Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on November 3rd, 2009 at 11:18 am
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.
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.”