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First look: The Willamette riverfront path that Tesla built

Posted by on April 20th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Willamette Greenway path-1.jpg

A section of paved path built adjacent to the (in-progress) Tesla showroom on the Willamette River with South Waterfront’s residential towers in the background.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

When Tesla Motors revealed plans for a showroom in Portland last May we feared the worst. The location of the showroom (4330 SW Macadam Avenue) on the west side of the Willamette River just south of Portland’s burgeoning South Waterfront district, was smack-dab in the middle of an annoying gap in a key multi-use path.

Thankfully, the “Tesla Gap” never made its way into the local lexicon. (New path segment shown in pink.)

While Portland land-use law would have typically required the electric car maker to build the path, their building was just small enough to trigger an exemption. We reported at the time that if this small segment of path didn’t get built now, we might have to wait decades.

Thankfully about a month later, likely in part to those of you who emailed City Commissioner Amanda Fritz about the issue, Tesla agreed to build the path on their own accord.

Disaster averted, all that was left was to actually pave the path and open it up to the public. That happened late last fall and I finally got down there to a few weekends ago to check it out for myself. Below are a few more photos…

Looking south from the Entercom building. Tesla’s showroom would be on the right:

Willamette Greenway path-4.jpg

Looking east with Mt. Hood in the background:

Willamette Greenway path-2.jpg

Another view looking east, showing one of the main reasons we build off-street paths:

Willamette Greenway path-3.jpg

And this is where the fun stops for now (that’s the Ross Island Bridge in the distance):

Willamette Greenway path-5.jpg

As you can see, there’s not much to the new path, it’s 12-feet wide and separated from the riverbank by a row of large trees and from Tesla’s showroom by a landscaped garden.

This new piece of path is just the latest domino to fall in the march toward completion of the Willamette/South Waterfront Greenway path. Going north from Tesla, the path ends abruptly just north of the Old Spaghetti Factory — within eyesight of the section of path completed in 2015 just south of the Ross Island Bridge. That gap is already under development and a path is forthcoming.

Someday soon we should be able to bike and walk and roll with relative ease between the Sellwood Bridge and the paths in Waterfront Park. The actions of Tesla set a good example and provide much-needed momentum.

Have you ridden this new section of the path? What’s your impression of how it connects to existing routes?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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68 Comments
  • Jason Skelton April 20, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    My law office is next door to the Tesla showroom-to-be. The trail and landscaping is super nice. I can now walk to the Old Spaghetti Factory and then SW Waterfront along the river. It is not life-changing but definitely helps make the waterfront more accessible to humans.

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  • maccoinnich April 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    More good news: there in an active design review case for new buildings on the vacant land facing the river between SW Lowell and Lane. It may take a few years, but they will be required to extend the twin bike/ped trails south. Once they do, the South Waterfront Central District Greenway will finally be connected to the Willamette Greenway to the south.

    Further down the river in the Pearl/Northwest construction is nearing completion on the Bridgetown Lofts, immediately northwest of the Fremont Bridge. When I last went by there a few weeks ago the new section of greenway wasn’t yet open, but it may be now. That leaves Centennial Mills and the adjacent warehouse as the only remaining gap in the greenway between the old Terminal One and the Marquam Bridge, an almost three mile stretch of the river.

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  • J_R April 20, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Wow! Twenty minutes and no complaints – yet.

    Thanks for doing the right thing, Tesla.

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  • Brian April 20, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Looks nice. I’m saving up for a Tesla.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. April 20, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Explain to me again why we need an auto dealership in a burgeoning high-density urbanized district?

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    • J_R April 20, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. Only 53 minutes for the first complaint by someone wanting to revisit the entire topic beginning with the evils of automobiles.

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      • Tom Hardy April 20, 2017 at 1:29 pm

        At least Tesla is not producing not promoting stinky vehicles. Today Tesla announced start of production of E pickups called “Model P” since the “T” was taken. also Electric semi tractor production.
        Only problem is, they are so quite yu wo’t hear them sneaking up behind you.

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        • Todd Boulanger April 20, 2017 at 2:14 pm

          As for “clean” vehicles…yes they are not point source polluters but their pollution footprint would depend on what generated it (‘salmon’, wind, solar, coal, etc.).

