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Greenway trail group agrees to alignment compromise through Albina rail yards

Posted by on March 13th, 2014 at 11:35 am

“It was not easy to give up our vision of a near-river side alignment… The UPRR’s willingness to surrender more than one-half mile of active rail line within the city for a multi-purpose trail is unprecedented and offers a Greenway Trail alignment, we believe, that better serves all of north Portland.”
— Friends of the North Portland Greenway Trail

The Friends of the North Portland Greenway Trail (a.k.a. npGreenway) has decided to give up their vision for a route along the Willamette River and instead will work on a compromise alignment through the Albina Yards with the City of Portland and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).

Back in October, a major breakthrough was forged when the City of Portland announced they had brokered a deal with UPRR to allow a path to be built along the eastern portion of the railyard. At that time however, leaders from the Friends group were skeptical and continued to push for the Cement Road.

Today, the Friends announced that they’ve agreed to give up the Cement Road and will work with UPRR and the City of Portland on the route proposed last fall which now known as the “Albina Yards alignment.”

In a letter sent to the City of Portland and UPRR, the Friends group wrote,

“It was not easy to give up our vision of a near-river side alignment on the existing private (UPRR) AshGrove Cement Road/North River St. alignment. But we are convinced that the prospects for the latter are slim to nil, while the former [the Albina Yards alignment] we expect to be expedited by our partners, City of Portland and UPRR.

The UPRR’s willingness to surrender more than one-half mile of active rail line within the city for a multi-purpose trail is unprecedented and offers a Greenway Trail alignment, we believe, that better serves all of north Portland.”

The new alignment. (Large PDF file here.)

At issue is how best to route the future bicycling and walking path through UPRR’s property between the Fremont Bridge and Swan Island. The Friends group has pushed for a riverfront route for many years; but given the heavy industrial use and private ownership of the land, it was considered a very heavy political lift. In September 2012, the City of Portland avoided the area entirely and proposed an alignment for the future path on Greeley and Interstate avenues. That proposal would have put the path adjacent to heavy motor vehicle traffic and would have used narrow bike lanes. Not surprisingly it was met with very sharp criticism.

The Friends group was also hoping for an alignment near the riverfront along the “Cement Road” — a paved path already used by many people who bike to and from Swan Island. However, according to a statement released by the Friends today, UPRR representatives made it clear that they are not willing to allow any public access on that road.

(In other North Portland Greenway Trail news, the bridge between Chimney and Pier parks in St. Johns is now open. Read more stories about this project, in the BikePortland archives.)

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly reported that PBOT would apply for a federal TIGER grant to pay for this portion of the trail. They do not plan to apply for a TIGER grant for this project in the current cycle.

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  • MaxD March 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I think this alignment is a big improvement over Interstate/Greeley, but not as slick as the Cement Road. It will be fairly close to Greely, but it will be below and there will be no obligation to cross. In fact, the very limited road and rail crossing make this route pretty appealing. I like the spur on to Russell.

    The south remains hugely problematic, though. It appears to dump out on to Interstate at a spot with no crossing. I would love to see this trail follow under the Marquam Bridge or parallel to it to River Street. A separate, 2-way, MUP could be developed on the west side of River and the south side of Tillamook. At Interstate and Tillamook, make structural upgrades to the Larabee viaduct and route all motorized traffic up that to access downtown, Broadway and Freeways. The Southbound lane of Interstate Ave could then be the MUP from Tillamook to Larabee. Just north of the Broadway Bridge, the path could veer west (toward the river) and pass under the bridge at teh top of the bank, continue along the top of the bank along the former Thunderbird Property through the Rose Garden. THe connection to the Esplanade could be under teh Steel bridge on a short viaduct over the RR access drive. IMO, the southernmost connection of this proposed alignment, through the ROse Garden, is the most critical and is the very worst park of PPP’s recommended alignment.

    ON the north end of this proposal, I think the spur on to Going should be kept because their are a lot of jobs here and the riverfront is worth a visit. The main trail should continue at the base of the bluff. This avoid a lot of conflict with heavy freight traffic during week and offer a really beautiful, level trail adjacent to a lovely woods. Some walking trail could be developed along the bluff to connect to various parks and add value for joggers/walkers (a smaller, east side Forest Park). This trail could continue all the way along the bluff around Swan Island, crossing back over the tracks at Waud Bluff if they add a ramp for bikes, strollers, trailers, wheelchairs, etc.

