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Here’s the latest on Broadway Bridge path closures and obstructions

Posted by on September 28th, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Broadway Bridge construction scenes-1.jpg

With a flagger present, one person stops to wait for eastbound traffic on the north sidewalk on September 25th.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been about 15 weeks since Multnomah County embarked on a major project to repaint and repair large sections of the the Broadway Bridge. And according to what we’re hearing from some of you, despite adjustments and additional measures being taken by the County, the construction zone is still causing significant safety issues.

Here’s what reader Jeremy Pair tweeted just a few minutes ago:

Another reader emailed us last week to say he feels the way the bridge paths are being managed is, “Extremely dangerous currently and I am concerned for the safety of myself and others.”
Here are a few more recent photos that document the conditions:

Broadway Bridge construction scenes-2.jpg


Mayor Hales now knows about the issue after riding across the bridge Monday morning.

The scaffolding takes about half of the ten-foot pathway.

Bike riders dismount to slow up for someone walking in the same direction.

Waiting for “all clear” from flagger.

We’ve been forwarding those and other complaints directly to Multnomah County. To their credit they have responded. However, despite their efforts to improve the situation, the narrowness of the paths and the intermittent closures are still causing anxiety and headaches for many people.

After our reporting last month, the County stepped up even further. In the past few weeks we’ve noticed that when one of the two paths is closed flaggers have been positions at the eastern and western entries to the bridge. The flaggers stop traffic to allow people to travel without people biking and walking in the opposition direction. When the northern path is closed during the morning rush (when it’s needed most by people coming from the north into downtown), I’ve also noticed construction crew members standing on the corner of N Larrabee and Broadway directing people who come buy and hitting the “beg button” to make sure a green walk sign comes on.

Some of you have asked why they have to have so much scaffolding and why they can’t provide more notice before closing the paths. We recently asked County spokesman Mike Pullen for an update and here’s what he said via email in response:

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“The contractor erects metal scaffolding and a containment structure around the areas to be painted to protect the workers, bridge users and the environment. Inside the containment, the contractor blasts off the old lead-based paint and adds three layers of paint, removing rust and replacing steel rivets that have deteriorated.

The scaffolding takes up some room on the two bridge sidewalks because the truss structure adjacent to the sidewalk is being repainted. The railings on the outside of the sidewalk will also be painted, at the end of the project.

We’ve managed to keep at least one sidewalk open at all times. We understand that having two-way bicycle and pedestrian traffic use a single sidewalk (that has pinch points where scaffolding has been installed) is a burden for sidewalk users. So we’ve taken steps to ensure sidewalk users are safe and provide the most access at peak times.”

In addition to the flaggers and increased worker presence, Pullen confirmed that they’ve installed more signs on the main bike routes that approach the bridge that warn people of the conditions and encourage them to use the Steel Bridge as an alternate.

Pullen has also reiterated to the contractor that the sidewalks must remain open in the peak commute direction. That is, the north sidewalk should always be open in the morning and the south sidewalk should be open in the evening (“unless there’s an emergency”).

Pullen says they realize the uncertainties around the closures are frustrating but “The nature of the work makes it hard to predict when and how long a sidewalk will be closed.”

We expect to be dealing with this for several more months. The project isn’t scheduled for completion until March 2016. Learn more at the County’s website.

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  • 9watts September 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Maybe this has already been asked, but why not take one lane of the car traffic and give it to everyone who is now being pinched by the construction? Why should the effects only be felt by those walking and cycling?

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    • lop September 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm


      Aren’t the two outer lanes closed right now? Middle lanes have streetcar tracks and were closed earlier in the year.

      If there are flaggers on either end is it really a safety issue still? Or do people just not want to slow down/face delays?

      Would a traffic light like you see on rural road projects that get narrowed to one lane for two directions sometimes not be well respected? Or are the flaggers cheaper?

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    • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      We all know the answer to that question. 😉

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    • Spiffy September 28, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      take the lane!

      that’s what I would do… I drive over that bridge the other week and saw the cluster that resulted when peds and bikes mixed and basically made it hell for both…

      I think it would be quicker to just take the lane over the bridge until construction is done…

      luckily that bridge isn’t on my usual commute route…

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      • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        Watch for those streetcar tracks!

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      • John Lascurettes September 28, 2015 at 4:44 pm

        I’ve taken the lane a couple of times during commute hours, but despite the delay caused by the flaggers, it’s still typically quicker waiting for them than to take the lane. The vehicle back up is pretty bad and you don’t have comfortable room to share the lane with a good percentage of the cars riding to the right of the rails instead of on them – so you stuck sucking exhaust and going as slow as the cars for the duration of the bridge.

