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Portland-region committee gives middling marks to NW Flanders bridge project

Posted by on May 3rd, 2016 at 12:10 pm

flanders bridge span

The span at Flanders and I-405.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The prospects for rapid state funding of a biking-walking bridge across Interstate 405 dimmed somewhat Monday as a regional advisory committee appointed by the Oregon Department of Transportion ranked it as only the eighth off-street transportation priority for the Portland region.

Top marks went to a 19-acre, $2.6 million parking lot that would help the Ford Motor Co. export more cars to China — though only if Ford agrees to increase its exports via the Port of Portland, which it hasn’t.

As we reported last month, a $5.9 million Flanders Crossing bridge could carry 9,100 biking-walking trips a day, making it (for example) 21 times more cost-efficient per user within a few years than the defunct Columbia River Crossing freeway-rail project would have been by 2035. The City of Portland is hoping $2.9 million could come from the State of Oregon; fees from recent real estate developments would cover the rest.

The Flanders Crossing would sit between the Northwest District, wich has been adding thousands of new homes, and the Pearl District, which has been adding thousands of new jobs.

The regional committee to award grants in the state’s lottery-funded Connect Oregon program identified two local biking-walking projects as higher priorities than Flanders: $700,000 to complete the Tigard Street Trail and $400,000 to complete the Waterhouse Trail in Tualatin.

matrix

The Connect Oregon ranking matrix from the regional committee. Click here for the full PDF.

Also beating out Flanders Crossing on the regional ranking were $1.4 million to enlarge the Hood River airfield for firefighting and other tasks; $8.3 million for new tracks that would speed up freight and passenger rail trains through North Portland; $1.8 million for a new transit center at Clackamas Community College; and $390,000 for a new transit center in downtown Mollolla.

You can read the project descriptions and analysis on ODOT’s website.

Flanders beat out various other bike/ped projects including trails in Milwaukie, Wilsonville, Gresham, the Naito Gap in inner Northwest Portland, the Red Electric Trail in Southwest Portland and a “bike station” for the Mount Hood Villages. Of the eight projects ranked lowest by the ODOT-appointed committee, six were biking-walking projects.

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‘Backlog’ of city projects lower bridge project’s score

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The bridge would activate the long-promised Flanders Street neighborhood greenway and it would provide a much safer crossing of I-405 than Glisan, Everett or Couch.

The middling score for the Flanders Bridge doesn’t mean the bridge plan is back on ice after a decade of delays — it could still be funded by the next step in the Connect Oregon process, coming in June.

A statewide committee of biking and walking experts ranked it their third priority statewide, after the Homestead Canal Trail in Redmond and the Tigard Street Trail. It’s now up to a final review committee that meets June 14-15 to reconcile the high ranking from the modal committee with the middling one from the regional committee.

ODOT staff said the City of Portland “has a backlog of incomplete projects for other ODOT and Metro funding.”

It’d be hard for any other project in the state to measure up to the Flanders Crossing for number of direct users. The Mollalla transit center, for example, would be expected to create 4,704 new transit-rider trips per year. A new Flanders Crossing bridge combined with a planned neighborhood greenway would be expected to carry almost twice that many trips on the average day.

ODOT’s staff analysis of the Flanders Crossing project has a lot of good things to say about it: “high quality design,” lots of local matching funds, and the facts that it creates a “critical active transportation connection” and “resolves safety issues on Glisan and Everett” by giving people biking and walking a way to get across 405 that doesn’t essentially cross a freeway onramp.

But ODOT’s staff notes also name some marks against Flanders: first, that it would sit on ODOT land and the state hasn’t yet signed off on related issues; and second, that the city “has a backlog of incomplete projects for other ODOT and Metro funding.”

Another issue is that the city’s application does not claim that a Flanders bridge would create any jobs. That stands in contrast to, for example, the Port of Portland’s application for a parking lot that could be used as a staging ground. Using its internal economic model, the Port estimated that having extra space to store cars bound for Asia would let Ford increase its auto exports, retaining 105 jobs and creating 90 new ones. But in their analysis, ODOT staff mentioned the lack of a commitment from Ford to actually scale up its exports through Portland even if the public helps underwrite the lot.

“The Nov. 16 letter from the terminal operator only states that the company is in active negotiations with Ford to increase exports through the facility,” ODOT staff writes. “Ford has other west coast options.”

Sebastian Degens, director of marine business development for the Port, said in an interview Tuesday that even if Ford doesn’t boost local jobs by signing a new, larger contract in 2017, the new parking lot could be used by other auto manufacturers.

