Splendid Cycles

County’s bridges may plan $33 million for biking and walking upgrades

Posted by on April 24th, 2015 at 9:50 am

Hawthorne Bridge bike counter hits 1 million-1

Crowding on the Hawthorne sidewalks is already a serious problem and is only likely to increase, advocates say.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Correction appended.

Some or all of Multnomah County’s four busiest bridges across the Willamette River — the Broadway, Burnside, Morrison and Hawthorne — could see major biking and walking upgrades over the next fifteen years.

One possibility being discussed: physically separating bike and foot traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge by moving either biking or walking to one or two of the four auto-dominated lanes on the bridge deck.

Whatever recommendations might emerge, county staff decided in the last week to fast-track a proposed $1.4 million study of the possibilities for “improved bicycle and pedestrian operations and safety” within the next five years. Another $16.3 million is allocated to carry out half the recommendations by 2025, and another $16.3 million by 2030.

No sources for that money have actually been identified yet by the county. But the mere existence of the line items is a huge change from two months ago, when (as we reported at the time) the county’s $1.3 billion Willamette River Bridges Capital Improvement Plan included much less for people biking and walking.

“When they upgraded the Hawthorne people were saying, why the heck would you need such wide sidewalks on this? And boom! They were filled.”
—Andrew Holtz, Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedstrian Advisory Committee

As reported Thursday by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, county staffers changed course after objections from its Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the BTA (not to mention dozens of great ideas from BikePortland readers). The county first created the new budget items, and then fast-tracked the first half of them.

“The congestion on the Hawthorne is already a problem at times, and it’s certainly going to become more of a problem,” Andrew Holtz, a longtime member of the advisory committee, said Thursday. “Heck, we need to start studying this stuff yesterday. We can’t wait at all for figuring out what’s going to come and how do we accommodate the growth in bicycle and pedestrian transportation in the coming decades.”

BTA Engagement Manager Carl Larson agreed.

“Clearly the growth of traffic across the bridge has been coming from the people on the sidewalks, not on the decks,” he said.

Matt Picio, chair of the county advisory committee, said the Hawthorne’s sidewalks are running out of space.

“Nineteen percent of all traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge is bicycles,” Picio said. “We would like to see the council consider the possibility of lane reallocation.”

Picio’s numbers are accurate based on the number of vehicles across the bridge on an average weekday. But they don’t include people walking, people in the passenger seats of cars, or — most significantly — the 16,600 daily TriMet riders who cross the bridge in buses each day. Assuming an average 1.2 people per car (this is a standard occupancy estimate) and that the bridge draws about the same number of people on foot each weekday as it does on bikes, people biking account for 10 percent of the bridge’s traffic.


Larson said that though he hasn’t heard any county employees raise the issue of converting any of the Hawthorne’s four auto-dominated lanes to biking or walking, “we’ve discussed that openly with county folks in the room and they haven’t run screaming.”

Holtz said the county should look to its history. In 1999, it spent millions to widen the Hawthorne’s sidewalks from 6 feet to the current 10.

“People were saying, why the heck would you need such wide sidewalks on this?” Holtz said. “And boom! They were filled.”

“Cars aren’t going away; trucks need to move,” Holtz said. “But it’s a fact now that the Hawthorne Bridge is the bike-ped bridge. … That needs to be recognized, and we need to start looking at how do we help it to fulfill its mission.”

Hawthorne Bridge scenes-9

Correction 4/30: A previous version of this post contained several significant errors. It said $32.6 million would be spent by 2020. In fact, according to county spokesman Mike Pullen, only the planning study is scheduled to be complete by 2020 and the $32.6 million would be spent between 2020 and 2030. Also, the post said that the county’s bridge improvement plan previously included “nothing at all for people biking and walking.” This neglected planned elevators for people with disabilities, among other measures. We regret the errors.

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  • jeg April 24, 2015 at 9:57 am

    We don’t have stats for the bridges in 2013 and 2014?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 24, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Good question jeg.

      PBOT has not released counts for those years yet. We have asked them for the numbers and have heard back that they are putting both years together into one report… Which should be out soon. Stay tuned.

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  • 9watts April 24, 2015 at 10:06 am

    “Cars aren’t going away; trucks need to move,” Holtz said.

    On its face that is an absurd, if telling, statement.

