[Read updates at bottom of story.]
Mayor Potter, who was supposed to be tied up all this week in the labor arbitration hearing of a police lieutenant he fired, has decided to show up at the City Council meeting this morning.
Besides perhaps wanting to be present at the last City Council meeting of Commissioner Erik Sten, Potter is also present to read his memo on the Flanders Street/Sauvie Island Bridge Re-use plan.
The significance of Potter’s attendance is that simply by showing up, he guarantees the plan will be stopped. He knows that Adams needs unanimous council approval (because this is presented as an emergency declaration).
Potter’s presence will make even clearer his concerns and questioning of the plan, which his political rival Commissioner Adams supports. As the Oregonian pointed out yesterday, the political backstory of Potter’s position on the bridge cannot be overstated.
All Council members are present for this morning’s vote. On the table is whether or not to authorize the City of Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) to enter into a contract with Kuney Construction to re-use the Sauvie Island Bridge span for a bike and pedestrian crossing over I-405 at NW Flanders Street.
Commissioner Adams, who has brought the issue to Council as an emergency declaration, will have to secure
four of all five council votes in order for the Sauvie Island Bridge re-use plan to survive another day.
At this point, Commissioner Saltzman
holds the deciding vote is the other unknown (Leonard and Sten have said they support the plan). According to sources at City Hall, Saltzman had questions about the the technical details of the plan and was in communication with Adams’ staff about them yesterday.
At stake with this vote is the future of the Flanders Street Bicycle Boulevard.
With funding (in part) from the River District urban renewal area and from transportation system develop charges levied against Pearl District businesses and residents, the Sauvie Island Span re-use plan would bring a bike and ped crossing twice as wide as a standard concrete structure.
A newly constructed Flanders St. bridge would
likely be just five feet wider. The Sauvie Island Bridge
span is 30 feet wide.
(Photo © J. Maus)
This importance of this width should not be overlooked. 15 feet — which is the likely width of a new bridge if/when it is built — would simply be too narrow to accommodate what is likely to be a very popular, bi-direction, bicycle and pedestrian street.
To give some perspective on width, consider that the widest bike lane in the city — the approach to the Hawthorne Bridge just west of SE Grand Ave. — is 10 feet wide. During the morning commute, there is already congestion in that 10 feet. Now, add pedestrian traffic and another direction of bike traffic and you see why a 15 foot bridge will not be adequate.
Initial estimates show that re-using the Sauvie Island Bridge span would cost $1.5 million more than building a new structure (with $500,000 of that falling on the shoulders of private fundraising), but funds that have materialized for re-using the Sauvie span would likely not be available for a new span.
Also, if the plan can move forward, it would provide exciting momentum for the City to begin development of the Flanders Bike Boulevard.
(Photo © J. Maus)
The vote should take place in the next hour or so. I will update this post throughout the morning. Stay tuned…
(10:54 – The item is now being discussed.)
Commissioner Adams’ testimony (the following is not his exact testimony, but the best I could do to type as he spoke).
Why this project? I have prioritized safety in transportation projects. This project is in keeping with those priorities. It is also very similar to my effort, and council’s approval of $11 million for transportation safety projects out in East Portland. This is also responsive to public opinion research we’ve conducted recently that say we need to remove more of hte conflict between bikes and cars. That’s how we can up with our proposal to increase our bike boulevards to 110 miles. Portlanders are also spending more and more of their budgets on transportation costs. Speaking to the benefits of mor
One of most sustainable transportation proposals in the history of Portland — seeking to re-use a piece of Portland history. We’ve learned that re-use and recycling, when you look at the total benefits are well worth the effort and are in keeping with Portland’s values.
This project is cost-effective. The $3.5 million dollar place-holder amount [for building a new bridge] is a low-confidence estimate, whereas the $5.5 million for re-use of the Sauvie Bridge is a high-confidence estimate based on ODOT research.
The money, except for $500,000 for general transportation revenues, cannot be used for basic maintenance and other projects.
