Vancouver advocates plan ride to push timetable on Lower River Road project

Advocates want a safer and more pleasant way
to ride along Lower River Road.
(Photos: Todd Bachmann)

This story was written by our Vancouver correspondent, Madeleine von Laue.

Bicycle activists in Vancouver are organizing a ride with elected officials along Lower River Road this Friday (8/23). The ride is an attempt to raise support for a project that would complete the path along the high-speed road that connects downtown with popular recreation areas west of town such as Vancouver Lake and Frenchman’s Bar along the Columbia River. The Port of Vancouver recently received a federal grant to construct one segment of the path, and advocates want to build on that momentum.

“This is a community driven ride to showcase the importance of this trail to Vancouver’s health and outdoor recreation potential,” said ride organizer Todd Bachmann. Currently, funding for the complete 3.7 mile trail is pegged to development and could take 15-25 years to materialize. “We’re asking our state representatives to help find grants and other money to accelerate the project’s completion.”

Lower River Road is the westward funnel for several major arterials, including Mill Plain and Fourth Plain boulevards leading from downtown, and it parallels the Columbia. It offers views of and access to some of the region’s best recreational and nature sites. And it’s an ideal route for cycling and running. But the road runs through a growing industrial area, and with a 50 mph posted speed limit and a steady stream of big rigs, garbage trucks heading to the landfill, pickups, vans and other traffic, it is unpleasant and unsafe for non-motorized users. (See a Google Map of Lower River Road created by The Oregonian.)

A recently completed section of the path.

“The route shouldn’t be just for elite runners and cyclists,” said Bachmann. “Kids and families and older adults need to feel safe and comfortable riding out there. It has tremendous potential to help Clark County citizens get outside and be more active, and it addresses a priority of our county officials to make our community healthier.”

“The route shouldn’t be just for elite runners and cyclists. Kids and families and older adults need to feel safe and comfortable riding out there… and it addresses a priority of our county officials to make our community healthier.”
— Todd Bachmann

The port also recognizes the assets a trail along the road would provide. “The port’s ongoing efforts to construct the multi-modal pathway are grounded in its mission to provide economic benefit to our community…,” according to a recent news release about the project from the port. With approximately 2,300 people currently employed by businesses at the port and an expected additional 2,000 employees in the next five to 10 years, the port is also well aware that a path connecting the port to the city’s residential areas and the C-Tran bus service is a crucial part of a strong transportation system.

The Port is proposing a 12′ path separated from traffic by trees and other landscaping. A .5 mile section was completed last year (see photo above), and the new grant will allow the port to complete another .5 mile section.

“This is a very expensive project,” said Katy Brooks, Community Planning and Outreach Manager for the Port. “It crosses major wetlands and several sections have multiple owners. We’ll also need to widen the road.” The total project is estimated to cost about $2.5 million.

A number of local and state officials have RSVP’d for the event, including Representatives Jim Moeller and Ann Rivers, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, Vancouver City Council members Larry Smith and Bill Turlay, and council member candidates Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Alisha Topper.

Organizers are encouraging the community to join the ride. Participants will meet at 1:00 pm at 2121 St. Francis Lane (map). The ride will be an easy three miles, and the event is expected to end before 2:30. For more information, see the BikeVanWa blog.

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