lines are proposed trail alignments
from a 2004 study.
(Photo: Portland State University)
Last week I directed your attention to the Sullivan’s Gulch project. I wanted more people to be aware of a meeting held last night by the Portland Parks Board which included the project on its agenda.
The Sullivan’s Gulch project (calling it a “trail” is a misnomer), which would connect East Portland to the Willamette River along I-84, is exactly the kind of investment we need to make if we want to live up to our green transportation rhetoric and meet our lofty carbon emission and bike usage goals.
Reader Carl Alviani went to the meeting last night and I asked him to share what he heard. Read Carl’s report on the meeting below (emphasis mine):
As it turns out, the Sullivan’s Gulch project barely got discussed last night. It was on the agenda, but the liaison reported that they’re still working with ODOT in Salem to get the advisory committee in place, and there won’t be any substantial meetings until that happens. The majority of the meeting was taken up by a Powerpoint on the 2020 vision for parks in Portland, and while bike greenways and corridors showed up several times, your concerns about “trail” implying a view of bike infrastructure as primarily recreational seems well founded. I know this was a Parks & Recreation meeting, but it’s still kind of disheartening to hear bikeways and playgrounds mentioned in the same breath.
That said, I did get to speak for a few moments with Sarah Coates Huggins, the project manager for PP&R, and she conveyed a pretty strong understanding that this is a functional project, not just recreational. I’m really curious to see what the PBOT meetings look like — my hunch is the more traffic-like considerations will get hashed out there.
The other impression I got was that this is going to be a long, slow slog of a project, as you hinted in the comments thread. The corridor runs along the border of Union Pacific’s right of way on one side, and over 100 different privately owned properties on the other, with little or no city-owned land in there anywhere. They mentioned that even getting UP to sit down at the table has been real chore, and while they’ve got them on the advisory committee, they seem very reluctant to give up any of their land, out of liability concerns and to allow for possible future expansions of the railway. Mary Anne Cassin, the liaison for the project on the Board, responded to one of the other pro-Gulch cyclists in attendance that if anyone’s planning to be riding this trail in the next couple of years, they probably shouldn’t get their hopes up too much.
So there it is. Lovely idea, but man this stuff is complicated.
Carl’s right. This project is complicated. But is it any more complicated than TriMet’s Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail project or the Eastside Streetcar Loop project? No. The difference is political leadership.
The Sullivan’s Gulch is an orphan project without any political or organizational muscle behind it. And that’s too bad. If there was ever a project that needed a champion and a powerful lobby behind it, this is it. I’m afraid without that attention, we’re in for a “long, slow slog” indeed.