Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Visualizing the Sullivan’s Gulch corridor

Posted by on February 15th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

The view of the future Sullivan’s Gulch multi-use path looking east from NE Grand Ave. See how it will look once the facility is built in the images below.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland and a group of volunteer stakeholders are hard at work developing a “concept plan” for the Sullivan’s Gulch corridor project (they call it a “trail” but I prefer to avoid that term unless we’re discussing an off-road trail). While this is just the first step in what is likely to be a long process (unless a very powerful person steps up and makes it happen sooner… anyone?!), for fans of this project (and there are many), it’s exciting to see how things are shaping up (sorry for all the parentheses).

Last night, a planner with PBOT shared an update and the first visualizations of what the final facility might actually look like. Here’s how they envision the segment near the Hollywood Transit Center…

(Renderings by Nick Falbo/Alta Planning + Design)

And here it is from another view…

With the path being close to the busy I-84 freeway, many people have brought up concerns about air quality. When asked about that last night, Smith said they estimate it’ll be similar to the I-205 multi-use path. To get a better read on it, the City is looking for someone to do an air quality analysis.

Unlike the I-205 path, the Sullivan’s Gulch won’t have to cross surface streets. Smith says they’ve been able to route the path under all 19 of the streets it crosses. In a major coup, PBOT has gotten an O.K. from ODOT to route the path under I-205 and connect it directly to the existing I-205 path.

Of course, for the City to pull off this project, they’ll eventually have to acquire right-of-way from the Union Pacific Railroad company. At last night’s meeting, Smith said UPRR owns 64% of the property the path would go through (compared to 26% owned by PBOT). Whether or note UPRR is willing to sell (or give away) that property remains to be seen. The good news is, UPRR and PBOT have already sat down to discuss this project several times.

Are they willing to give up the property? “We haven’t asked,” says Smith, “We’re not at that point in the process yet.”

And for those of you salivating that bike traffic will get its own, I-84-like freeway with this project, stakeholder advisory committee member Heather McCarey shared last night that Sullivan’s Gulch, “Is not intended as a bike freeway… We want this to be for everybody, not just a freeway for cyclists.”

Once completed, the project will connect the Eastbank Esplande to I-205 with a 5.6 mile, 12-15 wide path. For more, browse our past coverage and check out the City’s official project page.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

  • Greg February 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    The part I like best is that they converted it from rainy to sunny.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

    • ed February 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      Bikes are magical like that.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • jbloe February 17, 2012 at 8:25 am

        They are magical.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • nuovorecord February 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      That was built into the project scope of work.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • jbloe February 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

      That is so we know it is simulated.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Lenny Anderson February 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I’d like to see the last stretch between NE 12th and the Esplanade on a two-way bikes only Holladay Street with an easy connection to the “soon to be built” 7th Avenue Bridge and to the Esplanade and “soon to be built” north Portland Willamette Greenway Trail at the Rose Quarter.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Andrew N February 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Glad to see I’m not the only one talking up the 7th Ave bridge!

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Mindful Cyclist February 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I would be happy to step up and be that powerful person. But, alas, I am not powerful.

    I still am really looking forward to this getting built, though!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabriel Nagmay February 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Back when I was in high school, I would bike from the NE max station (second picture) to Benson (near first picture). Every once and a while, I would ditch the surface streets and bike the gravel next to the railroad tracks. Not necessarily the safest thing, but it sure did cut down on my commute.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Rol February 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    UPRR wouldn’t have to sell or give away the land necessarily; they could grant an easement.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      Hey Rol,

      That’s not how PBOT planner Paul Smith made it sound last night: From my notes…he said, “For the trail to happen, the city would acquire the outer 25 feet [from the rail line I assume]… That would have to occur for the trail to be built.” sounds like he’s saying the city wouldn’t do it with an easement alone and wants ownership instead.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Chris I February 16, 2012 at 7:09 am

        We need to own the ROW for this path. If UPRR grants an easement, they can take it away if they want to double track the corridor in the future.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Nom de Plume February 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

          And therefore, they won’t be giving up the ROW or selling it any time soon.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Gutter Bunny Bikes November 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      The slope isn’t buildable for anything other than something like this, ask and if they answer no just emanate domain it – it is why the government has this power. It’s not like they’re going to miss an unbuildable (or at best an extremely expensive slope to develop) slope. (Though honestly, I still think Sandy is a better solution for this section of town).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Scott February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Sweet! This is going to make it so much easier for all the homless people camping in camouflaged tents on that hill to get home.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • captainkarma February 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      We may all be camping soon enough, don’t feel so secure.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Scott February 16, 2012 at 9:08 am

        I lived in a tent for the first year I was in Portland. My security is based on experience Cap. What are you working with?