    The biggest question in my mind about issues such as this one is why the possibility that the fleet of cars and trucks will shrink to a much smaller percentage of total traffic within the lifetimes of these bridges, of these proposed infrastructure upgrades, is not—or does not appear to be—part of the conversation? I really don’t get it.
    I’m not suggesting or imagining that these committees agree with me that within a few short years many if not most cars will be idled due to constraints related to peak oil and climate change, but at least the possibility that there will be major shifts in this direction should be on the table. To pretend that that is an outcome we don’t need to consider is in my view derelict.

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    • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:36 am

      “Cars aren’t going away” because we keep building infrastructure that encourages and subsidizes car-dependance.

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      • 9watts April 24, 2015 at 10:43 am

        Not quite.
        Continuing to build out our cars-only infrastructure is something we (ODOT, PBOT) do habitually, to reassure ourselves that tomorrow will be much like yesterday, just a little better. (Wider, faster, more) roads & bridges however won’t ensure that tomorrow will be as car dependent as today since that is a function of the future price and availability of fuel, as well as constraints arising within the context of climate change that register less directly.

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        • davemess April 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm

          “Continuing to build out our cars-only infrastructure is something we (ODOT, PBOT) do habitually”

          Yet the two most recent, high price projects in Portland are:
          A bridge that will never see a car drive across it
          A bridge that is maintaining two car lanes, but increasing pedestrian facilities by over 100% and bike facilities by over 400%.

          and reducing car travel lanes on Burnside, Glison, Holgate, and soon Foster.

          I think your point is fair, but PBOT has not been quite as car-centric as you are insinuating.

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          • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm

            Both those projects were built by TriMet and Multnomah County, respectively. Not PBOT.

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          • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm

            I believe as a city, we are moving away from car dependency, albeit very slowly. It’s something that the city/county seems to be taking seriously. I just wish they would take more radical approaches instead of maintaining status quo on many of these projects (refusal to remove parking in business districts, continuation of painted line bike lanes, directing people on bikes out of the way to maintain parking/car access, etc.)

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            • davemess April 24, 2015 at 2:47 pm

              Some of us don’t have as much of a problem with painted line bike lanes as you do. And if you do want more bike access on busy arterials or business districts (which in this town have VERY limited real estate) that is just about the only type of bike facilities you’re going to get (besides some of the shared lane designs).

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            • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 6:24 am

              “I just wish they would take more radical approaches” – I don’t. I want them to build safe infrastructure that allows bikes and cars to share the road, and step up enforcement on motorists who aren’t aware or refuse to comply with the rules of the road. Sometimes that requires radical steps, but usually it just requires a commitment to better design and buy-in at all levels of the government. Painted lines work well in 80% of the situations, and they’re cheap, meaning you can put down a lot of them. It’s always been true that the most effective way to improve safety is to get more bikes on a given road.

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          • 9watts April 24, 2015 at 1:56 pm

            point taken, davemess.

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  • Trikeguy April 24, 2015 at 10:07 am

    “One possibility being discussed: physically separating bike and foot traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge by moving either biking or walking to one or two of the four auto-dominated lanes on the bridge deck.”

    Oh, god yes get me away from the peds please and thank you!

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    • Spiffy April 24, 2015 at 10:12 am

      and give other riders more room to pass my slow butt…

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      • Lester Burnham April 24, 2015 at 10:47 am

        Cat 6 comin’ through!

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    • q`Tzal April 24, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Wonderful idea.
      How do we keep pedestrians out of a physically separated bike path?
      OTHER than draconian enforcement?

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      • Joseph E April 24, 2015 at 11:02 am

        Give people a better place to walk and clear separation between walking space and bike space. People want to walk near the water (better views). Put a 3 inch curb between the “sidewalk” and bikeway, and make the bike area different color (dark asphalt instead of light concrete for example). And the walking area needs to be wide enough (at least 6 feet wide, better yet 8 or 10) that people don’t feel the need to use bike space.

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      • paikiala April 24, 2015 at 11:54 am

        maybe slow down and share?

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      • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 6:29 am

        “How do we keep pedestrians out … OTHER than draconian enforcement?”

        Easy – convert the center lanes of the Hawthorne to bicycle use, and use left-side bike lanes on the west end to the park blocks, and on the east end out to SE 12th. Pedestrians aren’t going to cross the car/bus traffic lane to walk in the middle of the bridge. Also removes the right-hook scenario, cuts dooring potential at least 75%, gives bikes a dedicated space, and provides easy access to Water Avenue. Removes conflicts with the buses as well.