This is a long overdue project, the Flanders Street Bike Boulevard project has been on the books for a long time.
If you want to see the basic, brutalist style of bike/ped crossings, just come to my neighborhood, you’ll see the Failing Street Crossing, the Bryant Street Crossing, they’re not used.
This would also give Portland more emergency preparedness with better access for emergency vehicles if/when necessary.
Now a presentation is being given about the history of the Flanders Bike Boulevard by Bill Hoffman, Project Manager, and David O’Longaigh, Supervising Engineer with the Portland Office of Transportation.
– They say the Bridge is in good condition and it was last inspected in August of 2007. No cracks were found, just some paint peeling.
– The plan would include a bike/ped only signal on NW 16th to make sure they get across safely.
– “Almost like a glass slipper,” the bridge fits perfectly in that location.
– Timing is critical to re-use this old bridge span.
– They have done a feasibility study and have found that they can relocate the bridge without problems.
– Funding sources: Transp. System Dev. Charges – $2 million; PDC Tax Inc. Financing (River District) $2 million, Federal Transportation Enhancements – $1 million, Safe, Sound and Green Streets – $500,000, Private Fundraising.
Roger Geller, PDOT Bike Coordinator:
-Bike counts in NW Portland are surprisingly low. A problem we have in NW is that we have very poor access between NW and the central city right now.
– The freeway is a significant barrier. We have crossings but they’re only good for the strongest, most fit cyclists. They’re not suitable for the kind of cyclists we want to encourage (the average citizen, not just the person who self-identifies as a cyclist).
– We think Flanders Street will be a primary conduit. Because this is going to be a nice, family friendly route…we see this
– We have a lot of 15 foot wide paths already — like the Springwater and they’ve been undersized almost since the day they were opened. They’re just too small, I get complaints in my office about them all the time.
– On the South Waterfront, for example, we’re going with a 30 foot wide pathway corridor, with separated facilities for bikes and pedestrians.
Former mayor Bud Clark, Catherine Ciarlo (former BTA exec. dir.), and Patricia Gardner, NW neighborhood activist are now testifying.
Bud Clark – The bridge has my vote. This discussion has brought people from both sides of the freeway together.
Catherine Ciarlo – (Note: Ciarlo was in charge of the BTA, and on the stakeholder advisory committee, when the decision was made to give bikes Flanders as part of the Burnside/Couch couplet project back in 2002)
What excites me is the opportunity we have is to really create a place in Portland, and to capitalize on the name our city has made.. this would be a way to continue that. And to do it in a way that is cost-effective. If we end up spending $1 million more, in my opinion is $1 million extremely well spent — not just for transportation but for the identity of our City.
Patricia Gardner (Planning Chair for NW District of Neighborhoods) – Tells the story of a friend who was trying to cross Everett on her bike and was hit, falling over the side of the railing.
We’ve needed to do something about this for over a decade. I guess the word is “kismet” or “fate”.. When Sauvie Island bridge became available and it fit at that location, it was a galvanizing moment. We’ve been working with the PDC on this for years. This is about connection — there’s not safe, great connections until you get to NW Johnson… to have, finally a safe connection would mean so much to our community and to our city.
One of the things that has captured so many people’s imagination is the symbolism of this span. The excitement of that story is creating so much excitement in the neighborhood…. I would really beseech you to go for it!, it’s worth it. We have developers lined up to write checks, they’re just waiting for it to be real.
Susan Kubota, the aunt of Tracey Sparling (who was killed at SW Burnside and 14th in October) is due to testify in a few minutes.
Reuel Fish, representing the Pearl District Business Association and principal owner of Urban Wineworks (which is at the foot of the bridge)
There has been comment about the cost of this project. I think in this case, over other alternatives, you get something right way, as a stimulus for economic activity that will happen soon.
We’re ready to go out and pound on doors to raise money for this.