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Nom de Plume February 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      19 more bridges for vagrant junkies to live/shoot up under.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • JNE February 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Would hate to give up my commute through neighborhood back streets from Grant Park to Lloyd on my way downtown, but this could be an awesome bike artery for NE.

    Regarding noise and pollution, there’s one obvious mitigation tool: trees.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Jim Labbe February 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Yes. Trees can help mitigate the air quality issues in Sullivan Gulch. Much of the Gulch’s south-facing slope is choked with blackberries and presents a great re-vegetation opportunity that can improve esthetics, air quality not to mention water quality and bird habitat.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe February 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mark kenseth February 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    More parentheses, please! It means there’s a lot going on 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • P Finn February 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    not a bike freeway-why not? This has got to be the best candidate ever!
    “Hey, honey, want to go for a walk down by the freeway?” Not.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • John Lascurettes February 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm

      Look at it this way then, there won’t be much bike/ped conflict.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Chris I February 16, 2012 at 7:11 am

      I would walk on this path to get from my house to Hollywood TC faster. I would probably use it for running, as well.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • fasterthanme February 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Noise Pollution?! you bet your ear drums. Bring plugs or stick to the side streets, nicer and much quieter…though perhaps during the morning crawl it wouldn’t be so bad.

    Take a ride to any max stop along the freeway to get a taste. It’s gonna take a lot of years before any tree becomes a useful noise barrier.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • John Lascurettes February 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      The occasional freight train will be much louder by proximity than the freeway traffic.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Joseph E February 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    “In a major coup, PBOT has gotten an O.K. from ODOT to route the path under I-205 and connect it directly to the existing I-205 path.”

    This is great! Currently, there is no good east-west route for 2.5 miles north of Burnside, until Sandy, and even those busy streets only have bike lanes. Glisan, Halsey and Prescott have narrow sidewalks and no bike lane. There is no bike boulevard alternative.

    It will be great to have a traffic-free east-west route between Inner and Outer Northeast. Can we build this connection early?

    As part of the project, we also need a connection to outer northeast that is south of 84, from the 205 path. Either there needs to be a new bike/pedestrian bridge from the 205 path over 84, or we need a good bike lane or cycletracks on Halsey over the freeway.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • John Lascurettes February 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      You’re forgetting NE Knott. I find it a great thoroughfare for my bike commute. Though I used to use Prescott as well (I live just off Prescott) I now use Going if I head that far north before heading East-West. Prescott isn’t comfortably wide enough until east of 42nd Ave.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Joseph E February 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm

        NE Knott does not cross the 205 freeway, so I didn’t mention it. It doesn’t even go east of Sandy.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Alan 1.0 February 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

      First off, I’m a total fan of the Sullivan Gulch route and hope it gets built ASAP, obstacles not withstanding.

      I like Joseph E’s thought of building the cross-I-205 connection first. The ROW is secured and there are no major obstacles beyond cut-and-fill grading and retaining walls. It would provide a much-needed alternative to the Halsey speedway. (Streetviews even shows a bike route salmoning up the sidewalk. Sheesh!) But the connections on both ends are tough. The west end of that segment still leaves bikes in difficult territory. (N on 92nd to Schuyler looks like the least worst option to me?) The east end connects to the I-205 MUP out in the Gateway Green boonies with the nearest street connections about a mile to the north at Maywood, and half-mile to the south at Gateway Transit Center. That’s a big improvement, to be sure, but it’s only part of a bigger bikeway system needed for outer NE.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Schrauf February 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Air quality is a big issue, but it improves rapidly with distance. Even 50 feet from a six-lane highway is probably better air quality than three feet from stop and go traffic, while riding a bike lane on Williams, for example.

