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A region can dream: The metro area’s vision for its future path network

Posted by on October 23rd, 2014 at 9:30 am

regional map

(Click the image to enlarge, or see this zoomable PDF or web version.)

When you stitch together the long-term bike plans of every city in the area, connect a few dots and put it all on one map, you get something pretty spectacular.

“We want to move away from ‘bike lane ends’ or ‘trail ends.’ People don’t know when they’re passing from one owner of a road or into a jurisdiction. So we want that completeness across the region.”
— Lake Strongheart McTighe, Metro

That’s what regional government Metro did this summer, when its council unanimously approved the region’s new active transportation plan.

Assuming Oregonians don’t make any radical decisions such as earmarking, say, an additional 5 percent of our annual gas tax revenue for off-road urban paths, the network pictured above will take many decades to build. But even at today’s rates, the state, region and cities are chipping away at this plan; look at the Tualatin River Greenway gap, which outscored 99 out of 103 other transportation projects from around the state last spring to get $1.4 million from Oregon Lottery revenues.

You can see that 0.8-mile project in the cluster of yellow lines southwest of Lake Oswego. If you zoom way in.

Metro’s “Active Transportation Plan Regional Trails Network Vision,” as it’s known, is as big as its name. But that’s the point, says its architect, Lake Strongheart McTighe.


“The regional plan is really a way to coordinate all of the various efforts that are happening around the region so that the sum of the parts is really great,” said McTighe, a senior transportation planner at Metro, said in an interview Tuesday. “We want to move away from ‘bike lane ends’ or ‘trail ends.’ People don’t know when they’re passing from one owner of a road or into a jurisdiction. So we want that completeness across the region.”

An example: the new Active Transportation Plan, for the first time, identifies a “Beaverton to Milwaukie Trail” that would run alongside Highway 26 through the West Hills, joining downtown Portland’s hub of trails with the developing network in Washington County.

Here’s another big map in Metro’s new plan: one that includes not just off-street paths but also on-street routes.

regional on-street off-street map

(Click the image to enlarge, or see this zoomable PDF or web version.)

This map has a similar motivation, McTighe said: helping every jurisdiction make sure their blue lines line up.

“We want to always be emphasizing that if Portland is putting in a buffered bike lane on, like, Division, then we want that bicycling and pedestrian improvements to extend all the way through to Gresham, or have some sort of meaningful connection as it weaves through,” McTighe said.

The new Regional Active Transportation Plan is a landmark document, and this vision is just a piece of it. You can learn more about it, and download all the analysis of these maps, here.

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    ed October 23, 2014 at 11:45 am

    The highest priority should be high quality segregated bicycle paths along the banks of the Willamette, and extending beyond downtown. This would provide an ideal central north-south transportation corridor without intersecting car conflicts as well as beautiful recreational opportunities. I realize it is difficult to obtain right of way but it would enhance the city and active transportation so much.

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      paikiala October 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      If you live near it. Does the Springwater have peak bike trips of 100-200 per hour like Ankeny or Going?

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    Lake Strongheart McTighe October 23, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks for the story Michael! For more detail on the planned networks, interactive maps of the regional bicycle and pedestrian policy networks can be accessed at

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    Todd Boulanger October 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Hmmm…from this map I learned that there is a proposed MUP along the I-5 corridor in Vancouver’s CBD.

    I did not know that…I wonder what plan contains this (I would like the link)? As I do not remember such being included in the CRC BPAC produced network, other than a short MUP connecting K Street south to East 4th Plain to the CRC P+R near the VA/ Clark College.

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    Mara Gross October 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    The Active Transportation Plan was a major effort and an important step in developing out the active transportation network across the region. Kudos to Lake, Metro, and the many partners involved.

    As we and many others said when the plan was passed, we’re pleased that the plan makes a clear statement about the region’s priorities, knits together existing plans from cities and counties, and offers a clear path for support of projects around the region eligible for funding.

    Now comes the hard work of figuring out how to get and prioritize the federal, state, and local funding to implement it.

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    lahar legar October 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I think I’ll be long retired before any actual progress is made on the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail. Any updates other then there is no money…

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    Ted Buehler October 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I’ve noted that in the last 4 years the walking/slow biking route from downtown Portland to Hayden Island has been immeasurably improved.

