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ODOT group decides on shuttle for two-year bridge closure

Posted by on November 3rd, 2009 at 11:18 am

The Oregon City Bridge
(Photo: Wikipedia)

An ad-hoc working group formed by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has decided that shuttle service is the “most feasible and reasonable” way to maintain non-motorized access between Oregon City and West Linn during an impending two-year closure of the bridge that connects the two cities.

According to a letter from ODOT to members of the group, the agency has budgeted $550,000 for the shuttle service and says they are “commited to providing convenient, easy to use, high quality shuttle service to meet the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians during the closure of the bridge.”

“People should have a very short wait time, since the shuttle trip itself will add considerable delay to what used to be a direct biking or walking trip across the bridge.”
— Michelle Poyourow, BTA

With no nearby detour option for bicycle and pedestrian traffic (motor vehicles can use a freeway), ODOT was faced with what Region 1 Manager Jason Tell called an “extremely difficult and challenging” situation. To help them with the problem, ODOT toured the area with a group of regional elected officials, advocates and policy makers and then brought together a formal committee to vet ideas in August.

In all, the group looked at seven options. Five of them were considered not viable and two were given a more in-depth analysis. Here’s a rundown of the five options that were eliminated first (taken from the official report of the Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Work Group):

  • I-205 freeway bike access — Option eliminated because it would require a change to an Oregon Administrative Rule (bikes are currently prohibited from that stretch of freeway) and “would require elimination of a vehicle travel lane.” In addition the group felt there would be safety concerns and that it would not be an adequate option for people on foot.
  • Water Crossing via Ferry — Option eliminated due to “lenghty time for implementation” (due to permitting and multiple agency oversight), lack of established ferry landings, and concerns over reliability of service in light of high water/inclement weather.
  • Water Crossing via Jet Boat — Eliminated for same reasons as the option above.
  • Temporary Suspension-Type or Truss-Type Bridge — Option eliminated due to the high cost and lengthy timeline for design and construction. ODOT estimates either of these options would cost approximately $3 to $6 million and would take a year to design, permit, and construct. ADA access and landing points on both sides of the river were among other concerns.

The two options that were studied more in-depth were to maintain bicycle and pedestrian access on the existing bridge during construction or to have a shuttle service.

The group and ODOT analysis found that bridge access for people on bikes and foot during the project would be intermittent (requiring a shuttle anyways) and bridge contractors cited safety, insurance, productivity and a longer timeline as “significant negative factors”.

In the end, shuttle service won out.

Bike camping at Champoeg St. Park-21

Biking across the
Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Michelle Poyourow of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) was on the group that reached this consensus. I asked her for a reaction to the decision.

“After looking at all the options, it seems like a shuttle is the right tool for the job. But there is still the question of frequency and timing – and that is something I believe ODOT is now evaluating.”

Poyourow acknowledged that the preferred option was to maintain a bike/ped connection on the existing bridge. “We asked ODOT to investigate that multiple times, and they did, and are quite certain that it would extend the closure by another 9 months.” She also said the water ferry was “a really exciting idea” and one that the cities might explore in the future.

Poyourow says the BTA has asked for frequent shuttle service and that “People should have a very short wait time, since the shuttle trip itself will add considerable delay to what used to be a direct biking or walking trip across the bridge.”

Construction on the project is slated to go from Jan 2010-2012. Learn more at ArchRehab.com and browse our past coverage of this issue at our Oregon City Bridge Project tag.

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  • cyc November 3, 2009 at 11:57 am


    My co-workers ride this bridge seven days a week, especially on holidays and weekends. They also work all kinds of hours. One friend rides this bridge late in the evening and is concerned that she now has to wait late at night for a shuttle, and must pay trimet for a trip that once cost nothing but sweat.

    My co-workers would buy cars, but cycling for them is an economic issue as much as anything else.

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  • Bjorn November 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Lead time didn’t have to be an issue here, ODOT made it an issue by attempting to go forward with a do nothing approach. Had they planned appropriately from the beginning there would have been plenty of time for a rule change or to get a water ferry going. ODOT needs to recognize that providing no non-motorized option is not an acceptable option!

