Traffic Advisory: One week nighttime closure coming for St. Johns Bridge

Posted by on January 29th, 2016 at 8:40 am

sidewalk on st johns bridge

Life on the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)


The Oregon Department of Transportation is prepping for an inspection project on the St. Johns Bridge. The project will close the bridge at night for a week starting Monday, February 1st. Work is scheduled for completion by Saturday, February 6th.

The bridge will be closed to driving traffic from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am for the week; but ODOT will keep one sidewalk open at all times for bicycling and walking traffic.

As you can see in the photo below, the sidewalks on the St. Johns Bridge are quite narrow, so if you use it next week during closure hours, be prepared for close passes with other users. More info via ODOT website.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

27 Comments
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    Spiffy January 29, 2016 at 8:52 am

    re: lead image

    it’s always odd to me when I see somebody decked out in full cycle gear using a sidewalk instead of a road, or a ped button trigger instead of the road loop (or pressing the button at all when a car is already waiting)…

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

      As someone who rides this bridge a lot, I completely understand why even confident “full cycle gear” riders use the sidewalk. It’s even daunting on the sidewalk with such fast and loud traffic flying by. This bridge is perhaps one of the best symbols of ODOT’s misunderstanding of transportation planning in the entire state.

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        Art Fuldodger January 29, 2016 at 9:16 am

        but it’s got sharrows, right? 😉

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          Jeff January 29, 2016 at 9:59 am

          Good one.

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        Matt January 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

        I’m not sure what you mean by “misunderstanding transportation planning”? Wasn’t the bridge built in the 30’s. Do you think the bridge designers envisioned cyclists riding road/sidewalk at 30 mph? When I ride the bridge, I ride about 10-12 mph up, crest, ride around the pillars at a slow rate expecting to encounter pedestrians and then speed up on the downhill. If I encounter a pedestrian on the down portion, I stop and get off the bike and walk around then–unless they see me and we’re able to negotiate the space without me having to get off the bike. Occasionally, I will ride the road if I’m in a group, but I’m not surprised if I get yelled at.

        This is part of my 25 mile loop that I do regularly. Willamette–>St. Johns–>Saltzman–>Leif Ericson–>Thurman–back to North Portland.

        The St. Johns portion is always the slowest part of my ride and it’s something that I’ve just come accustom to. I’ve noticed, there tends to be this entitlement fit cyclists have (not everyone–probably just a few) about being able to ride as fast as possible, anywhere, without impedance–because they can. The St. Johns bridge sidewalk is fine if you slow down just a little bit… I’ve crossed the bridge at least 100 times and have never had a problem.

        I do wish the sidewalk was wider and protected with rails–maybe this is what you mean?

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 29, 2016 at 10:42 am

          Hi Matt,

          Good to hear your perspective.

          This bridge has a recent history. ODOT had the opportunity to re-allocate the lane space so that people who aren’t in cars/trucks and who want a safe passage over the bridge would have more room to breathe and operate their vehicles. Despite studies saying motor traffic would be fine with one lane in each direction ODOT dug heels in the ground and maintained both lanes. Now instead of our most beautiful bridge being a place that is welcoming to people and something the n’hood/city/state can be proud of, it is nothing more than a freeway that only looks good from afar or from inside a car or truck.

          They should have been sued. We should have rallied. But it was 2005 or so and we weren’t able to muster the response we could now.

          Then ODOT added salt to the wounds by adding sharrows and a few signs – as if those do anything at all.

          That’s what my comment was based on.

          And I hope you are not assuming I am one of those people who feel entitled to go as fast as I want everywhere. Absolutely not. I have no problem slowing down and taking the sidewalk – but that doesn’t stop my blood from boiling everytime I do.. both because of the stress of the environment and my annoyance and anger with ODOT for their poor decisions.

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            Matt January 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

            Thank you for the informative response. No, I didn’t think you were one of the entitled. Actually, referring to myself–there was a brief period when I rode like this, everywhere.

            Also, for what it matters, I took my girlfriend on the loop that I mentioned and she didn’t like the St. Johns bridge portion. The sidewalk made her extremely nervous and we were going pretty darn slow. However, she did enjoy the view when we stopped at the crest.

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              Carrie January 29, 2016 at 12:42 pm

              Matt —

              You’ve described how I feel about the Sellwood Bridge currently. I used to get frustrated with going really slow and occasionally having to stop and get off my bike on the sidewalk to cross it, until I took a deep breathe and realized it’s only 5-10 minutes out of my awesome hill loop ride.

              But I still HATE riding on the narrow sidewalk. I am a confident and experienced cyclist, and the thought of falling or being blown off that ledge into fast moving traffic terrifies me. It’s such a bummer. I’m just lucky that there’s only one more month of that on the Sellwood bridge.

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            Terry D-M January 29, 2016 at 12:27 pm

            Well said. That debate is just like the Barbur. The trucking industry runs ODOT.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. January 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm

        You mean the sharrow doesn’t protect people riding bikes? Shocker.

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      Granpa January 29, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Yea, if he were a real cyclist he could just bunny hop the river.

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      Christopher Jones January 29, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Like Jonathan, I ride the sidewalk on the St Johns bridge frequently, en route to Saltzman Rd. The bridge is a highway with sharrows, and I don’t trust that I won’t be hit from behind. I normally take a left to head south on NW Bridge Ave at the end, and there’s no shoulder at all, so I ride as fast as I can to try to not be caught by traffic headed to highway 30. I wish this approach to Forest Park/Saltzman were less intimidating, because it’s some of the best riding in the area. I don’t take anyone with me because of how scary it is to get over the bridge and a mile south or so to Saltzman though.

