Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Updated: Backers begin effort to re-use Sauvie span in the Pearl

Posted by on March 11th, 2008 at 12:55 pm

[NOTE: *I have updated this post at 12:30pm on 3/12 to correct my errors in the funding numbers and sources for the project.]

The effort to re-use the old Sauvie Island bridge span for a bike and pedestrian-only bridge over the 405 freeway at NW Flanders has been renewed and backers of the project say they’ve got the green light to raise the remaining $500,000 it will take to make their dream a reality.


Artists rendition of Sauvie span on NW Flanders over the 405 Freeway.
(Graphic origin unknown)

The idea to re-use the span — and save it from the scrap heap — first came up two years ago. In June of 2006, City officials seemed lukewarm about the idea, fearing public opinion backlash over what would be a $5.5 million project (vs. $3.5 million for a new and narrower bridge) — but they still didn’t rule it out completely.

Then, last summer the idea got a boost when the Portland Business Journal reported that the planning committee of a The Pearl District Neighborhood Association unanimously supported it. But with an estimated cost of $5.5 million, no one was sure how the funding picture would play out. In recent months however, several funding sources have been identified and now backers of the project say only $500,000 remains to be raised (by a combination of private and/or other funds).

So far, the funding picture has played out like this: $2 million in transportation system development charges (TSDCs) via the Portland Office of Transportation and another $2 million from the Portland Development Commission. Another $1 million is still unconfirmed but could come from a combination of state and federal sources.

“We’ve got a lot of folks in the private sector that are very enthusiastic about this project.”
–Reuel Fish, Urban Wineworks

Jeremy Saville is the vineyard manager for Bishop Creek Cellars and operators of Urban Wineworks retail shop in the Pearl District. He says they’re already planning a major event to kick off the fundraising effort.

Saville is working with local bike groups on the Pinot Pedal, a 16 or 27 mile ride which is slated for April 27th. “We’ll donate registration proceeds and 10% of all the wine and gifts we sell on the day of the event to the bridge project,” said Saville, “and it’ll be a big party with live music and donated food for all participants.”

The bridge (regardless of whether it uses the Sauvie span or a new one) would be the centerpiece of the future NW Flanders Street bike boulevard which was promised to the community as part of a compromise deal in the Burnside-Couch couplet plan.

The question remains; can bake sales and bike rides raise $500,000 in just a few months?

“Yes,” according to Reuel Fish, a prinicipal in Urban Wineworks. “There seems to be a critical mass to get the fundraising going…we’ve got a lot of folks in the private sector that are very enthusiastic about this project.”

The reason for excitement about using the Sauvie span is that, because it would be grandfathered in, it would not have to follow current federal standards for widths of bike/ped overcrossings. The Sauvie span is 40 feet wide and officials say a completely new bridge would only have a 15-20 foot maximum width.

And timing is of the essence. Contractors working on the new Sauvie Island bridge say they need a signed contract on what to do with the bridge before June, or Portland’s dream for an iconic bridge that will symbolize our city’s commitment to recycling and promoting bike and pedestrian traffic will be relegated to the scrap heap.

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  • ralph March 11, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I\’d prefer to see the bridge sold off for scrap and the money applied against the lower cost option.

    How much time and effort would have to go into taking it down, cleaning up the lead paint on it, then I assume, taking it apart and putting it back together in its new location.

    It\’s not like the bridge would go in the landfill, it will be recycled.

    And what is the ongoing maintenance that would be need to sustain a steel bridge, with painting etc?

    Sorry but I prefer the more economical solution.

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  • zac March 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I greatly prefer re-use over dismantling, recycling, and re-building using new materials to create something that already exists.

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  • Qwendolyn March 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Saw this in the trib, it seems really neat.

    I didn\’t see anything anywhere about a lower cost option.

    Do you have a link, ralph?

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  • Steven J March 11, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    As Romantic as the artists rendition is,
    I hate to be a stick in the mud.
    The bridge would not look anything like the artists concept.
    spans across water Vs spans across freewaysdemand many changes.

    Just the need for chain link to protect traffic below would be enough to disfigure it\’s original beauty into obscurity.

    \”chopped and channeled\” as we used to say, (dropped height & narrowed) might scale it a bit to be more pedestrian/freeway friendly.
    Seems there needs to be a way to preserve it\’s nobility, while still allowing it to move into the twenty first century.

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  • Steph March 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I first heard this project presented at a Northwest District Association meeting last summer. I love it! The preservation and creative reuse of the bridge along with the lovely, wide, pedestrian and bike crossing it will create make me fan.

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  • Spencer March 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Although I like the idea of larger pedestrian/bike bridges, I\’m not sold on putting in the old Sauvie\’s island bridge. There are a lot of un answered questions.