    By summer, 2015, you’ll be able to walk the route on a whole bunch of brand new facilities —
    * Columbia Slough Trail, from N Vancouver Ave to Schmeer Road/Whitaker Way, built 2014
    * N Vancouver Ave bridge over Columbia Slough, wide sidewalks, built 2011.
    * Rodney Neighborhood Greenway, Killingsworth to Broadway, will be built 2015.
    * Traffic signals on NE 2nd (extension of Rodney) at Broadway and Weidler. Installed 2010.
    * NE Multnomah Ave Cycletracks and road diet, NE 3rd (extension of Rodney/2nd) to Rose Quarter. Built 2013.

    Before 2010, each one of these was either a major gap in the route, a barrier, or a navigational challenge.

    This system creates a nearly seamless, scenic walking route from the Steel Bridge all the way to Hayden Island/Vancouver WA.

    I’d like to see this route, and maybe other “urban pathway” routes included in the regional trails plan. It would have a bunch of benefits:
    * Encourage cities to groom certain routes for recreational walking.
    * Improve minimum standards on walking connections.
    * Encourage Portlanders and visitors to walk long distances in their city.
    * Create a network of “urban trails” to fill the big gap that is “urban Portland” in the regional trail system.

    This would be easier to explain with a graphic, but if ya’all just imagine a nice green line connecting the East Bank Esplanade at the Steel Bridge north to the regional trail system at the Columbia River, that’s what will exist by summer 2015, but its unmarked, unknown, and unnavigable. Put it on the map, put up wayfinding signs and it becomes known, used and loved.

    Ted Buehler

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    resopmok October 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    blah blah we want to make Portland bicycling friendly blah blah

    I’m tired of lip service and plans and talks and meetings. Actions speak louder than words – I’ll believe stuff like this matters when I see it in concrete, literally.

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    Lynne October 23, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    French Prairie Bridge! Yeah!

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    ub30 October 23, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    This is by far the best overall plan I’ve seen so far for a mixed use protected bike lane/street lane in the Portland metro area.

    The main issue now is that the trails lead to nowhere and really aren’t a good source of transport for commuting. In fact, in Hillsboro-Beaverton there isn’t much going east-west. I think connecting these lanes around the city (like the map shows) will give biking/hiking commuters options as well as peace of mind with safer trails away from 4,000 lb vehicles zipping by.

    Of course, what are the solutions to pay for these improvements and when? Are we looking at a 5-year plan or 30-year? Are any taxes needed to raise funds? Are we talking another income type tax or other revenue generators such as parking fees going up or an increased gas tax? I’m all for the dream but I want to know what it’ll take to get there.

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    fasterthanme October 23, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Please no more paths along freeways. The path indicated on the map appears to be the dreadful multi use path that runs along I84 after 122nd Ave. It’s terrible, it’s very loud, dust flies up from cars and trucks, I couldn’t wait to get off to the quiet neighborhood streets. Just one block south was an amazing relief. Sullivan’s Gulch is going to be the same thing.

    Does anyone really use this path? If you ever think about trying, ear plugs and goggles would be recommended.

    If we’re going to dream, let’s dream big, not this mediocrity.

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    KristenT October 24, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I’m glad to see that Metro is looking beyond the City of Portland’s borders to connect the entire METRO region.

    I’d like to see more focus on creating a METRO-wide connected system of bike lanes, MUPs, and active transportation corridors– this map and the planning behind it is a great first step, now it needs to move towards making it a reality.

    It shouldn’t be hard or dangerous or impossible or uncomfortable because of motorized traffic to get from Wilsonville to West Linn and Sherwood and Tualatin and Lake O and Tigard and Beaverton and Hillsboro– which it currently is. Our METRO-wide connectivity is terrible, no good, very bad, horrible in a lot of places.

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    Dan October 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Remove every blue line on the west side where the road is 45mph, and the connectivity is diminished quite a bit.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson October 24, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Progress on this vision remains painfully slow. Where are the champions? A bond campaign modeled on Metro’s Open Space successes might be the path to really getting something done.

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