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The westbound path of the Broadway Bridge will be closed for a month

Posted by on January 28th, 2016 at 9:27 am

Broadway Bridge detour observations-13
Get used to it.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s more bad news to report about your ride over the Broadway Bridge.

The bridge has been a construction zone since this past summer when Multnomah County embarked on a major repainting project. For months now, people have struggled with intermittent closures, extremely loud blasting noises from the construction work, and a very narrow lane.

Now the County says the path on the north side of the bridge (westbound) will be closed for up to a month so contractors can remove and paint the handrail. The closure started this past Monday (1/25).


Here’s official word from Multnomah County:

The bridge’s south sidewalk will remain open while the north sidewalk is closed. Signs, traffic control devices, and flaggers will direct sidewalk users to crosswalks at each end of the bridge where the public can access the open sidewalk. Sidewalk users should be alert for two-way traffic on the south sidewalk during the closure. The Steel Bridge and Eastbank Esplanade are nearby alternate routes during the closure.

When the handrail on the north sidewalk has been repainted and reinstalled, the north sidewalk will reopen and the south sidewalk will close for several weeks while its handrail is removed and repainted.

No word yet on whether the County plans to repaint the southern path as well.

This project was initially scheduled to wrap up in March, but the latest news from the County is that it won’t be completed until April.

If you experience hazardous conditions during this project, here’s the County’s contact information.

The good news is that once this project is done, the bridge will look mighty fine. Have you noticed some of the sections that have already been finished? It looks great!

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

55 Comments
  • Adam H. January 28, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Why don’t they just ban driving on it so people walking and riding bikes can have enough space to safely traverse the bridge? Drivers can easily divert to the nearby Fremont Bridge. Last time the Broadway Bridge was closed to drivers, there was no carmageddon. If the city wants to take Vision Zero seriously, they wouldn’t squeeze two-way bike and walking traffic onto a narrow sidewalk, and instead opt to take space away from private vehicles.

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    • lop January 28, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Isn’t the right lane still closed? Streetcars can’t take Fremont.

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    • El Biciclero January 28, 2016 at 10:11 am

      I don’t ride here, but aren’t there two lanes each direction on the Broadway? They wouldn’t even have to ban driving altogether, just close the outside lanes and make them human-power-only. Helpful flaggers and traffic control devices could manage condensing auto traffic into a single lane each way.

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      • lop January 28, 2016 at 10:18 am

        https://multco.us/bridges/broadway-bridge-painting-project

        It’s been condensed to one lane with streetcar tracks for months.

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        • Adam H. January 28, 2016 at 10:52 am

          Yes, there are only the two inside lanes open. However, there are options here to accommodate all users. One of the streetcar tracks could be covered with non-slip plates and turned into a two-way bikeway. Streetcar and car traffic could use the one remaining lane (in one direction only, but it’s better than nothing). The A-loop could be truncated with a bus bridge. This would accommodate all road users, admittedly at a reduced access, but hey it’s a construction zone.

          The streetcar was shut down in the past as was driving banned when it was necessary. If this was just for a weekend it wouldn’t be a huge issue. But an entire month squeezing two-way bike and walk traffic onto a narrow sidewalk is problematic. Biking over the Steel Bridge is an option, but getting there from Broadway problematic as well. The on-ramps and upper deck offer no bicycle facilities and getting to the lower deck from downtown is not pleasant either. Perhaps PBOT should put up bicycle detour signs to direct people to the Steel bridge well in advance of the closure?

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    • mran1984 January 28, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Why don’t “they” simply run helicopter shuttles over the bridge, or would that be too frightening, horrific and typically unacceptable for you? The airspace above the Broadway Bridge could be considered a no fly zone unless “people on bikes” are being transported.

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      • Zeppo January 28, 2016 at 10:37 am

        Seems like a really hostile comment. The guy was trying to make a practical suggestion – give him a break.

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        • Social Engineer January 28, 2016 at 11:53 am

          On the contrary, nothing about his suggestion is practical or grounded in reality.

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          • Adam H. January 28, 2016 at 12:06 pm

            Banning cars on the bridge is not grounded in reality? This was already done back in October during this bridge repainting project. People walking and riding bikes are supposed to be on top of the transportation pyramid, above public transport, with private cars at the bottom. So why aren’t people riding bikes given priority over private motor traffic during this closure?

