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Parks’ proposal puts North Portland Greenway ‘Trail’ on surface streets – UPDATED

Posted by on December 4th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Interstate Ave -6

Portland Parks & Rec says they’ll move forward
with using this portion of N Interstate for the
Willamette Greenway Trail.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The dream for the North Portland Greenway trail project has always been to extend the Eastbank Esplanade to St. Johns along the river. It was envisioned as a path that would be separated from motor vehicle traffic, just like Esplanade and Springwater exist today through the Central City.

Unfortunately, design and engineering of the project is moving forward with the assumption that the “trail” will actually be routed away from river and along busy, narrow, and dangerous roads.

When the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) bureau came out with plans back in September showing the preferred alignment up on N Greeley and Interstate Ave, there was widespread criticism and concern.

The natural alignment for the trail, and the one overwhelmingly preferred by the public, is on a privately owned road between Swan Island and the Fremont Bridge known as the Ash Grove Cement Road. The road is owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) and is used by the Ash Grove Cement company. And despite “No Trespassing” signs, it’s also used by an increasing number of Swan Island employees who bike to work.

Parks’ initial alignment map showing preference for Greeley/Interstate.

One week after Parks’ proposal to put the trail up on Greeley and Interstate surfaced, they shared results from a public survey about the alignment. 57% of survey respondents said they didn’t like it. Of the 147 public comments Parks received about this segment, 52 of them urged Parks to put the trail on the Cement Rd. The second most common response was “Keep trail close to river” (with 25 comments) and “Not Greeley” with 24. “Concerned about safety” was fourth.

It’s clear. Both the public and trail advocates remain strongly in favor of using the Cement Rd.

Emily Roth - Parks Project Manager

City of Portland Project Manager Emily Roth.

Friends of the North Portland Greenway Trail chair Francie Royce told the Portland Mercury back in October that putting the route up on Greeley and Interstate is, “An easy route for them politically,” but that it’s, “a miserable route for bikers and walkers.” The friends group put out an email to their supporters that said, “N. Greeley as an alternative to the Cement Road is unacceptable.”

On November 13th, after the public made their concerns very clear, PP&R Project Manager Emily Roth visited the Bureau of Transportation’s Bicycle Advisory Committee to present their latest thinking on the alignment.

Roth said she’s heard the concerns loud and clear. She added that alignment maps would be revised for the open house next month to give equal weight to the Greeley/Interstate and Cement Rd. routes. However, Roth’s words spoke louder than lines on a map.

“I’m concerned that any formal and disproportionate efforts toward the Greeley/Interstate alignment will weaken our ability to advocate for the Cement Road.”
— Sarah Angell, Swan Island Transportation Management Association

“We do not have permission from the railroad to build anything on this [road],” she said emphatically in a presentation to members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. While both route lines will be placed on the official maps, Roth said Parks will only be moving forward with design and engineering for the Greeley/Interstate alignment.

Roth reminded the BAC that the Greeley facility would be an off-street, grade-separated path (think of a cycle-track like the one on SW Moody). However, not only would that facility be (prohibitively?) expensive, when it heads onto Interstate Ave, there’s no room available for such a path. That means the “trail” would be on a narrow, stressful bike lane next to large trucks and other motor vehicles.

According to Roth, the City is, “between a rock and a hard place with the Cement Rd.” Roth cited a letter drafted by UPRR to the City stating they are not interested in even discussing a possible trail easement across their property. And the City has essentially zero legal power because Ash Grove Cement is designated as a “river-dependent industry” in the recently adopted River Plan and therefore has no obligation to allow a trail.

“A trail along Greeley Ave is not a greenway… The Cement Rd is the ideal alignment.”
— Emily York, Commissioner Nick Fish’s office

Throughout her presentation, Roth said Parks hasn’t given up on getting the Cement Rd route, but she also made it clear that the decision goes beyond committees and planners. “It has to be at the Commissioner/Mayor level,” she said, “And the businesses on Swan Island need a coalition to talk with the railroad.”

