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Checking in on the Sellwood Bridge project

Posted by on October 13th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

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Freshly paved path from bridge to what will eventually be an off-highway connection to Willamette Park.
(Photo: Multnomah County)

Multnomah County has made major progress on the Sellwood Bridge project and at the start of next month they’ll flip the switch on a traffic change that will impact your bike ride.

In early November, people using the northbound lane of Highway 43 will begin using new interchange ramps and the southbound lane will be routed under the new bridge. If you’re headed from the bridge up into Riverview Cemetery, you’ll use a new entrance (a bit further north than the existing entry location) that lines up with the new interchange.

This week the county released an updated image of progress on the new paved multi-use path between the bridge and Macadam Bay.

Here’s an aerial photo showing the progress as of September 12th.

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(Photo: Multnomah County)

And here’s how the connections will look once it’s completed (bikeways/walkways are bright blue)…

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Meanwhile, the bicycling detours around the west end of the bridge continue to demand caution. Reader Gretchin Lair sent us a note and photos showing how the county is routing people from the sidewalk on SW Macadam down to the new path.

“These photos don’t show the pitch well,” Lair wrote, “but it is terribly steep, has awkward angles, and an uneven transition zone. It feels incredibly dangerous, so much so I felt compelled to walk my bike in this stretch.”

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(Photos below by Gretchen Lair)
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Looking south at the new path.

Once built, the bridge will have 6 and 1/2 foot wide bike lanes, 12-foot wide raised paths, and two, 12-foot wide standard vehicle lanes. The bridge is expected to open to traffic in spring of next year and be 100% complete by November.

For some of you, the new Tilikum Bridge offers an excellent way to avoid this area. But for those of you still taking the Sellwood regularly, how are the detours and ongoing construction zone treating you?

For more information about this project visit SellwoodBridge.org.

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9watts
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Looking at those aerial views my first thought was ‘what a sea of asphalt 43 has become at the bridge head!’ I’m looking forward to the changes on the bridge itself, but the addition of so many N-S lanes comes (to me) as somewhat of a surprise.

Adam
Subscriber

Does that bike path in the photo connect to anything to the north? I know there’s a MUP around that area and I assume they would be connected.

Also, still confused why the county decided on two different bike facilities on the bridge. Why not leave the sidewalk for people walking and install raised bike lanes instead of paint? Once you remove the bike markings from the sidewalk, it can be narrowed a bit. Instead of 6.5 feet bike lane and 12 foot shared bike/walk sidewalk, why not an 8.5 foot raised cycle track and 10 foot sidewalk?

rick
Guest
rick

I wish the bike lanes on the bridge were protected ones. However, the new bridge is a great upgrade to the old status quo. I wonder what effect might take place for the nearby businesses once it is done?

maks
Guest
maks

i ride this every day. i actually like it when i ride along that conencts to the sidewalk. the brief detour that led down and up that ramp was horrible. I was happy to see they re-opened up the section again to avoid that steep ramp.

I wonder how much better it’ll be once the bike path connects to Willamette Plaza corridor (what is that side called anyway? eg: eastbank esplanade). and if it’ll be extra time-consuming or not. I ride mostly on the sidewalk to the end of Willamette Park Plaza because i’m tired of the constant swervy pathways. couldn’t it be just a straight way?

random: it’s actually a 5 minutes shorter of a ride when on the sidewalk than on the river pathway to OHSU Tram.

Tad
Guest

I cross the Sellwood Bridge by bike around 4x/week, but my destination is Lake Oswego. The Sellwood bike lanes will be great once they’re in place, but it won’t make it any more real that I’ll be able to take my kids into Portland by bike, until the OR-43 bike corridor is addressed – however it gets addressed. Right now, my only option is up through the Cemetery (~450′ climb) and then all the way back down through Tryon Creek, seeing as doing the 43 by bike is just completely unsafe.

Desperately waiting for that to get sorted – whether the trolly tracks are used as a right-of-way, or whether the mixed-use bridge near the rail bridge end up as the option.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Why don’t they let cyclists use the street for that detour instead of the sidewalk??? Personally, I’d move that detour sign and use the curb ramp to enter the street at the top of the hill.