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  • Peter W November 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Bummer they couldn’t keep bike/ped access on the bridge during construction. Nine extra months of construction isn’t as bad as two years of shuttling, IMO.

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  • Michelle (BTA) November 3, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Additional detail: the nine months of extra closure was for a less-than-reliable amount of bike/ped access across the bridge each week. If that had gotten ODOT daily bike/ped access (or even round-the-clock) there’s no question in my mind that it would be worth it. But based on ODOT’s research, it would be more likely one or two days per week of bike/ped access.

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  • Refunk November 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    So, how is the shuttle gonna work?

    Per Michelle @4, if there would “likely” only be “one or two days per week of bike/ped access,” then how often would a motor vehicle be able to transit the bridge under construction (operating as a shuttle vehicle)?

    Or is the thinking here that a motorized shuttle would take cyclists/peds from each bridge end away to another route crossing the river and deposit them at the other bridge end? (yeah, talk about time-consuming!)

    I would think an actual transit bus would be way too unwieldy, and even a small transit van would be overkill: why not just use crew cab pick-up trucks (maybe a bike rack installation in the bed or even a rear-mount bike carrier like the hitch-mount type). I’ve encountered this type of shuttle through highway construction sites while riding in the past.

    The smaller truck would have the most agility in navigating through the construction ops on the bridge, although from what Michelle wrote maybe the whole span’s width will be closed off all at once too frequently to actually use the bridge to cross. This doesn’t appear clear to me in the writing and comments (maybe I missed something).

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  • AaronF November 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm


    I think the shuttle is going over a different bridge.

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  • Blah Blah Blah November 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    How about a perminent bike/ped bridge?

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  • Kt November 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Refunk, I think the idea is to pick up riders at one end of the bridge, drive around by 205 to the other, and drop off. Reverse course, same idea. It’s a lot of driving back and forth, and for it to be feasible has to be available starting really early in the morning and going to really late at night.

    Not sure if it’s the “monetarily” feasible option, either.

    Think about it: from the WL side, cyclists would follow the on-ramp up onto the shoulder of the exit-only lane, and follow it down to the stop light. Reverse course, same deal: going up the on-ramp to the shoulder of an exit-only lane back to West Linn. Seriously. That’s all it is. I’m not sure why it’s such a problem to barrier-off the shoulder on the exit-only lane for bike access; it would even be one-way access in theory, just like the rest of the freeway.

    Of course, there’s that whole thing about the law, but we’ve seen ODOT and their construction crews making it interesting for us road users of any stripe regardless of what the laws say… 🙂

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  • Beaver November 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Coming from the city with such varied transportation options as streetcar, light rail, bus, and tram, I was confused by the bland solution of a bus shuttle.

    No catapult, nay trebuchet?

    What about a zipline or slingshot?

    An underwater tunnel?

    Avast, the sustainable green solution: a water slide!

    I’m sure our friends at http://www.logrolling.org could come up with something good.

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  • Refunk November 3, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks Aaron & Kt.

    Yeah, Kt, ODOT and WSDOT definitely do some creative construction stuff already. Gotta wonder whether they always go through due process for approval of that.

    For simplicity, I vote for the ziplines, if anyone can explain how the bike wouldn’t be whacked or eject panniers, etc., at the arrival end…

    How to outdo the Zoobomb – anyone for a guerilla zipline installation?

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  • John Russell November 4, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I’m sorry, but the Abernethy (I-205) bridge is perfectly rideable. I’ve done it before without any issue whatsoever. If you have an aversion to crossing on- and off-ramps, then you can just stop and wait for a gap, like any reasonable freeway cyclist, or you could just go directly from OR 43 to OR 99E, or vice versa, avoiding any ramps all together.

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  • kitty November 4, 2009 at 8:47 am

    very sustainable. i assume they will be fuel cell vans…

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  • Raleigh November 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

    They budgeted over half a million dollars for this? Someone to drive back and forth for two years? ODOT- consider this my bid for the project, I’ll save you 400,000 dollars!

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