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    • Tom Hardy June 16, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Can we really? The last couple of weeks I was nearly run off the walkway 4 times by Peds texting with earphones on on the Hawthorne. It is a long drop to the traffic lane. I don’t have any problem with the steel grates and have intentionally taken the traffic lane several times .

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  • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Converting the Hawthorne Bridge outside car lanes on to bike lanes by adding non-slip plates would be a vast improvement for people riding bikes and people walking (as they won’t have to worry about accidentally stepping into the bike lane). Induced demand works for bikes, too – give people more comfortable space to ride and more people will choose to ride. I’m hoping that this project includes improved bike access to the bridge approaches on either side, but I think that may fall under the city’s jurisdiction. Anyone have the answer to that?

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    • MaxD April 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I really hope the City is planning to coordinate some improvements to the connections to all of our bridges!

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    • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 6:30 am

      “Converting the Hawthorne Bridge outside car lanes on to bike lanes” – can’t do it, Adam. Trimet has to run on those lanes. But you *could* convert the inner lanes, see comment above.

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      • Tom Hardy June 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

        Possibly make the bus lane on the outer lanes and other motor traffic on the inner lanes. Just let the cyclists share with the buses. At least we are going the same direction. Hopefully the bus drivers won’t be texting.

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  • gutterbunnybikes April 24, 2015 at 10:14 am

    slightly off topic.

    To think that when I moved here (92) I was one of only 3,500 bike commuters that crossed any of the bridges. (though some of the time it was roller blades instead of the bike).

    Three of the bridges see more than that much daily volume now, and the other two aren’t too far behind.

    Not bad.

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  • ethan April 24, 2015 at 10:17 am

    I really hope the city improves the connections at both ends of the bridges. It would be a shame to ride on an 11-ish foot wide lane with no pedestrians, but what do I do when I get to Hawthorne and 12th and want to continue eastbound to a business on the street?

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    • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:38 am

      The bike lane on Hawthorne from the bridge to 12th is scary to ride on. You’re going downhill in a crowded bike lane with parked cars to your right. A curb-separated cycle track would offer a much more comfortable ride.

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      • Carl April 24, 2015 at 11:26 am

        The city had a parking-protected cycletrack drawn up for that stretch. It was meant to coordinate with the county’s restriping of the Hawthorne viaduct. I’m not sure what happened to that idea. I’d be for it if it could be something more robust than paint and signs.

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        • soren April 25, 2015 at 9:42 am

          A parking protected-lane without expensive signalling changes would increase the already unacceptable levels of right hook collisions at 7th and 11th. (I have personally witnessed two serious injury collisions at 11th.) Moreover, there is too much cross-traffic at the 8th-10th intersections for an opaque wall of cars to work well. (Imagine how easy it would be for a south-bound car at one of these intersections to dart across and slam into a cyclist trucking along at 17 mph hidden behind a wall of vehicles.)

          I would love to see the entire bike facility on this stretch of Hawthorne and on the Hawthorne bridge ramps converted to buffered two-lane bike favility. (And Madison should be converted to a curb-separated cycle track.)

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  • MaxD April 24, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Crossing the bridgeheads on foot is pretty miserable. mostly becuase of the highway-style ramps but partially due to the lack of crosswalks at some intersections. I hope the county considers normalizing the traffic movements and gets rid of these ramps- freight can simply use the grid to get around (this another where the City could cooperate by improving the grid to accommodate this)

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    • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:43 am

      I tried to walk across the Morrison Bridge once. Never again. I ended up running across the street twice because the sidewalk ended and had to walk down a flight of stairs, through a dark and dingy walkway, then back up to get back to the sidewalk. The Morrison Bridge eastern landing is a massive highway interchange and completely inhospitable to people on foot.

      The protected bike lane is great, but if you need to go east of Water Avenue, forget it.

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      • MaxD April 24, 2015 at 11:30 am

        Adam H.,
        I completely agree! I once tried to give directions to some tourists on bikes trying to get from Belmont/Grand to downtown via the Morrison bridge. Looks great on a map, pretty useless in reality

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      • Brad April 24, 2015 at 1:21 pm

        When you’re walking down those dingy stairs be polite and remember that you’re a guest in someone’s home.

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  • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Improvements on the Burnside Bridge are also sorely needed. Unlike the Broadway and Hawthorne Bridges, whose steel trusses narrow the line of sight and force people to slow down, the Burnside Bridge is a wide-open space, inviting people to drive excessively fast. For this reason, some form of physical separation is needed – the painted lines are not good enough. Additionally, the point at the east landing where the bike lane is sandwiched in between the travel lane and right turn lane need to be redesigned.