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            • Social Engineer January 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm

              I’m talking about the part where you close one lane solely for bikes, and make every other motorized mode including transit, share the remaining single lane, and then set up a bus bridge for streetcar, but only in one direction (which would again just sit in traffic).

              If you witness the daily backups during rush hour in both directions while just the outer lanes are closed, you would know that your suggestion to close yet another lane is not practical. I would be more interested if you proposed making the streetcar lanes dedicated for transit (buses too…) in the future.

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              • Adam H. January 28, 2016 at 12:52 pm

                The streetcar lanes should be transit-only and every other bridge should also have transit-only lanes. But that’s a different topic. My main point is that this closure is not accommodating all modes and something needs to be done to change that.

                As far as traffic is concerned, people driving will just adjust their commutes for a month. Driving over to a different bridge is safe. Forcing people riding bikes and walking both directions to share a narrow sidewalk is not safe. So why are we prioritizing driver convenience over people’s safety? That’s the question we need to be asking ourselves every time this issue comes up. And it will come up again.

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                • Ted G January 29, 2016 at 1:49 pm

                  The only users not currently accommodated on the bridge are large trucks.

                  Walkers and bikers can share the sidewalk safely if they move slowly and pay attention. I have only see one report of an incident on the sidewalk so considering the amount of bike traffic, it seems people are riding it cautiously. To suggest more room is needed suggests you are unhappy with the inconvenience of having to ride over the bridge slowly.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 28, 2016 at 11:14 am

        mran1984,

        I agree with the other commenter. Your reply to Adam is a bit harsh. I’m leaving it up; but just wanted to let you know. Please be more courteous in the future.

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    • Cherokee Schill January 28, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      I totally agree. Ban cars not bikes.

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  • David January 28, 2016 at 9:53 am

    I biked into downtown from the east side earlier this week during evening rush hour (about 5pm) and found that the helpful flaggers weren’t there directing bike/pedestrian traffic. It was an absolute mess! Trying to salmon my way upstream against a steady flow of people came the opposite way without any kind of traffic control felt dangerous. It was particularly bad at the crosswalk on the west side of the bridge where eastbound bikers are supposed to cross into the bike lane. But there really isn’t enough room. Ugh.

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    • dan January 28, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      I agree. I’m going to call that number Jonathon provided above to push for flaggers at the squeeze points, in my experience they have been super inconsistent with the flaggers there. I take that bridge every day, and those narrow bits are pretty harrowing, even for an experienced rider. Taking the lane is always an option too, and I have done it once or twice but the streetcar tracks are sketchy. Personally I would rather get to my destinations 30 seconds later than take a spill (again) on wet tracks.

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      • David January 28, 2016 at 12:51 pm

        I emailed my comment over to them as well. Last time I did that back in September I got a response from Mike Pullen: mike.j.pullen@multco.us

        While I agree that the consistency of when flaggers have been present is pretty bad, I think the flaggers themselves have been great. It’s pretty much always the same few guys and they’ve been really nice.

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  • fat spandex dude January 28, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Adam H.
    Why don’t they just ban driving on it so people walking and riding bikes can have enough space to safely traverse the bridge? Drivers can easily divert to the nearby Fremont Bridge. Last time the Broadway Bridge was closed to drivers, there was no carmageddon. If the city wants to take Vision Zero seriously, they wouldn’t squeeze two-way bike and walking traffic onto a narrow sidewalk, and instead opt to take space away from private vehicles.Recommended 0

    The Fremont is for highway traffic. Routing surface street traffic to it isn’t tenable. Diverting to the Steel Bridge would create a massive snarl on both sides of the bridge, and the Steel shouldn’t be handling much more traffic than it already is, anyway.

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    • Adam H. January 28, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Sure, its for highways traffic. But it’s four lanes in each direction and has on/off ramps at both ends of the bridge. i-5 will even take drivers from/to the base of the Broadway Bridge. Sure, a detour is a bit annoying, but for drivers it poses no safety risk, whereas the current single shared sidewalk for people walking and biking does.

      The Steel Bridge is a good alternative to the Broadway mess, but better signage and directions for people riding bikes should be placed. Maybe even paint some temporary sharrows to guide bike riders in the right direction. The Broadway repainting is a long and extensive project, so there’s no reason not to spend a few extra bucks on a good detour.