“The auto business is booming,” Degens said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Champs
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Champs

*shakes Magic 8-ball* — outlook not so good, but wait until June to see whether THIS longshot pans out!

“Deliberate inefficiency is a trait of passive-aggressive behavior,” he said ironically.

Adam
Subscriber

How is building a private parking lot for Port of Portland considered the top transportation priority? I’m having a hard time understanding why it’s even considered transportation at all, since it’s being used to store private goods for export. At least ODOT is considering upgrades to the Amtrak Cascades line.

rick
Guest
rick

As if shipping container companies will suddenly flock back to the Port of Portland?

Kittens
Guest
Kittens

Mixed feelings about this. Sure it would be nice but that is a lot of money for one bridge Which would benefit a neighborhood with already a lot of assets.
I ride through there often and have never had an issue. This sort of money would be better spent building out the mup around swan island or the planned corridor along i84 from Sulivans Gulch to Gateway.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Wow, the list of letters in support of Flanders is really impressive:

– The BTA
– Northwest District Association
– Pearl District Neighborhood Association
– Old Town Chinatown Community Association
– Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center
– Gerding Edlen Development
– Nob Hill Business Association
– Northwest Portland International Hostel
– Pearl District Business Association
– PNCA
– Vestas

There’s also en email from the ODOT Region 1 Planning Manager clarifying that PBOT and ODOT have had “extensive consultation” and that PBOT have been “a forthcoming and earnest partner”.

Bradwagon
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Bradwagon

I ride the Tigard Street Trail every day and while I’m glad to see it will be finished I am surprised it got ranked so high. There is currently a MUP in place, it just needs a few more sections of pavement linking it to existing sidewalks and road crossings but is otherwise fully functional as is. It could be better but I would rather see more MUP like it installed in the area instead of polishing a small rarely used section. It appears they want to add landscaping around it and make it “nice” now that they have proven a demand… which to be honest surprises me. I ride it daily and most days I see maybe 2 people walking on it and every other day another cyclist during commute hours. The impact of this path in the middle of disconnected suburbia compared to NW is night and day. Very strange to me… obviously a much lower costs plays into it but would rather they use those funds to extend the network first.

charlietso
Subscriber
charlietso

Creating jobs at the port is a good idea worth pursuing but if we want to talk about economic impact, investing in active transportation infrastructure will do much a better job in attracting employers and skilled workers to the Portland region than an export storage facility. Port of Portland has never played a big role in export on the West Coast, and its share has declined while our economy has continued to grow. People who make transportation funding decisions simply have no idea what is really driving our economy. In 2016, they believe investing in car storage will create more economic benefits than in making cities livable and accessible to all people.

kittens
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kittens

Ugg… my point is just that NW. Portland doesn’t need a lot of help in terms of connectedness, or access to bike infrastructure OR for that matter does it need more treats from the city to help it succeed.

I mean for crying out loud there are parts of Portland without paved streets, sidewalks or even parks!

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Where were all the containers being stored at the Port, when we still had a container shipping company using the Port? Can’t the cars be parked there?

The Port isn’t getting more business because of severe conflicts between the longshoremen’s union and the shipping companies. Unless and until that is resolved, not a penny of investment should go to the Port.

http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/morning_call/2015/02/inside-the-labor-dispute-thats-torturing-the-port.html

Tom
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Tom

A multi billion dollar international company does not need a handout from a cash starved public agency. If they wanted that parking lot they would have no problem funding it. Why not add construction jobs instead, to build more housing at a faster rate. Use the money to improve transportation that will encourage more housing to be built. I’m not sure it makes sense to push hard to bring more workers to the city when there is no place for them to live locally. The new workers would just live and spend their money in Vancouver, so how would that help Portland anyway.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

How the projects in Tigard & Aloha get higher on the list than the Flanders crossing is a bit puzzling, especially since there is now no viable connection between them and downtown PDX. The Flanders crossing would put us on course for having one. One could also argue that it would create a reason for routing southbound ped / bike traffic thru Beaverton instead of via Barbur or Terwilliger.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

Great reporting, BP!

This is a slam dunk and the overall #1 ranking with an approval letter from ODOT.

WD
Guest
WD

Good. I hope it doesn’t get built. The proposed bridge is a redundant, expensive give-away to a wealthy neighborhood. It’s embarrassing to see Portland try and fast-track such a silly project when families are suffering traffic violence on main streets & in neighborhoods.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I think completing that section of the Waterhouse Trail is a worthy project too. It closes the gap between Mission Oaks Dr & Bethany Court (https://goo.gl/maps/Sa4htbuTKXt), and is actually a section of trail that my family would use to get our son to school for the next 3 years.