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Lake Oswego city council revives concept of bike path on old trolleyway

Posted by on January 22nd, 2015 at 3:48 pm

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New attention, old idea.

Three years after Lake Oswego pulled out of a plan to upgrade its little-used riverside trolley line into a high-speed streetcar, the idea of turning the tracks into a biking-walking path is back in discussion.

This time, the idea is being driven by recently reelected Lake Oswego City Council member Jeff Gudman, who embraced the idea after hearing about it repeatedly from Lake Oswego residents during his campaigns.

“As I was doing my door to door, any number of people would say to me that they really like the idea,” Gudman said in an interview Thursday. “Some wanted streetcar, bike and ped. Others wanted just bike and ped.”

As the Oregonian’s editorial board reported Thursday, this week Gudman won his colleagues’ approval for a study of the legal issues surrounding a riverside trail.

“I brought it up again this year and there was the support to get a memorandum from our city attorney going over all the challenges and the opportunities that are associated with it and we would go from there,” Gudman said.

The longstanding obstacle to a biking-walking path is that when a consortium of local governments bought the old trolley line in hopes of one day reviving it as a streetcar, they received only the right to use it as rail. On some of the properties, if the land is used for any other purpose, it’d revert to the adjacent landowner.

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But Gudman said that in some of those cases, the path could simply divert onto a nearby neighborhood street, then rejoin the riverside.

“If you already have a street there and it’s merely a matter of putting down bike lane markings … that seems to me to be a pretty good solution,” Gudman said. “Think about the opportunity to have a bike-ped connection with downtown Portland all the way along the Willamette River, all the way to Oregon City. … What a magnificent addition to our cities.”

It’s also worth noting that today’s Oregonian coverage came from the editorial page, which rarely seems to spare a good word about bicycling. It was illustrated with photos of the old tracks credited to Erik Lukens, the newspaper’s conservative editorial writer, who mentioned in the comments that he’s a Lake Oswego resident.

“It may not happen in my lifetime,” Gudman said. “But I’d like to see us going down that path.”

NOTE: This story was initially published with a different lead graphic.

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Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

“Think about the opportunity to have a bike-ped connection with downtown Portland all the way along the Willamette River, all the way to Oregon City. … What a magnificent addition to our cities.”

It would be! And if the cities surrounding Portland are stepping up their active transportation game this way, maybe it will encourage Portland to start moving forward again.

MNBikeLuv
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MNBikeLuv

Awesome news!

While rails-to-trails isn’t thought of as being an intra-urban thing, it can be. Here is an example: http://www.minneapolis.org/sites/default/files/u7/pdfs/Mpls-Trails.pdf

Many of those trails where railroad tracks at one time. Some of them, like the Luce LIne, extend far into rural MN. Its possible to go from Nicollet Mall to Cosmo, some 70 miles away. (You could even hop off at Theodore-Wirth and get some urban singletrack riding in!)

While you still need on-street lanes and biking, these type of rails-to-trails or road-to-greenway projects can add tons of longer connectivity between urban centers and suburbs. Its a great thing to pursue Portland!

t
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t

Oh, that would be so wonderful! I’m writing to the whole board right now to encourage this. Hopefully it doesn’t take a lifetime to come to pass!

joebobpdx
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joebobpdx

It’s not hard to imagine, given the leanings of the LO council, and specifically Gudman, that they’d see this as a good way to put a stake through the heart of the streetcar project once and for all, and let the right-of-way go back into private ownership.

The whole point of that alignment is that there are no nearby north-south streets to revert to. So, oops, sorry guys we weren’t able to put together that bike route after all . . . Sounds like classic rope-a-dope. Don’t be tools!

Jayson
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Jayson

Couldn’t have said it better myself. I distinctly recall the LO-Portland Streetcar proposal and Gudman ran for council on the platform of stopping it. His campaign was financed by the millionaires in unincorporated Multnomah County that stand to benefit for this. They will no longer have a railroad right-of-way separating their homes from their garage (BTW, they built their homes like that since that railroad has been around since 1800’s.

David McCabe
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David McCabe

I used to live downtown and work in Lake Oswego. I commuted over Terwilliger and then through the state park. It’s a beautiful ride to do for fun, but brutal to round-trip every day. I would have loved to have had a lowland route.

Though, the worst part by far was Lake Oswego itself: it defines inhospitality with its unavoidable expressways, preponderance of smoggy Land Rovers, inept and hostile drivers, and, as if by an act of official spite, traffic-light sensor loops that don’t detect bikes.

rick
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rick

Should the new trail have separated traffic for pedestrians and bikes?

Peter W
Guest

Perhaps people like Lukens think of the potential bike path as a recreational asset vs the streetcar which they see as transportation for the masses.

So it makes sense that they’d support recreation (for the wealthy) over transportation (for all you dirty hippies).

