New I-5 bridge: What’s in store for bikes?

After I published a story last week that shared draft concept drawings of what the new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River might look like, I received an email from someone on the Columbia River Crossing project staff.

He wanted to point out two concept drawings that I did not share and he forwarded the first detailed sketches I’ve seen of what a new bike and ped path might look like.

First, here are two bridge concept illustrations that do show bikes and peds (I didn’t see them the first time around so I’ve put in some arrows to assist you):

In the two potential scenarios above, the bike/ped component would share a new bridge with transit (either bus or light rail).

The sketch below shows a new design option that will be discussed by the bike/ped committee at their monthly meeting this Wednesday. It’s a bike/ped path that could be cantilevered underneath transit. Check it out:

For more information about the CRC’s pedestrian and bicycle advisory committee — which one staffer referred to as “an energetic and intelligent group that is forming robust recommendations for a world-class pedestrian and bicycle facility,” — see this page on the CRC website.

Also check out this recent comment by City of Vancouver transportation planner, and member of that committee, Todd Boulanger.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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David Feldman
David Feldman
16 years ago

I don\’t think the current bridge is too bad–it\’s the convoluted stop-and-start routing from the Marine Drive/Portland Speedway area through Jantzen Beach that I\’d love to see streamlined. How smooth a link could there be from the new Interstate Bridge-to-be to Delta Park and the Max station, for instance?

Axe
Axe
16 years ago

I like that below-traffic bike/ped deck. Are there any serious downsides to that plan?

Chris
Chris
16 years ago

If the bike/ped deck is sheltered it will become a de facto homeless shelter like any other freeway overpass.

I\’d rather not ride over all the broken glass and hypo needles.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
16 years ago

One question about a shared bike-ped path is how much bike and ped traffic, respectively, it\’s expected to accomodate. Is there an industry standard for determining that? I ask because the numbers on cycling at least are growing exponentially every year. Already we have shared facilities in Portland which were likely more than wide enough when they were built but which are now experiencing considerable congestion.

I\’d like to see these new facilities designed with *projected* cycling numbers in mind — for, say, fifteen or twenty years from now. 20% mode share, anyone? It would be a shame to see these roads already be outdated by the time they are built. I am sure any committee with Todd B. on it is already thinking this way, but am curious about the specifics.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
16 years ago

Also, have separated bike and ped facilities been considered? The two modes really are not very compatible, for all that they\’re usually lumped in with each other. It seems like it would be fairly cheap and easy to separate them with a bit of forethought — just a concrete ridge or some raised dots….and maybe a few extra feet than seem to be indicated in the sketch above, but maybe I\’m dreaming now.

KTesh
KTesh
16 years ago

Only problem I see with the cantilevered idea is Emergency Access. How would you get it there if there was a medical emergency mid-bridge.

That said, I\’d still accept the risk, I hate having traffic speeding by my ears while I ride on any of the bridges here.

Opus the Poet
16 years ago

I like the bike facility hung below the rest of the bridge, it\’s protected from the weather. Protected from the rain and slop in the winter, and the sun in the summer.

Tom Miller
Tom Miller
16 years ago

Yes, Commissioner Adams has raised the issue of the importance of separated bike and pedestrian facilities. This is a 50-100 year bridge with a truly world class view up one of the world\’s mightiest rivers to Mt. Hood off to the east.

Moreover, looking ahead, downtown Vancouver is likely to grow its residence base significantly and Jantzen Beach will redevelop towards something slightly less big box in orientation and slightly more human-friendly.

We\’ve reminded the two DOTs that there is a significant opportunity and responsibility.

I\’d guess it\’ll take a few iterations before the importance of separation is reflected in the draft concepts.

Thanks for asking.

Tom Miller
Chief of Staff
Office of Commissioner Sam Adams

Seth Alford
Seth Alford
16 years ago

There is a downside to the bike facility hung below the bridge. While it\’s out of the rain for bicyclists, it\’s also out of the rain for homeless people. And it\’s hidden from police riding by in their patrol cars on the bridge. So a under-the-bridge bike/ped facility could attract all sorts of undesireable behavior.

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
16 years ago

I vote for the facility to be out in the elements. While I have all the empathy in the world for those who find themselves in the situation of being homeless, I really don\’t want to see the new CRC MUP become a de facto shelter for them.

And addressing Elly\’s concern about the amount of capacity: if we start running out of room for bikes, we just take a freeway lane!!! 🙂

gabriel amadeus
16 years ago

I\’ve liked the idea of a suspended crossing underneath bridges before, but in this case it seems the roar of 8 lanes directly above you would be deafening. I\’ve sailed under the current bridge and it is wild, echoing everywhere. And I\’m sure everyone can attest to the current decibel level of the bike/ped crossing.

gabriel amadeus
16 years ago

re: Elly #4

there is some standard for a combined bike/ped path and some sort of lane division is usually recommended, though there are others that are more knowledgeable…

Cøyøte
Cøyøte
16 years ago

It is pretty easy to overate the homeless problem that may be caused by a covered bike/walkway. A quick look at the photos shows acres of covered space created by the bridge other than the walkway. These areas will be more desireable to homeless than a well utilized bikeway.