Gary
Guest
Gary

The switchback baffles me a bit. It seems excessive–not all that much of a elevation delta. It’s quite an extended route to get from the bridge down to the path. Don’t get me wrong, it’s leaps and bunds beyond what was there before, but I wonder what pushed that particular design versus more of a straight shot.

redtech116
Guest
redtech116

Didn’t the builders float the idea of moving all the bike/ped traffice to one side and car traffic to other…and they would have saved a few bucks also…
Seems like that would work perrty well to have all the bike/ped access on the north side..on both ends of the bridge…

davemess
Guest
davemess

Sorry to nitpick, but is it major progress if they’re this behind schedule? Wasn’t the new bridge supposed to be open in 2015?
I know they lost a lot of time when they had to do more work than anticipated on the pilings.

mw
Guest
mw

One thing I’m really looking forward to about this bridge is the connections are going to be so smooth, compared to the Tillikum bridge. You will be able to just ride on and ride off without having to wait for any signals (except if you want to go into the cemetery)

mw
Guest
mw

Another thing.. I ride this a couple times a week, and through all the detours, I really gotta give it to the managers for keeping access to bikes/peds. There’s many times where you could tell it would have been way easier to just give bikes/peds a big FU.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

November 2016? Am I reading that right?

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Looks like another world-class platinum job of getting bikes out of the way so people in cars can drive over the speed limit. I guess we’ll see how the stop light timing gets setup, but when I saw that the new path had a switchback which probably leads to more sidewalk detours, my response was to take the lane on Macadam.

AIC
Guest
AIC

I am excited for the finished product. They have been doing a great job accommodating cyclists throughout the project. All the workers have been very friendly to me. Remember when they had flaggers controlling the traffic at the west side earlier this year? There would be huge lines of cars, and the guys with the flags would always stop everyone immediately as soon as a bike showed up. I don’t think I ever waited more than 10 seconds at the intersection to get to the cemetery.

Today’s temporary path is adequate, but will get better as the work continues. Riding it these past few weeks, I find the temporary infra not bad at all. Sure there are some 90 degree turns, some grades etc, but nothing that slows me down considerably. But I also enjoy riding technical off-road singletrack on my cross bike…. One’s impression has a lot to do with their frame of reference.

Lets support this awesome project and all involved and drop the entitled ninny whining. whaddya say?

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Thanks for this post on the bridge. I was one of the consultant engineers on the project.

ODOT’s requirements for an interchange with ramps that met mobility standards (aka designed for trucks) was a big driver of the design early on. We were not able to acquire cost-cutting design exceptions for many of the clearances, speeds, and geometry we were looking for. Among other things, this affected wall designs and costs.

Although ODOT played a big role, money was main the main driver of design decisions on the project. ROW and land use permitting is costly and the process is lengthy. We knew money would be tight from the very beginning, then we found out we needed to cut another 25-30M off the cost because of Clackamas County. That was a sad day. Of course we would have loved to demo the old bridge and build the new one in the same place. Who knows how much savings that would be, potentially 10-15% of the project cost? Just look how much they’re spending on flagging alone!

A lot of thought went into the bike-specific design and “user experience” ON the bridge. There will be a ton of walkers and cyclists who want to stop and look out over the river and take selfies, so we needed big sidewalks that could accommodate both modes. Commuters, fast/confident cyclists, and those who have already seen the view can ride down on the road with the cars. There are several reasons why raised bike lanes adjacent to the motor vehicles and below sidewalk grade were ultimately weeded out. Cost/benefit, constructability of mountable curb, complications with drainage and the need for two extra feet of shy (four feet total) ultimately killed the raised lanes.

The bike detour was real bad. There’s no other way to describe it. I gently pushed for a protected bike lane on OR43 during construction, but struck out. Shame on me for asking for a reduction in trucking mobility on a state route. However, I’m proud to say I attended all my meetings (east side of bridge) and site visits via bike, taking the lane on OR43 and on the bridge. Only got honked at a few times.

The MUP and switchbacks north of the bridge were designed as an accessible route (ADA-compliant) and not designed as “bike infrastructure.” You’ll find that all the fencing, 180-degree turns, and all the other cyclists taking wide corners and riding two abreast will make it a pretty tight corridor. Cyclists should ride slowly. Independent of the ADA path I wanted a separate, direct-route bike path from the bridge directly down to the path with very steep grades. Maybe 10-15%? It would have been rad for sure.

All in all, the engineers and planners were very dedicated to designing this facility, meeting the requirements and wishes of all the stakeholders involved, and are doing a commendable job seeing it through construction. They really did the best they could, given the constraints.