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Flanders Street bike bridge fate will be decided tomorrow

Posted by on April 1st, 2008 at 10:42 am

Tomorrow, Portland City Council will decide whether or not the City will re-use the Sauvie Island Bridge span for a bicycle and pedestrian-only crossing of I-405 at Northwest Flanders street.

The owner of the span, Kuney Construction, is currently under contract with ODOT to demolish the bridge. Therefore, if PDOT wants to continue their effort to relocate the bridge to Northwest Portland, they must enter into a contract with Kuney immediately. Due to these time constraints, Commissioner Sam Adams has put forth an emergency declaration which must have the support of four out of five Commissioners in order to pass (usually only three votes are required).

Tomorrow’s vote will decide whether the old Sauvie Span heads to downtown Portland or to the scrap heap.


Artists rendition of Sauvie span on Flanders.
(Graphic origin unknown)

Commissioner Adams has worked to bring the Sauvie Span to Flanders Street all along, and word from City Hall is that he has support from Commissioners Sten and Leonard. Leonard’s chief of staff Ty Kovatch told me this morning that Leonard is, “very supportive of the idea,” and that they’ve, “even worked with Adams on helping to bridge the funding gap that exists.”

Commissioner Saltzman is undecided and is likely to make his decision at the Council meeting. Mayor Potter won’t attend Wednesday’s vote but has garnered headlines with his opposition to the idea.

Today’s Oregonian reports that Potter sent a “sharply worded memo” to Adams and the other Commissioners voicing his opposition to the idea.

Potter questions the wisdom of spending city funds on the new bridge when there are already two crossings — on Everett and Glisan Streets — just one block away. Unfortunately however, neither of those bridges are adequately safe for bike traffic.

Re-using the Sauvie span will cost $1.5 million more than building a new one, but it would also be twice as wide and could become an iconic structure symbolizing Portland’s commitment to sustainability, walking and biking.

The width of the Sauvie span would also be able to accommodate the growing amount of bike traffic expected on Flanders as it morphs into a full-fledged bicycle boulevard in the coming years.

Funds for the recycled bridge plan would come from several pots including the City of Portland Office of Transportation, the River District urban renewal area program, transportation system development charges, and from the federal government.

The recycled bridge plan has much support from local businesses and neighborhood advocates in Northwest Portland. They’ve already started fundraising to come up with the $500,000 (out of $5.5 million total) that must be raised by private donations.

If you support bringing the Sauvie Island Bridge to the Pearl District, attend the City Council meeting tomorrow.

    Portland City Council Meeting
    City Hall (1221 SW Fourth Avenue)
    Wednesday (4/2), 9:30 AM

Read more about Potters memo and the political backstory of his opposition to the plan in the Oregonian.

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  • Hanmade April 1, 2008 at 11:01 am

    The bridge would also serve as an alternate route for emergency vehicles, should the need ever arise. Has this been looked at in the discussions?

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  • Citizen Gregg April 1, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I understand shipping costs but how in the world would it cost more to reuse a bridge that\’s already designed, forged, welded, etc? Is it the labor in breaking it down so it can be moved? I mean, the steel to build a new one is going to have to get here from somewhere regardless and I don\’t know of any ironworks or mines in the immediate area.

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  • Mike April 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

    The increased costs come from several sources.
    1. The bridge will need to be completly stripped of all of it\’s paint and then repainted. The existing paint is lead based, and therefore a hazardous material.
    2. The structure to support the large steel span is also greatly increased over a narrow concrete span.
    3. One additional cost, would be the difficulty of transporting this span and hoisting it above an active freeway.

    Even taking these costs into account, the city is getting a lot more bridge, for not a whole lot more money. Yes, using this bridge will cost 28% more, but you are getting 75% more bridge. This bridge will add neighborhood character and charm which can\’t be quantified in my book. Besides, as a regular driver of 405, I would much rather see something interesting span the freeway than just another hunk of concrete. Long live the Sauvie Island Span!


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  • wsbob April 1, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Potter wants to kill it, so you can just imagine where his protégé, Sho Dozono and his notion of \’fiscal responsibility\’ stands on the issue. Paul Romain and his kill Safe, Sound, and Green Streets proposal will no doubt be there to kill this plan also.

    In spite of those static obstacles to improvement in the city, this seems like a good deal for the money: twice the bridge for less than half again as much money. It probably is, although as the O article says, the contractor \”…would be allowed to spend an additional $1.3 million for unforeseen delays without coming back for City Council approval. So the total price tag could rise to almost $7 million.\”

    Adams better have his numbers straight on this one.

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  • Cab April 1, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Please tell me one thing Potter had one as Mayor. Talk about a Major let down. Hopefully his Nap gets in the way of Tomorrows Session.

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  • DJ Hurricane April 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Potter spends his whole term, and a bunch of money, \”visioning\” so he can figure out what we want the City to look like.

    Then, when we tell him we want to continue our legacy as a unique place and build a pedestrian- and bike-friendly City, he just stands in the way of everything creative.

    To make matters worse, he tries to cut funds for bike planning.

    And he endorses a man as his successor who borrowed money from a child\’s trust fund without getting permission. You think HE\’S going to spend City money well? What hypocrisy.

    I can\’t wait until Potter\’s term is OVER and his cronie Sho goes back to \”borrowing\” childrens\’ money to support his business.

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  • GLV April 1, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    \”his protégé, Sho Dozono\”

    That\’s a little bit of a stretch, don\’t you think?

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  • Icarus Falling April 1, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    This would of course NOT be able to be used as a alternative route for emergency vehicle.

    Think about it.

    Leaving it open enough for emergency vehicles would leave it open for those morons who enjoy driving their cars where they are not supposed to.

