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A victory for bike tourism in Wilsonville: French Prairie Bridge grant approved

Posted by on April 17th, 2012 at 1:34 am

Councilors listen to a staff presentation on the project.
(Words and photos by Patrick Croasdaile)

At their work session last night, the Wilsonville City Council voted to accept a $1.25 million federal grant to perform a feasibility study on the French Prairie Bike-Ped Emergency Bridge over the Willamette River. As we shared last week, this was a crucial step in this project’s evolution and it wasn’t a sure thing. In the end, it seems like the potential bike tourism this bridge would make possible is what made councilors comfortable with voting yes.

When the topic of tourism came up at the meeting, Councilor Richard Goddard said that it had changed the conversation about the bridge and allowed him to think about the bridge as a different kind of asset. Council President Celia Nuñez was also supportive of the grant. “[This bridge] gives us an economic development opportunity,” she said, “and allows tourism dollars to pour into the community”. She continued, “if we can be visionary enough to expand transportation options for the city, then that is right on spot.”

“We have the potential to make Wilsonville a destination for bike tourism.”
— Tim Knapp, Mayor

As a strong proponent of the bridge, Mayor Tim Knapp’s comments supported those of Nuñez. “This is an investment in our community in a way that would create an opportunity for economic factors that wouldn’t otherwise come here. We have the potential to make Wilsonville a destination for bike tourism.” To the matter of the unknown details of the bridge, Mayor Knapp believed that the council could not accurately quantify the return: “Let’s see what it looks like after the study.”

Councilor Scott Starr pushed the needle in favor of accepting the grant funds when he commented that, “geography is [Wilsonville’s] strength” and that “transportation is at the heart of all of that. I want to leverage our geography.” To councilor Starr, the way forward seemed to be exploring the feasibility of building a bridge for people who bike and walk. Following Starr’s comments, the council members came to consensus and agreed to accept the grant funds for the feasibility study.

A healthy crowd turned out.

Following the work session, Laurent Rochette, a member of the grassroots Wilsonville-French Prairie Bridge Advisory Committee thanked the city council for its consent to move forward with the bridge feasibility study. Laurent was one of the citizen activists behind the online petition that has so far gathered over 680 signatures. Commenting on the petition, he informed the City Council that around 43% of all respondents were Wilsonville citizens. According to Laurent, “this shows that there is a huge interest [in Wilsonville] for this bridge. The 57% of signatures coming from outside of Wilsonville shows us that people want to come here to walk, [and] to bike. This group of people will spend money in this community that they would not otherwise without a bridge.”

Now that the council has agreed to move forward with the feasibility study, it is up to the Committee to continuing building support in Wilsonville, especially amongst the small business community. As Jennifer Johnson of the Wilsonville visitor center put it: “the City and her businesses and residents have to want it.”

While there is still a long time to go before a bridge will appear on the banks of the Willamette River, the road forward has officially begun. According to Neamtzu, money for the study will be available in mid-2013 and the report would be completed in 2015. This gives community stakeholders plenty of time to prepare for the next steps and continue to build support for this important project. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition. It’s clear that our voices helped educate city council members.

[Editor’s note: Thanks to Patrick Croasdaile for his reporting on this story.]

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  • 9watts April 17, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I’d be happy if in the meantime Trimet and the Salem public bus company Cherriots would restore their routes so the two buses (Trimet #96 & Cherriots 1X) meet as they used to, allowing those of us who are not tourists to get from here to there. The change to the Cherriots route to terminate at the WES station was not matched on Trimet’s end.

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    • Simon Springall April 17, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Indeed all the Wilsonville SMART routes start at the WES station, that’s the transit station too; it would be a simple extension of the TriMet 96 route to terminate there. That’s the only sensible thing.

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      • 9watts April 17, 2012 at 8:37 am

        Amazingly, the (free) SMART #5 does connect the #96 with the WES station, and the schedules match too, but with a six-bus sequence, any simplification is worth exploring in my opinion.

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      • Michael Miller April 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm

        Simple and sensible, yes, but if you gave people heading to/from Portland an option besides WES, it might reduce its already dismal ridership numbers…

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  • Simon Springall April 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

    There were an additional unique 25 signatures of our paper petition too, putting us well clear of 700 signatures (716 currently)
    I think the weight of public opinion and the councilors’ apparent revelation (at last!) that the bridge would bring tourists to the city help swing this.
    Thanks to Patrick and Jonathan for excellent reporting on this issue

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    • Paul Souders April 17, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Not just tourists. My family has business/work connections in the West Linn/Wilsonville area but we are loathe to relocate there from Portland because of, er, “livability” issues. Not an exaggeration to say this one bridge would swing our opinion.