Nick Fish is the commissioner in charge of the Parks bureau. Back in November, one of his policy advisors, Emily York, told me they had a meeting with trail advocates about the Cement Rd. “A trail along Greeley Ave is not a greenway,” York acknowledged. She said Commissioner Fish has “always been in support of a greenway along the river and that hasn’t changed.” “The Cement Rd is the ideal alignment.”

York said she and Fish see the Greeley/Interstate alignment as simply a more near-term possibility (5-10 years down the road) while they start to have “further conversations” about the Cement Rd. “How do we get this going? That’s something Nick is interesting in playing a role in.”

While York expresses support for the Cement Rd., Union Pacific’s opposition to the trail — and the lack of legal obligation they have to even entertain the idea — means the City must be very careful about how they move forward. If the City does anything that could be considered as planning for the trail on the Cement Rd, it could be seen as an act of defiance and an overstepping of the railroad’s authority.

Sarah Angell, the executive director of the Swan Island Transportation Management Association, is a big proponent of the Cement Rd because she knows what a crucial connection it is for the many bike commuters on Swan Island. She says too much acquiescence by the City on the Cement Rd, will make it even harder to consider at a later date. “I’m concerned that any formal and disproportionate efforts toward the Greeley/Interstate alignment will weaken our ability to advocate for the Cement Road.”

“Getting the Cement Road endorsed in the plan will take everything we’ve got,” Angell shared with us via email, “And now that the City’s political will should’ve gotten a boost from the community, is their message back to the public going to be, ‘When things are tough, let’s back off and not try as hard?'”

We’ll get another chance to hear from Parks at their next open house on January 9th. I’m also hoping to hear back from a Union Pacific rep about their perspective on the issue.

For now, it looks like something must change for the Cement Rd to get back into play. Former Chair of the PBOT Bike Advisory Committee, Matthew Arnold, captured what I think are many people’s feelings about this situation: “Interstate is not a safe or comfortable facility for all but a few of us… It seems like an unfortunate end to a pretty great plan.”

— Learn more on the official project website.

UPDATE, 12/5 at 7:33 am: Union Pacific RR Director of Public Affairs Brock Nelson has replied to my inquiries. He says the Cement Rd is “actively used by both UPRR and Ash Grove Cement,” and says UPRR is not interested in allowing the public on the property. Below is his full comment:

“… the cement road supports our operations in Albina Yard on a 24 hour a day 7 day a week basis. Union Pacific’s maintenance vehicles and work equipment use this road on a daily basis in the performance of their duties. Also, there are multiple railroad tracks crossing the road which are used to serve our local customers. Union Pacific has significant concerns with non-railroad related uses of its rights-of-way and the inherent danger of mixing freight operations and pedestrians. In addition, Union Pacific needs to preserve the ability to expand our track capacity within Albina Yard at sometime in the future. As such, Union Pacific is not interested in either selling or allowing public access to this property.

In a follow-up comment, Nelson said Union Pacific has a, “good working relationship with the City of Portland and is always willing to meet with them to talk.”

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  • Bike-Max-Bike December 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Lack of political will, more so than money, is why we can’t have nice bicycle things (infrastructure) in this town.

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  • 9watts December 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    ‘When things are tough, let’s back off and not try as hard?'”

    Hard to argue with that as a more general summary of how lots of things related to bikes fail to happen in this town. Notwithstanding this dismal impression my sense is that many folks at PBOT are well intentioned–certainly the ones I’ve had the opportunity to work with have been great–but why/how do things keep getting stuck? Why is this becoming a refrain?

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  • Pacforth December 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    The sovereign nation of Union Pacific strikes again! Anybody else noticing a pattern here?