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      • El Biciclero January 28, 2016 at 12:48 pm

        “a few extra bucks on a detour”

        I’d almost say spend those few extra bucks on a motor detour (because you know they’d do it right and make it extremely clear for motorists) to the Fremont, then make the whole bridge streetcar + bikes only until both sides are done. In my comment above, I didn’t realize the outside lanes were already closed, but unless the tracks are impossible to negotiate at either end, why not close it to motor traffic?

        It could be an interesting study opportunity…

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        • El Biciclero January 28, 2016 at 1:02 pm

          Or, even better—Don’t close it. Just open it to bikes. Put up some temporary CONSTRUCTION SPEED 15 FINES DOUBLE signs, along with some temporary BIKES IN ROADWAY or BIKES ALLOWED FULL LANE signs, along with an officer or two to enforce the speed limit. If crossing this bridge is to be made a major hassle for bicyclists and pedestrians, and we’re just hoping that “they” will opt for some alternative route, then why is what’s good for the goose not good enough for the gander? Just make motor crossing as much of a PITA as bicycle crossing is now, and hope the motorists figure out the alternatives (Steel or Fremont).

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      • resopmok January 28, 2016 at 7:48 pm

        While I agree that the Fremont bridge is a good detour for auto traffic, it still doesn’t make using the Broadway bridge much easier for cyclists since the only open lanes have streetcar tracks in them. You can’t avoid crossing them, especially on the east side westbound approach. Having the curbside lanes and 1.5 sidewalks closed really makes the bridge virtually unusable to cyclists regardless of auto traffic. Really, they might as well just close the whole bridge during the work schedule if it would help them get it done any faster. Sure doesn’t seem like it could go any slower at this point..

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  • El Biciclero January 28, 2016 at 10:18 am

    “The Fremont is for highway traffic. Routing surface street traffic to it isn’t tenable.”

    What do you mean? It’s perfect. If you’re westbound on Broadway, take a right at Williams and pop over the Fremont, exiting at Glisan on the west side. I think the same route works in reverse: enter 405 at Glisan, then exit onto Vancouver. It’s barely a detour.

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  • RH January 28, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I’m surprised they don’t have flaggers during rush hour. It’s a mess with 2 directions of bikes and peds sharing a 3 foot wide space.

    They used flaggers in the past when it wasn’t this crazy?!

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    • John Lascurettes January 28, 2016 at 11:13 am

      The do typically use flaggers, but the flaggers are part of the problem in my book.

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      • Tom Hardy January 30, 2016 at 8:13 pm

        The flaggers create the pinch point by their presence.

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  • Champs January 28, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Yesterday I was ghost-riding my girlfriend’s bike out downtown and a flagger rode it to the other end for me. Funny how you finally find something positive to say, and then WHAMMO.

    Irrespective of whether anybody can or should use the Fremont as an alternative, I know it would be awesome for *me*.

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  • John Lascurettes January 28, 2016 at 11:09 am

    On Monday, the workers closed BOTH sides of the sidewalk temporarily. Not cool. Just as I was about to take the lane Westbound they said, “okay, go ahead” and I took the south path. Still, what a PITA to cross back over when you’re on the west side.

    I’ve taken the lane westbound yesterday and today with mixed results.

    Yesterday traffic was light and I was able to haul across the bridge at full pedal and was quite happy about it. There is several points where you need to hop your wheel over the tracks to make sure you don’t get stuffed so it’s not for the faint at heart. But there were not two-way jam-ups on the south sidewalk for me, no having to figure out the best place to get back across to the bike lane, no waiting.

    Today was less pleasant. The bridge auto traffic was stop-n-go so it actually would have been faster had I just stuck to the MUP.

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  • Clint Culpepper January 28, 2016 at 11:24 am

    As a regular user of the Broadway Bridge I haven’t found it to be an issue. We have a very viable option in the Steel Bridge (upper and lower decks) and three bridges to the south that add a negligible amount of time and hassle to a commute downtown.

    The bridge project is an extremely important project with the removal of lead paint being the main reason it has such an impact. I find the fact that bicyclists have been accommodated as well as they have to be a sign that Multnomah County is aware of the impact. Do I wish that they’d close it down for cars and let us ride in roadway, of course. I just don’t see that as a viable option with the streetcar.