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      • Simon Springall April 17, 2012 at 11:19 am

        Well yes, exactly. Livability of a city allows hi-tech companies to locate there and find employees. And vice-versa.
        I think Wilsonville has great livability – excellent parks, sustainable building practices, controlled growth. It’s just a little lacking in the connectivity department…

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  • Nina Rochette April 17, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thanks to everybody who has been supporting this effort for so many years! Let’s keep up this energy right through the approval process – we still have a long way to go!

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  • Jae April 17, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Delighted to see this outcome, as it was clear from Clackamas County Tourism’s recent Bicycle Tourism Studio held in Wilsonville that a broad section of the community keenly sees the benefits of this project!

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  • wsbob April 17, 2012 at 9:44 am

    “…According to Neamtzu, money for the study will be available in mid-2013 and the report would be completed in 2015. …” Patrick Croasdaile

    If it’s built, it appears it’s going to be some years before the bridge will actually be built. Assuming the city feels favorable to the bridge after the study is completed, I’m wondering what discussion there’s been in Wilsonville about where the city will get the estimated 20 million to build the bridge.

    Regarding the intended dual function of the bridge to allow use by emergency vehicles, and as a pedestrian-bike bridge, the size and weight emergency vehicles the capacity of the bridge will be designed for is something to consider; whether the bridge would be built to handle something as large as a fire truck.

    Also, I suppose a bridge built for this purpose would have to provide some way for people actually on the bridge walking and biking to clear the way for approaching emergency vehicles.

    It was a good step forward for Wilsonville City Council to approve spending the $125,000 matching money to conduct the study.

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    • Patrick Croasdaile April 17, 2012 at 10:13 am

      There has indeed been some discussion about where the money would come from. Until the study is complete, it would seem that there many unknowns will remain. Interestingly enough, the Wilsonville City Council endorsed the U.S. Senate Transportation bill. Within this bill is a transportation infrastructure program that could fund up to 80% of bridge projects like this one.

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  • Laurent April 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

    If you want to listen to the council discussion. Check
    The discussion starts around 5:30

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  • Joe April 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Thanks to all! much needed efforts in making this happen.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson April 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Way to go! This is amazing! Time to spend some money in Wilsonville!

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  • Jon April 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    $1.25 million to STUDY a bridge??? With all the hoops that any project has to jump through these days I’ll be surprised if any of us will be able to ride over this within our lifetime. They will probably have to comply with the ADA act, EPA, Fish and Wildlife, make sure it does not cross sacred native land, and does not cause any gentrification in any neighborhood. What happened to electing leaders and letting them do their job? Now we have to spend years involving every crackpot citzen within 100 miles and trying make sure nobody get upset. It is now wonder why all these projects have astronomical price tags and take forever.

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    • Oliver April 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      The top five executives at the engineering and design company CH2M Hill made an average of $3 million in pay last year, led by $5.1 million in compensation for CEO and president Lee McIntire.

      Yes it is no wonder why things cost so much.

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  • LESTER April 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Now if they’d talk Tualatin into bike lanes on that mile or so from Horizon School to Day Rd, I’d go to Wilsonville Fry’s ALL THE TIME. Yesterday I went down there for the first time in a couple years to get a new laptop. Also had coffee @ Starbucks and a WOW burger.

    Luckily I lived through that stretch of shoulderless road.

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    • Simon Springall April 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      Washington County owns this area since it’s nether Tualatin or Wilsonville. But good news – they are widening, straitening and adding a sidewalk and bike lanes!

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      • LESTER April 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm

        That’s great news Simon! I had a feeling it might be County road there but wasn’t sure. Maybe by next summer if we’re lucky. Site says they’re bumping the road specs up to 45mph, but I hope they keep posted speed at 35 myself.

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  • LESTER April 18, 2012 at 12:03 am

    ** that shoulderless stretch is on Boons Ferry, of course

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  • GlowBoy April 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Wow, way to go Wilsonville! I was not optimistic about this getting approved.

    I personally pledge that if and when this bridge is built, within the first year I will get down there to use it … AND I will make a point of spending money in Wilsonville while I’m there.

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  • Joe April 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Lester I know what your talking about scary section of road. some talk to already get this but created but, its in the hands of land owners? or maybe someone can chime in.

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  • Joe April 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Lester I know what your talking about scary section of road. some talk to already get this but created but, its in the hands of land owners? or maybe someone can chime in.
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    sorry for the typos, some talk to get this created, but in the hands of land owners? is really what I was trying to say. 🙂 so many concerned about that sholderless area

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  • Owen Walz April 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Although I’m withholding criticism, I would appreciate it if someone more knowledgable would be explain to me why it costs over a million dollars to determine if a relatively small bridge is ‘feasible.’

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  • valkraider April 18, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    What happened to the Metro money that was allocated to this a few years ago?

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  • jim April 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    A 1$ toll perhaps. Only 20 million crossings to pay for the initial structure

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    • 9watts April 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

      …better yet, toll the I-5 users of the parallel, existing bridge. We’d get to $20M much faster and we don’t penalize those who are doing it without fossil fuels.

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