    Their blatant parochialism and outright and petty disregard for anything beyond their own narrow interests is downright insulting. They run mile long trains in the middle of Portland during rush hour without regard for commuters of all modes, snarling traffic for miles. They have given outrageous demands to TriMet, the CAHSR, etc. for sharing their right of way for passenger rail, requiring a ridiculous amount of setback between their trains and the passenger trains. They have been a constant roadblock for the Sullivan’s Gulch trail, and now this project. I am sure they are a contributing roadblock to the Naito bike lane gap under the Steel Bridge as well.

    Their (and BNSF’s) sheer arrogance makes me believe the railroads view the City, TriMet, and other agencies with spite for even daring to impede on their territory. These guys even have eminent domain powers, as if they were a state, and clearly don’t think they’re accountable to anyone (because they’re not)!

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    • Bike-Max-Bike December 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Occupy Cement Road!

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    • JAT in Seattle December 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

      Everything about this comment – railroads, steel bridges, concern only for one’s own narrow interest, arrogance – reminds me of Atlas Shrugged – heck, it’s even got a gulch in it. Superb!

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    • was carless December 5, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Sorry, the railroad was built around the same time the city was – before 1900. The city has had ample opportunity to establish decent transportation corridors in and out of downtown Portland for over 100 years… and has failed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists in that time.

      I hardly think that the blame rests at the railroads, without which this city probably wouldn’t be much more than a small town.

      It is the stupidity of the city not to have the tracks buried under the city, like most major cities (ie, Seattle) do.

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    • Pacforth December 5, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Sorry, but UP’s obstinance on this and a myriad of other important transportation issues shows that they are completely unreasonable. They’re not even willing to come to the table, let alone cooperate on anything.

      And most of those downtown rail tunnels were built by the rail companies themselves a hundred years ago, NOT by the cities. Like the Peninsula Tunnel in North Portland. So who is to blame for no railroad tunnel in Downtown, again?

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    • q`Tzal December 6, 2012 at 10:38 am

      All of America’s Class 1 railroad companies (the big ones that are the remaining fragments of the anti-trust breakup over 100 years ago) are grandfathered in to the corruption as it existed back in the late 1800’s.
      They are currently exempt from anti-trust laws despite many having local monopolies over their geographic regions. Different environmental, labor and finance laws apply to them while they have full or partial exemption from those that apply to every other company.

      In other words: they have nothing to lose by doing what they want and see only liability and loss if they officially accommodate the public in any way.

      If there is any hope of using our preferred route we need to view this from the perspective of the railroad company.
      The unofficial use of Cement Rd. can be unofficially ignored by their police force until it proves to be a liability. As long as no one gets injured or killed it would seem it is okay to hold the status quo; their legal department may insist on a full lock down just because of the increased public scrutiny drawing in more of the public in protest.

      If there is any hope of accessing their property, by Cement Rd or overhead bridge, it will only be if there is no increase in liability or decrease in their ability to move freight.

      This is an adversary that cannot be defeated in a frontal assault; this includes any legal strategy. While there may be angles that they are not defending against the best strategy would be to convince them that what we want is what they want.

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  • bjorn December 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    What about doing what they did on the eastbank and making the trail out of floating docks. Sure it might completely cut off access to the river for anyone in those sections, but if they don’t like it they could always start entertaining a trail on land…

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  • q`Tzal December 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    It would be better to do nothing, leaving a discontinuous path, than bestow ANY official approval upon this horrid kill box of a “bike path”.

    The bridge footing can’t move.
    The railroad can’t move.
    Union Pacific won’t budge.
    The road is barely legal for a single lane of automotive traffic.

    We are better off investing that money in reserve for the trail project while we sit and wait for political/social pressure to work on Union Pacific OR someone comes up with some stroke of genius that renders this all mute.

    Just don’t waste our tax dollars on a cop-out solution that is so bad a 5 year old can see it.

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  • Rol December 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    They have a long & happy marriage with Washington going back 150 years folks.

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  • hroðberacht December 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    just for the sake of conversation and ridiculous, unlikely alternatives: elevated trail viaduct over the railyard.