    For regular commuters it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, if I rode once or twice a month and encountered it I’d probably be bummed.

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    • John Lascurettes January 28, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Even with the hassle, I’ll still take Broadway. Even the Steel adds more time to my commute and doesn’t remove much hassle. There’s not a lot of options traveling between inner N/NE and NW.

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      • Clint Culpepper January 28, 2016 at 11:50 am

        I don’t know. I live in inner NE and work at PSU. When my son and I are getting ready to leave in the morning I ask him what bridge he wants to take. I’ve found that there’s a five minute or so difference between the Broadway, Steel, Burnside and Hawthorne bridges. I can’t think of many cities that would even have a second option. Have you ever ridden in NYC? 2.5 million residents in Brooklyn and they only have three bridges into Manhattan that you can ride on and none of them are really replacements for each other.

        Out of curiosity, how many minutes does the Steel Bridge add to your commute?

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        • John Lascurettes January 28, 2016 at 12:09 pm

          I can get door to door in 11 minutes if I hustle. Getting to the steel adds a lot more busy-street crossings which means waiting for more lights. Even you say it adds 5min to your commute which equates to almost 50% additional time. Not a big deal, but like I said, unless the Broadway gets really bad I’m sticking with it.

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        • ethan January 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm

          For me, the Steel bridge adds a minimum of 6 minutes to my trip. It’s usually closer to 10 though.

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        • B. Carfree January 28, 2016 at 8:29 pm

          “Have you ever ridden in NYC? 2.5 million residents in Brooklyn and they only have three bridges into Manhattan that you can ride on and none of them are really replacements for each other.”

          I really, really dislike this sort of comment. It reminds me of living in the Central Valley in the ’80s. Our air quality was deteriorating. Whenever someone would note our increasing smog, someone would always mention how our air was still better than L.A.

          We should never settle for less than well-done and certainly shouldn’t be proud of things that don’t work well simply because things are done even worse in other locales. We should be better than that.

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          • Clint Culpepper January 29, 2016 at 8:25 am

            I wouldn’t suggest that you settle for less. I simply think a bit of perspective is in order. The suggestion that we utilize the Fremont Bridge for bicycle traffic? Shutting down the streetcar? Not only not feasible or realistic but also not even great solutions. I clearly laid out a solution for those that would be impacted (detour to a nearby bridge) that has very little impact for all users. The only thing that could be improved is detour routes that are clearly marked to the level that auto detours are handled. I would love to see the comment thread here filled with solutions rather than complaints. Perspective helps with that.

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        • Ted Timmons (Contributor) January 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm

          Have you ever ridden in NYC? 2.5 million residents in Brooklyn and they only have three bridges into Manhattan that you can ride on and none of them are really replacements for each other.

          Just because other places are worse doesn’t justify it. It’s a weird world where we don’t think twice about shutting down sidewalks (or bridges) to non-auto traffic, yet the latter is carefully done at night, on weekends, etc.

          I take Broadway a few times per week and going to Steel is a hassle for me. Steel is super-narrow, it means I have to climb back up to Williams, etc.

          I think I’ll experiment with taking the lane over the Broadway Bridge. I’m a little worried about the streetcar tracks, but eh.

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      • Social Engineer January 28, 2016 at 12:06 pm

        This is why closing the Naito Gap and adding the ped crossing near the Steel Bridge to hook up with Flanders Street is such a critical project. It’s a slow slog from there to anywhere in NW right now.

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      • Adam H. January 28, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        For as large of a project as this, there really should have been a good bike detour set up. Getting from Broadway to the lower deck of the Steel Bridge is not exactly a direct route. Naito and the Post Office get in the way. Everett is not safe to ride on. The McCormick Pier path is closed, which provided a direct car-free route from NW Overton to the Steel Bridge.

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  • Terry D-M January 28, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I have been avoiding Broadway and taking the Steel instead to get to the middle to end of the Alphabet on 23 RD, but the construction detours in the Pearl have been really annoying……

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) January 29, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Terry- taking Overton? I often take the sidewalk for the construction west of 405, but when they close even the sidewalks in Pearl it’s really really annoying.

      I live somewhere near 23rd and Overton, so it’s the most common route for me, no matter if I’m going to Broadway, Burnside, downtown, etc.