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    • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 6:38 am

      Burnside is one of the easiest bridges to ride. I can understand why some people find the car volume and speeds uncomfortable, but I find it to be one of the easiest to cross, especially since my speeds on the downhills mean the relative speed between me and the cars is pretty low. I actually have a harder time with the Hawthorne, and oddly enough because of all the bike traffic.

      Morrison is much nicer now to cross since the south side path has been completed. Yes, the north side has a lot of ramps and is pretty sketchy for multiple reasons, but unfortunately that likely won’t change since it’s the primary truck access to downtown to and from the Interstate. That’s a vital freight connection, and it *shouldn’t* change. They need it for the same reason bikes need the Hawthorne – it’s best suited for a specific mode due to non-trivial infrasturctural reasons. Yes, it sucks that it can’t be made as bike/ped friendly on the north side, but we can’t make them all equally friendly to every mode, especially not within the available budget. (I’m speaking as/for myself here, not as a member of a committee, and definitely NOT representing the county)

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  • rainbike April 24, 2015 at 10:23 am

    My commute will shift from the Hawthorne Bridge to Tilikum Crossing. One less bike (on the Hawthorne). Seems that it would be important to first understand the degree to which the new bridge will reduce the daily load currently experienced by the Hawthorne. Maybe someone already has estimates?

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    • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:34 am

      The Hawthorne Bridge, being right in the middle of Waterfront Park and the most direct way into downtown, will ensure that it remains an important and busy bicycle route. Why not have great bicycle access on both bridges?

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      • gutterbunnybikes April 24, 2015 at 12:48 pm

        I agree improve both, but I suspect Tillicum is going to take a pretty big bite out of the Hawthorne numbers. Simply because there are a lot more people that live East and South of the TIllicum entrance than there are between the basic area that the Hawthorne (roughly Lincoln to Stark) directly serves. A 1/3 to 1/2 diversion I don’t think would be very surprising – considering a very significant amount of the Hawthorne bicycle traffic seems to head down into Ladds and then to Clinton.

        And if we’re talking of improving all the bridges, good improvements to Burnside (especially Burnside – since it’d really be the easiest to improve- a few parking spots removed from the west side for continuing the lanes to at least the bus mall-Park blocks better) and Morrison will also have a pretty strong effect on the Hawthorne numbers.

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        • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 6:45 am

          “I suspect Tillicum is going to take a pretty big bite out of the Hawthorne numbers” – that’s the County’s belief as well. I don’t agree. If the Tillikum Crossing Bridge were oriented E-W, then I might agree, but it’s oriented from NE to SW, and riders will both have to climb a lot more (think Morrison Bridge height and grade) and also will be routed further south on the west end (adding about 1/2 mile to the commute distance). I think these two factors will greatly minimize the effect on current Hawthorne commuters who might explore the new bridge.

          I believe the Tillicum Crossing will have a huge initial surge, and that many of the Hawthorne commuters who try it will switch back to the Hawthorne over time. It’s much more direct. In any case, since the overall number of bicycle commuters has risen greatly over time, there’s a good chance it will continue to do so in the long term (the recent slowdown in growth might be due to the post-2010 economic recovery and the return of cheaper gas), meaning that numbers on the Hawthorne may not drop due to a rise in overall bike commuter numbers – even if the Hawthorne’s “share” related to other bridges decreases.

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    • davemess April 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      That was my thought. Tilikum will be a game changer for many of us (I know it will completely eliminate by trips on the Hawthorne, and I know I’m definitely not alone).
      Even the new Sellwood might shift things a bit (esp. if and when the bike path on the west side to downtown is improved/completed).

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      • Chris I April 24, 2015 at 1:36 pm

        Anyone riding from anywhere in SE south of Hawthorne trying to get anywhere downtown south of Jefferson will probably be better off taking Tilikum once it opens. It should be fast, with very few conflicts on both the east and west side. I bet it is going to have a huge impact on the Hawthorne numbers and push out this discussion for another decade.

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        • davemess April 24, 2015 at 2:49 pm

          I agree (esp. with the infrastructure improvements on both sides of it).