          I am super excited about the clean trucks after having worked around diesel vehicles for years…and lived next to too many freeways…BUT EVs will still have a negative land use/ sprawl effect…and potentially worse due to lower direct fuel costs to the driver.

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      • Alan 1.0 April 20, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        Next pool: date/time that Rose City Saboteurs vandalize the corporate-funded public trail.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy April 20, 2017 at 3:17 pm

          They’ll probably driver there…in a Tesla.

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          • Matt S. April 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

            Probably not… They’ll walk barefoot, naked — they’re anti-corp., remember…

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      • 9watts April 20, 2017 at 9:49 pm

        Notwithstanding the fun you and your 58 friends are having at Adam’s expense, his question was entirely valid. If Precision Castparts had built the trail you can bet lots of you 58 who upvoted J_R’s slam would be up in arms. Tesla, however, peddles an electric product and as such manages to dazzle us, and is thus given a pass here.

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        • q April 20, 2017 at 10:25 pm

          I’m not dazzled by Tesla’s product. Like I said in my reply to Adam, Tesla is moving this property from an industrial/warehouse use to a retail/service use, which is moving it from a use that’s really not compatible with the type of urban housing/mixed-use development that I think Adam and I are envisioning as ultimately most desirable in that district, to one that is. That’s a positive move.

          On top of that, Tesla is not making expensive or unique changes to the building or site that might get in the way of the building being converted later to a use even more compatible with that type of district, or for that matter with being torn down and replaced with much more intense development.

          If it wasn’t Tesla, I’d be just as happy if it were all kinds of other uses that moved the site beyond industrial/warehouse.

          I wouldn’t be happy if Precision Castparts moved there, unless it was for office use, because that would just be swapping one industrial/warehouse use with another, which wouldn’t move the district forward towards a more dense, urban future.

          Moreover, I don’t agree that Tesla “is thus given a pass here”. I don’t see why it needs to be given a pass. It hasn’t done anything wrong.

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          • 9watts April 21, 2017 at 10:14 am

            Thanks for your excellent and thoughtful response, q.

            “I don’t see why it needs to be given a pass”

            What I meant by that was – a car company that makes electric ones occupies a crucial place in the narrative that seeks to rescue the car for another generation in the face of the looming threats to automobility. Opinions (here and elsewhere) obviously diverge over whether Tesla is on the side of a solution/a new paradigm or still part of the problem/old paradigm. I took Adam’s question to be problematizing this matter in what struck me as pertinent. J_R’s rebuff struck me as unhelpful silencing and perhaps also a mischaracterization of what I took Adam’s point to have been.

            Since the article credits Tesla with doing the right thing (for the path) this prompted the question about the range of interests we’d be willing to credit for such an installation, whose purpose or effect we’d consider good enough not to offset the societal benefits of the path. I’d rather have that conversation than have it ruled out of order.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. April 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm

            Yes, I agree with you. We need to move beyond the need for personal vehicles – and that includes electric ones, which are really just a band-aid solution to our problems of overconsumption and our spread-out lifestyle. A company that peddles a product that is by its very nature anti-urban and anti-social has no place in a dense urban environment.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty April 21, 2017 at 3:38 pm

              Maybe we’ll get there with automated taxis.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. April 21, 2017 at 3:43 pm

                Spoiler alert: we won’t.

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            • q April 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm

              It’s not a dense, urban environment. It’s a one-story warehouse surrounded by other low-density development. Someday it will be a dense, urban environment. Tesla’s moving there will probably hasten that.

              And Tesla could be a horrible company with horrible products. But lots of people feel otherwise, and will be buying their cars and getting them serviced. Why not at least reduce the length of their trips to the showroom? I doubt there are a lot of Tesla buyers who’d skip buying a car, or would buy another brand, if Tesla were in Beaverton.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 21, 2017 at 4:04 pm

                People don’t buy Teslas or get them serviced very often, and, presumably, their customers are all over the metro area, so it probably doesn’t make a big difference where the dealership is located.

                Wouldn’t it be better if this site had been used for something like a coffee shop, a brew pub, or, perhaps, a $30 men’s barber?