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    • Ryan September 28, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I took the lane myself today coming from downtown around noon. Riding between the rail tracks isn’t the most relaxing thing ever, but I’d do it again the next time I hit that bridge. I noticed the car traffic was slowed a bit behind me, but that also didn’t make me sweat either.

      As I was coming up the hill to the bridge from downtown, I had forgotten about the bike lane closure and having to go to the left side and squeeze into that walkway, so I just said, “screw it, why don’t I just take the lane?”

      So if you want a lane, I don’t think you need permission for it, just take it.

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      • Chris Anderson September 30, 2015 at 11:00 am

        I took the lane the other day, but I ended up stuck in traffic longer than the folks who walked their bikes across to the other sidewalk and biked from there.

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  • SD September 28, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    It would be great if they could take down the orange signs that are not applicable on the weekends when there is no construction going on and both sides of the bridge are open.
    I have seen this happen in other construction projects as well where signs prohibiting bikes are just left in place despite there being no purpose for them.

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  • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Close the two outside lanes to cars and make them the temporary bike paths. Need to drive? The Fremont bridge is less than a mile away.

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    • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      My mistake; looks like the outer lanes are already closed to all modes. Not sure what the solution should be here. Protected bike lane detour all the way to the Steel Bridge?

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  • Alex September 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    That’s an interesting suggestion 9watts. One of the construction workers I spoke to near the bridge actually brought up the idea of using one of the currently unused vehicle lanes for cyclists during this period. The lanes he was specifically referring to are the ones that are barricaded on the left side from car traffic. You can see them above in some of the pictures, currently vehicles are restricted to using the inner lanes only whereas the outer lanes (closest to the sidewalks) are totally unused.

    Not sure what they are using these lanes for currently, but could be a good solution.

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    • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      Looks like from those photos that the scaffolding is taking up most of the unused lane. Hard to tell though.

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      • John Lascurettes September 28, 2015 at 4:46 pm

        Scaffolding taking up the lane still leaves more left-over lane than there is left-over sidewalk/MUP. Still, they seem to use those closed lanes for construction vehicles and supply/equipment storage and staging.

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    • Buzz September 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      The county and the contractor are both using the closed outer lanes to access the bridge control booth and to haul scaffolding onto the bridge to be erected.

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  • RH September 28, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    March 2016!? OK, I’ll start taking the Steel.

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  • Scott H September 28, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Steel bridge is 1500 feet away. Just sayin.

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    • Matt September 28, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      You’re right. All motorists should be diverted to the Steel Bridge.

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  • Buzz September 28, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    “Protected bike lane detour all the way to the Steel Bridge?”

    LOL, you are dreaming!

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  • DNF September 28, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I take the Broadway Bridge almost daily, so I know what a pain this is. I also know that construction happens, so I suck it up. It’s not *that* big of a deal. You get slowed down a little bit, and if you think it’s unsafe you’re probably riding way too fast. Slow down a bit and enjoy the view. Yeesh.

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    • Matt September 29, 2015 at 8:07 am

      I ride it every day too. I think the “unsafe” part is not knowing the bike access is closed until you are right up on the bridge. Then you’re stuck either riding against traffic or trying to cross right at the bridge itself. I’m a very seasoned cyclist and it was a bit sketchy. It adds to the feeling of cyclists being second-class citizens. Motorists are warned way ahead of time, given adequate detour signage etc.

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    • Beth September 29, 2015 at 8:40 am

      It’s fine except when I have to tow an older-model Burley trailer (the one with the outboard aluminum wheel guards). Then things get a little tight for my liking. For an un-racer towing a heavy load, going an extra mile-plus out of my way is more than a little hassle.

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  • daisy September 28, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Here’s the dream: a sign at N Vancouver and Russell that says if there’s a flagger on the Broadway Bridge, so you’d know to continue straight and take the Steel Bridge.

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    • RJ September 29, 2015 at 8:56 am

      The same sign at Tillamook/Vancouver for us westbound riders, too.

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    • ethan September 29, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Silly biker, the county only does things like that for drivers. Quit being a third class citizen and get a car already!

      Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Scott Batchelar September 28, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    After all the changes I’ve made the decision that until the majority of work has been done on the Broadway Bridge I will not be using the Broadway AT ALL.

    The high level of uncertainty as to what state I will find the bridge in makes it an unwise choice.