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  • hat April 24, 2015 at 10:42 am

    The Burnside Bridge has perhaps the most potential. Riding a few feet away from 35+5mph traffic is acutely distressing. Reallocating a lane of traffic on the Eastbound side in addition to the current bike lane would provide enough space for a comfortable separated bikeway on the South side of the bridge, continuing up E Burnside.

    This would solve the current right hook problem on Couch, any conflicts with buses and any future streetcar, and slow traffic to its actual speed limit, 25. Here’s a pic:


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    • Carl April 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

      I find biking across the Burnside to be far and away the most comfortable Willamette River bridge to cross on a bike OR on foot. Why? It’s direct, relatively flat, and there are zero bike/pedestrian conflicts.

      That can’t be said of any of the other bridges until the Sellwood opens (Tillikum does not provide physical bike/ped separation).

      So…to each their own.

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      • hat April 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm

        I know some people comfortable riding on Barbur, Greeley, and along the Burnside Bridge next to 35-45mph traffic. Its current low ridership numbers reflect this.

        But I would rather have infrastructure built for my friends and their families and my parents. Right now if my friends bring their kids downtown, they use the Steel. If Burnside had a separated cycletrack (in place of a superfluous 3rd lane Eastbound), this would likely increase its ridership from the paltry <2000 (and perhaps persuade the city to extend this infrastructure further).

        Thanks to the Better Block folk, if the SW 3rd and 4th avenue separated bike lanes (between Davis and Oak) the BTA are pushing near W Burnside get built, the Burnside Br can finally be a contestant for the MOST travelled bridge. That would be cool.

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      • Brad April 24, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        The Burnside easily is my least favorite bridge to cross on bike or on foot since the upgrade to the south side of the Morrison made that crossing more pleasant. Cars fly by on Burnside and it feels very uncomfortable. Every time I cross the Burnside bridge, I’m thinking one of those 40mph drivers will not be paying attention and swerve and snuff me out.

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    • MaxD April 24, 2015 at 11:35 am

      IMO the 2-way cycle-tracks are too narrow and too restrictive to be appealing. I believe you would wind up with a hawthorne bridge scenario where it seems great at first but is quickly overwhelmed with little chance to expand. I am in favor of expanding the bike lanes on either side of the bridge, and adding protection. I think lanes could be reduced; maybe a center pro-time lane could be reserved for buses or carpool with 3 persons or more/vehicle?

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      • hat April 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

        An auto lane+South bike lane is 16 feet wide… for bikes only.

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      • davemess April 24, 2015 at 12:58 pm

        SW Moody is somewhat like this. Not super easy (though not that hard, since lower traffic) to do.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu April 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Burnside is the easiest of the bridges to ride, because bikes have their own lane, no sharing with pedestrians. Yes, cars are driving next to you, but that’s also the case on the streets you ride coming to or going from the bridge, so it’s hard to see what makes it uniquely distressing just because you’re on a bridge. I would leave the bridge alone and focus instead on its approaches, especially on the east side.

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      • Brad April 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm

        Cars have to stop at every intersection on both sides of the bridge. I guarantee you they’re going far faster on the bridge than on the road at either end of it.

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    • Chris I April 24, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      It seems totally absurd to have 3 eastbound lanes on the bridge itself. The bottleneck is the signal at MLK. I see no reason (and no traffic impact) in a reconfiguration that utilizes the space from the 3rd eastbound lane to add 2ft of extra width and 2ft buffers to each bike lane.

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  • q`Tzal April 24, 2015 at 10:55 am

    What options are open structurally to modify the Hawthorne Bridge for more & safe bicycle traffic other than reallocating a current automobile lane?

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  • B April 24, 2015 at 10:59 am

    “Nineteen percent of all traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge is bicycles,” Picio said. “We would like to see the council consider the possibility of lane reallocation.”

    Picio’s statistic accurately reflects the bridge’s 4,500 or so daily bicycle trips and 23,000 or so motor vehicle trips, but doesn’t account for people sharing vehicles, such as the more than 10,000 transit riders who cross the bridge in buses daily.

    No, the 19% number only comes if divide 4500 by 23000; the bike percentage of total trips (if total trips is bikes and cars only or 4500 + 23000) would be 4500/27500 for 16%.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 24, 2015 at 11:03 am

      You’re right! The error is mine. I’ll remove the paragraph about the bus numbers until I can find a better context. Thanks.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        OK, I added a paragraph above:

        “Picio’s numbers are accurate based on the number of vehicles across the bridge on an average weekday. But they don’t include people walking, people in the passenger seats of cars, or — most significantly — the 16,600 daily TriMet riders who cross the bridge in buses each day. Assuming an average 1.2 people per car (this is a standard occupancy estimate) and that the bridge draws about the same number of people on foot each weekday as it does on bikes, people biking account for 10 percent of the bridge’s traffic.”

