Esplanade closure begins February 1st

CRC update: ‘Stacked’ bridges with bikes underneath has momentum

Posted by on June 23rd, 2009 at 10:55 am

Artists rendering of bike/ped facility underneath in a two-bridge, “stacked” configuration.
(Graphics: CRC)

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.

Story continues below


The CRC’s David Parisi at the
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.

The three bridge options being considered. The “stacked/underdeck” (middle) option is the current frontrunner.

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.

Rendering of two-bridge design
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

Please support BikePortland.

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

  • D.R. Miller June 23, 2009 at 11:07 am

    How about 2 lanes of motor vehicle (plus MAX) underneath and 12 of bike/ped up top?
    Now THAT would be building for the future.

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  • Lord Nelson June 23, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Yet another reason why THE CRC IS CRAP!

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  • John Lascurettes June 23, 2009 at 11:13 am

    First off, WTF with the pogo stick in the first rendering?

    With the underneath option, peds and cyclists will be out-of-site and out of mind. Night time security will be nil and folks will avoid it. Seems like a waste. I’d appreciate the space it would afford, but if it were under-maintained (covered in debris and trash) and covered in graffiti, I wouldn’t be apt to use it.

    If cyclists and peds were next to the traffic, it’s easy enough for any vehicle with a cell phone or a passing peace officer to see and do something about ped/cycling emergencies.

    The third bridge option (probably the most expensive) would not be any better than the under option because of the too-great separation of peds and cyclists from passing motorist. Again, they’d be out-of-site mostly.

    And the argument that people would be less exposed to exhaust is a complete red herring. Cyclists and pedestrians are already not exposed to pollutants as much as vehicle passengers are: Cyclists Can Breathe Easy

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  • KruckyBoy June 23, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I would value the cover of the bridge during our rainy months. Before we all jump on the bandwagon to bash this let’s really think about it’s viability. I think riding beneath the bridge is a great solution.

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  • BURR June 23, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Not that I support this bridge at all, but bikes underneath would keep cyclists dry in the winter and also would help cyclists avoid the worst of the exhaust fumes generated by the MV traffic.

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  • Dave June 23, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Having ridden the i205 bridge a few times, I can’t say that I felt any less isolated than if I’d been tucked underneath.

    The drawing shows the underbridge path only using half the width of the bridge – maybe some of that extra width could be used to build a mid-span observatory/park. A meeting place for small groups coming from Oregon and Washington, a great view of the river not possible from the shore, and an enticement for the kind of non-transit use that’ll help keep it cleaner and safer for the rest of us.

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  • Jordan June 23, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Darn it John, you stole my comment. Now I am a fan of active transportation, but I will put my foot down with using pogo sticks as transportation. It just is not safe. Where are the brakes? I don’t signaling can be effective when one is trying to propel oneself off the ground. Plus, Pogo Transportation Alliance – Isn’t that the acronym for the Parent Teacher Association?


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  • Stig June 23, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Underneath means we won’t have to see the cars and much less noise. Sounds good to me.

    What’s going to happen while this monster is being built? Won’t it take at least several months and where will all the traffic go?

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  • Ethan June 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

    How loud will it be under there?

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  • Andrew Holtz June 23, 2009 at 11:49 am

    During the design work for the proposed Sellwood Bridge replacement, the Multnomah County Bicycle & Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee rejected the option of a below-deck bike/ped path because of the security and maintenance concerns.

    See (p. 9)

    It would seem the same concerns apply to the Columbia River Crossing.

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  • gabriel amadeus June 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

    yuk, I hate this option. I know all the bike/ped underpasses or tunnels in town tend to be pee smelling, garbage pits.

    Does anyone know of a similar bike/ped-underneath bridge that is in use and in the US? I’d like to see and hear about a real-world comparison from people who use it.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 23, 2009 at 11:53 am

    “How loud will it be under there?”


    according to my scribbled notes it would be “tolerable”.. meaning you could talk and have a conversation. of the three designs currently on the table, the underneath option would be the quietest.

