The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Oregon City/West Linn bridge set for two-year closure

Posted by on April 27th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

The Oregon City Bridge
(Photo: Wikipedia)

The historic arch bridge that connects Oregon City to West Linn will close for two years starting this November.

The Oregon City Bridge opened in 1922 and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) says it is in dire need of maintenance and rehabilitation work. The result of this major project is that the bridge will be completely closed to all traffic (that includes motor vehicles, bikes and pedestrians) for the duration of the work.

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This is bad news for many local bike riders for whom the bridge is an important connection — not just for everyday transportation but as a key way to access popular recreational rides.

“Two years is a long time to ask people to totally re-adjust their transit routes, especially in light of limited viable options nearby.”
— Otis Rubottom, SE Portland resident and regular bridge rider

The closest, bike accessible crossings are the Sellwood Bridge eight miles north or the Canby Ferry, which is about nine miles south. (Bikes are prohibited on the I-205 bridge).

Otis Rubottom, a southeast Portland resident and author of local ride guide, Rubber to the Road, Volume II, told me he uses the bridge several times a month. “It’s a regular component of my riding schedule,” he said. For Rubottom, the Oregon City Bridge was a key way to build great routes because alternate roads have much more traffic and/or dangerous crossings.

Rubottom wishes there was a way to maintain bike/pedestrian access throughout the project; “Two years is a long time to ask people to totally re-adjust their transit routes, especially in light of limited viable options nearby.”

According to ODOT project manager Rick Keene, the current plan is to use Tri-Met buses and/or other shuttle vehicles to move non-motorized traffic around the bridge closure. Even Keene admits these detour plans are less than ideal; “We don’t have many options here.”

It’s not yet known how many riders (and their bikes) the buses will be able to carry at one time and then there’s the matter of waiting for the next bus.

According to recent ODOT traffic counts, 70 bike riders went northbound on the bridge from 9:00 am to 2:00pm on a Saturday. There were also just about 70 people riding bikes northbound on a weekday count.

Keene and other partners on this project say they’ve brainstormed and tried to come up with better detour plans for non-motorized traffic and they’d love to hear more ideas from the community. If you have suggestions or feedback, please leave them in the comments below.

For more information about the project, check out the official project website at

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • michael downes April 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    What about a bicycle/ pedestrian ferry? That, after all, is the old school way to cross rivers.

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  • Kt April 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Michael, I think the proximity of the waterfall would rule out a ferry.

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  • shawn. April 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Kt, i don’t know if the falls would be that much of an issue. The Navigation Locks are located upstream of the bridge, so boats do come through that way.

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  • Paul S April 27, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Canby bridge? Did they replace the ferry?

    Which is a beautiful ride BTW and free for bikes!

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  • Richard April 27, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    How about asking the city to have a dedicated bus, one bus, to take people over the I-205 bridge and drop them on the other side for the duration of the closure? It would take one bus, constantly circling from one side of the O-City bridge to the other using the Interstate to get across the Willamette.
    Would the wait be that intolerable?

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  • R-diddly April 27, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    You’d think a temporary, floating bike bridge would have to be relatively inexpensive. And there’s negligible need for navigation past that point, since the lock is out of commission.

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  • Hart April 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    A temporary floating bridge could work.

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  • Grimm April 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Wow. We waited so long on fixing this bridge its going to take two years? Asinine. Maybe if were lucky they will consider shutting down the deteriorating sellwood bridge as well. I got it, lets build a new I5 bridge. Thatll solve everything.

    I jest. But really, I just used the bridge for the first time a couple weeks ago. It was great. Largely since it was under construction but closed to cars, I guess I wont be using it again for awhile.

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  • Dave April 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I say install a pair of zip lines. Bring a couple carabiners – one for you, one for your bike. You could probably charge a couple bucks for the ride, too.

    Wow, just imagining that I made myself a little dizzy…

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  • Phillet Braze April 27, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Concrete barriers on the NB shoulder of I-205 bridge protecting a narrow temporary bike lane utilizing the on and off ramps at either end of the bridge.

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  • bahueh April 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    have you folks actually looked at the location of the bridge in relation to the cliffsides on both ends of it and possible road access?

    how do you propose getting down to a ferry exactly or how would you propose climbing/driving/riding up 80 feet of basalt?

    There is only private access on the West Linn side…. with no access roads.

