Portland Century - August 18th

Bike riders can expect up to 20 minute delays at Sellwood Bridge through end of March – UPDATED

Posted by on February 19th, 2015 at 10:37 am

Major work on water lines as part of Sellwood Bridge project mean delays for bike riders and walkers of up to 20 minutes.
(Photo: Michael H.)

If you commute across the Sellwood Bridge, you might want to add an extra 20 minutes to your trip just to be safe.

Yesterday we got an email from reader Michael H. He was riding south toward the bridge on SW Macadam (state route 43) when he was unexpectedly forced to stop because of an active construction zone. There was no detour posted and he waiting “about 10 to 15 minutes” before he was let through by work crews.

According to Michael, “At least one other person on a bike was already there waiting and at least another who was running late gave up after about five minutes and took the lane down Macadam.”

In a chat with one of the workers, Michael was told they’d hoped the Oregon Department of Transportation would have provided continuous bicycle access during the work. But the worker told Michael that ODOT didn’t allow them to use a flagger or provide a bicycling/walking path that would impact other traffic on Macadam. “Since they’ve [ODOT] taken Barbur off the table, you’d think they could do something nice on one of the only safe ways to go SW from downtown.”

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I immediately forwarded Michael’s email to Jessica Horning, ODOT’s local transit and active transportation liaison. She had not heard of any biking/walking access closures and hoped it was just a one time occurrence. However, when she inquired with the Sellwood Bridge project office at Multnomah County, they confirmed the closures.

According to County engineer Chuck Maggio, these closures are going to be happening more frequently for the next two months along this stretch of the project. The work involves new water lines that run parallel to Macadam/Highway 43. Here’s more from Maggio:

“There will be times when they are moving equipment and materials that will require short closures of bike and travel lanes. We are allowed to close lanes temporarily for up to 20 minutes without having to set up lanes closures. We have been doing this throughout the project for years, but this is the first time where we have directly impacted bike lanes. There should be flaggers on site to direct traffic when this occurs, and we will reinforce the twenty minute limit with the subcontractors.”

Horning says flaggers will be present to direct people around the work zones, but you should expect delays of up to 20 minutes while the work takes place. She added that ODOT will work with the County to send out a formal traffic advisory and improve the signage as soon as possible.

In the meantime, you might want to avoid the area if possible. Or bring a book or magazine to pass the time.

UPDATE, 5:20 pm: County spokesperson Mike Pullen offered this update via email today along with the photos below:

“Our Sellwood Bridge contractor established a separate lane for the bike lane today north of the bridge along the east side of Hwy. 43. They had flaggers escort pedestrians and cyclists while they walked their bikes through the construction zone. This helped reduce the delays that were reported on Bike Portland.”

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42 Comments
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    davemess February 19, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Can’t wait until the work is done. It’s just that every time you go over there is something completely new and different to deal with.

    I’m optimistic it will be worth it in the end though.

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    meh February 19, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Would you prefer the bridge was down for the entire construction period?

    It’s taking longer but moving the existing bridge to reduce the time the crossing is closed was a good one.

    We’re all going to have a little inconvenience due to the construction, but it’s a lot less than if the bridge came down day one.

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      davemess February 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

      If this is in response to me: I thought I made clear that I thought this is worthwhile. It’s frustrating but for a good goal (new bridge).

      I don’t think anyone is arguing that:
      1. A new bridge wasn’t needed
      2. A temp. bridge wasn’t a good idea

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        meh February 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm

        It was a general response. I would have replied to you if that is what I meant.

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          davemess February 20, 2015 at 7:26 am

          Fair enough.
          Just a little confused, as you replied right after me and used “you”.

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      Chris I February 19, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      If they had planned this well, they could have closed the bridge completely for about 6 months to demo it and build the new span. It probably would have saved about $100 million, and years of construction.

      Minneapolis was able to replace the I35 bridge in about 9 months after it collapsed, and that was with zero prep time.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-35W_Saint_Anthony_Falls_Bridge

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        maccoinnich February 19, 2015 at 5:49 pm

        That’s not really comparable to the Sellwood Bridge project, for a number of reasons. It doesn’t look like they had to do any in-water work for the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. Building in a river dramatically increases both the length of time it takes to gets permits and do the the construction. It doesn’t look like they made major changes to the road layout around the bridge in Minneapolis, which is being done for the Sellwood Bridge. Lastly, the Sellwood Bridge is the only bridge over the Willamette open to general traffic between the Ross Island Bridge and Oregon City. Closing it during construction was actually studied, but the impacts were judged to be too great.

