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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.

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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

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The Urban Vision Resource | CRC update: ‘Stacked’ bridges with bikes underneath has momentum : BikePortland.orgthe origional AaronVance LongwellrevphilTodd Boulanger Recent comment authors
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D.R. Miller
Guest
D.R. Miller

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.

Lord Nelson
Guest
Lord Nelson

Yet another reason why THE CRC IS CRAP!

John Lascurettes
Guest

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

KruckyBoy
Guest
KruckyBoy

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.

BURR
Guest
BURR

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.

Dave
Guest
Dave

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.

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

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?

CRC AND POGO, I VOTE NO GO!

Stig
Guest
Stig

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?

Ethan
Guest

How loud will it be under there?

Andrew Holtz
Guest
Andrew Holtz

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 http://is.gd/1aHor (p. 9)

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

gabriel amadeus
Guest

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.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“How loud will it be under there?”

ethan,

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.

gabe,

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).

Stig
Guest
Stig

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..

hanmade
Guest
hanmade

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.

Hart
Guest
Hart

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

Schrauf
Guest

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?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

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.

RyNO Dan
Guest
RyNO Dan

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.

RyNO Dan
Guest
RyNO Dan

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.

beelnite
Guest
beelnite

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.

Peter Noone
Guest
Peter Noone

@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.

BURR
Guest
BURR

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

Edmunton: http://www.ravingbikefiend.com/bikepics/cmkid.jpg

Saskatoon: http://www.momentumplanet.com/files/images/image-node/dscf3267.feature.jpg

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

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).

A-dub
Guest
A-dub

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.

BURR
Guest
BURR

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

Nicky V
Guest

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.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

@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.

Neighbor
Guest

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?

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

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.

Peace

peejay
Guest
peejay

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.

SteveD
Guest
SteveD

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.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

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.

Allan
Guest
Allan

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.

DH
Guest
DH

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.

Joel Batterman
Guest
Joel Batterman

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? (http://www.crossingcoalition.com/crc_sprtrs.aspx) 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.

Becky
Guest
Becky

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!

Steve Bozz
Guest

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
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Bridge_(London)

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.

Steve Bozz
Guest

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.

peejay
Guest
peejay

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.

bp
Guest
bp

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.

peejay
Guest
peejay

12 LANES: INSANE!

John
Guest
John

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.

Esther
Guest
Esther

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?

Esther
Guest
Esther

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.

twistyaction
Guest
twistyaction

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.

Nick
Guest
Nick

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.

Peter Noone
Guest
Peter Noone

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

nopo Joe
Guest
nopo Joe

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.

David E Hollingsworth
Guest
David E Hollingsworth

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”.