    Canby ferry is easily 30 miles out of the way by bike…a nice training ride…feel sorry for anyone who was commuting over that thing however.

    It should have been replaced decades ago…

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  • Mark C April 27, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    They’re going to have to carve out some sort of access over the I-205 bridge, as post #10 alludes to. I had heard this was being looked into, with ODOT sweeping the shoulder of the bridge regularly.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 27, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Mark C.

    I seriously doubt ODOT will make an exception to the law in order to accomodate bikes on their freeway. In speaking with Rick Keene today he made it clear that this was not even an option.

    if you have heard otherwise, I’d love to know the source.

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  • Jim Lee April 27, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    This nifty little gem is an early bridge by Conde McCullough. Built when Model T Fords ruled the roads, it actually is a steel arch with sprayed-on concrete to protect against the then sulfurous fumes of the paper mill.

    I wonder if ODOT will now leave the steel exposed?

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  • 2nd Class Citizen April 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm


    I work with a few folks who commute via this bridge. Guess they’ll be using their cars come November.

    Why their cars and not the bus? Because they work real jobs, with real work schedules: very early, or very late. Also known as hours Trimet does not and will not serve.

    However, the heart of this matter, to me anyway, is that ODOT (and any other decision making organization involved) is limiting the freedom of movement of pedestrians and cyclists without providing a REAL alternative.

    It is this type of type of action that tells me, yes, because I choose to ride full time I am second class citizen.

    I will also be riding the I205 bridge during the closure. Anyone care to join me?

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  • eileen April 27, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I would hate to have that be my commute right now! 3 years ago it was. One thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t all ODOT’s fault. There is limited access across the river past Sellwood because the cities of Lake Oswego and West Linn have said no to them on numerous occasions. They didn’t want the riff-raff from the East side of the river invading their pristine communities.

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  • eileen April 27, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Oh, one more thing – anyone remember that guy who commuted from West Linn to Portland by Canoe? There’s another option…

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  • Jacob C April 28, 2009 at 12:14 am

    How about a foot bridge that can attach to the side of the 205 pass?

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  • hubert April 28, 2009 at 5:50 am

    What about Oregon City residents who walk across the bridge to West Linn? ODOT is going to force them to drive there? Are they closing the bridge sidewalks, too? I crossed it last week, when it was “closed,” on the sidewalk, and despite almost getting brained by a backhoe, nobody said boo about it.

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  • NEIL FRAEDRICH April 28, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I ride that route to work (4) days a week at 5 am and then at 4:30 pm. I am thinking that the only realistic solution is a bus dedicated to transporting the Bridge Traversing Cyclists, Pedestrians to the other side.
    I suspect we will have a fee to pay, I am wondering how much they will charge.

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  • matt picio April 28, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Ditto #4 – Canby Ferry, not bridge. The next bridge “south” on the Willamette is the I-205 crossing at Wilsonville, and the next bridge after that is clear down at Newberg / Champoeg State Park.

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  • matt picio April 28, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Jonathan (#13) – Well, they’d better do something, or people will illegally use that route anyway. If they don’t provide a legal option, people will do what they have to do.

    Anyone who is interested in finding out what ODOT intends to do regarding this project and bikes/peds should attend the next meeting of the Clackamas County Bike/Ped Advisory Committee, where this item is on the agenda. The meeting is held at the county offices in Oregon City – here are the details:

    Tuesday, May 5th – 6:15pm to 8:15pm
    Development Services Building
    Room 301: Third Floor Conference Room
    150 Beavercreek Road
    Oregon City, OR 97045

    Those who don’t want to ride the whole way, you can take bus #33 and hop off on Warner Milne Road at Kaen Road. 150 Beavercreek Road is actually at the intersection with Kaen Road. Look for the brand-new hi-rise.

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  • robert April 28, 2009 at 10:04 am

    River taxi.

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  • Word April 28, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I second Phillet Braze’s comment (#10). Setting up concrete barriers would make a safer crossing on I-205. Would the divider make it separate enough to no longer be an issue regarding non-motorized vehicles on the freeway? It would be similar, although temporary, to the bike lane up the middle of the I-205 bridge into Washington.

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  • pedalstrikeforceagentdown April 28, 2009 at 10:21 am

    The Canby Ferry isn’t really an alternative to the Oregon City-West Linn bridge for cyclists.

    In order to get to it you have to take 99, which has a tunnel with no shoulder.