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          Chris I February 19, 2015 at 9:15 pm

          The in-water work could have been completed with the old bridge in place.

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          Terry D-M February 20, 2015 at 7:58 am

          The historic reason for this decision was the LONG rehabilitation of the Saint John’s back in the early 2000’s. As it is the ONLY crossing between the Fremont and Longview, the I think it was nine months closing cause the urban commercial node at Saint John’s to go through an economic recession. Many local businesses were lost and many locals said that the town center never recovered from it (until the gentrification wave hit….).. Hence why Multnomah county decided not to repeat this since the Sellwood is the only crossing for 12 miles.

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    PNP February 19, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I drove through there three times yesterday with minimal delays. I don’t go that way often, but I had no choice yesterday. Anyway, overall, I’ve been fairly impressed with how little delay there’s been getting to and over the bridge in either direction. And it’s been interesting to see the construction progress.

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    Paul Souders February 19, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Yeah this stinks, and ODOT definitely should have sacrificed a NB lane on Macadam for bike/ped traffic during the project. My son and I just missed a “short closure” this morning on the way to school — we’d have been 20min late for school then.

    My family drives AND rides this route daily — it is *way worse* in a car. We’ve had 10+min delays for years now. I know that’s small comfort when you’re stalled on your bike, but spare a little empathy for the poor souls stuck in their cars — they can’t even turn around.

    Also worth noting: this also affects westside bike/foot traffic that isn’t crossing the bridge, and if you’re crossing westbound you might know about the “closure” until you’re across the bridge.

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      was carless February 19, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      I think that once the Sellwood bridge is done, the city needs to rethink the Macadam road layout and needs to add a bike lane and wider sidewalks, IMO.

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson February 19, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Ha! 20 minutes for bike riders on the sellwood bridge but no 64 seconds to make Barbur safer for everyone and save a life a year

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      rick February 19, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Sad. I walked along Highway 43 last December and the workers let me cross the Sellwood bridge / Highway 43 intersection on foot. They stopped all traffic for a pedestrian at that time.

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    Allan February 19, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Maybe the construction workers could help the bikes get into traffic a bit easier if they are willing to take the lane?

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      Kyle February 19, 2015 at 11:17 am

      This seems reasonable. Last week a very kind flagger on SE 17th stopped a semi-truck that was next to me to help me take the lane since there was wet paint in the bike lane. The truck driver had also slowed in anticipation of the potential conflict and was super cool about it. It reminded me that we can all work together to make life better for each other.

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    RM February 19, 2015 at 11:45 am

    “There will be times when they are moving equipment and materials that will require short closures of bike and travel lanes. We are allowed to close lanes temporarily for up to 20 minutes without having to set up lanes closures”

    Looks like both bike/pedestrian AND auto travel lanes to me.

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      caesar February 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      It is not clear from the article if bikes and cars are equally affected, or only bikes. If the former, well, that’s Life in the Big City. If the latter, I am outraged!!

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    spencer February 19, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Take the lane, take the WHOLE lane, and spread the word

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    Indy February 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    It boggles my mind why there isn’t a traffic circle here. There’s a lot of wasted waiting by cars here because a light is green for an empty intersection.

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      davemess February 20, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Do you mean for the temp bridge? If so, I don’t think there is enough room. And pretty high auto volumes. Have to imagine bike/peds would have a pretty tough time getting cars to stop to get across the street too.

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      Terry D-M February 20, 2015 at 8:01 am

      About 100 mil;lion of this project was the needed retaining wall to hold back the MANY 1000’s year old slide down the hill that was pushing the bridge off its foundations. To make room for a traffic circle would have been cost prohibitive.

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    rick February 19, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    ODOT and Lake Oswego both need to plan for record numbers of bicyclists on Highway 43 in the spring of 2016.

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      Chris February 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      You think people are itching to ride south on Hwy 43? There’s almost nowhere I won’t ride, and that is one of them! Barbur is world-class compared to Hwy 43 between the Sellwood bridge and Lake Oswego.

      I think it would be great to bring some attention to that well-deserved connection between SE and the SW suburbs. Let’s all plan on a big group ride and take the lane all the way to Lake Oswego.

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        Scott H February 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm

        Most of Hwy 43 Makes Barbur look like SE Clinton, I wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole. The most frustrating part is that everyone is trying to go 15 mph over the speed limit 24 hours a day, especially in the construction zone, and I only see the PPD out writing tickets once every week or so. You would think the state would allow permanent speed cameras in construction zones at least.