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              • q April 21, 2017 at 4:56 pm

                HK–yes, there are uses that could be “better”. But the existing building is 34,800 sf, so that would be one large coffee shop or barber, and probably brew pub. There’s a limit on the number of “better” uses that could fill a building that size there now, since the area isn’t very developed yet. Eventually, as the area builds out, and more people live and work there, more of those types of uses could do well there. And at that point, rents will be higher and Tesla may want to move out, and one of those can move in.

                In a way, it’s all moot, because Tesla is the one that made the deal there. But even if Tesla hadn’t shown up, I’m not convinced a big mixed-use project, a use like a grocery store that would serve the immediate residents and businesses, or anything that I’d consider much better than Tesla would be appearing there anytime soon.

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              • wsbob April 21, 2017 at 10:01 pm

                “…People don’t buy Teslas or get them serviced very often, and, presumably, their customers are all over the metro area, so it probably doesn’t make a big difference where the dealership is located.

                Wouldn’t it be better if this site had been used for something like a coffee shop, a brew pub, or, perhaps, a $30 men’s barber?” h kitty

                …coffee shops, brew pubs, and barber shops seem to be in surplus almost to the degree that motor vehicles are.

                Did you hear somewhere or from some reliable source, that people don’t get their Tesla serviced very often? If that’s true, it may vouch some for the quality and reliability of the car line. It just now occurred to me that I’ve not seen a Tesla dealer on Beaverton’s auto row (basically, Canyon road between Murray Blvd and to, and including much of West Slope.), but I do see Teslas being driven around Beaverton. Google search says the tesla dealer is out by washington square.

                Tesla’s dealer location on the Willamette, seems interesting if that location enhances visibility of the brand to people recreating on the river and using the bike and walking path. At least for now, the company enjoys a positive buzz by virtue of it featuring, comparatively speaking, an ecologically friendly power source for its cars. That’s compatible with the healthy values people should want, and I think do, have for the Willamette River area.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 23, 2017 at 10:09 pm

                What about a cupcake restaurant? Every dish comes in the form of a cupcake! That might be more Portland than just another Tesla dealership. I mean, who doesn’t like cupcakes?

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              • q April 23, 2017 at 10:14 pm
              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 23, 2017 at 10:36 pm

                Wait… what??? Cupcakes are out? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?

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            • Wells April 22, 2017 at 1:52 pm

              Perhaps the most important use for electric cars is their compatibility with regional utility grids. They offer households the choice to use their stored electricity either for driving or household electric appliances and electronic devices. Matching rooftop solar to an EV battery pack leads to how such household power supply systems may complement the grid, especially in an emergency grid failure.

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          • wsbob April 21, 2017 at 10:16 pm

            “I’m not dazzled by Tesla’s product. …” q

            What ‘dazzles’s you, as motor vehicles go? There are other brand cars on the road with more exciting styling. The all-electric technology is the inspiring element of Tesla’s cars. I think they still have the longest range of any production model car on the road. Other car manufacturers, of course, are trying to beat that distinction.

            The dealership being located right next to the river and the bike path, could be a boost to public awareness of the brand. And for sales too. If I was riding that path, I might want to stop in and check out the Tesla. Can’t afford to buy one, but looking at them is good. If Tesla had an e-bike line, some of the people riding the path might be interested.

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            • q April 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

              I wasn’t saying “I’m not dazzled…” as a comment for or against Teslas, I was responding to a particular comment about people being “dazzled” by the fact that Teslas are electric.

              I like how Honda Elements look. I guess that makes me undazzleable by vehicles. Or dazzleable only by the nondazzling.

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              • wsbob April 24, 2017 at 7:57 pm

                Oh…you mean watts’ comment: “…Tesla, however, peddles an electric product and as such manages to dazzle us, and is thus given a pass here. …” 9watts

                …comparing the cutting edge electric car manufacturer to Precision Castparts, the company located in southeast Portland, and manufacturer of, to people without a specific interest in cast and forged components for aircraft engines and industrial gas turbines, comparatively less exciting products. Keeping in mind that the castparts company had some issues in recent years with environmental protection violations.

                I don’t know about you or anyone else reading her, but just in general, manufacturers of motor vehicles, electric powered or not, are a heckuva lot more interesting to me than are various cast and forged parts that I probably wouldn’t recognize unless someone told me what they were. Many people generally get excited about cars, some get very excited. I can’t blame them for that, when I consider all the very exciting design and technological ideas and innovations that people have used in motor vehicle production, sure, I can understand why people might be rootin’ a little for Tesla.

