our endorsement process, which is why we are a bit confused about how our position was mis-stated. We will be clarifying our position with the city to make sure they understand where we are on this project.

    We look forward to discussing this important project as it continues to garner support.

    For more information about our position, see our website at: business.wilsonvillechamber.com/news/details/chamber-statement-on-proposed-bridge

    Thanks,

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    • Laura Beko February 27, 2012 at 7:13 am

      I am confused as to where the discrepancy lies in this situation. The bicycle workshop showed that most are in support of the bridge, the Chamber included. I feel the article tries to highlight public opinion of the Chamber’s stance on the issue, which at that time was disheartened by the Chamber’s lack of official support needed to move the project forward.

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  • Simon Springall March 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Patrick,
    Great article. I would like permission to repost it here
    http://www.frenchprairiebridge.org, which is a site all about the proposed bridge.

    Thanks – Simon

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