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Sellwood Bridge plans finalized; County will use green concrete on bike lanes

Posted by on July 23rd, 2012 at 9:48 am

Adopted plans.

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.

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  • lavie.lama July 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

    A new section of path along the river? I’ve not heard of that; Is that on the west side?

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    • Terry D July 23, 2012 at 11:02 am

      yes, they are building a real MUP north of the bridge on the westside to connect up with that little neighborhood just south of Willamette Park. I do not think the plans have been published or formalized yet.

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      • liddell July 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

        Oh neat; that makes a lot of sense. I work right at the east bridge head and ride through there all the time and would sooner cross the Hawthorne and take the Springwater because it gets so tight and loopy around there.

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  • michael downes July 23, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Hooray for common sense!

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  • Kirk July 23, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Great news about the green concrete treatment, but I sure hope they change the logo in the bike lane from sharrows to a regular bike lane image.

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    • John Lascurettes July 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Indeed. Are they bike lanes or shared lanes? Mixed messaging there.

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  • q`Tzal July 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Hopefully they have the forethought to get a green that is close enough to the shade specified in the federal code so that it doesn’t have to be removed later like our old BLUE blike lanes.

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  • ScottG July 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

    My understanding is that a temporary bridge is in the process of being set up while they dismantle the old one and re-construct it. Does anyone have an idea whether the temporary bridge will have bike lanes?

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    • Terry D July 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

      No. The “Temporary Bridge” is what they are calling the moving of the current bridge deck. They are actually lifting the bridge up and moving it over to serve as a temporary crossing while they build the new bridge. I for one am avoiding the area for a few years…..

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      • Chris I July 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

        Good idea. The bridge is already terrible, and I imagine the connections during construction will be even worse.

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    • BikeEverywhere July 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      I just crossed the bridge on Saturday and was told by a local resident I met there that they are actually moving the main portion of the current bridge north to use as the temporary crossing while they build the new bridge. I’m not really sure how that’s possible, but then I’m not an engineer..

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  • michael downes July 23, 2012 at 11:18 am

    The center span will be slid over on rails onto temporary form work so they can dismantle the piers and construct the new bridge in the same place. Apparently this is called a ‘shoo-fly’ in civil engineering speak.

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  • Steve B July 23, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Alright! Let’s start using this green concrete in other projects! http://bit.ly/PKADKx

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    • JM July 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Does anyone know if it’s possible to have green dyed asphalt like what’s done in the Netherlands with the red asphalt?

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    • Ed July 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      I’m glad they are getting rid of the thermoplast but wish they would switch to the red concrete while it is still early. Red colored asphalt bike lanes like in The Netherlands look great (better than green).

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      • Laura July 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

        Bend used reddish concrete for the shoulder/bike lane on Reed Market Road/Ed Healy Bridge.

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        • Tom M July 24, 2012 at 3:14 am

          They probably used local volcanic soil in the mix to get that gorgeous color. Nothing like using local materials that just happen to be eye catching too.

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  • Andrew K July 23, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Nice job to all those who saw the proposed changes and spoke up about what the bike community wants. When this bridge is finished in 2016 I hope you look at it and feel the sense of pride you deserve.

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    • peejay July 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      I agree, but I’d say it’s not just what the bike community wants; it’s actually better for ALL communities, including the community of people who drive and want to feel safe around bike traffic, and the community of those who drive and don’t want to follow behind someone going 5mph uphill with no room to pass, and especially the community of people who want this bridge to last a lot longer than the last one, which it will, since a greater portion of people crossing will be doing so in machines that weigh orders of magnitude less than the average automobile.

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      • Andrew K July 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm

        I completely agree.

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  • DK July 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    When I went to traffic school to learn how to drive, I was taught that green means “GO!” It’s been a while for me but I’m pretty sure they’re still teaching this to drivers.

    Seems such a silly color to use in this application… Same can be said for using it in bike boxes, IMO.

    I love the idea of the colors being used to bring attention to the shared facility but out of the entire spectrum of colors, is green our only choice?

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    • joel July 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      do you have trouble not hitting the accelerator when trees leaf out in spring? pretty sure the general population can handle the idea that not *everything* green means go, and that perhaps that adage is limited to the context of traffic signals, as we were taught in traffic school.

      green is chosen, i suspect, for its high contrast with the background color of concrete or asphalt. red and blue already have defined meanings in the context of street and curb paint, i believe, as does yellow.

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      • DK July 24, 2012 at 8:07 am

        Just stating that I don’t think green is the best choice due to it’s previous, and current use, in traffic control. It has nothing to do with trees. It’s simply an observation that I felt compelled to share. There are a rainbow of colors available that offer similar contrast and have no predefined meaning in the world of traffic control.

