Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 19th, 2012 at 9:13 am
I finally got a chance to check out the new Gibbs Street Bridge yesterday. Verdict? It's a fantastic new connection between the Lair Hill Neighborhood and the South Waterfront District.
During the evening rush hour, the $12 million bridge ($10 million of which came from the Feds) — which spans over about 12-13 lanes of I-5 freeway and on-ramps — felt like an oasis amid a snarl of car-choked traffic.
It was wide and welcoming, even on the east side, which is only accessible via an elevator or several steep flights of stairs.
In the time I was there, I saw a wide range of users, from children to people walking dogs, jogging (the new stairs are a hot new workout spot!), and lots of people on bikes. The elevator was a breeze to use. And, thankfully it's quite spacious and could easily fit a bike with a trailer or a longtail/cargo bike. The ride itself took about 35 seconds.
You can roll right up to the elevator doors from the new cycle track on SW Moody (just across from the Go By Bike bike shop and OHSU bike parking). Once up on the bridge deck, there's a fantastic viewing platform that gives you a nice view of the river and the Ross Island Bridge.
On the west side, the bridge spreads open its arms and welcomes folks with nice paving stones at the same grade as the sidewalk. I liked how there wasn't a bunch of signage or pavement markings saying what users can and cannot do. I appreciated the minimalist aesthetics (get rid of the bollard and it'd be perfect). Also on the west side, the project improved the SW Gibbs/Kelly intersection with a zebra-striped crosswalk and warning signs telling folks to expect people to be crossing.
While snapping photos, I met Patty Fendall, who was walking her dog. Patty and her husband Matt live just a few blocks away from the bridge entrance and she was just tickled to death that it had finally opened. "We're just so excited... The connection to the other side, the river, the parks, the businesses, it's just amazing." The Fendalls have extra reason to be enthused about the new bridge, they've just opened a new food cart, Jaffles & Wraps, that's parked just a few yards away (at right, in photo below). In fact, they like the bridge so much, they put it on their logo.
While overall I think the bridge is wonderful, I do have a quibble. Since I fully expect the elevator to not always been open and/or operable, I was happy to hear project staff say the 125 (or so) stairs were built with a wheel gutter. Unfortunately, the wheel gutter is pretty atrocious. It's just 3-4 inches of flat concrete shoved to one side of the stairway. You're better off putting your bike on your shoulders, investing in a locally made frame handle, or just hoping the elevator is open.
Have you ridden it? Share your feedback below. Learn more about the bridge at the project website.