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    • David December 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      I don’t see why not! We build bridges and overpasses for cars all the time–why not for other forms of transportation?

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    • JJJ December 5, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      Wont happen. UP wont allow the california HSR project to build above their land.

      Theyre the epitome of selfish obstructionism. Which is why they should be bought out by the government of California….would save billions on HSR. Then it could be sold back at a profit.

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      • q`Tzal December 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

        Can you link to details on this Ca HSR issue?
        I’d like to analyze their concerns in that case to see if they are useful in ours.

        For example the initial build of the Rhine Pedestrian Bridge is a reasonable analog of the hurdles that must be overcome in any MUP overpass in lieu of approved access to Cement RD.

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  • Daniel R. Miller December 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    It’s too bad if it has to be “either/or” on Cement Road vs. Greeley, because Greeley does desperately need better bike facilities than the current painted stripe running next to freeway-speed traffic and trucks. I live in NoPo just west of the residential part of Greeley Ave., and love the directness of Greeley for getting to and from Downtown. But I rarely take it, particularly southbound, during busy hours. Too many close calls with speeding trucks and the necessity of crossing a full-speed freeway on-ramp.

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    • ScoBu December 4, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      I ride this every day but happen to go south bound on Greeley around 6:30am. There is still traffic but I normally catch big breaks between vehicles and that on-ramp. I agree with you whole-heartedly, though. There are times I feel like I might get sucked up in some of those semis drafts when they pass me.

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    • Secret Santa December 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      If a ‘strong and fearless’ rider as yourself is reluctant to use Greeley, whats the likelihood of an ‘interested but concerned’ rider using it? Pacforth above has stated the real challenge, the Union Pacific scares the City from actually engaging. We are beat before the team enters the field.
      I am convinced it is the local “PR” guy for UP that is the roadblock. Jim Young, the Chairman of UP is an avid cyclist and seemed positive about ‘rails with trails’ at an event here in Portland a couple years ago.
      Its not that rails with trails cannot happen.. a certain City Councilor worked with UP to get the Steele Bridge path from Waterfront to the Esplanade. He recently became Mayor.
      Why settle for the unworkable, unusable and unsafe when we could actually have a signature trail?

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    • Nathan December 6, 2012 at 11:52 am


      I don’t know a single “strong and fearless” rider who *likes* the Greeley bicycle lane vs. I-5 ramp mess.

      Not to mention, in other road stretches, the ineffectiveness of that paint strip keeping motor vehicle related debris from flatting bicycle tubes or worse. A bike lane does not make a road self-sweeping.

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  • ScoBu December 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I ride Greeley/Interstate every day on my commute from St Johns to downtown and back. Sure would be nice to get off those roads. I can’t see any benefit in including them in any “solution”. It’s a farce and I agree with not doing anything until we can do much better.

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  • Mr DeJerk December 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    This is so much BS! But very typical for Portland, that loves calling random streets that people prefer to bike “bike boulevards”. Or pretending that splashing some paint in the middle of a street equates to “bike infrastructure”.

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  • Secret Santa December 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Perhaps instead of sitting and carping among ourselves, showing up at the CAC open house Jan 9th, or at least an email or letter to Comm. Fish stating your preferences for Cement as the preferred, and only route? My memory of the Planning Commission being swamped with folks wanting to testify and support moving at least one signature trail from ‘aspiration’ to first tier priority was inspirational and effective. Planning Commission sent their recommendations to Council, including at least one SIGNATURE trail in tier one.
    A bike lane alongside diesel trucks barreling on and off Swan Island is not ‘Signature’..

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    • Secret Santa December 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      uh.. edit before send. I was referring to the 2030 Bicycle Master Plan hearings..

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson December 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    The sad irony here is that the Ash Grove Cement Road is there, all paved from Port Center Way to N. River Street. It has a few dicey rail crossings but sees very little truck or rail traffic and has been used for years by Swan Island employees who commute by bicycle. All we need is permission to use it! The City should present it as an alternative regardless of the UPRR stance.