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    • Blake March 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      For the southern section, I think that a long-term goal should be to completely replace the Larrabee overpass, which has been listed since at least the 2006 revisions to the Transportation System Plan and is also included on the Freight Master Plan. The problem is that the cost of replacement is very high ($20.6 million) and the project has been afforded a very low priority relative to other capital projects.

      However, the benefits from replacement would come from being able to put in a separated bike lane (avoiding future collisions involving either a car or a truck that could injure or kill someone) as well as having a more direct route for the truck traffic that currently goes under the Larrabee overpass and turns left where Larabee comes out on Interstate on the other side of the Broadway bridge in order to get on I-5.

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      • MaxD March 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        Rebuilding the viaduct could possibly get a bike lane and sidewalk along a short section of southbound Interstate, but would it provide enough space for a 2-way, 14′ wide MUP (unless it was cantilvered)? If not, northbound users still have fight through the Rose Quarter along Interstate, then cross somewhere to access the NP Greenway! This is hardly a riverfront trail. The available ROW gets VERY narrow along s-bound Interstate between the point where it passes under the Larrabee Viaduct and the Larabee signal. Even if the Viaduct were rebuilt, this pinch point would probably preclude a sidewalk and it would keep the bike lane at a sub-par 5-feet. PPR want bikes and peds to use the viaduct which would be ok if there were no cars on it and it actually led somewhere. I think a riverfront trail is a very important piece of infrastructure, and I think PPR shied away from making any bold, clear planning decisions for this stretch of the route. I am optimistic that PBOT will understand the value of a direct and safe connection and come up with something better.

        When I first considered removing motorists from southbound Interstate Ave, I thought it was unrealistic, but the more I look at it (and I ride through here every day) the more feasible it appears! We have an alternate route for motor vehicles that just needs structural shoring. It is absolutely wide enough for bikes and pedestrians to use it to access Broadway.

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        • Blake March 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

          Are you suggesting keeping NB Interstate between the two intersections with Larrabee and making the SB lane a MUP? If the auto traffic were forced to go over the Larrabee viaduct, the estimated cost to remove weight restrictions was significantly lower than for re-building the entire overpass ($1.2m rather than $20.6m).

          It certainly makes more sense to do that from the perspective of someone who bikes, but I don’t think that cutting off the SB route for cars (or creating a detour on Larrabee) is necessarily going to be viable, but for the same reason, I think the idea of using the Larrabee viaduct for bikes is a bad idea. In addition to the unnecessary lengthening of the route, it creates an “uphill both ways” situation, which will lead many people to continue riding on Interstate.

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          • MaxD March 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm

            Yes! Southbound Interstate Ave from Tillamook to the Signal at Larrabee (at the Memorial Coliseum) would be bike and ped only! All motor vehicles plus a grade separated bike lane/sidewalk would use the structurally improved viaduct.

            This would be slightly out of the way for motorists continuing on Interstate, but that seems preferable to forcing bikes and peds to go and out of their way. I really hope PBOT and the City commit to this or some version of this that is safe, direct, pleasant and river-connected for the route of the NP Greenway

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            • paikikala March 14, 2014 at 9:17 am

              PBOT already has a sketch of this.

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              • MaxD March 14, 2014 at 9:37 am

                I would LOVE to see that sketch, any chance there is a link to it?

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                • Blake March 14, 2014 at 10:20 am

                  PDF map of PP&R proposed route: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/429526

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                • MaxD March 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

                  Thanks Blake but that link from PPR:

                  PDF map of PP&R proposed route: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/429526

                  shows their deviation from the riverfront route. PPR recommended to either shunt people down Interstate with too-skinny bike lanes and intermittent sidewalks or send them up and over Interstate Ave and clear around the BACK SIDE of the Memorial Coliseum! You can plainly see how much PPR values the urban trail experience (not at all!). I was hoping Paikikala could provide a PBOT sketch of a closed SB Interstate Ave between Tillamook and Larrabee, and a NPGreenway route along the river. At any rate, I have far greater faith in PBOT to creatively find a route that is river-based, safe, direct and enjoyable.