    Another plus – the path would be used more in the summer, when the wind is frequently from the north – and most rarely from the south.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Paul Budrow February 15, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    This is really exciting. Can’t wait for an new route (sans stop signs, etc.) to get home! Much rather see energy put into this kind of project then the entitled hullabaloo over a negotiable pole on the Broadway bridge.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Andrew Seger February 15, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      To be fair we’re talking about a 30k change versus a $30million+ project. Lord knows we haven’t gotten much out of the benighted streetcar. Should have been our 7th street bridge right there.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Hart Noecker February 16, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Why wouldn’t Union Pacific want to give it up? They’re doing major ad campaigns right now, and I can guarantee they’d want real life shots of their trains rolling along with bicycle commuters instead of CGI composites of trees lifting cargo onto flatcars. I’d ride the thing every day if for no other reason as to be a visual reminder to ever motorist inching along 84 that there’s a lane moving way faster than they are.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Chris I February 16, 2012 at 7:17 am

      Liability is a major concern for them. With the current configuration, if a train derails, there will be no innocent bystanders squashed. With a pathway at close proximity, there may be injuries or deaths that the company will be responsible for. They will not give up this space for nothing.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Hart Noecker February 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

        Trains derailing is extremely rare, and the liability is no greater than for any point where tracks cross roads, which is everywhere. This isn’t a situation where U.P. is holding something hostage, we’re talking about a strip of land 15 feet wide that could be repurposed for greater transportation use. That’s something Union Pacific would be wise to be a part of.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Chris I February 16, 2012 at 7:00 am

    I watched the stream of a project done at PSU that measured air quality near freeways and arterials in the area:


    See the stream from February 3rd. The students found a noticeable difference in particulate matter pollution when you locate the MUP on the freeway side of a sound barrier, and on the neighborhood side.

    Based on this evidence, the designers should consider integrating a sound barrier on the freeway side of the path.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Unit February 16, 2012 at 10:30 am

      I’m not sure riding a trail trenched between a stepp slope and a vertical concrete wall is very attractice either however…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Granpa February 16, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Railroads including UPRR have a long standing reputation of not working with other agencies, municipalities or organizations. Their property makes up much of their wealth and they are not in the business of giving it away. The PR campaigns are directed at stock investors, not the general public and they have not shown interest in being popular with the general public. Don’t plan trips on this route just yet.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Chris I February 16, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Exhibit A: The California High Speed Rail project has encountered strong opposition from UP for simply wanted to locate their tracks next to the UP right of way.


      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • jimbobpdx February 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Roger that! It’s more than reputation. Numerous Portland projects – the Steel Bridge Walkway, WES and Milwaukie Light Rail, and others have taken very substantial budget and/or schedule hits due to RR ROW transactions.

      UPRR has no reason whatsoever to budge on this one, despite our hopeful imaginings. They are able to remain pretty much indifferent to any of the kinds of carrot or stick that the Portland region or the State of Oregon can muster. City may throw money, then more money, then a lot more money at UPRR; UPRR may choose to play ball somewhere down the line but it will be at a time and a price of its own choosing.

      One would hope that there is something else at work here, that this project will not be a ten year black hole . . .

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • A.K. February 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        Would a potential point of strength for Portland be the expansion of activities that UPRR wants at the Brooklyn yard?

        Give up some land in the corridor to get your expansion in Brooklyn!

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Bob_M February 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm

          UPRR has the neighbors in both Westmoreland and Eastmoreland as commited adversaries. These upper middle class residential neighborhoods resent the noise. Also, the Portland/Milwaukie light rail runs through that corridor taking up RR space, which UPRR already gave up.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • K'Tesh February 16, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Oh, please let this happen!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Peter W February 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

    > “And for those of you salivating that bike traffic will get its own, I-84-like freeway with this project…”

    That is a strange analogy. There is nothing attractive (or worth salivating over for any reason) about I-84.

    But good to hear there’s at least some progress happening.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • browse February 16, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I am so very, very ready for path/trail construction to start!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • wsbob February 16, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Lower picture showing the long view: I’d be looking to site the MUP on the brow of the ravine, putting the MUP farther away from track and freeway, and higher above them. This would get people using this route further away from noise, pollution, and allow them them a better view(sound walls are a mixed blessing.). Being on the same level with adjacent business and workplaces would make it naturally easy to divert off the route to go to those places to work and to buy things.

    Of course, that location would probably be on private property, necessitating a more complicated process of arranging agreements with property owners to build it there. Probably more money too.

    Might be a good idea to keep the railroads property open for rail expansion.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Alan 1.0 February 17, 2012 at 11:50 am

      I see the attractions of riding higher up the side of the gulch, and one you didn’t mention is more sunlight. However that would also mean more grade changes as the MUP ducked under all the various streets it crosses, and those hills mean more effort for riders and greater speed differentials, resulting in clumpy traffic flow.