        You are opposed to red, blue, and yellow for similar reasons. What’s the problem with suggesting an alternative to green?

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  • kww July 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    A win for all. But we have to keep an eye on the Mult. County commissioners and the bridge project staff to ensure that they don’t think that they can pull another fast one, down the line. This constitutes a ‘fast one’ in my book. You would think they would know better after everyone having to live with the disgrace of the existing bridge and other gems like Ross Island bridge.

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  • DR July 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    This looks great! In light of at least one recent incident, would be nice to see this design execution inspire a change to the design / traffic pattern on the st.John’s bridge; indicating a distinct lane with a color is crucial in such a narrow space.
    I Also feel the stained concrete is a step in the right direction in regards to traction. I like the visibility of green paint, but it can be sketchy when the rain falls.

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  • Brad July 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Green is picked up and processed faster by the human eye.

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    • Over and Doubt July 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      What if someone is red/green colorblind?

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      • Caleb July 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

        I would hope they would learn to associate what they see as red with a bike lane much like everyone learns to associate any color with anything.

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      • Brad July 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

        Then you possess a slight disability that you will need to work around. The remaining 95-97% of the population will see green just fine. Luckily, those with red-green color blindness can still pick up the white symbols in the green bike lanes without difficulty.

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      • Chris I July 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm

        Seems like traffic signals would be as much, if not more of a problem if that were the case…

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        • Greg July 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm

          All modern traffic signals have a percentage of blue in them for this reason. My friend who is red/green colorblind says he has no problem differentiating them.

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        • DK July 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

          Traffic signals are always arranged in a pre-determined orientation.

          Green always on bottom (vertical signal) or right (horizontal signal).
          Red always on top (vertical signal) or left (horizontal signal).

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      • q`Tzal July 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm

        I honestly suspect that people that are color blind are more vigilant in general not being able to relie on color cues in a fast paced environment.

        To me this means that color blind drivers are the least of our worries … it’s the perfectly able, no excuses driver that has 20/20 vision that claims not to have seen cyclists.
        Perhaps we should screen drivers for psychological blindness caused by biases, apathy and sadistic tendencies.

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      • Tom M July 24, 2012 at 3:21 am

        1. Many who are red/green color blind have heightened acuity for contrast. This is why they are chosen to review pictures for the military as they see through camouflage more easily.
        2. Want to verify the ability of green to be differentiated? Easy. Take a digital photo of a current green bike box and then turn the photo black and white. I bet the contrast shows up beautifully.

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  • IanC July 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I’m one of those red/green colorblind guys (and a 40 year old strong/fearless type!). Most red/green colorblindness is highly shade-dependent. The bright, lime green of the bike boxes is easy for me to see, but forest green, especially in low light or next to colors of similar hue like brown, burgundy, etc. are very hard to see. Red/green colorblind people usually see blue/yellow more vividly, so my preference for safety striping follows a more Provencale color scheme!

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  • dan July 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    There may be way more room on the street, and way less foot traffic on the sidewalk than I expect, but I can’t imagine using the on-street bike path when there’s a grade-separated MUP. I suppose the bike lanes are really there as de-facto breakdown lanes, and to provide a place for debris to collect outside the automobile travel lanes.

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    • dan July 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Oops, I mean “way _more_ foot traffic on the sidewalk”

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      • BicycleDave July 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm

        I expect the bike lane to be used by the faster, more fearless.

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        • dan July 24, 2012 at 12:19 am

          I have 3,000+miles of touring in East and SE Asia and have ridden in much hairier/tighter spots…but I’ve never been buzzed for fun by a motorist in Asia. Wish I could say the same for the States.

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    • are July 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      whereas i cannot imagine using an MUP when there is a perfectly good lane on the deck.

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    • Dave Thomson July 24, 2012 at 10:09 am

      If I’m riding faster than about 8MPH I believe I am much safer in the bike lane than I am mixing it up with pedestrians, wrong way riders, 20 MPH riders dodging me and other pedestrians, etc. The MUP will feel safer for the slower and directionally challenged riders, so the bike lanes should be cake. The combination of bike lanes and MUP is terrific IMO.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson July 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Amazing what a lame duck can do! We all owe some thanks to Sam Adams who has been, and will continue to be until December 31, a real friend to those who bike, walk and use transit in Portland.

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  • Andy K February 29, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I went to the opening on Saturday and thought I would follow up on this after reaching out to one of the engineers on the project:

    The concrete will be stained green at a later date in the project (for staging reasons). As you can see, it was not poured green, nor will it technically be integral.

    This is out of my expertise are but the way I understand it, this stain will permanently change the color of the concrete at the surface but not alter the friction.

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