    Does anyone know of a similar bike/ped-underneath bridge that is in use and in the US? I’d like to see and hear about a real-world comparison from people who use it.


    that’s actually one of the challenges of the underneath option… there are really no precedents to look at anywhere in the world (that’s according to smart folks at the Portland bike advisory committee meeting).

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  • Stig June 23, 2009 at 11:55 am

    John Lascurettes @ 13: Thanks for posting the ‘Cyclists can breathe easy’ link.

    Do you think we could get health warning labels on cars mandated? It’s been done for cigarettes and cars are far worse for the planet/population at large..

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  • hanmade June 23, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    The success of the under bridge design will be continuous security and maintenance. In other words, a continuous money drain from funding somewhere. ‘They’ will eventually start cutting funding, and it wil turn into a transient haven at night, and smell like pee, as someone mentioned earlier. It looks good on paper, but the reality of it might be a lot less.

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  • Hart June 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Try standing under the I-5 at the Morrison bridge and try to have a conversation. It isn’t possible.

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  • Schrauf June 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Ride over the current interstate bridges, and it is painfully LOUD. Both I-5 and I-205. It is also smelly if the wind is blowing across the traffic lanes. Maybe auto passengers are exposed to more fumes than cyclists, but you certainly smell more exhaust riding across a busy highway bridge than anywhere else.

    The underneath option has a lot of pros – space and quietness being two.

    I don’t understand, however, the “stay dry” comments. If it is raining you will get wet on your ride regardless, so who cares about a dry mile sandwiched between two wet segments?

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  • Andrew June 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Reverse it: put cars in the cave and climate smart options on top (bike, ped and light rail). That would make it more pleasant for those taking the “high road” and have a symbolic effect as well.

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  • RyNO Dan June 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I dont really like the fact that there is a staff of people who are employed to shove this project down our throats.
    There should be equivalent people who are employed to object to this ridiculous idea of a mega bridge.

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  • RyNO Dan June 23, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    The only reasonable “three bridge option” is to keep the two current bridges (with tolls and a dedicated commerce lane) and maybe build a new third Max/ped/bike bridge.

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  • beelnite June 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Yah, I’m with Andrew (#16). Put the sustainable transportation on top and the dinosaurs down below…

    Of course I realize that’s probably quite an engineering challenge and it’s probably too late.

    Yeah… the concerns over perception of safety and cleanliness are real and can’t be dismissed.

    Who’s gonna be riding this again? People who live in Vancouver? They won’t even consent to light rail over there.

    Weekenders? Might make for a nice feature on the STP route.

    Hey anyone ready for a Saturday ride to hopping downtown Vancouver, USA!?!? Woo hoo! They got Burgervilles over there!

    Until we “add a lane” for Washingtonians to clog everyday they’ll never be happy.

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  • Peter Noone June 23, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    @gabriel/11 You said, “…pee smelling, garbage pits.” Don’t forget the occasional poo, incessant broken glass, and shooting up. E.g., the 17th/Powell/railroad crossing clusterf*ck, which should be a key connector.

    Using the simplistic logic that the proposed underdeck is a much larger area, I think the chances of it remaining safe and useful are pretty small.

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  • BURR June 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Gabe, the Canuks do this all the time, Saskatoon and Edmunton both have bridges with similar design configurations.



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  • Psyfalcon June 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    The Pogo Stick looks like an inline skater to me, which is a pedestrian implement, and therefore belongs on the sidewalk part.

    18. The cost to upgrade the current bridges to earthquake standards alone is going to be quite a bit. You’d spend almost as much money, and gain no capacity (some more [if not 12 lanes] would be nice).

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  • A-dub June 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Just a quick comment on the noise. I ran the Bridge to Brews Race this year that takes you over the bottom deck of the Fremont Bridge and I was surprised out how quiet it was. It also had surprisingly open feeling to it. Not sure if the bottom deck on the proposed CRC would be the same distance from the top deck as the Fremont, but it might not be as bad as you would think.