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        • Buzz April 24, 2015 at 4:52 pm

          Well, what about cyclists on tandems or carrying kids on a long tail or in a cargo bike? The bike counter doesn’t account for these extra cyclists, either….

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          • 9watts April 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm

            or bunnyhoppers.

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          • davemess April 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm

            Well on that same not, usually car counts don’t count how many people are in the car either.

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        • B April 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

          I guess you can just use the same numbers as you did here – http://bikeportland.org/2013/09/26/hawthorne-bridge-counter-logs-over-2-million-trips-in-just-over-one-year-94524 since we are doing 2013 counts anyway.

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        • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 6:54 am

          “Picio’s numbers are accurate based on the number of vehicles across the bridge on an average weekday.”

          Yes, because that was the statistic I was quoting.

          “But they don’t include people walking, people in the passenger seats of cars, or — most significantly — the 16,600 daily TriMet riders who cross the bridge in buses each day.”

          They didn’t include people walking. They *did* include everyone else, including transit riders – I wasn’t quoting the number and percentage of bridge users, I was quoting “traffic”, i.e. the number of vehicles. Whether or not bridge statistics should you persons as a metric, how to track that, and whether funding decisions should be based on those criteria, are 3 wholly separate arguments.

          I’d love to see a full breakdown of *persons* using the Hawthorne Bridge, and preferably a breakdown based on time of day – but those numbers are difficult to accurately generate. They’d be immensely useful in the larger discussion of the Hawthorne Bridge and trip generation.

          I would also point out that as the Hawthorne Bridge is owned by the City of Portland, but managed and maintained by Multnomah County, any changes are subject to the approval of two complete, wholly-separate bureaucracies. Additionally, on the county side, but two different divisions/bureaus – transportation and bridges.

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  • Champs April 24, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I remember when the Tilikum and Morrison bridges were seen as relief to Hawthorne.

    Tilikum is unknown. The bridge looks pretty done, but until the TriMet ticket machines start running, we won’t even have a chance to figure out how it fits. It’s quite a trek from farther north, and there may not yet be enough appreciation for the length and grade.

    Morrison is a joke, albeit not the county’s fault. Taylor is in bad shape and will only get you as far as 7th before you have to cross a busy, unsignaled intersection. You’re no farther than MLK before Alder leaves you with a stressful crossing. And then there are trains. I frequently use that bridge, but not often because it makes sense.

    The county can upgrade the bridges, but they’ll mean nothing without PBOT.

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    • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      I’m guessing the Morrison Bridge area has some ownership by ODOT as well, due to the large amount of highway on-ramps.

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    • Doug Klotz April 25, 2015 at 11:13 am

      One of the recommendations of the SE Quadrant plan, a subset of the Comprehensive Plan now in process, is signalization of Salmon at M.L. King, and at Grand, for cyclists (I think those are to be full signals, but put there for cyclists) Also, some sort of treatment at 7th, I believe, as well as at 11th and at 12th (Hawk? RFB?).

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  • Jayson April 24, 2015 at 11:24 am

    I’m pretty sure re-allocating a lane on Hawthorne will be difficult because buses can only use the outer lane. I suppose you can make it one lane in each direction, but that will get lots of kick-back. I think the Tilikum will take enough of the bike traffic off Hawthorne from points south to make the Hawthorne less congested.

    Burnside and Morrison have the biggest opportunity for improvements, but only if serious landside improvements are made bikes on both sides.

    Can Broadway Bridge paths be widened??

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    • Reza April 24, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Bingo. Surprised nobody thought of this reality until now.

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  • Chris Rall April 24, 2015 at 11:44 am

    The narrowness of this discussion is concerning. Converting a lane on the Hawthorne to bike instead of to a dedicated transit lane would be a real lost opportunity for the 10,000 transit riders per day using the bridge and the potential to grow transit ridership.

    The limiting factors on bike ridership have less to do with the Hawthorne’s sidewalks (although the situation could be better), and more to do with other bridges like the Burnside, and the poor bike connections to bridges like the Morrison and Burnside.

