Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 23rd, 2009 at 10:55 am
Staff consultants working on the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) will present an update on the project at two open houses this week. On the agenda is an update on how bicycles and pedestrians will get across the river if/when a new I-5 bridge is built.
Back in May, three CRC staff members — one planner and two engineers — came to the City of Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee to get feedback and present their latest thinking on the bike and pedestrian facility.
Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee
meeting in May.
(Photo © J. Maus)
Planner David Parisi, the man who’s heading up the CRC’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, told us they estimate about 5,000 bike/ped trips per day over the river by 2030 (currently there are only about 370/day) and that the facility to handle those trips would account for 3-4% of the total project cost (between $3-4.2 billion). Also, according to Parisi, due to budget and size constraints, “A three-bridge [design] is still on the table…but two bridges seems to be favored right now.”
The two-bridge design had caused some initial consternation from bike advocates and others (including The Oregonian and Portland Mayor Sam Adams) because preliminary drawings put bikers and pedestrians on the bottom.
On April 17th, the BTA’s Michelle Poyourow shot off a memo to the CRC’s Urban Design Advisory Group (UDAG) listing her concerns, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams told The Columbian newspaper that, “… having the path underneath a bridge ‘was not even close to a world-class option.'” (Adams has promised a “world-class” bike/ped facility on the bridge.)
“Something underneath we’re concerned about, not just because an absence of safety but a feeling of safety… I fear it will go underused.”
— Michelle Poyourow, BTA
Under-deck bike and pedestrian facilities are usually shunned due to security and maintenance concerns. Walkers and bikers would feel isolated, the thinking goes, and would therefore not use the facility at all.
At the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last month, Poyourow reiterated her concerns. She compared it to other places in the region — like the Springwater Corridor Trail at night — that “feel alone”. Poyourow said the BTA hears from riders that they won’t go ride that trail after dark.
“Something underneath we’re concerned about, not just because an absence of safety but a feeling of safety… I fear it will go underused,” said Poyourow. However, Poyourow added that she would support putting bikes and peds underneath if she got written security and maintenance commitments from involved agencies.
Since putting bikes below the deck seems to be the favored option at this point, Poyourow wants to make sure there is an officially binding agreement to make sure it’s secure, clean and safe.
“I think if we get a good level of maintenance and an agency committed to it and fund it,” said Poyourow, “than I think those are conditions under which we’d be happy with an under-bridge path.” She also added that absent that commitment she would prefer the 3-bridge option.
with bikes/peds on top.
In part due to those concerns, Mayor Adams, who sits on the UDAG, asked CRC staff to consider putting bikes and peds on the top deck. Parisi said they’re looking into that option, but he didn’t seem to keen on it. “It causes some other issues,” he said.
According to Parisi, putting the bike/ped facility on top would mean longer and steeper approach ramps and “difficult connections.” He also pointed out that it would mean bikes and pedestrians would be right next to motor vehicle traffic.
Todd Boulanger, a former transportation planner with the City of Vancouver and member of the CRC’s bike/ped committee who often crosses the bridge at night, said the stacked bridge design — whether bikes are above or below — “now looks like the winner to me.” But, he warned, the design will fail unless it’s properly “programmed.”
“Programmed space” is planner-speak for doing things with a space, like coffee carts, public art, and so on. Boulanger pointed to the success of the Eastbank Esplanade as a useful comparison. “Ten years ago,” he said, “I would have thought you were crazy that there would be parties and events down under the I-5 at the Vera Katz statue [just north of the Hawthorne Bridge].”
City of Portland bicycle program coordinator Roger Geller also expressed concerns at the May meeting. He noted that the, “[artist] renderings are very nice” but that things could change once the project gets built. “I would be leery of what would happen once it enters the construction phase,” he said, “especially if there were no guarantees that the design wouldn’t be value-engineered.”
“I would be leery of what would happen once it enters the construction phase, especially if there were no guarantees that the design wouldn’t be value-engineered.”
— Roger Geller, City of Portland bicycle coordinator
“How can you assure that [design standards will remain high] once it leaves your hands?” Geller asked Parisi. Parisi offered no guarantees but stressed the importance of citizen and expert input; “We’re going to need groups like this.”
Geller also warned that by the time construction actually began, the funding for management and security might “disappear”. He also reminded CRC staff and others that discussions about putting bikes and pedestrians underneath the Sellwood Bridge “were dismissed out of hand.”
Despite these concerns, the feeling around the room at the May advisory committee meeting was that a stacked bridge design, with bikes and pedestrians underneath, is the option with the most promise.
Even though there are security and maintenance concerns, an evaluation process of three designs — the three-bridge (where bike/peds share a separate bridge with light rail), two-bridge with bikes/peds on top, and two-bridge with bike/peds underneath — showed clear advantages to the underneath option.
According to CRC PBAC meeting materials, the two-bridge design with bikes and peds underneath would; ensure the largest width path (24-feet), be the cheapest to build, provide the best separation between bikes and pedestrians, be the quietest option, and would have the smallest amount of exposure to vehicle exhaust.
CRC planner David Parisi says his bike and pedestrian advisory committee will meet tomorrow and will present their first draft of a security and maintenance agreement.
Learn more about what the CRC project has in store for people who walk and bike at one of two open houses this week:
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 (tonight!)
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Jantzen Beach SuperCenter, Community Room
(across from the food court)
1405 N Jantzen Beach Center, Portland, OR
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, River Rooms
100 Columbia Street, Vancouver, WA