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  • BURR June 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    there are other bridges in the Metro area that are more in need of seismic upgrades and other repairs than the I-5 bridge, let’s set priorities based on actual bridge condition, not pipe dreams of future capacity requirements

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  • Nicky V June 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I have to agree with those who say it will be awfully loud underneath all the cars and trucks, and I’m not too comfortable with the idea of having the weight of bridge structure AND motor vehicles directly over me.

    Those who say that being underneath will keep them dry should remember that they’ll only be underneath briefly and this is Portland.

    Finally, I’m curious to know what our mayor’s definition of “world-class” is just for my own enlightenment.

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  • Andrew June 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    @Psyfalcon #23

    I believe most if not all of the bridges in Portland are in worse structural condition. Your point would stand if upgrading the bridge was a foregone conclusion – it’s not.

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  • Neighbor June 23, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Funny, after a man closes 3 lanes of traffic while trying to jump the separation option is looking better. Maybe a world-class pedestrian facility would have kept him from attempting the jump… or at least traffic wouldn’t have noticed.

    I think the under option is great- less climb, protected from the weather, safe and separated from vehicles. A facility on top seems like it would require a lot more infrastructure and create a deterring grade- like pedaling up the Fremont bridge… would there be an elevator?

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  • redhippie June 23, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I used to work in Vantucky for a year or so and commuted across the I5 bridge a lot.

    Having a covered bridge is nice for the protection from the wind, and rain, which gets really fierce in the winter. In the summer, it would be at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler for the hill climb. I suspect this would become an evening walking area for Vancouver since it is tied into their waterfront pathways.

    I compare the experience to the 205 bridge where it is really loud and there is a tone of debris that blows in from the roadway.

    I suspect the security issues would be less of a challenge than the Esplanad at night. It is all about how well you patrol it. At least here the cops could drive a cruiser across every night or so.

    Finally, if this is the cheaper option, so much the better. An extra billion so that people can get a better view, seem a little selfish. If we are going to build this bridge, then we should do it as cheaply as possible but include the multi modal options. The difference in cost might mean more jobs or less taxes and tolls.


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  • peejay June 23, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Not only do we not need a new bridge; any bridge built that adds to the number of lanes that cross the Columbia will produce a significant negative impact to both Portland and Vancouver. It amounts to an expansion of the subsidies already pouring in from our pockets to keep people driving, and making wasteful lifestyle decisions. Hey, live the way you want, but if that way has a negative impact on me, don’t expect me to foot the bill.

    Of course, the powers that be are going to do what they want. That’s why the open houses are located in places not very accessible to people who will be negatively impacted by this boondoggle.

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  • SteveD June 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I understand the safety concerns about the underneath plan. But I would HATE to be on top with motor vehicles like the I-205 bridge. Exhaust, sand blowing in your eyes, noise. Underneath will be more quiet, except when a train passes. Rain is not an issue; if you’re on the bridge in the rain, then you are prepared to ride in it when off the bridge.

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  • SkidMark June 23, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    With the bike path on the bottom it would be a covered bridge. I think that would be good idea in a place where it rains 8 months out of the year. I guess you’d lose too many hardcore points if you weren’t getting wet on part of your commute.

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  • Allan June 23, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    i’m for the 3-bridge option. basically here’s the idea: get the max/ped bridge built first, then decide if we still need more lanes. give it a few years and toll the cars to pay for it. i bet you traffic will resolve itself.

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  • DH June 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    We all know funding for “security and maintenance concerns” will be slashed the first time some hater starts in about “fiscal responsibility” and “subsidies,” despite all the money we spend on their choice of transport.

    And they’d be right, in a way. Why should anyone, regardless of wheel preference, accept a design that from the outset requires an unending outlay of money and effort to maintain?

