Latest Columbia River Crossing proposal scales back bike facilities (updated)

Current bike infrastructure on much of Hayden
Island: signs and sidewalks.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Even for the many Portland-area residents who ride bikes but aren’t inclined to object to expensive urban freeway expansions, the Columbia River Crossing has always had one small thing going for it: it’d widen the Vancouver-Portland bike crossing and simplify the maze of trails required to reach it.

With pro-CRC lobbyists hastily re-gathering votes for a possible Oregon-funded version of the project, it looks like the bike facilities are being scaled back.

During its years of planning and outreach, one of the features of the Columbia River Crossing concept was a shared-use path through Hayden Island that would put bike traffic at a different height (or “grade”) from auto traffic. A Sept. 25 memo (PDF) from the CRC’s environmental manager, however, shows that the new “phased” project would save money by indefinitely postponing the grade separation and sending bike and foot traffic through “at-grade intersections on Hayden Island.”

Does this mean a shared sidewalk with crosswalks, like there are now? A row of posts in the street? A painted bike lane? How steeply would bikes have to descend from the 116-foot peak of the crossing into Hayden Island’s street network?

It’s not clear — in part because, as we’ve reported, the project has never created a visualization showing what the crossing looks like from the street level.

When we spoke with longtime CRC supporter Sen. Rod Monroe in August, he said a dedicated bike path across the Columbia was “an absolute quid pro quo” for his and other Democratic lawmakers’ support of the project. But as close watchers of the project know, most of the CRC project isn’t actually the bridge itself. How many cost savings north and south of the bridge are necessary before lawmakers, voters and federal officials start thinking of this as a categorically different project? That’s not clear, either.

Columbia River Crossing spokeswoman Mandy Putney said she’d need to ask another planner for details. If they respond, we’ll let you know.

Update 11:21 pm: Columbia River Crossing spokeswoman Mandy Putney has responded with the answers: “On Hayden Island, there would be painted bike lanes. There is no shared sidewalk. … Our current conceptual plans illustrate a 4.5 percent grade. The design build contractor will be responsible for finalizing the grade and design.” (For comparison’s sake, 4.5 percent is about the slope of the road descending on Southeast Morrison Street at 11th Avenue.)

In related news, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney issued a statement today saying that he doesn’t think the CRC should be discussed at the legislature until the regular session begins in February.

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