      As far as access to adjacent businesses, that will happen at the business’ front door on the street side. Businesses don’t want a security risk of a public back door.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • wsbob February 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm

        “…However that would also mean more grade changes as the MUP ducked under all the various streets it crosses, …” Alan 1.0

        That’s true, and building it that way would probably be more difficult, and more expensive. It would require somewhat more exertion to ride, but that might not be a bad thing.

        Eastbound, the Sunset MUP involves quite a climb, but I wouldn’t consider it arduous, even for someone that just rides occasionally. The Sunset MUP’s inherent potential for hazard is downhill, which…and I kind of don’t like saying this…for long stretches can, if the person riding chooses…be terrifically fast.

        People in the form of opposing direction traffic really have to watch out for each other, which is more difficult than one might think without having ridden this MUP. Most people seem to take it easy on the descent, but occasionally, someone will open it up, similar to people in their cars on the freeway, to see what it’ll do.

        I’ll just guess…hope…that grades on the Sullivan’s Gulch MUP for a route that would rise for greater distance and elevation, and fall to go under the overpasses, could be made gradual enough to be enjoyable and safe to ride.

        Riding almost directly across from the monotonous, stressful roar of Banfield traffic is not going to be fun times.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ben Guernsey February 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I think this trail will be practical, but no terribly fun. If you’ve biked out to beaverton on the trail next to the highway… it works, It’s not pretty. It’s nice to not have to deal with fog lines, traffic and stop signs. But it will have a cost.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • GlowBoy February 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I was thrilled when they finally built the path next to the Sunset, and I ride it often. No the section outside the freeway wall isn’t quiet and pleasant, but it gets me home FAR faster than any other route except Beaverton-Hillsdale (which is far less safe, and somewhat less pleasant to boot).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • wsbob February 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

      The Sunset MUP isn’t bad. And notice that unlike the Sullivan’s Gulch MUP as planned so far, Sunset MUP is sited up above and away from freeway traffic.

      Since I posted the comment yesterday, it did occur to me though, that Sullivan’s Gulch MUP has the challenge of cross streets to deal with. This referred to in the story:

      “…Unlike the I-205 path, the Sullivan’s Gulch won’t have to cross surface streets. Smith says they’ve been able to route the path under all 19 of the streets it crosses. …” maus/bikeportland

      In his comment from yesterday, Ted Buehler’s also noted and responded to this issue of the MUP’s siting.

      I’d still be thinking of siting the MUP as high and far away from the freeway as possible, if it could be done by employing some gently ascending and descending rollers to duck under the cross street overpasses.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ted Buehler February 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    “Smith says they’ve been able to route the path under all 19 of the streets it crosses.”

    Excellent! Grade separation is the key to happy, steady bicycling.

    Project looks great! Keep up the good work.

    & make that path wider wherever possible…

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Randy February 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Like the 205 bike path, why would one site a bike path adjacent to major point-source air pollution (tailpipes)?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Chris I February 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      Because there aren’t hundreds of buildings in the way, and the land is vacant (although owned by the railroad). Where would they build an east/west path in Portland that isn’t near cars?

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Jeff Utterback February 17, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Every time I visit Portland (I live in Sacramento, Ca but used to live in PDX) I ride NE/SE side of town, and wish there was a good East/west route to bike. This trail would be ideal.
    PS, I used to ride my motorcycle next to the RR tracks in the early 70’s, getting on near 28th, (next to the then Hyster lift truck Factory) and ride to the Rocky butte gravel pit and ride all day, next to the since demolished Jail (when 205 was built).
    My, how times have changed…..

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael February 17, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Still trying to figure out why the city likes MUP’s so much. I just hope there’s a ban on organized walks along this thing. I don’t care if it’s next to a freeway, and ”no one wants to walk next to a freeway”, I can’t go by hunches. If anyone here rides the Springwater on weekends in the summertime, they know what i’m talking about..

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Grandpa February 18, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I just hope there’s a ban on organized walks along this thing. ….., they know what i’m talking about..
    Recommended 0

    Walkers! a pox on those pedestrians. Why can’t they stay on sidewalks where they belong? And what is with those ski poles

    Don’t get me started on those roller bladers

    Recommended Thumb up 0