    Just one smokey warming fire in this picnic shelter will bring our world-class buzzword to a grinding, costly halt. How long until the expense of the extra (and effective) patrols and lighting and cameras and cleanup, not to mention the assaults and investigations, equal the difference to just do it right the first time?

    If we trade car exhaust for piss or rain for a dank, gloomy bird nest, we’re just inviting a whole host of problems in the future.

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  • Joel Batterman June 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Has the option of moving the bike-ped component to the transit bridge been discussed at all? The plan does still call for a parallel transit bridge, no?

    Of course, given the current state of funding for the CRC, I don’t know whether the plan counts for much.

    By the way, has anyone noticed that Columbia Sportswear is part of the coalition pushing this 12-lane throwback to the Eisenhower era? ( As a bicycle retailer, and a sponsor of at least one pro racing team, they might be an attractive political target. It’s not just electeds, but corporations too, that need to be held accountable.

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  • Becky June 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    My first thought with a lower deck solution is what happens during an earthquake? I suppose either deck is not a good place to be, but being on the lower deck would scare me a little more. Of course it might make me go faster too!

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  • Steve Bozz June 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Underneath and away from cars sounds great to me.

    If I understand this correctly, people are arguing that because there isn’t nearby car traffic, it will make the place less inviting and less unsafe to be under the bridge, away from cars.

    That seems a bit backwards to me. The less cars I have to deal with, the better! On a busy highway, no one is going to stop to see if they can help you with your flat tire or call an ambulance, they’ll speed off onto their destination. On city streets, it’s a different story. It seems that as a culture, we’ll have to adapt more to paths and routes without cars on it. I really don’t find the company of cars to be reassuring at all.

    Ideally, I would love a separate bridge just for bikes/peds. There wouldn’t be any cars on the bridge. THAT type of bridge has been done before

    Good lighting, emergency call boxes and some police patrolling should take care of any discomfort. I guess I need to hear more about what exactly folks are afraid of.

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  • Steve Bozz June 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    To further the point, it seems that many, many pedestrian/bike paths on bridges are quite far away from car traffic. Take a look at The Brooklyn Bridge (NYC), The Williamsburg Bridge (NYC), and the Ben Franklin Bridge (Philly) for some examples. The first two stay open 24 hours and don’t seem to have many problems.

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  • peejay June 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    OK, people, concentrate on the important issues. Arguing about the configuration of the bike path on this insane bridge is like arguing about what kind of rope you’d like to be hanged with. Stay out of this discussion: it’s pointless.

    Of course, silk feels so good against the skin. But then again, nylon won’t stretch. Hemp? Nah. Too scratchy. Blah blah blah, blah blah.

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  • bp June 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I don’t see how riding under an interstate bridge with freight & auto traffic exceeding speeds of 45 mph will be quieter then riding along the side or even above (my preference)

    Go to the east side esplanade where the roads are on tall columns and try to have a conversation without shouting. It is anything but quiet. Don’t forget the dust and grime that will inevitably fall through the cracks from from the upper deck.

    I’ve ridden the I5 crossing and I’ve ridden the 205, and the I5 is hand over fist better then 205. It is by no means ideal, but I think it would be a big mistake putting bikes/peds underneath.

    Understand that the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges are not interstate bridges and both these bridges have the pedestrian pass above auto traffic.

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  • peejay June 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm


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  • John June 23, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Regardless of the configuration, do make sure to check out the connections at the north and south ends for bikes and peds. The best aren’t exactly better than what we have now. Most likely it looks like the south end will drop into the swamp northwest of PIR. That’s a big obstacle to detour around to use this facility, and an even better hiding place than we have now for the current facilities.

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  • Esther June 23, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Are any of you 3 bikeportland people going to cover the open houses today or tomorrow?

    I’m curious about which sheriffs and city police take responsibility for the bridge–do all 4 agencies patrol and respond to situations, or is it based on the state line, or just the two county sheriffs, or…? And how will they be able to patrol and respond in this separated facility?