    What would be the O&M costs vs a new bridge?

    What is the cost of building a comarably sized bridge with modern materials and design?

    Can a new bridge be more iconic than the old bridge? Lood at the new bike bridge on the springwater.

    The old bridge is representitive of many of the small bridges through out our state, I jsut don\’t find it iconic or that interesting. Imagine having another type of design such as suspension, new england covered, a glass tube. Imagine not having the bridge and puttting the money into just covering over that portion of 405. Imagine a small park there instead.

    I just don\’t feel the rush.

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  • Ralph March 11, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    From the article itself

    \”fearing public opinion backlash over what would be a $5 million project (vs. $3.5 million for a new and narrower bridge)\”

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  • G.A.R. March 11, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I think it looks silly. Doesn\’t it make sense to support the span above the median? This is not a river and doesn\’t require a single span of this enormous length.

    I\’d rather see a bridge with shops on it, like the Ponte Vecchio. It could be a move toward Vera\’s lid. Let\’s move forward.

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  • Dabby March 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Vera\’s lid was as absurd as her years in office……

    And a bicycle/ped bridge with shops on it?

    Nothing like having meandering shoppers wander back and forth across the middle of a freeway crossing.

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  • 49er.. March 11, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    The width of this bridge is what makes it so exciting. We don\’t need another cramped bridge like the Steel Bridge ped/bike connection or the 42nd Avenue I-84 crossing, especially in one of the most dense parts of the city. Also exciting is the prospect of reusing existing materials that are less than 20 miles away from the new bridge site. It makes a ton of sense in terms of sustainability. I\’m all for it.

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  • dano March 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    I wish that before they spent another 5 mil on what is essentially another park in the Pearl, they\’d pave the dirt and gravel roads in my part of town.
    The Bryant street bridge gets a 50k makeover vs 100 times that for downtown? I guess that\’s where the donor base, uh, I mean tax base is.

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  • Donald March 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I\’m in for a few dollars to make it happen. Those who forget the past and all…

    I tell you where I\’d like to see it though: Spanning the Willamette between campus and Autzen.

    Can I get some love here?

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  • Aaron March 11, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I second 49er. The idea of creating a major bike/ped thoroughfare linking the pearl district to Nob Hill and possible routes over the West Hills necessitates the old span\’s width, and current federal specs wouldn\’t allow it. It\’d be a great way to tout the city\’s commitment to sustainability, as well.

    I do think it\’s worth probing the concerns of Steven J who was concerned about chain link fences.

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  • Duncan March 11, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I relly liked the idea of burying 405. Think of all the high priced condos we could build there (and keep them from my neighborhood)? Seriously though 405 (and freeways in general are eyesores and burying it is a grand idea.

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  • zilfondel March 11, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    That is actually a photo of the bridge.

    It is both much wider than a brand-new replacement bridge would be (twice as wide?), but would also be 100% pedestrian and bicycle. NO CARS.

    With no automotive transit on it, it will probably age a helluva lot better than a trafficked bridge, since it won\’t have any real stress on it, unless you got 2,000 people to jump on it at the same time!

    Also, they wouldn\’t dismantle it. They would barge it up the river, then move it on a giant truck to the location, from what I\’ve read.

    However, I think they should paint it brige red, yellow, or green. The Pearl and NW needs some COLOR, dammit!


    Duncan: even if you buried 405, you can\’t build any new buildings on top of it. Portland is a very high-risk seismic region, and even if you could span the freeway, you could at best build a 1 or 2 story building. You can\’t exactly plop columns down between the lanes! If a truck hit one, the whole building would collapse.

    Also, I don\’t think taxpaying residents of the Pearl would like their money to pay for a bridge in Eugene for Phil Knight.

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  • P Finn March 11, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Where is the outrage about FEDERAL LIMITS on BIKE/PED BRIDGE WIDTH?


    Seriously, though, I mean… why?

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  • Duncan March 11, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Thats fine, it can be green space then!

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  • ralph March 12, 2008 at 5:14 am

    You have a $5 million option and a $3.5 million option. Just remember you supported spending more when you want better bicycle infrastructure later.

    How many more bike boxes, bike lanes, bike paths can that $1.5 million go towards?

    While it sounds all green, not using the old bridge does not put it into the landfill, it will be recycled.

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  • shhambo March 12, 2008 at 6:47 am

    So, if the cheaper option is chosen, would we actually get that left over cash for bike infrastructure, or does it just get reabsorbed into some unnamed money pool?
    I\’m not sure how the budget for this project works. I\’m also not sure if arguing for a cheaper option even benefits the bike community.