    Today I rode up the ramp to find only one lane open and I turned around and headed down to the STEEL BRIDGE swearing NEVER AGAIN until the Construction is nearly completed or they come up with a better alternative.

    With my bike taking up nearly 70% of the lane with my electric motor its not a safe route especially with the entire Southern Walkway being fenced it’s not safe for me to use.

    I’ll miss the Broadway as it was one of my two primary routes into downtown the other being the Hawthorne but with the cramped quarters and uncertainty as to what state the bridge will be in I don’t feel safe using the Broadway

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    • Ted G September 29, 2015 at 7:10 am

      Please don’t ride your moped in the bike lanes and bike infrastructure.

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      • Scott B September 29, 2015 at 8:14 am

        Uh, Ted there’s a BIG DIFFERENCE between a Moped and an Electric Bike – Mopeds REQUIRE A LICENSE and can go between 40 – 70MPH my electric bike tops out at 20MPH.

        So don’t think you know what you are talking about when it comes to Electric Bikes until you have regularly ridden one.

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        • Ted G September 29, 2015 at 9:23 am

          Call it what you want but Something with a motor on it that can go 20 mph without pedaling does not sound like a bike to me and and I do not think they should be allowed to travel in places where non-motorized vehicles are intended.

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        • Buzz September 29, 2015 at 10:00 am

          Solution – slow down and don’t use the electric motor when crossing the bridge.

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        • Spiffy September 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm

          mopeds are restricted to a max of 30 mph…

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  • hotrodder September 28, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    I ride the Broadway bridge daily. It sucks now, but riding more than a quarter mile over to the Steel isn’t a great alternative. We all had to do that a few years ago during streetcar roadbed construction, and this solution is better, at least for my situation.

    Lucky for me, at 5AM, it’s usually clear of bike and foot traffic and detours.

    In the afternoon, on my way home, the fellas working the sidewalk congestion get a thumbs up and a thank you from me every time, and every time, they acknowledge the same with a smile. I hope that that courtesy continues, from both of us. I’ll sure try!

    I noticed the new signs today for the first time, dropping in from Flint. Listen, I’m a tall guy on a big bike and those signs are 3 feet above my line of sight, in a sea of orange warning signs.. Couldn’t the city come up with something easier for cyclists? Something closer to the road and painted in the same green color that’s used to designate bike lanes to differentiate them from the other road signs? Come on Charlie Hales! A little help here! It might buy you a few votes!

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  • Kevin Wagoner September 28, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Is this more dangerous than the one way path on top of the Steel Bridge? I run that route a lot and it is really hard to squeeze past cyclist coming down hill on that narrow section. I basically stop and turn sideways so the cyclist don’t have to stop.

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    • Dan September 28, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      That’s nice of you. I ride down that sidewalk on the way home, and when passing a pedestrian there I slow to just a hair over walking speed. It’s the only way to do it safely.

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  • Eastsider September 28, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Having this critical piece of bike infrastructure in such a mess during the Bike Commute Challenge month was a real shame. To an inexperienced rider trying out commuting by bike, it shows how cyclists are often just an afterthought. Sometimes one side of the bridge is completely closed without any signage beforehand or an obvious detour. Then there’s a jam of confused cyclists trying to navigate to the opposite side of the bridge, which has to be shared with pedestrians and bikers going both directions through a narrow four foot passage. What an embarrassment.

    Taking the Steel Bridge could be an option but navigating through the Lloyd District is confusing – and there is no detour marked for cyclists for how to get to the steel bridge through the confusing Lloyd Center. And then once on the west side, there are glaring gaps in the bike network that make it hard to connect to downtown from the waterfront.

    This shows what happens when our elected leaders aren’t regular bike commuters.

    I understand the need for scaffolding but I would think that closing a major piece of transportation infrastructure like this would call for working more than 8 hour days so that it can be reopened in a timely manner. I’ve never seen crews working past 5pm or on weekends.

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  • Paul Manson September 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I’ve just taken to using the upper deck of the Steel. My kid and I just cruise on the top and have not had too bad of a time. Try to time it so the cars behind me clear out before the lane narrows down.

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  • kittens September 29, 2015 at 1:22 am

    It seems like they just painted the Broadway when they repaved back ten years ago.

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    • Champs September 29, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Then they ran out of money to finish the last 30%.

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  • Ted G September 29, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Construction happens.

    I see lots of mentions of “safety” but we are at the end of the busiest bike month of the year and I have not heard of any accidents. Is that right? This sounds like a lot of griping about the situation being inconvenient and a hassle. Just because you ride a bike does not mean you get a free pass. Suck it up and leave a little earlier or take a different route.