Erik Lukens
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Erik Lukens

Peter W: Lukens here. I wasn’t here in 2011 for the Streetcar debate, but I certainly have no objection to public transit. In fact, I take the bus (36 route) to and from work every day. As I recall, though, the editorial board at the time did oppose the Streetcar proposal for cost reasons, which may have been an entirely sensible conclusion. Weighing costs and benefits does matter.

Bill Mackenzie
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Bill Mackenzie

Goodness, such vitriol and cynicism. I ride from the Westlake area of L.O. Into PDX several times a week and would love to have a safe bike path all the way in. Thanks, City Council, for taking a look at the idea.

Chris I
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Chris I

You should take some time and talk to the home owners in Dunthorpe. They will do anything they can to get this railroad removed, and they definitely don’t want a bike path bringing “bums” to their house.

Lester Burnham
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Lester Burnham

If it’s more of the garbage we are seeing on the Springwater, can you blame them?

Eric
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Eric

LOVE the idea of a multi-use path spanning that distance!

Being realistic and thinking about the future of these municipalities and the region at large, the benefit to the entirety of our communities… Hopefully it can be both but if for some absurd reason it is an either/or situation, the streetcar has got to be the priority over a multi-use path.

Not only will a streetcar have a greater overall impact in terms of cleaner mass transit for all citizens, once property rights revert to private landowners it will either be impossible or extremely costly for municipalities to get it back.

Considering all contingencies… down the road it will be immeasurably easier to turn a streetcar track into a mutli-use path than it would be to turn a zig-zaggy multi-use path circumventing private property back into a streetcar or other high speed mass transit conduit.

This very discussion confirms this — as long as the corridor is in tact there are any number of options. As soon as it is broken up, they become extremely limited.

Jeff H
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Jeff H

That map you are using is actually a River Transit route Metro proposed.

Jayson
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Jayson

Sorry to be such a cynic, but this Gudman guy is no friend of biking. This is clearly a ruse to destroy the integrity of the alignment and give back to his wealthy campaign donors with the riverside property in Dunthorpe who want the railroad out of their front yard.

Eric
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Eric

We used to walk those old tracks in the middle of the night when I was in high school. There is at least one dark tunnel that I remember that is so incredibly dark at night it can disorient you…. or maybe that was the 40oz I had just downed before entering it.
Anyway, my point is, the tunnel would need lights.

Nick
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Nick

^^^ agree 100% with Jayson.
Also, rails to trails act only work for railways that were built per a federal land grant. The WSL was built in the 1800’s with private capital, not a federal land grant. This is a trick to open the door to legal challenges from the wealthy homeowners to destroy the integrity of the right of way.

Grandpa
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Grandpa

Wealthy residents of the Dunthorp neighborhood have long resisted ANY use of the alignment. They have and use their considerable resources an a political system that is easily corrupted to sway influence.

rick
Guest
rick

why not attend city hearings and advocate?

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

A lowland route through Lake Oswego would be so amazing and beneficial. The only chance of this happening is with the support of the LO council, so what choice do we have but to trust Gudman.

jeg
Guest
jeg

This is a bait and switch like others have said. They want to open the door to a legal challenge to just have the rails removed and it made “private” for rich donors along the line. The streetcar was a good idea, and this is just slimy politics guised as “bike friendly” to avoid backlash in Portland.

I wish there were more activists down that way with louder voices fighting for a multi-use corridor– bike and rapid streetcar. As it stands, it’s just rich people that want to be islands onto themselves in an interconnected community.

grumpcyclist
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grumpcyclist

Michael Andersen: This is maybe the third time I’ve seen you post an article that more or less acts as a mouthpiece for moneyed interests (the other two I’m thinking of were supporting rules that allow high-priced condo builders to tear down cheap housing in inner Portland). At this point I’m beginning to wonder if it’s an accident. I’m hoping it’s just that your readers are more politically astute than you are.

I wish you’d have taken to talk to someone on the other side of this issue (Chris Smith is a regular visitor here and has a lot of knowledge about Streetcar and transit issues in the region). Giving a platform to a politician with questionable motives at best doesn’t do your readership a whole lot of good.

jeg
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jeg

Cheap housing in Portland doesn’t exist anymore unless some homes are knocked down and higher density put in its place.

Chris I
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Chris I

Remember that “Portland” goes all the way out to 174th…

That said, we definitely should be adding density. The new housing won’t be affordable when it is new, but it will keep demand in check, preventing further price increases on existing housing.

jeg
Guest
jeg

I think the down-zoning to lower density being pushed by neighborhood associations east of 205 is abhorrent. The whole city should be filling in, or we are just adding people on the periphery and increasing sprawl/ecosystem/community damage.

Chris
Guest
Chris

It should be noted that the city’s proposal is to investigate placing a trail -parallel- with the existing track. Not replacing the track with a trail.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Michael, an interview and article Gudman about whether a bike path is a viable goal or just a ruse would be very interesting.

Mr sensitive
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Mr sensitive

We don’t want the Sand People making their way to Lake O!