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  • Kt April 28, 2009 at 10:53 am

    The Canby Ferry is also a bad idea for another reason:

    It doesn’t run in the winter.

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  • Sovole April 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Seconding Robert in post 23. River Taxi. An enterprising out of work boat owner could make some money, here.

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  • annie April 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    The whole Oregon City area is a big mess right now for cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to the closure of the bridge, when is the path along 99 between the OC bridge and Clackamette park going to re-open? The closure of that path puts ppl right on 99, and riding 99 by the 205 on-ramps is super scary/dangerous. Bikes and pedestrians are low priority in OC. Lame.

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  • Robert April 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    If there is construction going on, there are probably going to be some flaggers around. Every half hour, flag the bridge and let any bikes or pedestrians cross, then open it back up for cars. If no bikes or peds show up, do nothing.

    This is not ideal for bikes, but the times could be posted so people can plan ahead. It’s at least as good as a bus, with no bus required.

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  • matt picio April 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    pedalstrikeforceagentdown (#25) – Not true, there is a secret pedestrian path to the left of the tunnel that takes you to the right-side sidewalk between 99 and the railroad tracks. It’s really pretty awesome – you can then ride the sidewalk up to the overlook for the falls.

    Also, 99 is not the only route to the Canby Ferry, just the most direct. One can also take Central Point Road to New Era Road, and skip 99 entirely.

    Shows where I’m talking about (zoom in on the section from Oregon City to Canby)

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  • pedalstrikeforceagentdown April 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Matt Picio:

    I stand corrected,

    and thanks for the tips.

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  • RonC April 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    There is just no good solution to this. Riding across the I205 bridge would be OK if it had shoulders like the I5 Boone bridge at Wilsonville. But the times I’ve driven the 205 bridge in a car left me with an uneasy feeling about very narrow shoulders and hazardous merging traffic. I think the ‘bike across I205’ option is a disaster waiting to happen.

    I hope an effective shuttle-van strategy can be implemented, and that they do what they can to leave bike and pedestrian access open whenever possible in the construction process. And good tips on the Canby Ferry – Central Point Road ride. You can cut in to Canby on Township Road as well. One of my favorite close-in recreational rides, but most definitely not a commute route.

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  • eileen April 28, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    canoes with bike racks on both sides of the river. Just ride up, put your bike in the rack, canoe across and then leave the canoe on the opposite side for the next person.

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  • Joe April 29, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Wow, I can’t believe they are closing this bridge. I like all the ferry ideas, lol, sounds like it would be quite the ride. Is there not a closer route for cars that bikes can tag along on?

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  • NEIL FRAEDRICH April 29, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I spoke to one of the Workers on the Bridge this AM on my commute across the Bridge in Question, about the date of the Future Closure and He was Clueless.
    His comment was that the Bridge was by his current knowledge, to remain open for the duration of the repairs.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 29, 2009 at 8:38 am


    He might have been confused about the current partial closure and the future full closure.

    The work currently going on is just some prep work for the main project in November and it is currently open to bikes/peds.

    However, the closure coming in November will be a full closure — no bikes, no cars, no peds, etc…

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  • matt picio April 29, 2009 at 9:21 am

    pedalstrikeforceagentdown (#31) – you’re welcome. I scouted that area extensively trying to find an easy route for bike camping at Champoeg State Park, so I’ve gotten pretty familiar with that area.

    If you get the chance to take the tunnel, give that a shot – it’s really cool.

    Another neat “shortcut” in OC is the municipal elevator, which cuts out about 120′ of climbing – it’s run by a city employee during the day, and you can take your bike on it. Unfortunately, it can’t really hold more than 1 or (maybe) 2 bikes at a time. It’s unique, though, and there’s a great view of OC from the top.

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  • John Russell May 10, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Living in Vancouver, I thankfully shouldn’t be riding down that far south between the months of September and April, but come next summer, I don’t think I would shy away from simply riding onto the Abernethy at the Willamette Drive on-ramp and off at the next. Sure, it’s a narrow shoulder, but no worse than most bike lanes.

    Looking at Google Maps Street View, it would look as if the left-hand shoulders are just as wide as the opposite ones. Why not just narrow those down to something like they are on the I-5 bridge over the Columbia Slough and then move the lanes over accordingly to widen the right-hand shoulder? It would also increase safety for broken down cars on the bridge as well.

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