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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

sellwood

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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davemess
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davemess

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.

meh
Guest
meh

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.

PNP
Guest
PNP

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.

Paul Souders
Guest

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.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

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

Allan
Guest
Allan

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

RM
Guest
RM

“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.

spencer
Guest
spencer

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

Indy
Guest
Indy

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.

rick
Guest
rick

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

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

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?

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

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.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

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.

Grandpa
Guest
Grandpa

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

o/o
Guest
o/o

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

James Donohue
Guest

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

Eric
Guest
Eric

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!