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          Chris I February 19, 2015 at 3:25 pm

          I grew up about a mile from the west end of the Sellwood bridge. I have taken the lane on Sellwood countless times, and I wouldn’t even consider riding HWY 43 south of the bridge. It is basically a freeway with no dividers. Unless a trail is built along the river, I can’t see bike numbers increasing in this section.

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    Spiffy February 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    I’m really confused…

    there’s some kind of bike lane set up on Hwy 43?

    bikes can’t get through but cars can?

    you can close a state highway for 20 minutes during commute traffic without telling anybody?

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  • Tony T
    Tony T February 19, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    This is similar to what is done when a sidewalk is closed off entirely due to construction, yet adjacent parking spaces are maintained. Rather than close a few parking spaces and reroute the sidewalk traffic to those spaces on the road (as is done in some other cities), people who are walking are left with no choice but to retrace and reroute. For the elderly and handicapped, this is no small burden.

    Note that in this instance with the Sellwood bridge, it appears that car traffic is not stopped, just bikes. One solution could be routing bikes onto the road, with ample signage alerting cars that bikes are expected to be on the roadway. This would add some time, but ALL traffic would still flow.

    Forgive my amateur math here (please tell me if I’m wrong), but here goes:

    The current speed limit on the Sellwood bridge is 25mph.
    The Sellwood bridge is .37 of a mile long.
    Cars doing 25mph take 68 seconds.
    Bikes doing 12mph take 111 seconds.

    So rather than everyone in cars just adding 43 seconds to their trip, which would be much safer for a construction zone anyway, people on bikes have to wait up to 20 minutes. Hardly a demonstration of respect for non-motorized traffic.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 19, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Good news! Looks like the County has worked out a solution. Just posted this as an update..

    UPDATE, 5:20 pm: County spokesperson Mike Pullen offered this update via email today along with the photos below:

    “Our Sellwood Bridge contractor established a separate lane for the bike lane today north of the bridge along the east side of Hwy. 43. They had flaggers escort pedestrians and cyclists while they walked their bikes through the construction zone. This helped reduce the delays that were reported on Bike Portland.”

    sellwoodimage005

    sellwoodimage003

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      DC February 19, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Looks like your journalism got results! Well done 🙂

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      Chris February 20, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you, Bikeportland team.

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    Dwaine Dibbly February 19, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    In most cities, the DOT attitude would be, “too bad, suckers.” We really do have it good here, despite the occasional annoyance. It’s nice that we have a higher standard here and I never want to go back to the old ways.

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    Grandpa February 19, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Bikes are traffic. If vehicles have to wait for work then they wait. if cyclists want the privileges of equal rights as vehicles they have equal responsibilities, and that includes being required to have enough patience to stand still for a few minutes.

    Multnomah county should be thanked for giving special treatment for Portland’s special cyclists

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      ChrisM February 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      You’re adorable, Grandpa.

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      Eric February 19, 2015 at 11:38 pm

      People have rights. Cyclists are people. Vehicles are not. They don’t have rights.

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        Granpa February 20, 2015 at 6:23 am

        Eric
        I stand corrected. I should have said that if cyclists want the same rights and privileges as motor vehicle drivers they have equal responsibilities, and that includes being required to have enough patience to stand still for a few minutes. The point was there if one did not get hung up on syntax

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          KristenT February 20, 2015 at 9:16 am

          Except the motor vehicle drivers weren’t being asked to wait 20 minutes, while the bicycle riders were. I wouldn’t say that’s equal treatment at all, regardless of what people have done to deserve it.

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        Lester Burnham February 20, 2015 at 7:14 am

        But vehicles are operated by motorists…and motorists are people, unless it’s a self driving car.

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    o/o February 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

    We have been blessed with dry weather. Bear and GRIN. Good day.

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    James Donohue February 20, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Another reason to wear a helmet, it’s a posted hard-hat area..

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    Eric February 20, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I got held up there on my bike 2 days ago. They are putting a pipe in the ground that parallels the road. There really is no room. I waited 5 or 10 minutes and enjoyed watching the operators gingerly place an enormous pipe into a very tight space. Those guys have skills! They were all super nice and three people thanked me for waiting.
    They are doing what they can in the cramped area. And I for one am glad that work is happening to move the Sellwood bridge project closer to completion. Can’t wait ’til its done!

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      Eric February 20, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      And it never even crossed my mind to send an Email to Jonathan about it…

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