                In a dealership right next to the Willamette, a sleek looking motor vehicle, especially one that’s electric powered, is surely going to be more exciting to people than some lump of gas turbine equipment would be.Tesla is cutting edge motor vehicle technology, that at least reflects an earnest effort to grapple with environmental issues arising from today’s civilization, even if the reality isn’t as shiny and promising as the cars’ body styling, and power plant is. I’d be just fine if Tesla had a dealership next to a swell river with a bike path in central Beaverton, but all we have is Fanno and Beaverton creeks.

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              • 9watts April 24, 2017 at 8:32 pm

                I rest my case.

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        • q April 20, 2017 at 10:52 pm

          Adam’s “question” read to me more like a criticism or complaint in question form, perhaps because I remember him criticizing Tesla’s locating there in comments in an earlier article. If others also read it that way, versus as a neutral question, that would explain some of the reaction against it.

          Plus, the article isn’t about Tesla locating at that site, it’s about the bike trail. That might also explain some of the reaction.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 20, 2017 at 11:52 pm

          I’m willing to bet that Tesla emits fewer toxic pollutants into the air and water of the communities in which it works than PCC does. That’s certainly a consideration for a facility you’d be biking past.

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    • jeff April 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      thanks for not letting us down, yet again. we almost got an hour without your complaining.

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    • Chris I April 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      Do we need to explain how capitalism works?

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. April 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm

        Not very well?

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 20, 2017 at 5:09 pm

          This is true; other economic systems work even less well.

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          • Alan 1.0 April 20, 2017 at 7:07 pm

            Hello, Winston

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty April 20, 2017 at 8:51 pm

              We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.

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              • Alan 1.0 April 20, 2017 at 10:15 pm

                The supreme art of blogs is to snark without fighting.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 20, 2017 at 11:53 pm

                It would be even better to fight without snarking.

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              • Alan 1.0 April 21, 2017 at 1:27 am

                “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

                (apology for not actually munging the quote)

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        • Dave April 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm

          Actually, based on the healthy housing market and economy in the Portland area, I’d say it’s working quite well.

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          • 9watts April 20, 2017 at 9:40 pm

            For some.

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. April 21, 2017 at 3:36 pm

              That’s the key. Capitalism works very well…for a select few. Everyone else gets exploited.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 21, 2017 at 3:45 pm

                Do you count yourself as and exploiter or an exploitee?

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. April 21, 2017 at 4:12 pm

                If it’s not obvious enough from my distain for neoliberal capitalism, I consider myself to be an exploitee.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 21, 2017 at 4:22 pm

                How, exactly, are you “exploited”?

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            • soren April 25, 2017 at 1:09 pm

              a minority, many of whom either inherited their wealth or produced little that helps society as a whole.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm

                Rather than poke at capitalism, which we all agree has faults, I’d be interested in knowing what sort of economic system would work better. One obvious alternative, a centrally planned economy, has failed wherever it has been tried. What else works?

                I will assert that well-regulated capitalism, with a generous safety net, is the best we can do.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy April 20, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Start with capitalism and the concept of providing things to sell to people who want to buy them.

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    • q April 20, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      The literal answer is we don’t “need” it, but so what? Most businesses–especially those other than ones such as grocery stores that serve nearby residents–aren’t “needed” in their particular location.

      Beyond that, Tesla had to locate somewhere. Why not in a close-in location, no doubt convenient for their target market (or Tesla wouldn’t have chosen it) and much more accessible to customers than some outlying location requiring a long trip to buy or service a vehicle?

      Plus, the building was already there, and the improvements Tesla is making don’t preclude that site from housing another use in the future as that area develops. Tesla’s moving that building from an industrial/warehouse use to a car showroom and repair facility will not slow that area’s transition to a high-density urbanized district.

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    • Jason Skelton April 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      We don’t, but America is full of stuff no one needs.

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    • resopmok April 21, 2017 at 8:29 am

      If human economy was only based on need, we would still be a species devoted to farming, herding and hunting, building huts, and making clothes. With some luck, you can still pursue this idyllic lifestyle in limited locations around the globe. Please write a letter letting us know how your internet-free lifestyle suits you!