Lenny Anderson
16 years ago

Now more than ever I like the idea of an arterial bridge…two traffic lanes for local trips…with light rail and big wide open bike/pedestrian promenade along the downstream side…admittedly not the better view. The existing bridges can retrofited for seismic strength, substandard on/off ramps can be removed and the river channel shifted to the \”hump.\” Of course everything…new bridge, old bridge and I-205… will have to be tolled with variable prices depending on time of day.
HOVs would cross for free as would bicyclists and pedestrians.

Andrew
Andrew
16 years ago

Totally agree, Lenny. Unfortunately, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that the mega-bridge is likely to get built and the best we can do is advocate for the best possible non-auto facilities.

One of my bigger-picture concerns with this project is that it will open the window for widening I-5 through N Portland (already mentioned as a likely scenario in a recent Oregonian article) and make it much more doubtful that any of the proposals for removing the Eastbank I-5 will ever become reality.

I\’d still like to hear from a Metro Council member about the extent to which they can and will be playing a role in this process.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
16 years ago

Jonathan…thanks for posting these new materials and including the arrows.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
16 years ago

Thanks for the response, Tom. I\’ll look forward to seeing the next draft.

GLV
GLV
16 years ago

\”One of my bigger-picture concerns with this project is that it will open the window for widening I-5 through N Portland (already mentioned as a likely scenario in a recent Oregonian article)…\”

My hope is that you are referring to the Delta Park widening (adding a 3rd lane southbound to the only stretch north of 405 that is 2-lane)…that is already funded and will begin later this year. Any additional widening would be a trememdous undertaking.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
16 years ago

Ms. Blue,

Thanks for your vote of support…

…we on the PBAC and CRC staff are struggling with finding a mutually acceptable methodology of measuring (forecasting) future bicyclist and pedestrian volume. We have looked at the work done for the Sellwood Bridge.

We are also looking at a bridge with current design problems depressing use but still with annual growth in trips of ~25%. The CRC did counts this fall and were very surprised at how high the weekday bike traffic was (500 trips per day – my memory of the counts from home without my files – Peter?).

One side says build the current ideal minimum (16\’ with 12\’ clear) and mix the MUP traffic onto one new path, others say we need to plan for 50 years out and separate the fast regional bike commuters from all other MUP traffic (look at the capacity problems of the Hawthorne – and imagine the Hawthorne with steeper 5% downhill grades allowing 30 mph bike traffic. Plus factor in a future Trimet policy that may not allow open access for bikes across this bridge (think commute hour restrictions like BART).

The one thing that has helped bridge safety for many years was the fact that most folks did not want to walk (or bike) across the bridge since the interstate took it over…but now with an improved design and land use improvements we could see many of the 200+ pedestrians currently walking and enjoying the Vancouver waterfront sunset crossing over the bridge during peak bike commute period (100 bikes per hour). It may be tough to share such a space without good design at the MUP intersections and separation.

Jim O'Horo
Jim O'Horo
16 years ago

Lenny Anderson #14 :\”Of course everything…new bridge, old bridge and I-205… will have to be tolled with variable prices depending on time of day.\” I\’ve also been thinking that tolls on the I-205 bridge would be necessary to keep people from switching routes & overwhelming the I-205 bridge. I was surprised at recent news reports stating that there probably won\’t be tolls on the I-205 bridge, so I did a quick & dirty sensitivity analysis. (Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night & can\’t get back to sleep – sensitivity analysis is a good cure for insomnia.)

I used a toll of $2.56/one-way trip and examined effects of gas price, gas mileage, average speed, and value of driver\’s time to see how many extra miles one would travel to avoid the toll. It turns out that the value of the driver\’s time is the major factor.

For a \”typical\” driver it only makes sense to go 4.4 miles extra to avoid a $2.56 toll, and most people place a premium on time & convenience, so even that is probably higher than actual behavior. Extremes varied from 2.2 miles for someone whose time was valuable traveling slowly in an inefficient vehicle with high gas cost all the way up to 29.1 mi. at the other end of the spectrum.

Based on that I\’ve changed my opinion, and I don\’t think a lot of drivers are going to switch from the I-5 bridge to the I-205 bridge. In fact, since time turns out to be so important, we may actually see some who are now traveling on the I-205 bridge to avoid the horrible congestion on the I-5 bridge switch the other way if the new I-5 turns out to be shorter & less time-consuming.

Note that all of the above applies only to single-occupancy vehicles. For vehicles carrying 2 or more the combined value of everyone\’s time overwhelms all other considerations.

Jim O\'Horo
Jim O\'Horo
16 years ago

Todd Boulanger #19: \”We are also looking at a bridge with current design problems depressing use but still with annual growth in trips of ~25%.\”

That\’s the understatement of the day! I know many cyclists who absolutely refuse to use the I-5 bridge because it\’s so dangerous and uncomfortable (noisy, smelly, dirty). There are others who will go miles out of their way, using the I-205 bridge to avoid it. I\’d bet that on the day the new facility opens we\’ll see an immediate large jump in bicycle use.