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  • Niko December 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    “N. Greeley as an alternative to the Cement Road is unacceptable.”
    As someone who fears being hit by a truck, I cannot agree more!

    Cars, bikes, buses all accommodate trains in their commute (I have been late to several meetings due to inane delays as trains block traffic for 10-20 minutes out of the blue). Why shouldn’t railway companies make small concessions as well?

    And given the railroads connection to the coal industry, it is good PR for Union Pacific to assist with sustainable infrastructure. They could at least put it in an add or annual report for shareholders- resulting warm fuzzy feelings all around. Let’s find a way!

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  • Ted Buehler December 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I rode up Interstate tonight from Broadway to Russell. Not a lot of fun. Especially with darkness, leaves, puddles, & rain. Pretty skimpy when the bike lane dips to less than the width of a bicycle, as shown in the photo.

    This is probably a job for Merkely/Wyden/Blumenhaur. The UP needs favors all over the place. It’s just a matter of finding a spot where they need a favor and matching up the exchange to The Cement Road.

    Pressure from Swan Island industries would help, too. Esp. businesses that ship freight with the UP.

    But, hats off to the Parks Board for keeping the line on the map. It leaves us in a much better position than having no line on a map.

    Keep up the good work, NoPoGreenway advocates,

    Ted Buehler

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    • dwainedibbly December 5, 2012 at 11:45 am

      I have to wonder if that isn’t the reason they’re taking a hard line now: set up a strong negotiating position for some future agreement.

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  • Blake December 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    I ride Greeley to work southbound from Lombard onto Interstate to the Steel Bridge and I don’t see how it works for a long-term solution. The issue is not so much for me the bike lane (it’s wider than Interstate’ bike lane, which is a big issue under the overpasses for the Bway bridge, a menace to bikers since not only cars, but buses and large trucks also use that street).

    The issue is the cross over of the onramp to Greeley at the top of the hill just below Adidas (very obscured view of traffic entering Greeley that you have to cross) and the I-5 offramp where you have to cross a lane of fast moving traffic (or as often is the case, stop and wait for the traffic to pass and then cross).

    After that, I don’t mind the lane up to Interstate (except for when the homeless guys leave their carts on the sidewalk, blocking the path). But then again, once you get to Interstate it becomes a problem of dodging cars and drains.

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  • resopmok December 5, 2012 at 5:59 am

    The missing puzzle piece here is that ultimately, whatever future alignment the trail has, it will need to scale a decently large hill coming from Swan Island up to Willamette. I wouldn’t say that Greeley is ideal by any means, but it does provide a better grade than Interstate or any switchback that would be cut into the hill between Swan Island and Willamette. Assuming the various on/off ramps and intersections could be dealt with appropriately along with some separation from general traffic (perhaps through a combination of lane reconfiguration and grade separation?), this would still leave commuters to Swan Island being forced to ascend a small hill before they reach their destination, along a route that is not as direct. However, such a Greeley alignment would provide a better link between St. Johns and the riverfront area at the Rose Quarter and point south.

    I too like the vision of a quaint MUP that follows the river all the way to Kelly Point, but a nice view of the still impressive Albina Railyard might be just as attractive to some folks. Our politicians may not have the balls to fight for Cement Rd now, but it may be a blessing in disguise under this circumstance, and doesn’t rule out the possibility of still bringing UPR around on the issue sometime in the future for the benefit of Swan Island commuters.

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  • Duncan December 5, 2012 at 6:30 am

    No really sounds like a great plan- if you lower the traffic speed to 25 and turn the on ramps to lighted intersections… and add photo enforcement so the traffic will know 24/7 they are being watched.

    If cement rd cannot be a bike trail, than Greeley will have to be re-envisioned to make it bike-able.

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  • Redhippie December 5, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Definately a disapointing experience.