    Also, allowing emergency vehicles to speed across a bike/ped only crossing? With two perfectly good bridge crossings one block on either side of it? Duh…

    There would certainly be bolsters in place to discourage, or even entirely block any traffic the bridge is not designated for.

    More thinking, less typing people.

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  • Chris Smith April 1, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    My understanding is that the crossing WOULD be structurally sufficient for emergency vehicles, but as has been pointed out, would not normally be used this was unless some bizarre happened to the nearby crossings.

    Presumably there will be bollards that keep cars out that could be removed for emergency vehicles.

    I hope the bicycle community will turn out in force to support the bridge. I\’ll definitely be there!

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  • Citizen Gregg April 1, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Mike, thanks for the note about the lead, I had forgotten about that.

    It does seem a bit of overkill for a bridge that really only needs to serve bikes and peds. All that ugly truss is really there to support the weight associated with vehicles. Ahem, motorized vehicles. Why not have something a more lightweight structure that represents the metaphor of using less intrusive transportation when it is possible to do so?

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  • Anon April 1, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Mike #3: I like your point about getting 75% more bridge for 28% more money.

    Another comparison we should make is between the Fremont and Marquam Bridges. Is there *anyone* who regrets the extra cost of the Fremont Bridge and wishes it looked more like the Marquam? Tom Potter? I doubt it.

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  • Icarus Falling April 1, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Removing bollards would certainly take much much more time than going around an extra two blocks…Or even four.

    This is common sense…Come on.

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  • john April 1, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    What is so appealing about the Sauvie Bridge? It looks just like the Morrison which you are criticizing.

    This is a dumb use of public dollars. We can build a quite acceptable, perfectly serviceable bikes / peds only bridge for 25-50% of the cost.

    There is nothing redeeming about the Sauvie Island span.

    yes, we should recycle and reuse where it is wise. But not as a pet project for a mayoral candidate. This is a pure vanity project.

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  • Joe April 1, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Recycling the bridge means sending it to the scrapyard. i.e. \”Commissioner Adams has pushed for the recycle plan all the way…\” Adams want to RE-USE the bridge, right?
    Not to split hairs but the terminology used in this article is slightly confusing.

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  • Russell April 1, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    John (#13) –

    No one has criticized the Morrison bridge. One person criticized the Marquam bridge which is simply concrete, while they lauded over the image of the Fremont Bridge, which looks similar to the Sauvie Island span. Secondly, it is a good point that the figure for building a new bridge is for building a significantly smaller bridge, for not that significantly smaller of a price tag.

    I think that an important discussion to have about this is how they\’re going to rework the intersections at either side of the bridge. Traffic along 16th gets pretty fast at times so they\’d almost need to add another set of lights there or at least some form of pedestrian crossing. I definitely like the idea of a wider bridge in this area that matches the width of the roadway.

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  • Icarus Falling April 1, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    The Morrison looks nothing like the Sauvie\’s Island bridge by the way..I mean, not even close!

    Have you looked at either of them?

    And even worse than the traffic on 16th, is the traffic on 14th, as freeway traffic merges onto 14th one block away.

    Without an dedicated signal at both ends, a crossing at Flander\’s would be no more effective than just using Everett or Glisan.

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  • john April 1, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    My point is that there is nothing special about the Sauvie Island bridge. It is a basic box girder construction bridge. It is no more distinctive than the Morrison or Fremont and comparisons to St. John\’s are a canard.

    This is a campaign stunt, and shows that Sam is more interested in his own arrogance than in what is best for Portland.

    you can build a wonderful bike/ped bridge, responsibly recycle the current bridge, and save 1.5 million.

    But that\’s not good enough for Sam who wants monuments to his own arrogance.

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  • wsbob April 1, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Icarus Falling #8, very often when I walk the short 7-8 blocks from my house to town, a lighted, alarmed draw gate automatically drops down across the road to temporarily halt traffic while the MAX passes by.

    Now that\’s something to think about for the Sauvie Flanders Bridge, isn\’t it? Some derivation of that idea might work to keep the span open for cyclists and pedestrians, keep motor vehicles out, but raise on those occasions when an ambulance or other emergency vehicle needed to use it.

    The Sauvie Island Bridge may not be the most beautiful bridge ever built, but it\’s damn sure better looking than a lot of modern, economy concrete bridges cities like to build when they\’re trying to make a show of fiscal responsibility. Not that concrete bridges can\’t be beautiful, but it\’s kind of amazing how dull and bland contractors can dumb that building material down to where it\’s almost intolerable.

    I think the big downside to the Sauvie Island bridge, is that being steel, it does have to be periodically painted, and that can amount to a lot of money. I\’m wondering what the maintenance cost comparisons between concrete and steel bridges are.

    GLV, Potter has given Dozono his thumbs up in preference over the other candidates for mayor, and indicated that they share the same sense of \’fiscal responsibility\’. It seems to me Potter is doing his bit to groom Dozono for a chance at getting elected. Within the limited parameters of this political race, \’protégé\’ kind of describes their relationship for me, but you\’re certainly entitled to dismiss the use of the word in this instance, if it suits you.

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  • jasper April 1, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Sorry folks, but I\’m feeling a little skeptical about this idea. I would think thatan aesthetically attractive & functionally appropriate bridge could be built for much less money, and I concur that the raging freeway below will never make the Flander\’s crossing a fun hang-out destination. And I agree that solving the intersection issues on either end are critical – perhaps saved costs can become allocated funds to those problems.

    Maybe this is a romantic idea, and I feel uneasy being on Tom / Wrong side, but these are my thoughts after reading the basics. Rebuttals? I\’d like to hear them…


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