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  • Esther June 23, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Previous comment based on the issue Michelle is championing, of feeling ‘safe’ (whether or not that correlates to actual safety is another discussion). I live near the Peninsula Crossing Trail which has a lot of the same issues as Springwater and I dare say the 205 bike path (transients, lack of lighting, enclosure-feeling by large trees or underpasses, lack of alternatives to ‘escape’ in an emergency because of fences and natural features, etc.) I won’t take it alone at night, generally, despite knowing that transients/indigent people have never once approached me and that statistic-wise I’m more in danger from domestic violence than strangers, &c.

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  • twistyaction June 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    One advantage of having bikes and peds underneath that hasn’t been mentioned is being covered from rain. I wonder though, if it might be windier sandwiched between decks? I like the idea of it being quieter underneath, but question the reality of that scenario with semi trucks roaring overhead. I think with adequate lighting and even some “bike traffic cams” lining the lower level, security and surface condition concerns could be addressed. I like the idea of being on a separate level, away from hurtling motor vehicles. I’d be happy with lots of tolls on the upper level with signs reading that it’d be free if they were rolling or walking below.

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  • Nick June 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    No one seems to mention the Steel bridge. It has a bike/ped deck down below next to the freight train tracks, and it’s actually pretty nice. It’s shady, cool, flat, and relaxed. Of course it’s also much narrower than the proposed path on CRC, and in a wildly different location as well, but it’s food for thought at least.

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  • Peter Noone June 23, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    @twistyaction/45 Protection from the elements has been mentioned several times in this thread.

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  • nopo Joe June 23, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Think about the Marquim Bridge lower deck, isn’t that an inspiration?

    CRCs design is for a ‘flat as a pancake’ two decker. I think of signature bridges around the country and a 12-lane Marquim isn’t one of them. Limitations from Pearson Airparks 70 private planes a day flight pattern trumps good design,both for the bridge and bike/pedestrian facilities.

    My hope is that we can’t find the money to turn the first shovel.

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  • David E Hollingsworth June 23, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    If you google for “CRC PBAC”, you should be able to find an unofficial summary of May’s meeting. Some things that stood out when I read it:

    – Grades are an issue for cyclists-on-top. (It sounds like even the underneath path will be higher than it is today.)

    – The Coast Guard really wants to see the current lifts disappear.

    – There’s a potential for a “reverse toll” — allowing you to build up credit when you walk or cycle, to be used for later auto travel. (I’ll believe it when it’s done.)

    – The 24′ wide underdeck is for only half the total length of the path.

    – “use citizens in the maintenance and security plan” (again, not official language yet!) doesn’t sound promising. I’m certainly not opposed to that idea, but until they “get to the fine print” and write down the performance benchmarks — or at least guarantee that this issue gets thus-and-such % of the tolling take — then it could represent hopes rather than promises.

    Also: Austin’s Mopac bridge has a bike-and-ped undercrossing that gets a lot of use, but that’s partially because it forms part of a recreational loop. You can find a photos by googling for “mopac pedestrian bridge”.

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  • Margaux Mennesson (BTA) June 23, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I can’t speak for Michelle, but in her absence I will say that it’s premature to assume that any of these designs is set in stone. I’m worried that characterizing the stacked bridge as having momentum may be misleading, since we have yet to see a completed bridge path design that meets the BTA’s standards and those of the Portland and CRC bike/ped advisory committees. We are still in the process of identifying all of our concerns for each bridge option and discussing the necessary steps to resolve them.

    As noted, our primary concern is safety. By building a stacked bridge we are creating a structure that has great potential to feel unsafe and attract the wrong kinds of activities. This cannot be resolved without an excellent design that maximizes natural light, allows good sightlines both within and beyond the bridge, eliminates potential hiding places and discourages anti-social behavior. A design with large windows of open space between the two decks and proximity to water and greenspaces would help improve the user experience.