Public safety – You cannot walk on that six-foot sidewalk trying to cross Everett without someone stepping into the street when they’re two abreast… it’s just not safe.
We talk about re-use, instead of being a throw-away society, let’s re-use. Let’s re-connect the barrier that I-405 represents. Let’s put the bicycles and pedestrians on a different thoroughfare.
Chown Hardware and Rogue Brewery have already agreed to put up $15,000 as seed money for this, and all we need is your vote to move forward.
Susan Kubota “Reluctant traffic safety advocate”
I wish I could turn back the clock. If I could go back in time to 2006 when this project was first envisioned, my family would have happily given the city $500,000 if you could have guaranteed that my niece Tracey would still be alive today. If that bridge had been in place, Tracey may not have been riding her bike down 14th street. If a bike box was at 14th and Burnside, she may not have been killed by a cement truck five months ago.
I cannot bring Tracey back, but I can try and prevent this nightmare from happening to other families like ours.
No new taxes will be required for this project. Exponentially greater numbers of pedestrians and cyclists will be protected by this bridge, than by just a standard-width bridge. Many of Tracey’s friends and co-workers could take advantage of a bridge like this. Traffic flow would improve on Glisan and Everett with less bike and ped traffic on this streets. This would solidify the green reputation of this city and this state.
Tracey loved Portland, let’s continue to make it a city to love.
(11:40 – Scott Bricker and Jay Graves are up next)
The BTA has supported this project for many years for reasons that we’ve already heard today. The BTA has recognized that our primary strategy to increase the numbers of bicyclists is to have more low-traffic, safe streets. There is no safe crossing I can take my step-daughter on from Burnside to Johnson. There is a vision for having NW Portland be one of the best bicycle districts in the nation…the opportunities are huge.
With this project, people from around Portland will be able to safely access the entirety of NW Portland. The issue of cost…a number of years ago the Portland City Council had to vote on whether to fund a floating walkway, the Eastbank Esplanade… and today, that project is not only at capacity, it is a signature project for our city. That $30+ million project has absolutely panned out for our city. This project has the same potential.
It is worth the extra $2 million dollars. This is a visionary project that has the whole community excited, perhaps with bold leadership today there’s an opportunity to build this project…the window of opportunity for this is closing fast. I hope you all vote yes today.
Jay Graves (owner of 5 Bike Gallery stores, 130 employees)
I didn’t plan on testifying today, until I read in the paper that 15 feet was an option and I though, don’t make a mistake. If you’d ridden the Hawthorne Bridge before the BTA got the sidewalks widened, you’d understand what I’m talking about. The city has seen a 64% increase in bike commuters in just the last three years alone.
Having lost a co-working to a cycling death last year [Brett Jarolimek] I urge you to give us a safe place to ride our bikes. If that 15 foot bridge gets crowded, cyclists are going to head over to Everett and Glisan and they are dangerous. Give us safe places to ride and let us continue to make Portland proud.
(11:48) – So far, we’ve heard numerous testimony for re-using the Sauvie Bridge and no testimony against the plan…
There is tremendous right-hook danger on Everett and Glisan…I really think this is one of those defining moments for Portland. This is a decision on whether we will walk the walk on sustainability, but more importantly whether we will build good bike and ped facilities, or great facilities. Whenever we’ve decided to build great facilities we have seen throngs of people use them. –[Smith supports the Sauvie re-use plan.]
The owner of a youth hostel on NW 18th:
Hundreds of our young customers, backpackers, tourists, etc… will make their way across this bridge. They will face daunting crossings, if they are not fully alert, or aware of U.S. traffic patterns, they might find their way in harm’s way. This project must go through. My hostel is pledgling $2,000 for the fundraising effort. Please support this project and continue the quality of life in Portland.
John Reinhold, SE Portland resident.
I’m hear to voice my support for the re-use of the Sauvie Island bridge. What I want to bring to the table is to mention that Portland is becoming known nationally as an epicenter of sustainability. I know this because I travel around the country and I meet people that say, ‘I love Portland, I can walk around, etc…’. I know two people that are traveling to Portland this summer on a bicycle vacation.
