(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.”
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.”