    Still, we know that even a well-designed stacked bridge will require a high level of maintenance and security. The BTA’s current position is that the under-bridge path will only be acceptable if it is chosen with a performance-based maintenance plan in hand, with funding identified. By performance based, we mean it doesn’t say “Litter will be picked up frequently,” it says, “Litter will be picked up weekly” and “Live security patrols will cross the bridge path at least twice a night.” We have suggested that funding be secured as part of the entire bridge’s operations and maintenance budget, from tolls. We would consider a written commitment from the project sponsors sufficient to ensure the plan is upheld and funded in the long term.

    After security, each bridge has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The CRC PBAC is meeting tomorrow to review the evaluation chart, which accounts for variances in noise, exposure to traffic, path width, grade, and ramp distance, among other factors. I’m also looking forward to learning the results of the public open houses this week.

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  • Kevin Wagoner June 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    When I saw the headline I liked the idea. However after thinking about some of our cities examples of pedestrian under and over passes I get less excited.

    There some tunnels near Mt Hood Way and Natio Parkway. The last time I was in there I decided I would avoid them at all cost, they were gross. At the time anyway it was clear we don’t maintain them.

    There are also some series of steps to get up to the Morrison (I think that is the one), they were gross too.

    Maybe this idea has merit….I just hope we are willing to pay to maintain them for use if we do head that direction.

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  • Joe Rowe June 23, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    There is no way to keep the lower deck solution safe from crime and the other safety issues.

    This new proposed bridge is a crime. Metro council has noted that the existing CRC bridge needs only minor funds to keep it working. The $4-$10 billion to build this bridge and expand interstate 5 is the real crime we need to talk about. Johnathan, Elly, where is that headline?

    All that savings could solve the variety of transit bottlenecks all over Portland. The bottom line is that we can’t keep rewarding people who commute to work by driving alone.

    Bike lanes on bottom or top, politicians and PDOT are blowing hot air up our shorts, and based on the comments here, people want more of the car kool-aid.

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  • peejay June 23, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Right on, Joe. More like car crack.

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  • Out to Lunch June 23, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Once again, BTA comes up short on effective advocacy. After years of participating in the project’s advisory committees, they suddenly decide they oppose the project altogether when citizens take issue with the proposed 12-lane superstructure. Not exactly leadership.

    Meanwhile, they’re prepared to be bought off on a sketchy concept with a flimsy maintenance agreement. Show us an example anywhere in the state of Oregon where ODOT does a quality job of maintaining facilities for bicyclists.


    Doesn’t exist. Why? They’re highway facilitators, pure and simple. Why do you think we’re faced with this mess in the first place?

    But which is it, BTA? Do you oppose the project? Or are you ready to sign off on a terrible design concept that cripples quality bike crossings for the next 75 years when the DOTs provide you with a maintenance agreement that no doubt will include an exit clause based on their discretion?

    If you oppose the project, oppose the absurdity of this conversation altogether. You’re negotiating with yourself. That’s a not a good place to be. Think about it.

    Instead, get with citizen activists and organize protests at the Project Sponsors Council meetings. Pretend you’re an activist organization and you have our backs. Doesn’t $4 billion wasted on a 20th century design get you motivated?

    Remember- it’s not about the bicycle. It’s about sustainable communities in which the bicycle is a safe and effective means of transportation. That’s what you stand for. Now act like you understand your mission.

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  • Matt Picio June 24, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Esther (#44) – The I-205 path before it was destroyed and rebuilt had few problems with transients or lack of lighting. The noise and exposure to the freeway strongly discouraged it in the same fashion as it discouraged its intended uses. The main lack of lighting issue was south off Johnson Creek Boulevard where oncoming I-205 traffic destroys a person’s night vision to the point that they can’t make out the path well – the new lighting will fix that particular problem.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the new trail, since it should be more sheltered from the road noise. Typically, on isolated paths separated from the the freeway by a retaining wall, there are more issues with criminal activity, transients, and littering, since there are areas to hide from view, and limited exposure to the noise, fumes, and debris that occurs on the older multi-use paths.