    The railroad refused to even attend the process. Great neighbor. I think the earlier comment of “occupy” it might be the way. Start to disrupt activities costs them $. At some point, it becomes cheaper to negotiate than to loose $. Since the RR has to schedule, disruption at any location causes ripples through out the entire region. So pick a good time and location and occupy the tracks. Do it enough times and you rack up the costs. The Gorge would probably be a good choke point.

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  • Spiffy December 5, 2012 at 7:44 am

    build a high-quality greenway right up to their property on both sides and the public will figure out where to ride… then they can either continue dealing with trespassers and vandals or they can let the city build proper facilities…

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    • Jonathan December 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      The best idea yet. Talk about sending a message as well.

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  • julie December 5, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I agree with Duncan saying that MAJOR changes would need to be made on Greeley to make it acceptable to any cyclists/walkers. I will always prefer separate bike paths (Madison, WI anyone?) like the Cement Rd option, as long as they are safe, well-planned and get me where I’m going efficiently (note that the Esplanade/Springwater don’t help us much if we are traversing the city). If the RR doesn’t respond in favor of cyclists on Cement Rd, we’ll be forced to use an alternative. Another question: if most of us don’t agree with the use of Greeley/Interstate, do our tax dollars still pay for the expensive project?

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  • oliver December 5, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I’ll 3rd Duncan.

    The shipping interests down there need to apply some pressure to UPRR. (which is only almost like tilting at windmills, not exactly)

    Major changes on Greeley will greatly impact freight throughput at Swan Island. Signalized crossings at every entrance and exits along Greeley are bad for everyone.

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  • Dan V December 5, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Just for the record, impinging on their access (blocking trains, trespassing) doesn’t really hurt them; they have a private police force to ticket/remove offenders. Floating docks would not work, as Ash Grove needs the river access and both a trail and a dock would block that. Besides which, if we tick them off on this, what do you think they will do when we need access to their ROW for Sullivan’s Gulch? This is how the railroads have always operated, back to the days when they were given ROWs in one of the biggest corporate land-grabs ever. People need to understand that they do not care and any business that cares to complain might find their freight deliveries rather slow… Our best bet is to get Parks to NOT spend the money on planning and engineering of Interstate and just take the lane. Let the traffic tie-ups/complaints do the work for us. Get enough drivers irritated about all the bikes and they will demand that an off-road trail be built.

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  • Max D December 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

    The Cement Road is not thing to fight for right now! The plans also show the bike path winding around all over the Rose Quarter. Well, with the Memorial Coliseum getting ready to be rehabilitated, there are millions of dollars, a lot of public money, going into improvements at the Rose Quarter. This is a very real opportunity to connect from the existing esplanade under the steel bridge (with an elevated path from the existing bike ramp to maintain grade) and along the top of the bank, at least up to the Broadway bridge. This is not even being considered because the visioning of parks is far too timid, and the engineers are not being compelled to think creatively.

    I am not sure if the bike path could get under the Broadway Bridge, and if it did, it would likely need some walls/cantilevered structure to keep a path above the RR, and west of Interstate, but I think that the southbound Larrabee ramp is fair game for demolition. Highway-style slip-lanes and on-ramps do not work well with buses and bikes. The intersection of Larabee and Interstate south of Broadway already has a turnlane to access Broadway. The Southbound Larabee could be closed, too, and at least reconfigured to meet Interstate at a safe, 90-degree angle.

    That gets us from the Esplanade to Tillamook. If the Cement Road will not work, how about Tillamook to River to the Fremont Bridge. Follow the path of Fremont Bridge back toward Greeley (using RR crossings). Then a trail on the west side of Greeley, BELOW the road, could built into the bank. This could cruise along the bank to Going, meet with the Going to the River trail, continue under the Going Bridge, and gradually climb through the woods along the bank up to Willamette Blvd at around Ainsworth. The “Local Traffic Only” on Willamette would then be extended from Rosa Parks to around the University of Portland. If the Waud Bluff Trail can be fixed to accommodate bikes (how did this illegal, non-ADA fiasco ever happen?), the trail could head down to the river here. If not, a trail at Portsmouth or Van Houten could be built.