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    • jeff April 21, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      that area is hardly high-density. I suggest traveling to a big city for perspective. PDX isn’t crowded in the least.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 21, 2017 at 1:34 pm

        Nor even that expensive.

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    • Mike 2 April 21, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Why do we “need” one?
      Do we “need” a professional basket ball team?
      What about restaurants – do we really “need” so many of them in Portland?
      Do you “need” that expensive cargo bike?

      Perhaps it’s more about wants than needs?

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  • Champs April 20, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    The trail remains only recreation-grade and the users are passive aggressive to people on bikes, but at least it’s a better trailhead than that office building’s narrow sidewalk.

    We could really use a transportation route along Macadam.

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    • mw April 20, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      I think the best would be a path along the trolly alignment: flat and relatively straight. The springwater of the westside.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 20, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      Agreed. Unfortunately, I don’t see any chance of that happening.

      This path is too crowded for cycling so I take Macadam when I’m in the area. Not much fun, but you do cover ground fast.

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  • Todd Boulanger April 20, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    PS. Thanks Tesla and CoP staff for working on getting this trail link built.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty April 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Looks awesome!!!

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  • Clark in Vancouver April 20, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    This is really good. I like that it will be part of something bigger eventually. Vancouver’s famous seawall was done in stages like this as land became available. It’s one of the best things about this city. Everybody loves it. It takes long term planning.

    There’s a thing in Canada where all waterfront is owned by “The Crown”, (meaning the Queen or King) which means it’s public and cannot be privately owned. (There are a few exceptions.) This means that things like waterfront paths are easier to have happen.
    It’s great that a company like Tesla saw that it would make them look good to do this. And it does.
    I know that an electric car is still a car and takes up room and can still kill people and all that but a few of the problems with them don’t happen with electric cars so that’s an improvement at least.
    After being in the Netherlands I see how the built environment can be designed so that cars don’t create the same problems as over here and are just a tool that is only used when it makes sense. I see no point in being anti-car. It’s not necessary in order to be pro-transportation-choice.

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    • wsbob April 21, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      “…There’s a thing in Canada where all waterfront is owned by “The Crown”, (meaning the Queen or King) which means it’s public and cannot be privately owned. (There are a few exceptions.) …” clark in vbc

      That’s interesting…like Oregon’s beaches…unlike California’s beaches which private property owners with the money, can exclude the public from.

      For short trips of say three to six miles, or even fifteen (arbitrarily picked numbers.), electric cars could be a great help in reducing energy waste, and pollution. Too, as they get smaller…the Smart seems about the practical limit…they come closer to human scale in terms of road use. Tesla’s standard sedan seems to me like a big car, but there’s a market for smaller cars, and maybe Tesla could eventually become a front runner for that market.

      For a lot of the kinds of local trips many people make, in terms of size, something not much bigger than a golf cart would work…again, the Smart, is close to that, but it’s far more technologically superior and versatile than are golf carts. I think lots of people that drive, would never venture out on the freeways and even major thoroughfares where they’re required to drive over 30mph, if they didn’t have to. So they may not really need or even want, a car that can drive much faster.

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  • Adam April 21, 2017 at 5:25 am

    I just hope the rampant homeless camps don’t deter them from keeping the path open. I run on this newly opened trail three days per week, and it is obvious people have been camping here.

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  • Deb April 21, 2017 at 6:22 am

    Yes, I’ve ridden this path, and I love it. So nice to have those connections along the river. Thanks Tesla.

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  • GlowBoy April 21, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Funny how many people predicted that Tesla wouldn’t build this path because they’re in the auto industry. Who knows … maybe they weren’t planning on it, but the outcry on BikePortland changed their mind. Thank you Scott!!

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  • paikiala April 21, 2017 at 9:03 am

    A walk of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
    (it is also made up of single steps).

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  • SallyAnn April 21, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Hey! They didn’t have to but they chipped in to improve life for the rest of us! Give opinions a rest–as my grandma used to say, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.”

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  • Justin M April 24, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Glad this connection has been made. Just one more section to connect the entire area. Some really bumpy parts of the trail in general further south. I always have to look back and make sure my pannier isn’t trying to make a break for it afterward.

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