    DH, Joe Rowe, peejay – I agree with all three of you, there’s no way to keep a lower deck solution safe. The only solution that will work is one which inherently requires no maintenance. Any solution where areas are hidden from view will allow public urination, littering, potential safety issues, and crime. The mitigating factor is unpleasantness (which assures no one will use it). As an example, look at the Bryant Street ped bridge over I-5. The only reason it has no real issues is because it’s fully exposed to all freeway traffic, and noisy as hell. It works well because it’s very short, and the vulnerability window is small. You cross, and you’re done and back behind the sound retaining wall. Compare that to the ped crossings underneath the Steel and Morrison bridges, where there are a lot of nooks not easily seen, and where traffic noise is lessened because of distance from the road surface, and the lack of any nearby reflective walls (Bryant’s I-5 sound retaining walls make the noise levels on the ped bridge even LOUDER)

    CRC is a bad bridge, period.

    Out to Lunch (#55) – It has to be co-located with the highway, or it needs to get enough traffic to discourage people from illicit activities. A lone bike/ped bridge crossing the river has no witnesses – anything can happen, and given time probably will.

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  • David June 24, 2009 at 8:41 am

    There is no good CRC. This is a boondoggle.
    Like the mayor, they pander to cyclists, offering us lanes to not oppose their dumb ideas.
    We need MAX to Vancouver, not this pork for more traffic and more sprawl.
    We need no CRC, no the least bad CRC we can get.

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  • peejay June 24, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Topside, bottomside, inside, outside. Who cares? As Out to Lunch says so eloquently: it’s not about the bikes. How fitting that my membership with the BTA expires this month.

    No CRC. No way. No how. No thanks!

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  • Lenny Anderson June 24, 2009 at 8:57 am

    The obvious solution is to build a new bridge for light rail, bikes & peds with a couple of lanes for local traffic. 1/3 of the traffic on I-5 is local, and lately I think downtown Vancouver needs more traffic.
    Put tolls on all the Columbia River bridges, add HOV/Freight lanes, do a seismic retrofit of the I-5 spans, fix the RR bridge lift, etc.

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  • peejay June 24, 2009 at 9:50 am


    Now you’re talking! A second bridge for local traffic (with other modes incorporated on it) makes so much better sense for everybody. It gives Hayden Island better access, separates short vs. long trips, and limits the need for complicated interchange reworking. That plus the seismic upgrades would still be far cheaper than the disaster that CRC Sam is trying to impose on us.

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  • maxadders June 24, 2009 at 10:10 am

    The prospect of an under-deck isn’t that frightening. Just put emergency call boxes every 1000 feet or whatever. And maybe some cameras? I feel bad suggesting surveillance cameras anywhere, but I know the cops can’t patrol it 24/7.

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  • steve pappert June 24, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I’d rather ride underneath even if its dark and smells like pee and has hobos shooting heroin. Cars are obnoxious

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  • Mr DeJerk June 24, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Give me a break! This is just ridiculous.
    No compromises.
    A new bridge is completely unnecessary. It’s only justifiable by the contractors that will be building it.
    There is no way a new bridge will be “green” or “bike-friendly”. Go back to architecture school and learn how to use the eraser.

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  • Peter Noone June 24, 2009 at 11:49 am

    @steve/62 I agree to a certain extent, but it’s not just about you or me (obviously). It’s about whether people will generally feel safe and comfortable using this facility. Of course, the bike/ped section can be built in such a way that it can be easily re-purposed…

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  • Peter Noone June 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

    What’s with all the haters and blamers. Yeah, like a 12-lane CRC is Sam’s big dream or it’s all the BTA’s fault. There are much larger political forces at work here.

    Also, while I largely agree with commenters like @peejay, there’s no need to get your panties in too much of a twist just because there’s a mostly-civil discussion going on here.

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  • Peter Noone June 24, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I should clarify that I do think it’s important to point out that a discussion like this can just amount to distraction-by-minutiae while the boondoggle gets quietly pushed through behind the scenes. It’s just that twisted panties aren’t very comfy and can be just as distracting.