Economically this makes very good sense for Portland. It could end up on postcards, etc… I would like to impress up Council that as a City that has become nationally know that we think long-term about the choices we make…
Jeanne Harrison, Willamette Pedestrian Coalition
The WPC is very supportive of re-using the Sauvie Island Bridge. We think it would be much safer than a 15-foot span. I’ve been on a canopy walk in Peru, and let me tell you, crossing the freeway at Everett or Glisan is much scarier.
I bike, but I don’t bike downtown because I can’t get out of my neighborhood because it’s not safe enough…I think this would make a huge difference. Please support this. Thank you.
(11:58 – Karl Rohde, BTA Government and Public Affairs is up next)
I am here not only in my role for the BTA, but also as a native of the Portland region and as a resident of the Pearl District. I was around when the Fremont Bridge was raised. A lot of people said, we don’t want another Marquam Bridge. No one is taking pictures of the Marquam Bridge.
We decided the best use of the old Oregon Hotel was not as a parking lot, but as Portland’s living room [it’s now Pioneer Courthouse Square].
[He gives several examples of decisions Portland leaders have made to do something great instead of the cheapest option.]
Even in times of far greater financial crisis than we’re at today, bold leaders have been able to look at the long-term.
(12:03 – the last two to give public testimony are up now and then the vote will come)
One woman speaking in support of the bridge has brought a $100 check and asks council, “I just need to know who to make it out to.”
After all the public testimony (I estimate about 20 or so people at least), 100% of it was in support of re-using the Sauvie span. Has it been enough to sway Commissioner Saltzman? Will Potter still decide to vote against the re-use plan? That remains to be seen…
(12:10pm – Time to vote!)
Adams votes Yes.
Leonard votes Yes.
“The issue isn’t about whether or not we need a bridge, the issue is what kind of a bridge do we want. I believe this city, in the ’50s and the ’60s made huge errors by not recognizing some of the iconic structures were lost forever…and that’s a mistake we can never make again. This project means we connect ourselves to our history. concerns about the cost are appropriate…that’s part of our due dilligence. But I also think in that debate is to consider what we’re getting with that extra cost. I think what we’re getting…you have a project that inspires people, you have people pulling out there checkbooks, that just doesn’t happen with projects in Portland. I think for a variety of reasons this is the right thing for Portland to do. I never had a moment of doubt.”
Saltzman votes No.
I think the Sauvie Bridge would be iconic, but I also know that if we do it under this contract it would also be iconic in another way. He is concerned about the sole-source contract. The last position I want to be in is having a contractor thinking they’ve got us over the barrel. He wants to “test the market”. Recommends that PDOT and Adams enter into discussions with Kuney to purchase the bridge. Go back to Kuney and let them know we’re not prepared to enter into this contract. Then let’s put the job out to bid.
Sten votes Yes.
I was conflicted about this. The need is obvious. I’m with Saltzman that this holds some risk. Refers to people saying the Tram was also said to be a postcard. Saltzman’s concerns are valid. I think it will cost a little bit more, but as in the case in every product, but I think if we pay more for this, we’ll get what we pay for. .. This is an opportunity we have to take. There are risks, but I’m confident that Adams can manage the risks.
Potter is up now. He votes no.
This is about how we prioritize spending in the City of Portland. I think this as a priority for the city doesn’t raise to my level as a $5.5 million or $7 million…especially when I can see building more sidewalks for children to walk to school. I’d rather invest that money in sidewalks, paving streets…etc..throughout our entire city.
Adams now moves to remove the emergency clause (which would mean he only needs a majority, not the unanimous support an emergency clause requires).
City Attorney says one of the dissenters (either Saltzman or Potter) would have to move to amend the motion at this point.
Silence falls. Neither one makes the motion. The bridge re-use plan is seemingly dead at this point.