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Landslides, then budget keep NW Thompson closed through summer

Posted by on July 19th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

NW Thompson Road has been closed
for nearly seven months.

A section of NW Thompson Road between Cornell and Skyline Blvd has been closed since January and Multnomah County says they still don’t know when it will re-open. This portion of Thompson is very popular for people bicycling from northwest Portland up into the West Hills because it provides a low-traffic connection to Skyline Blvd (not to mention a nice climb).

The closure came after a landslide caused by heavy winter rains threatened to erode the shoulder and one of the traffic lanes. County spokesman Mike Pullen says they don’t have the money to make needed repairs to Thompson, or an existing landslide on NW Newberry (which hasn’t resulted in a full closure).

I asked Pullen for an update on the Thompson closure. “It’s been very slow,” he said. “We’re in the process of making a decision where it looks like we can only afford one repair this year.”

Pullen said they are considering opening Thompson up with just one lane and installing a temporary traffic signal.

The complete repair of Thompson would cost more than the County could afford this year and Pullen says it won’t happen until 2012. The temporary, one-lane option however, could be up and running by the “end of summer.”

Could the County re-open the road to bikes only? “I think we’re interested in having all modes be able access the road,” says Pullen.

Do you ride on Thompson? If so, has this closure impacted you?

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  • Allan July 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    seriously? heading eastbound there is a downhill detour on skyline-to-Cornell. I’ve heard that 53rd can be a detour as well although I haven’t ridden it.

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  • dan July 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    This is timely, as my fitness and the weather have finally coincided and I was planning on heading up there tomorrow for the first time this summer. Thanks Jonathan!

    I don’t understand how they can close this road though — what are the people doing who live on the closed section? If they’re allowing local (car) access, couldn’t a bike get through?

    53rd is a reasonable detour, though the bottom part (just off of Cornell) is very steep. It rejoins Thompsen inside the closure though, so not sure if it’s viable — can you get through up there?

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    • Thomas Le Ngo July 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      I’ve biked up Thompson recently, but it involves dismounting and climbing over the concrete barriers. Mind you, they’re too high for any cyclocross-style action. 53rd is a much better way to go right now.

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    • Mike Pullen July 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      The closed section of the road is very short (maybe 100 yards) and no one lives in the closed section.

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  • jeff July 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    53rd is a great climb, though a little steep. It rejoins Thompson just above the closure. Cornell is fine as a descent, but a little busy as a climb.

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  • fredlf July 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Yes, 53rd is a feasible detour around the closure. It is steeper, longer and harder, but you were up there to do some climbing anyway, right?

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  • Jason Skelton July 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Like others, I have been taking 53rd instead. It is not as steady of a climb as Thompson but a nice change of pace. Still, can’t afford to fix a road for over a year?! I like living in a 3rd-world country.

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  • Rob July 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I rode 53rd today – it’s been repaved and is a fine, tough climb. I’ve also ridden Thompson since the closure. If they don’t open it to all vehicles with the temporary signal, I see no reason why they couldn’t open it to bike traffic with the unstable lane barricaded off.

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  • dan July 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I rode 53rd today – it’s been repaved

    They repaved 53rd? That is awesome news. I guess I don’t care that much about Thompson then.

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  • commuter July 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I’ve been taking 53rd and with the sections of new pavement its been a pleasure. I also heard that they were ticketing cyclists riding on Thompson between the barriers so be careful.

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    • Spiffy July 20, 2011 at 7:23 am

      wouldn’t you count as a pedestrian at that point? are pedestrians also prohibited on the closed part of the road?

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  • single track July 20, 2011 at 8:49 am

    its absurd that the road is completely closed. cars could drive on it if need be. the road settled a little bit. our sue happy society is part of what caused this. a tiny crack and some rough asphalt have completely closed a road???? I even found myself thinking “whoa, this is dangerous” as I hopped the barriers, but then reality struck and I saw that I was standing on an asphalt road at roughly 5% grade. If one can drive on a single lane road, one can drive on thompson with little to zero risk. throw up some warning signs and open it already!

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    • Art Fuldodger July 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      yeah, it’s really no hazard at all for cyclists or pedestrians – a few feet of the downhill side of the road has slid, but that leaves 18’+ of good asphalt. I can see why they don’t want anything heavy like a car on it, though. But maybe Kristen (below) is right – perhaps it could slide out in a major way at any time. But I for one will continue to take my chances and dodge the barricades.

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  • Kristen July 20, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Pretty funny stuff, Single track– oh wait, you weren’t being sarcastic??

    That tiny crack is indicative of the fact that everything the road is sitting on is moving. Yeah, it’s a tiny crack and some settling– but the land itself is in motion right now.

    I think the county is doing the right thing by keeping it closed to everyone while they figure out what can happen and what needs to happen– this means bringing in a soils and geotechnical engineer to study the landslide. I think the county wants to make sure no one is one it when it finally lets go.

    Once the soils and geo guys get done with their work, the county will know what the best approach is– whether it’s making it a one-lane road section with temporary signal, or keeping it closed altogether until a more permanent fix can be done.

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  • gerow July 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    let’ s tear it up and turn it into mtb trails! PLEASE!

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  • single track July 21, 2011 at 9:07 am

    ALL of the west hills are moving, SLOWLY. we need not cower in fear of the natural forces of gravity and erosion. I see the point about heavy vehicles, but, bikes and peds are light. I highly doubt that the road would slide while its relatively unloaded as in “the drier months”. Its like mountain climbing, stay off the movement prone sections when its loaded with water/ wet snow.

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  • Jboss July 27, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I live on 53rd and Thompson and it impacts all of us. We have to drive several miles out of the way every day to get to where we want to go, but would rather have it fixed and be safe. However, a single lane for maybe local resident traffic would be hugely welcome. There are actually about 20 residences in that small area. I do love to see all the cyclists, my self included, use 53rd. Reminds me of what a great, unique city PDX is!

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