Last week, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners adopted final plans for the new Sellwood Bridge. After a bumpy final week of the six-year process to arrive at a design, people who care about quality bicycle access breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when the Board voted to shelve their hastily planned, cost-cutting alternative design.
On July 13th, the County raised lots of eyebrows when they shared several cost-cutting measures that would have dramatically changed bicycle access. On Monday of last week, at the meeting of the Project Stakeholder’s Committee (PSC), Portland Mayor Sam Adams eviscerated the County’s plans. Adams poked holes in the County’s proposed money saving measures and raised significant concerns about the hasty timeline and the impact the design would have on bicycling and walking.
Speaking about the public dust-up over the proposed changes, County Commissioner (and PSC Chair) Deborah Kafoury said they’ll continue to look for cost savings in the project. “I’m happy that people are thinking of ways to save money to make changes to the project,” Kafoury said. “And I’m also happy to have the opportunity to listen to the community when they say we don’t want those changes.”
“The concrete will be stained this dark green color, so it will be integral to the concrete. The color should not wear out the way a painted bike lane does.”
— Mike Pullen, Multnomah County
On Thursday, the County officially approved a final design that maintained the key bike access components including: the symmetrical bridge deck cross section featured both bike lanes and bike access on a raised sidewalk on both sides of the bridge; a new multi-use path bridge that will take people from the south side of the bridge’s western end down to the new section of path along the river, and a colored bikeway treatment that will create visual separation of the bikeways.
There has been some confusion over whether or not the green-colored bikeway treatments made it into the approved plans. According to County spokesperson Mike Pullen, they did. He shared with me last week that the plans include colored bike lanes for the entire length of the bridge. Pullen also said that, the County will used colored pavement, not thermoplastic like the City of Portland uses on bike boxes and high-conflict intersections throughout the city.
The City’s Bureau of Transportation has had difficulty maintaining thermoplastic and some people feel it’s too slippery when wet. Pullen says the County’s green pavement won’t just last longer, it will also be much darker than the bright green used by PBOT.
“The concrete will be stained this dark green color, so it will be integral to the concrete. The color should not wear out the way a painted bike lane does,” Pullen said. “Our main goal is to indicate to drivers that the shoulder is a bike lane and that bicyclists have a right to be there.”
The $299 million project will now enter into the construction phase and is expected to open in be completed in early 2016.