    By the way, has there been any discussion of bike sheds on the under-deck and what color they should be painted?

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  • Steve Bozz June 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I respect if someone is honestly scared to take a ped/bike-only path because they feel it is dangerous. I’m not really sure what the solution is, there are dark streets, corners, and alleys all over the city.

    I am concerned about the precedent it sets going forward. It sounds like we are relying on cars for security and protection and this would limit further progress in terms of dedicated ped/bike crossings and other infrastructure. With the critical mass of cyclists in our area, I would like to think of these dedicated paths as bicycle highways. I’d much rather depend on other cyclists and pedestrians on a quiet stretch of path than any motorist who’s got the radio on and gunning ahead, anytime.

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  • Aaron June 24, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    What I’m mainly wondering is if the ped/bike bridge would be noisier than being underneath. It sounds like the bridge will be noisy anyway, it’s just a matter of scale.


    From what I understand, that is what is happening right now. Three of the lanes on each side are for through traffic and three only link up to local roads. I suggest that everyone read through the CRC’s plans. They are very interesting.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 24, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    …refering to the issue that only Vancouverites will be the ones bicycling across this bridge…that is a pure myth (based on the car centric commute data). When I have interviewed bike commuters crossing the Columbia bridges I found the I-5 bike commute traffic to be split 50/50 (vs 90/10 for the 205). If you think about this it makes a lot of sense given the higher bike mode share in Portland AND that Vancouver’s city center is a very large convenient source of work for many north Portlanders. (where as most southbound commuters are pedalling further to Portlands downtown.

    And a hello from Vlissingen Netherlands!

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  • revphil June 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

    limiting our choices to bad options is classic fox-style deception.

    it shall not be built.

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  • Vance Longwell June 25, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I tried to resist. Peter Noone. In my opinion there is no sinister behind the scenes things happening. I’m so opposed to what this site stands for that I’ve spent dozens of hours a week for nearly two years now to find the, “Opposing camp”. Trust me, there is none.

    The only behind the scenes dealings going on are in your camp. Presumably because these people believe, erroneously, that which you do. That there is some big stake-holder cadre out there quietly emitting GHGEs, and thinking up ways to violate you, er I mean, your rights.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason CRC is on the table in the first place is because of it’s need for major repairs. The bridge is totaled in a repair sense, so reconstruction was opportunistically suggested. No big conspiracy. Just some complaints, and then the typical political one-up-man-ship.

    Only reason it won’t just die is the blood money the Repubs smell, and the wing-nut environmental fringe who are addicted to the camera time.

    Right now I’d take up Islam just to keep you guys from stripping me of every last right I have to the public-right-of-way. If there is an opposition, I sure wish somebody would clue me in.

    Tongue-n-cheek folks. Save the hate, I’ve heard it before, and you can see what good it did ya.

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  • the origional Aaron June 25, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Peejay (#38) makes the best comment, but I’ll throw in my 2c
    Lots of great comments here. The most important issue is noise. The noise at the Morrison Bridge isn’t accurate because the path is next to the highway rather than beneath it. The best way to find out what the noise level would be like is to go to the Vancouver side of the I-205 path. The noise is horrendous on the crossing, but as soon as the path descends below the bridge, it’s much better. Notwithstanding the other concerns about safety are very true. The issue is not one of REAL safety, but PERCEIVED safety. Cars speeding along a highway aren’t going to call 911 for something unless it blocks traffic, but people do tend to feel safer because they think someone will. And if they put viewing platforms on the bridge, there will be more public support for security and cleanliness. It also makes sense to use the depth of the bridge effectively. The span is going to need some very tall trusses, and it’s more efficient to stack traffic and use the whole structure. Of course the very best option would be to design it this way. But planners still have their heads in the sand on that one.

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  • […] CRC update: ‘Stacked’ bridges with bikes underneath has momentum […]

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