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        Ted Timmons (Contributor) January 29, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        “highway with sharrows” is a great description.

        Interesting that St. Johns is all “one lane” but the bridge must be “two lane”.

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      Chris I January 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

      If you take the right lane on the St. Johns, I guarantee you will be buzzed (within inches) by a large pickup or commercial/industrial truck at some point. I only dare do it on weekend mornings when traffic is extremely light.

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      Mark smith January 30, 2016 at 7:56 am

      I agree. Spandex and Lycra typically absorb 40 to 60 prevent of the energy transfered from a vehicle bumper (semi trucks less of course). This is far more than the typical skinny jeans, tennis shoes and street jacket. Those only absorb about 5 percent of a crash. Possibly. I could be off on the numbers.

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    Todd Boulanger January 29, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Please also post the I-5 Bridge lane detour for this weekend

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    Chadwick F January 29, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Oh good. Maybe all the gravel from the snowstorm will finally be swept off the sidewalk.

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    Lester Burnham January 29, 2016 at 11:07 am

    That rider should have dismounted passing a child like that.

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      Mark smith January 30, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Bikes. New undiscovered killer of children. Cars…the new savior. Who knew! Thank you!

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  • Mike G
    Mike G January 29, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    St. John’s bridge is a part of my fitness route for Portland’s four corners – SW, SE, NW, NE (40 mile loop). I use both the ramp sidewalk and the sharrow lane for many years without problems.

    Climbing up the 5-6% grade south ramp from Hwy 30, I use the sidewalk as there is absolutely no room to be in the road in that 5 mph gearing. Any occasional pedestrian gets the ROW from me. (oh darn, I have to rest!)

    On the deck, its always in the sharrow lane not the sidewalk. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but I bullishly take the center of the lane which puts me in the way so cars have to go around. I also practice the Navy’s gross tonnage right of way rule that bikes are simply traction, whether they have the road or not.

    Adding also that I live by my helmet mirror at all times. Couldn’t ride without it.

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      Mark smith January 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Thak you for knowing your lower place on side paths despite then being largely often empty and useful. I am with some of these posters..we need to cull the heard and force more riders into traffic. Sidewalks are for the weak. Clearly.

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    TJ January 29, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve been commuting during rush hour on the bridge for several years. Only starting in 2015 did I stop using the road on weekdays as traffic (including freight) grows daily (it seems).

    Last week’s taking out of the sidewalk’s railing by a driver and ODOTs sluggish response to properly fix the dog and child eating hole (patched with wire and 2x4s yesterday) is a testament to how ODOT prioritizes cars and freight over basic safety for those walking and cycling.

    Not that Bridge Ave and 30 are much improved.

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      Chadwick F January 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      That hole is a terrifying reminder that we’re on track to have something like what happened on the Burnside bridge this summer happen here. Oh well, good luck everyone!

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    Tom Hardy January 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I have been riding the bridge lane since 1954 when my dad said the sidewalk was too dangerous. I grew up in Kenton and regularly did the bridge both directions 4 or 5 times a year, and still do. I have yet to be hit on it although I have been brushed with side view mirrors by both pickups and sedans. I have been intimidated by semi trucks using their Jake brakes on the downhill when I was doing 35 as per the speed limit. they refused to go around me until they were off the bridge then they would move to the inner lane to turn left in St. Johns or to head toward Portland.
    I have tried the sidewalks a couple of times in each directions and quickly decided that I felt safer in the traffic lane.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu January 29, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I don’t ride the sidewalk of the St John’s bridge, because I have some fear of heights. The narrow sidewalk, railings that are not very high, often windy conditions, and very long drop (280 feet?) to the ground or water below – it kind of freaks me out. One time I started to freeze up, decided to stop, but hardly had enough motor control to apply the badges and maintain my balance. Ever since then, I take the right lane. I stop before the bridge, gather my breath, try to pick a good moment, then get on the bridge and sprint as fast as I can – sort of a desperate uphill sprint – to the high point, then use the grade to speed up to car-ish speeds. Watching my helmet mirror the whole way. I usually ride right ing the middle of the lane. This works, but is pretty much the opposite of everything that a bike friendly road should be.

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      Doug January 30, 2016 at 2:30 am

      Ever ride the SOB bridge down in Coos Bay officially the Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge? 18″ high maybe 30″ wide sidewalk on a really steep bridge going to North Bend. The kicker is the 35 mph crosswind, it is the beach.

      I was loaded touring so I walked the bike up to the top on the sidewalk and then rode down on the bridge deck. I could have ridden up on a shoulder, but not on that narrow sidewalk with the pulsating cross wind. I returned years later with Cycle Oregon 2011 and they went the entire way around the estuary to avoid that monument to poor engineering.

      The Lewis and Clark bridge between Longview and Rainer removed the sidewalk in the 1990’s. Not because the only people that used the thing jumped off in the middle (it is Longview). It’s removal allows a stalled vehicle to be pushed out of the way not blocking the narrow 2 way bridge. I like it better for the bike crossing without a sidewalk.

      Anybody ever ride the one in Astoria? Looks dicey to me.

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    Steve February 2, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Maybe a little bit Pollyanna, but could it be a case of drivers “used” to seeing bicycles on the sidewalks encourages their disdain for those of us who use the deck? I can count on one hand the number of times a driver hasn’t honked at me or told me to “get on the sidewalk”. Bike traffic on the deck has almost zero effect on the speed cars can travel.

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