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  • mikeybikey January 28, 2016 at 11:41 am

    They definitely need to get the flaggers out there again. The last time they left it without flaggers a person biking too fast in the opposite direction caused my spouse who was biking with our kids to crash her bike into the railing. I understand that some people don’t like having to wait for opposing bike traffic but its really the only way to ensure that those of use that follow a reverse commute pattern get a safe crossing. I gave up on the Broadway the other day and went over to the Steel bridge only to find a PCMS blocking the southbound bike lane on Naito. Platinum.

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  • Alan 1.0 January 28, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Does BikePortland have clout or what? Jonathan just does a short series on bike route gaps and both private enterprise and the city itself bend over backwards to provide him with fresh material!

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  • Steve January 28, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    West bound commuters, do the right thing and take the Steel into town. It’s only for a month (hopefully), and seriously how much extra time will it take you?

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  • John Liu January 28, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Lanes and paths sometimes have to be closed for construction, and that inconveniences users,it’s a fact of life. Taking the two remaining lanes of the Broadway Bridge down to one lane is impossible because there are no tracks for the street car to switch between lanes, and anyway the massive jam up to cars, buses, and street car traffic would cause far, far more distress to those bridge users than cyclists and pedestrians are suffering from having to share one sidepath of the bridge.

    However, I question whether the construction is being done in a way that minimizes the inconvenience. First, there absolutely must be flaggers present whenever east and west bound peds/cyclists are sharing one sidepath. Second, the work should be getting done as fast as possible. I frequently ride and drive over the bridge when there doesn’t seem to be much activity going on, and very few workers.

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    • Dan de Vriend January 28, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      I agree with John above, closures and traffic are inevitable in a city. and it comes down to how the city handles it. I think this is a breakdown, unsurprisingly between the City/County and the contractor they hired (gee, when has that happened before, see Morrison bridge) I wrote to PBOT on the contact form linked above and I had a great email exchange with Mike Pullen from the city, who wrote me back within 30 minutes of writing a note to the contact form above. Let’s just hammer that comment/reporting form till we consistently see the flaggers at peak times at LEAST. I emailed him pics from about 5:15. He was surprised to hear about lack of flaggers. Bridges are weird.

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    • Sef McCullough February 3, 2016 at 10:26 am

      I think that analysis is wrong. With a full closure there would be car traffic backups, but the current risk for bikes, pedestrians, and drivers far outweighs the concerns for car commuters. Nobody is going to get killed or injured having to drive to a different bridge, but that risk exists for foot and bike commuters every day. That is not an exaggeration either – anytime you access the bridge during construction you are putting yourself in a high risk zone.

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  • Buzz January 28, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    In the beginning they said that sidewalk closures would only be on a temporary basis during off-peak hours, and that the railings would be painted when the rest of the bridge structure was finished.

    Now they are changing their mind.

    But all the whining about the extra lanes on the bridge won’t come to anything, since the two outside lanes are in the construction zone, and are needed for the work.

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  • Mark smith January 28, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Portland: bikeeeee town.

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  • Robert Burchett January 28, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Predictable surge of pedestrians on the Broadway Bridge: every Trailblazers home game. Definitely a good time to make adjustments.

    I-405 shoulder from NW 15th / Glisan, over the Fremont Bridge, starting to look pretty good. Kinda trashy, but it would not be the sketchiest bike route in Portland.

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  • Sef McCullough February 3, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Just for the record, since the North platform closure on the 25th, the danger level around the bridge has shot up intensely. Every time I cross it’s like running the gauntlet. There are occasionally flaggers, but it seems like they are intermittent. Depends on the time you cross. I think their idea of peak hours is 9:15 – 9:45 am. I haven’t seen any for evening commutes. Everybody – bikes, peds, and drivers alike are looking around like “This is F’ing crazy.”

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  • Amy February 23, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I work in the brick Albers Mills building that is right next to the bridge. The blasting sound has given our entire office migraine for the past 3+ months. We smell fumes from the paint regularly. It’s absolutely horrible. We can not wait for this to be finished. The only peace and quiet we get is when the worker take their lunch hour. We’ve had to start working off site and have wax ear plugs we have to use in order to block the sound. The vibrations alone are enough to trigger migraine in many of us.

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