Tour de Lab September 1st

At long last, TriMet says a new Gideon Street-Brooklyn bridge is coming

Posted by on June 29th, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Yellow line shows the location of the old Gideon-Brooklyn footbridge. A crucial neighborhood connection, it was torn down by TriMet in 2013 and never replaced.

At long last TriMet says they’ll replace the old footbridge that used to cross over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks between Southeast Gideon and Brooklyn/16th streets.

The rickety old bridge was demolished in 2013 as part of the construction of the Orange Line MAX. It was supposed to be replaced by a new bridge, but TriMet never built it. At the time, TriMet said they cut the replacement bridge out of the project in order to meet a federally mandated 10 percent reduction in the Orange Line project budget.

Even though the project came in under budget, TriMet sent remaining funds back to the federal government. Neighborhood and transportation activists were furious.

The bridge is a crucial connection between a new MAX station and jobs to the south of the railroad line and neighborhoods to the north. With a connection lacking, many people make the risky decision of crossing over the tracks on foot — and even walking through train cars during long stoppages at the nearby Brooklyn yard.

A 2015 story in the Willamette Week quoted a Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District (HAND) Association member saying, “The freight train cuts off our whole neighborhood from the MAX station. People are going to be running across [the rail yard] to avoid missing their light-rail trains.”

Here’s more background from HAND neighborhood activist and Bike Loud PDX leader Jessica Engelman. She shared the good news on the Bike Loud PDX email list last week:

“The Gideon Bridge was a project added to the Orange Line MAX project at the request of area residents and the neighborhood association to replace the ped bridge over the freight tracks at SE 16th that had to be removed for Orange Line construction. It would provide ped/bike access from the north side of the freight/light rail tracks, where more residences and businesses are located, to the south, where the MAX Station and access to Tilikum Crossing are located. It was considered a crucial project because due to the proximity to Brooklyn Rail Yard, long, slow freight trains that block all north-south access are a frequent occurrence at this location.”

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Even when the old bridge was still open, people with bicycles opted to carry bikes across the tracks to save time and effort. Hopefully the new bridge will have a ramp and/or a reliable elevator.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Despite the lost funding opportunity through the Orange Line project; neighborhood activists and Metro Councilor Bob Stacey kept the dream alive by getting a new bridge into the Central City 2035 Plan and the Portland Transportation System Plan.

We followed up with TriMet Communications Manager Roberta Altstadt yesterday to confirm the news. She said the agency has secured approval from the Federal Transit Administration to design and construct a new Gideon bridge using Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project funds.

No details about the project are available yet; but City of Portland documents show the estimated cost to be $10 million. The Lafayette Street Bridge, which TriMet built as part of the Orange Line MAX project, sits about one-third of a mile south of Gideon/Brooklyn. As we reported in 2015 that bridge cost about $4 million and includes an elevator for bicycle and mobility device users.

Altstadt says design of the new bridge and a public process will begin this fall (in partnership with PBOT). The new bridge is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

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

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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

64 Comments
  • Avatar
    MaxD June 29, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    No elevator and no stairs, please!

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      J.E. June 29, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Space is constrained in the area; ramps may be impossible without some massive property acquisition. However considering they haven’t even decided at what intersection to put the bridge, a lot of design questions are still completely undecided.

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        David Hampsten June 29, 2017 at 6:07 pm

        The corkscrew design on North Concord over Going is a possible alternative – not great, but better than a long flight of stairs.

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          Charley June 29, 2017 at 10:10 pm

          YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

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          kathryn June 30, 2017 at 1:24 pm

          not ADA compliant

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty June 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm

            I calculated the diameter of an ADA compliant corkscrew design, and it was something on the order of 100 ft. I don’t think that’s going to work.

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              paikiala July 5, 2017 at 12:47 pm

              How about depressing the tracks 10 feet and adding a bridge 10 feet above the current grade? $10M might do it.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 5, 2017 at 4:03 pm

                I think you’re too close to 12th and to the yards. And I think the time when that would have been possible had passed… The Orange Line is where you’d need to build the temporary tracks while you dug your trench.

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    David Hampsten June 29, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Too bad they couldn’t have built the station over both sets of tracks (MAX & UP), like they do in some European towns, with indoor shops lining the bikeway/walkway.

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    adventure! June 29, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I’m glad to see this happening!

    But Jonathan, I’m a bit…perplexed that you referred to the old bridge as “rickety”. It was a concrete and steel bridge. Nothing exciting, but still pretty solid.

    Maybe you’re confusing it with the old wooden Lafayette Bridge, the one that did end up getting replaced? Now, that one was rickety! Every time I crossed it, I hoped that “The Big One” wasn’t going to happen then!

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 29, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      You also had to hope that no one else went up there with you. I’m not sure it would have supported two people.