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    • Chris I April 24, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      I feel like a lot of people don’t know about the huge, awesome, new bridge to the south that is about to open this year and divert about half of the busses, and quite a bit of the bike traffic off of the Hawthorne…

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      • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 2:59 pm

        AFAIK, the only buses being diverted into Tilikum Crossing are ones that currently travel over the Ross Island Bridge. No Hawthorne buses are being diverted.

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        • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
          Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 24, 2015 at 3:37 pm

          This is my understanding, too.

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        • Reza April 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm

          It’s only the 9 and 17 being diverted. The 19 is staying on the Ross Island.

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        • rachel b April 25, 2015 at 12:59 am

          I’m confused. I’m trying to find the article where I read they’re diverting a good many bus routes from the Hawthorne to the Tilikum because of the new county courthouse that’s going in at the west end of the (Hawthorne) bridge, next to the poor VQ. All I could find was this from Mult. Co.:

          “Per a traffic study conducted by David Evans and Associations Inc, the new courthouse is not expected to alter downtown traffic at the preferred or alternate site. Bus traffic is also expected to be reduced by an estimated 50 percent when several bus lines will be rerouted from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Tillicum Crossing Transit Bridge (link is external) in 2015.”


          The overall impression I’m getting is that a whole lot of buses are going to be using the Tilikum.

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          • rachel b April 25, 2015 at 1:05 am

            (It’s actually David Evans and Associates. And Tilikum) 🙂

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      • Reza April 24, 2015 at 5:51 pm

        More to Chris’ point, it’s the McLoughlin buses that will no longer use the Hawthorne when MAX opens, so the 33 and 99 mostly.

        That still leaves the 4, 6, 10, and 14.

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        • Chris I April 25, 2015 at 6:35 am

          There will still be a decent amount of bus traffic. Perhaps the right lanes could be converted to bus/HOV during peak hours?

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    • Reza April 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      Road diet advocates don’t tend to think of the ramifications to transit. The same goes for all this discussion about converting the third eastbound lane on the Burnside to bikes when it really should be a bus-only lane, especially in the PM peak.

      The lack of clearance for buses in the Hawthorne Bridge center lanes makes this idea pretty much a non-starter.

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    • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 7:02 am

      “Converting a lane on the Hawthorne to bike instead of to a dedicated transit lane would be a real lost opportunity for the 10,000 transit riders per day using the bridge and the potential to grow transit ridership.”

      Not if it were the center lanes, which Trimet cannot use. Those lanes are unavailable to bus expansion.

      The Hawthorne is over 100 years old. There will be a point at which bus traffic may need to be restricted. I’m not sure if Trimet would be able to significantly increase capacity. That would be a good question for members of the public to ask the Bridge people at the next Multnomah County Bicycle/Pedestrian Citizens’ Advisory Commmittee (BPCAC) meeting on May 13th.


      There is going to be discussion of the Bridge CIP at this meeting, and a bridge representative will be presenting. The public almost never shows up, but there is always a dedicated time for public comment during every meeting. Speaking in general to everyone, if you have an opinion and you want to do more than just gripe publicly, SHOW UP TO THE LOCAL MEETINGS. Advocacy works when people show up and make their voices heard. Marches and protests and 1,000-person bike rides are half of the picture. The local committee meetings and open houses are the other half. March once, you get heard. March repeatedly, something will likely get done. March AND show up at meetings, and it’s much more effective.

      I’ve been a local advocate for almost 8 years. I’m older, a lot more tired, and progressively bowing out of bike advocacy due to work and family. We need others to step up and advocate, and now is the time. If you all truly want change, you have to work for it, and not just complain about it.

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  • Heather April 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Any talk of widening the lower deck of the Steel Bridge? That is a nightmare during evening rush hour.

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  • Moleskin April 24, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I hope they look at the connections on either end of the bridges, as that’s the decider for me rather than the specific width once on the bridge. Coming into town (up the Springwater from Sellwood), it’s convenient to get onto the Hawthorne bridge from the eastern esplanade, then head up to the bike path on Oak via Waterfront Park. Going home, I come down the bike path on Stark and can quickly get up onto the Morrison Bridge one block south along Naito (unlike the Hawthorne bridge, which would mean riding SW Naito further south and diving across at some point, which I prefer to avoid). Coming off Morrison doesn’t work well heading west, and getting onto Hawthorne is less convenient headed east (for me, on this route – not suggesting my commute is any more important than anyone else’s, just adding a data point!)