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          • paikikala March 14, 2014 at 9:17 am

            The trick is the transitions at each end.

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  • Blake March 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I think this is a good move because while it loses riverfront sections, it gains a connection with what is a pretty unpleasant ride for many in North Portland down Greeley with the crossing of the on-ramp from Going and the offramp to I-5. I am happy to see the progress!

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  • Charley March 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Yes! This would be a much welcome low-stress way to get downtown from the neighborhoods up there.

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  • MaxD March 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Jonathan
    It would be great to see a plan for how they propose getting bikes/peds from the southern end of this route to the Esplanade! I would also like to see how this connects to the Going to the River improvements along the north side of Going.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      MaxD,

      I agree… But there is no plan. Not yet at least. The City, UPRR and NPGreenway are just starting to get into alignment details. The southern section is still being worked out. Trust me, once more is known we’ll post it here.

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      • MaxD March 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm

        Thanks! I will remain glued to BP…

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  • pdx2wheeler March 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Would love to see this bypass! I got right-hooked today on Interstate and Russell, by a City of Portland maintenance truck no less… “The city that works”, to run you over!

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    • MaxD March 13, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Sorry you got right-hooked, I hope you are ok! Those double right-turn slip lanes along SB interstate can be deadly! NB on Interstate, I have nearly been right-hooked at Tillamook, Thompson, Albina, Mississippi and Russell! Using Interstate as a route for a City-wide Greenway trail is a terrible idea, and it is even worse through the Rose Quarter!

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      • pdx2wheeler March 13, 2014 at 6:01 pm

        Thanks! I’m fine, took a hairpin 90 degree turn on a dime going about 20mph to avoid the impact, but I was pretty shaken up and amazed at how thin of a line we all ride on out there! Really wish my RideEye would arrive so I’d have some video evidence in these types of situations…

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  • Matthew Rogers March 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I work on Swan Island and occasionally take the cement road on my way home. I think this alignment will be pretty awesome–it’s slightly longer (300m) than the cement road, but aligns better with North Portland bike traffic down Greeley, and it won’t have all the rail crossings with acute angles and uneven pavement in the industrial park to the south.

    Factoring in not slowing/stopping for rails, traffic and uneven pavement, I think it’ll be a much more pleasant and equally fast route. On top of that, having approval and buy-in from UPRR will make this infinitely more buildable than opening up the cement road.

    Great work, NP Greeway team!

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  • grimm March 13, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I can see the running it on the river side will be a no-go, they have at least two dock areas it will be crossing and would be a big liability for them UP. It wont be as glorious as the floating bridge, but maybe the industrial train area will give it it’s own flavor.

    Looks like entrances are planned for Tillamook and Russell and either exit on Going or continue to the Bluffs. Curious how they plan to safely get bikes on and off Going there with the split bridges, high speed traffic and lots of big trucks.

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    • paikikala March 14, 2014 at 9:19 am

      If future redevelopment occurs, a waterfont MUP can be part of the land use plan, just like south waterfront.

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      • Matthew Rogers March 14, 2014 at 10:29 am

        As part of Daimler’s new Trucks North America Headquarters building, they’ll be including a riverfront multi-use path in the improvement. It’ll connect some of the pathways that are already extant on Swan Island that are/will be part of the NP Greenway alignments.

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  • dwainedibbly March 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Patience. At some point (20+ years from now?) the waterfront property will be so valuable that UPRR will develop it for some other use and the City can make a waterfront trail part of the deal.

    For now, what we’re getting will do just fine. Congrats to all parties for reaching a workable compromise.

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    • matt picio March 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Possibly. It’s also possible that it might be used for it’s original intended purpose – a port. Or not. This is a smart compromise – the railroad needs to maintain that property for either future port use or the possibility for sale. While not an ideal compromise for users of the future trail, it’s a workable deal which will provide a far safer alternative to Greeley.

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  • Ted Buehler March 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Bunner to not get the cement rosd, but still a serviceable route.

    If this path went a couple blocks further north to Emerson (where a bike/ped bridge is proposed) then bicyclists could bypass the mess of giant truck streets at the bottom of going st.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler March 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      *Bummer* …

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    • Panda March 14, 2014 at 6:23 am

      Ted,
      Do you have any more info about this prosed bridge? It sounds like a natural thing to plan a connection to! Or continue along the bluff to the “dog bwl”

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  • fiets503 March 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    RE: correction – so is PBOT now NOT going to apply for the TIGER Grant to fund this now?