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  • todd March 12, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Jonathan, why do you keep saying \”over the 405 freeway\”. I don\’t get it. How would this bridge go over the 405 freeway? it makes no sense to me. Do you mean under the 405 bridge?

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  • Stripes March 12, 2008 at 7:15 am

    I love the idea of reusing this bridge as a bicycle & pedestrian facility!

    I think having such a great, grand & most importantly, WIDE piece of eyecatching bridge architecture it would send such a positive & reaffirming message to motorists in the Pearl District/NW that bicycling and walking are viable & accepted forms of transportation.

    Plus, the bridge really should be as wide as possible, to accommodate not only current anticipated usage, but future anticipated usage (with all those condos going in, that\’s a hell of a lot of potential new feet & pedals).

    I hope to stay tuned to any updates on this!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 12, 2008 at 7:51 am

    \”Jonathan, why do you keep saying ”over the 405 freeway”.\”

    Hi todd,

    As far as I know, the bridge would go over the 405 freeway and would connect NW 15th and NW 16th streets via NW Flanders.

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  • ralph March 12, 2008 at 8:55 am


    There\’s the problem in the first place. They don\’t have all the funds in place to do it now. And as we all know road funding is a sore point in Portland right now.

    If I had the whole $5 million to spend, and it can be spent any way I want, I would look at making those funds go as far as possible. Give me a $3.5 million bridge and $1.5 million worth of filled potholes, bike boxes, bike lanes and bike paths.

    Right now they have $4 million. So even if they don\’t get anymore money they can still get the new bridge and more.

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  • Tankagnolo Bob March 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    If the old bridge will provide more space for bikes n folks, go the extra money, otherwise recycle it, go the cheaper option and use the rest for single track in Forest Park !!!! – B

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  • bahueh March 12, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    exactly what are the relocation costs to move that behemoth into place? and is it even possible considering the overpasses and space limitations on N and S bound 405?

    with all the beautiful bridges in this city…hopefully someone could come up with something a bit more aesthetically pleasing and cheaper…do we need a two lane highway bridge on NW Flanders?

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  • truthy March 12, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    As a NW resident, I think this would be great. It would definitely by an iconic addition to the neighborhood and would further promote non vehicle transport. We need to do more tho… how about making some streets (Kearnery, Johnson, Flanders) 1 lane 1 ways with a bike/ped lane?

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  • DaveA March 13, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Unless the Pearl People can raise the funds themselves then I would have to say go with the cheaper option. It would like different to see the old bridge crossing I-405, but as someone else has already mentioned Portland does need more singletrack trails near town – especially if it wants to receive Platinum status as a bike friendly city…

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  • Grimm March 13, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Peoples willingness to rethink and reuse is one of the main things that makes Portland great. There are many examples of this in the pearl, and its one of the reasons things keeping the pearl from being a gentrified condo hell hole.

    Plus a large span will not only work now, but will be great as biking continues to get larger in the city. So buck up and spring for the better solution that costs a little more up front.

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  • david4130 March 14, 2008 at 5:16 pm


    I can\’t help but think that this may be the type of stuff that will be brought up to dissuade voters from voting on the safe, sound, and green streets funding proposal; to accuse us of causing wasteful spending. Perhaps in the case they would be right.

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  • david4130 March 14, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Perhaps in (this) case they would be right.


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  • 2GOAT March 31, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I had the same concerns when I first heard about this Flanders-Sauvie bridge proposal.
    Will this hurt the passage of the Safe, Sound and Green Streets proposal this fall?
    If passed, I am sure it will be brought up by the opposition.
    But in reality, (#11) 5 million of the known funding dollars can only be utilized in capacity projects, i.e. building new roads, not repairing or paving or even remodeling existing roads to include bike paths or pedestrian islands. PDOT has pledged to make up the difference in the $500,000 community members have pledged to donate thru private donations like the monies generated from the Pinot Pedal in April. Unless the private donations designate differently, only the PDOT funds could be put towards any kind of bike/ped safety improvements. (Not 1.5 million as suggested by #18)
    #18. The Sauvie Island bridge would also have the capacity to transport an exponentially greater number of pedestrians and cyclists thru a significantly high traffic area in a dramatically safer fashion than is currently available thus affecting many more users than whatever % 500K that may have otherwise been available for a few bike boxes and/or bike lanes creation.
    #15. In extreme emergency, the advantage of the 30ft wide Sauvie bridge over a 12 ft Ped/bike bridge is it will be utilized by ambulances and other such emegency vehicles when other Avenues are blocked.
    Is this project worth $500K to Portlandanders? Testify yay or nay this Wednesday April 2nd, at the city council meeting.

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