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  • Justin Gast April 24, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Any talk of widening the lower deck of the Steel Bridge? That is a nightmare during evening rush hour.
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    EXACTLY! All this talk of Morrison, Burnside, Hawthorne and Broadway, the Steel must be number five on this list, right?

    The lower deck is an absolute mess during rush hour, as one has to play Frogger daily between walkers, runners, other bikers, transients, couples wanting their picture taken with Portland in the background or those wanting an upclose shot of a train crossing the bridge, etc. That lower deck is slammed with people each and every day…and in a tighter space.

    Additionally, the sidewalk on the upper deck has to be the worst sidewalk of any bridge in Portland. Hell, when the Ross Island Bridge’s one sidewalk is strides better than your upper deck version, we’ve got a problem.

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    • Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      The Steel Bridge is owned and operated by Union Pacific Railroad. This article is only regarding Multnomah County.

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson April 24, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    So when is the rally to ask for a full lane on Hawthorne?

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    • Reza April 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      Not before you ask TriMet to reroute every bus line off the bridge.

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      • Tait April 25, 2015 at 3:45 am

        Trimet will soon have Tilikum, and that should reduce Trimet traffic on the other bridges. Or at least I would hope it would.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly April 24, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I wonder what happens to the west end of the Morrison when the James Beard Public Market project gets underway. It sounds like some of the ramps may be at least partially removed and traffic rerouted permanently. This could push some traffic (of all types) to the Hawthorne.

    The Tilly is definitely an unknown, but I suspect it’ll reduce traffic on the Hawthorne. That seems obvious.

    The Burnside east bridgehead has LOTS of development going on. That will probably have effects, as will the new housing being built in the Lloyd. (Hassalo on 8th and the already announced development on the 4 blocks south of there.)

    My point is, there are many changes coming, as there always are. Let’s take whatever infrastructure improvements we can get and not assume that something won’t be needed because some change somewhere is going to shift traffic volumes.

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    • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 7:07 am

      “I wonder what happens to the west end of the Morrison when the James Beard Public Market project gets underway” – if it gets underway. They’re working under a deadline before the deal needs to be renogiated. My understanding is that they (the developers) presented to the County Commissioners at their last meeting, and that some of the proposed plans were new to them (the commissioners) and a surprise – and local governments don’t like to be surprised in a meeting. The project is still preliminary, and there’s still opportunities to give public input to county staff and the commissioners before this project really gets going.

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  • q`Tzal April 25, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I wonder if widening the Hawthorne Bridge path (as it currently is configured) in 2 or 3 tiny little patios for picture taking and touristy activities is:
    () structurally possible
    () might actually relieve some of the delays/hazards caused by pedestrian “OMFG Is this Saigon?!?” drunk zombie walking.

    The Tilikum Bridge has wider areas on the pedestrian path specifically because designers know that people will want to stop and gawk. A place was designed for that.

    Can we do this to the Hawthorne Bridge path?

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    • matt picio May 1, 2015 at 7:15 am

      “I wonder if widening the Hawthorne Bridge path … is … structurally possible”

      Short version: It’s not.

      Long version: This has been asked at more than one county bike/ped meeting, and the bridge staff has said that there are severe constraints which prohibit it. The path was widened over a decade ago from 8′ (I think) to 14′. The added weight required more ballast on the bridge counterweights. (If you look up at the counterweights on the bridge, you’ll see them – they are a slightly different color and size than the original counterweights) The counterweights are maxed out – adding weight increases wear on the cables and the pulleys, and they’re designed to handle a particular weight with a safety margin. Even adding decking on the bridge to convert a lane to bike use would be very difficult and might not be practical.

      This is also the reason why the Hawthorne can’t be made to have pedestrian viewing areas like the Tillikum Crossing. The bridge is now over 100 years old, and it just can’t support a lot of changes.

      BTW, the Hawthorne has more bridge lifts than any other bridge over the Willamette – and this is another reason why counterweight/wear issues are so important on the Hawthorne.

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  • MaxD April 29, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I wonder if a walking or biking lane could be added over the outermost driving lane? Difficult to access on a bike or to meet ADA standards, but not too difficult with stairs. Maybe the existing sidewalk is bikes/ADA and a new sidewalk accessed by stairs is built 15′ or so over the outer driving lanes. Alternatively, ramping up 14′ at 5% would take a 280-foot long ramp; something that could conceptually start outboard from the existing sidewalk and arc over the sidewalk at 8-10 feet high, then over the motorist lane at 14′-15′ tall or so.

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