    I hope everyone reading this will come to the openhouse, and bring along 5 friends! This is a big deal, and Parks has assigned a Natural Resource pesrson (not a recreation or transportation) expert to it. Parks will need to hear from the community early, often and clearly to change their momentum on this.

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  • Andyc of Linnton December 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

    So disheartening. Very upset by all of this, and much of the stories this week so far. Never would have thought I’d ever be jealous of Chicago.
    Interstate/Greeley is the only alignment to be seen in the next 5-10 years!? Yikes! A sub-par walking and biking experience is only a decade away! Holy cow.
    I’ll keep this short, but what I’m taking away from all of this is that our surface streets are mainly for trucks carrying freight, and our waterfront is for the rail yards, trains and businesses concerned with that freight. Okay, good to know.

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  • RH December 5, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I work in the rail indusutry. They don’t want people near their yards for safety reason. They also don’t want people tresspassing and possibly tampering with a railcar seal. Union Pacific is liable for that and many food grade railcars are immediately rejected if they have a missing seal…that can be a very expen$ive problem for them.

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    • matt picio December 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

      RH, I think perhaps you meant to say “for liability reasons.” 😉

      All kidding aside, the railroad has valid concerns. Unfortunately, they’re apparently completely refusing to entertain any discussion or to come to the table on this issue. Anyone think it’ll be different for Sullivan’s Gulch? Considering how much Union Pacific has been given for free by public agencies over the last 150 years, one would think they’d be a little more willing to come to the table. Or perhaps not.

      There is a long history of government entities using Eminent Domain and other tactics to obtain property and/or easements from private landowners. If there was political will, the City of Portland could make it *very* difficult for the railroad to say no. There is no such political will, however.

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    • Pacforth December 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      @matt picio:

      If you are suggesting that the City of Portland or the State of Oregon exercise Eminent Domain powers to take the railroad’s property, not only is there no political will but it is illegal to do so under federal law. The Supreme Court has affirmed this.

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    • Joe Adamski December 5, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      All you need to do is look north to Seattles Burke Gilman trail which runs alongside rail lines like the npGreenway trail would.
      A cyclone fence resolves most of the separation concerns. Its a small investment that would solve 99.9% of the concerns.

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      • q`Tzal December 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

        Joe Adamski
        A cyclone fence resolves most of the separation concerns.

        “cyclone fence”: is this a brand name or a type of fence?

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    • JJJ December 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      If only some kind of barrier system could be built. A…..fence?

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  • dwainedibbly December 5, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Don’t those employees who now ride the Cement Road belong to Unions? I wonder if the unions would be willing to express some support?

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    • Dan V December 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      As do the rail workers… The unions, for the most part, don’t really get involved in matters outside the workplace. Besides, who would they pressure (the railroad? the City? Both couldn’t care less). Now, make a business reason as to reducing obesity/disease rates, with corresponding reductions in health-care costs, to the businesses by getting their employees out of their cars and more active, and you might get somewhere. This sort of infrastructure change really comes down to public health impacts.

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      • dwainedibbly December 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        My point is that if they use the road to get to work, then it becomes a workplace issue.

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  • GlowBoy December 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Epic trail fail. As q`tzal said, there is no way we should allow this travesty to be labeled as a “greenway”, “trail” or “path”. If we can’t build an acceptable route and maps end up showing a gap in the trail, then at least the maps will be accurate. Better than pretending otherwise.

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  • Dan V December 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    For such a major transportation link, it speaks volumes about Portland’s priorities that it is being planned by Parks and not PBOT. Doesn’t Park’s budget get cut every year to balance the budget?

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  • BURR December 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Total lack of vision.

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  • Nate December 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    If we are dreaming big, why not go whole hog?