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  • SSB March 13, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Way to be a sellout- friends of the greenway- I thought it was The Willamette Greenway trail- you should of held onto the vision. Now the option is sandwiching me between stinky, noisy, exhaust spewing trucks and trains. Not a place I want to take my kids. I was hoping for a river trail legacy for my kids too.

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    • Joe Adamski March 13, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      with bunnies and unicorns too?

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      • Joe Adamski March 13, 2014 at 9:54 pm

        This is one of those off the cuff remarks I wish I could delete after I hit the post button. Simply because I responded in kind; snark for snark.
        I am speaking for myself, not for npGreenway and is board. Supporting this alternative alignment presents a list of challenges, but I believe it will translate to actual realization of that overall vision: the river level trail connecting jobs downtown, on Swan Island and Rivergate to the neighborhoods in North Portland. For safe transportation to jobs, community and the natural areas, translating to a better quality of life in North Portland.
        One does not tell any railroad what to do. That Union Pacific Railroad suggested and promoted this agreement speaks to the importance of the NP Willamette Greenway trail and recognition of this by UPRR, political leadership and the City of Portland, Metro and others involved.
        This opens the door to completion of the npGreenway trail in my lifetime, to creating a safe path to jobs and home and our natural areas. This is a validation of the requirement that the Planning Board gave to City Council regarding the Bicycle Master Plan for 2030: build at least one signature level trail as a ‘first priority’ level goal.
        SSB.. sorry if you don’t approve. I hope you find the rest of the npGreenway trail to your liking, from industry on Swan Island, to the river level from the bluff at University of Portland to Cathedral Park, under the St. Johns bridge, up the hill and into Pier and Chimney Park. Across the overpass of N Columbia Boulevard, into the landfill turned into a prairie. Through the wetlands of Smith and Bybee lakes, on to Kelly Point, at the confluence of the Willamette and the mighty Columbia River.
        I just want to say “lets get it built”. Enough talk, lets try action.

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        • Panda March 13, 2014 at 10:59 pm

          Joe,
          I appreciate your insights and I am really grateful for the years of unpaid, tireless work that np greenway has put in. Can offer any insight into the route south of Tillamook? This route is fraught with challenges, but they almost be overcome if the city makes it a priority (no railroad)! What is np greenway advocating for? This the central city segment of the trail, and the space is mostly there, but Portland Parks failed to show a riverfront vision, what do you think?

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    • Todd Hudson March 14, 2014 at 8:43 am

      There is no way in hell that UP was ever going to give cyclists use of the Cement Road. Their cars actively cross it, making it impossible to sequester their yard. To expect that their corporate/legal would allow people to traverse a very active railyard is a fantasy.

      Railyards are one step short of a sovereign country, and it’s better to compromise with them rather than hold our breath for something that will never ever ever ever ever happen.

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      • q`Tzal March 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        UPRR will give up the waterfront right before rising ocean levels cause routine slack water flooding

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    • JRB March 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Since you are so quick to criticize, it must mean that you have been deeply involved in advocating for this and other projects. Please describe the contributions you have made so I can give your comment appropriate weight.

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      • JRB March 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

        My question is in response to SSB’s comment.

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      • nuovorecord March 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm

        That was my thought too. Easy to sit in the stands and boo; harder to get out on the playing field and play.

        Great job, NP Greenway folks, from one of the many sitting in the stands!

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  • MaxD March 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Jonathan,
    I rode a bunch of this yesterday, and it would be worth including in your announcement that the Pier/Chimney bridge is open that there is no path on the Chimney Park side and there is in fact a bunch of loose, uncompacted drain rock that is very unstable. It it also worth noting, for people interested in checking out the NP Greenway, that the Waud Bluff trail is not bike friendly.

    The trail through Peninsula Park is pretty great, the Columbia Slough Trail and the new Sewage Treatment Plant, the Peninsula Crossing Trail, and the trail around Smith and Bybee are all amazing, though, and worth a visit! Once the trail through Chimney Park, over Columbia Blvd, and around the Landfill is in, this will be the best place to bike and walk in the City.

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