It’s been almost a decade since our very first post about replacing the old Sellwood Bridge. Now, after years of debates over funding sources and designs, the new bridge is almost 100 percent complete.
While it re-opened to traffic back in February, many of the bikeway elements were unfinished. In recent weeks Multnomah County has made significant progress on the bike lanes, sidepaths, crossings on the west side, and on the greenway path connections. I rolled over a few days ago for a closer look at how it was all shaping up.
From the Springwater path, I made my usual connection up to the bridge via Spokane and SE Grand Avenue. The county has installed a new path with bikeway markings to direct traffic up onto the bridge.
I then back-tracked over to the eastside entrance at SE 6th to get a better view of the new cross section (note the left turn box in the foreground).
Instead of having all vulnerable users share an area separated from motorized users, the County and their advisory committee decided to stripe a traditional, on-street bike lane on the main roadway. For most of the way the bike lane is five-and-a-half feet wide with a two-foot buffer. It will be interesting to see what percentage of riders opt for the bike lane versus the sidepath. Unfortunately, if you start in the bike lane from SE 6th and then decide you’d rather be on the sidepath, there’s no smooth ramp to take you up there. The only break in the path is a ramp that’s only meant for people leaving the path and entering the bike lane. This seems like an oversight that should be corrected.
Back up on the sidepath, I noticed two large “SLOW” markings on the ground. I assume the County is worried about bicycle riders going too fast and colliding with other path users. If that’s the case, perhaps they should use the same treatment on the main roadway where motorized vehicle and bicycle users share space separated by nothing more than paint.
The County is relying on a subtle difference in the texture of the concrete in order to designate cycling space from walking space.
Mid-span there are two new belvederes on each side. These are wonderful! The space is nice and big and there’s a bench, signs about local history, and a great view of downtown and the river.
On the west side the bridge is unrecognizable from before. Bicycle users will see a lot of new signs, markings and even signals to help get across Highway 43 and into River View Cemetery. There are crossbikes, lots of green-colored bike lanes, and several bike-only signals. It feels a bit confusing at first, but I’m sure folks will get the hang of it. The direct connection into the cemetery is so nice and is now much less stressful than before. Same goes for the new treatments from the cemetery eastbound onto the south side of the bridge.
Another major bit of progress is a new section of the Willamette Greenway path that connects to the eastbound path and bike lanes via a new bridge. This new path goes under the Sellwood Bridge and then (like the ramp on the north side), loops back, climbing gradually up to the south side. It wasn’t open yet but Multnomah County says it should be open by December 10th.
As we reported back in July, the new section of path that goes north of the Sellwood Bridge through SW Miles place toward Willamette Park is open for business. I noticed a few new sharrows and bikeway signage.
It’s very exciting to have this important connection back in the network. Speaking of which, TriMet bus service will return to the bridge on Monday after a 12-year absence due to weight restrictions. A few other notes: A speed reader board is now in use for eastbound traffic to help discourage speeding in Sellwood neighborhoods and two bicycle counters will be activated in the coming weeks.
Have you ridden any of this yet? What do you think?
For more information, check out the County’s excellent project website at SellwoodBridge.org.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com