    I would like to see a cliff hugging/raised MUP that follows the contours of the hillside between the railyard and Greeley, under the N. Going St. overpass, below the Adidas campus, and up to N. Willamette at N. Jessup – the “dog park”.

    If we can float an esplanade, why not borrow the State of Colorado’s stilt-walking highway building contraption to make a new MUP?

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    • q`Tzal December 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Pics or link?

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  • JJJ December 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    is UP immune to eminent domain? The way they treat transportation projects around the country makes it seem like they’re the supreme law of the land. In California, they won’t even allow the state to build passenger tracks ABOVE (elevated) completely empty land they own but dont use. And then the state just rolls over and says ok.

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  • Terry D December 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    All the on road “trail upgrade” are just that…..on road upgrades that should have been done in the first place the last time these roads were redesigned. All the city is doing is assessing what road upgrades can be done to make them up to current 2030 Master Plan standards and calling it a “trail” so when there is funding for it they can funnel the “trail funding” into road improvements.

    It is a BACKWARDS and STUPID approach. These on street improvements should be moved OUT of the NP Greenway Discussion and moved over to PBOT’s general plans for “future roadway improvements when money allows”. The NP Greenway should END at the connection to “Going to the River” and we should move ahead as fast as possible with the first four sections as this would create an uninterrupted path north to Kelly Point Park.

    Section five should ONLY have TWO possible preferred options:
    1) The cheap and easy solution of Cement Ash road. Leave it on the plans, but do nothing other than make a political statement to the effect of “When the Railroad becomes a good neighbor this is what we want.” Attache it to the Sullivan’s Gulch needs as they own 67% or so of the ROW needed there as well.
    2) Begin planning on a long-term alignment that is directly on the river. There are only a few companies that have docks on the river These docks all look like they need a LOT of rehabilitation work.

    Do we want a REAL World Class Greenway? Then lets be creative. Work with each company and offer to help rebuild the docks. Build a river front path that dives down UNDERNEATH a protected dock. That way the ship can be docked at the river, employees can be doing their jobs on the docks above you while you are riding underneath the dock IN BETWEEN the riverside and the ship.

    Probably never been done, but it would be spectacular. But this would require….GASP….the PUBLIC sector actually working with the PRIVATE sector to create a design that works with the needs of both aspects of our society. Which is difficult in our capitalist centered world I know.

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    • Max D December 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      I completely agree with you in terms of starting at Kelly point and building down to the University of Portland. I also agree that crossing Swan Island should simply be postponed until there is the will and ability to build a real trail. However, I think the this is the exact right time to plan and possibly build the piece of trail that connects (under the Steel Bridge, above the UP service road; cantilevered off the bridge abutment) the esplanade to the the Broadway Bridge (maybe to the signal at Larrabee) along the river. There is a lot of money and momentum flowing into rehabilitating the Memorial Coliseum, and planning the next phase of development in Rose Quarter. The Parks Bureau will not fight for this unless they are pressured hard. I think this is the most pressing issue this trail faces because if this area develops without the trail, a retrofit is very unlikely!

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      • Terry D December 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

        This would be an excellent route to connect up to the “dive under docks” route all the way from the Broadway crossing under the Fremont all the way to Swan Island.

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  • dwainedibbly December 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Are there docks along the rail yard, in the area where Cement road is? It doesn’t look like it from the map. Let’s go all Esplanade on Union Pacific’s butt! Do they control the river bottom, too?

    The alternative is to wait 50 years until UP decides that the land is worth more as a redevelopment opportunity, then the City can try to force some sort of easement into whatever development plans come along.

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  • nuovorecord December 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Maybe the City has a long-range strategy on this? They’re already leaning pretty heavily on UP for the Sullivan’s Gulch trail; perhaps they’ll fight this battle another day?

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  • hroðberacht December 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    ridiculous, unlikely alternative #2: esplanade-style floating trail with a swing span to maintain river access for Ash Grove.

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