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    • Matt September 29, 2015 at 8:10 am

      I love it when legitimate concerns are voiced and we’re told to suck it up. No accidents doesn’t mean that safety hasn’t been compromised. And please don’t tell me to suck it up. That’s just rude and not helpful.

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      • Ted G September 29, 2015 at 9:41 am

        And I love it when the county takes on a multi year project costing $7 million on a bridge built in 1913 and carries 30,000 vehicles a day plus street cars, and everyone expects their individual concerns to be addressed.

        Yes, restricting the width of the sidewalk compromises safety and requires everyone to slow down….that may be uncomfortable or inconvenient but that does not make it unsafe. I applaud all their efforts to maintain bike passage during such a huge project.

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        • Matt September 29, 2015 at 7:33 pm

          The unsafe part (to me) is the bad signage or lack of signage and you can read my previous comments because I won’t repeat them. I’m all in favor of maintaining our bridges and other infrastructure. And the skinny sidewalk doesn’t bother me at all. Being told to suck it up bothers me. It’s not cool. And it’s not conducive to adult conversation. That’s all. I’m done.

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  • TJ September 29, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Construction or no construction, an encouraged speed limit on what’s really a MUP wouldn’t hurt. I know I’m guilty of excessive speeds for conditions on the bridge. Signs help Cat 6 egos to feel justified in not chasing. Then again, a 12-15 mph sign could be used to unfairly hustle-up slower riders.

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    • Adam Herstein September 29, 2015 at 9:59 am

      How could a speed limit for bikes possibly be enforced? Most riders have no idea how fast they are going, and it’s not as if bikes come with speedometers. I’m not buying a cyclo-computer just so I can ride over the Broadway Bridge.

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      • TJ September 29, 2015 at 12:28 pm

        Less about enforcement. More about constraining egos. A speed limit provides a nice excuse to relax and enjoy the view, while also more clearly defining the jerks.

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  • Bob September 29, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I don’t see it as a big deal, I use the Broadway nearly every day and haven’t once thought it was a problem and was surprised to see this article. They’ve got work to do, and they’re trying to make it safe and usable. If it’s that bad for you, the Steel Bridge is close by and always only open for pedestrians and cyclists.

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  • JNE September 29, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Those recommending to take the lane across the bridge should acknowledge that riding parallel to street car tracks, especially when the rain starts up, is foolhardy even for experienced riders.

    Otherwise, put me down as one more vote in the “suck it up” camp.

    The beauty of cycling in the city is that even with this kind of obstacle you can still get by. Granted it gets a little slow if you have to share the narrow passage with a pedestrian, but you still get by.

    All that said, I know it’s a pain at peak hours. I’ve done it a couple times and it was slow. Lucky for me, I’m usually crossing before 7am, and I take the Steel Bridge back across to get home.

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  • joel September 29, 2015 at 9:49 am

    honestly the main safety concern for me has not been mentioned-unprotected scafolding. seems like many things sticking out and an unsteady person could get hurt. but if bikers slowed down they should be safe. seems like all the griping here is about convenience more than safety, or about th sped of getting to work. construction zones are never fast but hopefully they will make it safe as much as possible. what about the safety of the workers using the scaffolding- they need to be able to have room to work. i think we are all in this together both drivers and bikers and walkers.

    if you are going to voice a concern maybe it could be constructive a little more.thanks. i continue to feel safe on this bridge.

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  • Ted G September 29, 2015 at 10:05 am

    It seems like they just painted the Broadway when they repaved back ten years ago.Recommended 1

    They painted part of it…that is why they are now only painting the parts they did not paint.

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  • Paul Wilkins September 29, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Let’s just get rid of the bridge. The new active commute involves swimming.

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  • cthoop September 29, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    hi this is my first post ever after years of reading , but i’ll tell you what the bigger issue is here.

    when you get the ok to head past the scaffolding, people in the front try to make up the lost time and fly through the light. i’ve seen this 4-5 times in the last week.

    not sure if these are bike commute challenge people or regular commuters, but you can’t see the light until you are almost on it, and they are completely disregarding it. when the bike light is red, the turning light is green, and those cars can’t see the bikers coming because of the scaffolding.

    there was just another near miss this morning, and i can’t stand to keep watching it.

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    • hotrodder September 30, 2015 at 6:43 am

      It looks like the shroud is coming off the first phase of the west side of the construction area, maybe they’ll start taking some of the scaffolding down, too. The line of sight to the red light is clear again, so hopefully the danger has passed.

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