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    Bald One June 29, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Great news! I used to be one of those people who carried their bike across the tracks there at Brooklyn st – back when we used the Ross Island bridge to bike commute across the river.

    It would be really awesome if the new bridge could be ridden without dismounting and got you over all sets of tracks in one passing. The new Lafayette bridge has unreliable elevators and unusable stair wheel-gutters.

    Next on the bike/ped infra wish-list: A pedestrian bridge crossing over same tracks at SE Harold St, to connect Reed Neighborhood and West Moreland.

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      David Burns June 29, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Does anyone know what makes the stair wheel gutters unuseable? I tried a couple of times, and said, “no.” to them in for the future, but it wasn’t clear to me why this was unwieldy.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty June 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm

        Part of it (for me) is the angle you have to hold your bike at as you try to haul it up that huge flight of stairs. I’ve used them other places and they were fine, so this is definitely an implementation problem.

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      William Henderson June 29, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      Agreed! This is one of the worst biking and walking connectivity gaps in Portland. This project is on the TSP and I’ve been working with local advocates to get this project prioritized funded using System Development Charges. You can read more about it here:
      http://reedway.org

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      rick June 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      It can be a lot of fumes to breathe, but I love the views from the Ross Island Bridge when riding a bike.

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      Mike Sanders June 30, 2017 at 9:03 am

      That would’ve connected to the still unbuilt Harold St. Station. Tri-Met put off its construction to an unknown future date, claiming that there wasn’t enough development there to warrant its existence. Having it there on opening day supposedly would have meant a one minute delay, which they said would make the Orange Line less attractive to potential commuters. Reed College wanted it there, too, to provide direct access to/from their campus. (Now you must transfer to bus 19 at Bybee to make the connection.) The Harold St. stop would have replaced a set of McLoughlin Blvd. bus stops that were closed when MAX came in. Tri-Met’s reasoning for not putting a station and ped/bike overpass there remains bewildering to say the least.

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        Sigma June 30, 2017 at 9:11 am

        Regarding that unknown future date: they are never building it. Look at the track alignment where the station would be.

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          rick June 30, 2017 at 11:19 am

          Never building what? The Reedway bridge ?

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    Bald One June 29, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Great work by Jessica and Bob to get this done! Truly impressive advocacy.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty June 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    If they install an elevator, it needs to be more reliable than their typical models. The duration of the outage at Lafayette should give us great pause about using that design again.

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      Charley June 29, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Yes. The elevators are:
      1. Require electricity.
      2. Require regular skilled maintenance.
      3. Are subject to crowding.
      4. Are unreliable unless 1. and 2. are met 100% of the time.
      5. An ongoing cost, because of 1. and 2.
      6. Expensive to construct in the first place.
      Forget the elevators!!! They are a waste of tax payer dollars, a real boondoggle.

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        Chris I June 30, 2017 at 7:40 am

        7. Smell like pee

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        Bald One July 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm

        super hot inside on a sunny day (add 20 degrees).

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    Carter Kennedy June 29, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    I crossed the old bridge many times and it wasn’t rickety. It was solid concrete.

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    rick June 29, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Wow! This was by NorPac, the lumber yard wholesale company! This is so cool that they will build this! Less delays for people on wheelchairs, walking, skateboarding, etc !

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    Kittens June 29, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Wow. $10m for a bridge?

    Not saying it is not important, but at what point do we start asking questions?
    I think the construction industry is getting a little too hot in the Portland market. Plus, 10m spent here could be used much more constructively elsewhere.

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      rick June 30, 2017 at 6:54 am

      Yes. There have been making trains / people crashes lately around the metro area, though.

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        rick June 30, 2017 at 6:54 am

        have been crashes*

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      Dan June 30, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      $10m is the full cost of the bridge. This includes engineering, permitting, RoW acquisition, and construction. Construction costs would probably be close to the $3.9m construction cost of the Lafayette bridge (assuming a similar design is used).

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    Adam June 30, 2017 at 12:38 am

    Such welcome news! When the barriers are down for freight trains at SE 12th & Clinton, accessing the MAX station there is impossible. This will provide a much needed way across the tracks.

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    Adam June 30, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Anyone know what’s stopping the bridge being located at SE Taggart instead? That makes SO much more sense, as it’s closer to SE Clinton and closer to SE 12th, which is the whole reason the bridge needs to be built, when they see blocked.

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      rick June 30, 2017 at 6:58 am

      Maybe people would seen the bridge when they are walking on Powell and would feel more inclined to use that well-lit bridge compared to using the dark tunnel on Powell. Not sure.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 30, 2017 at 10:49 am

      I think there is some desire to align the bridge with 13th, which has a traffic signal for crossing Powell. Personally, I think this is where it should go, with a long ramp leading directly from the station up to the bridge so you can get over it from the station without too much extra walking.

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    GlowBoy June 30, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I was really disappointed when TriMet yanked the Gideon bridge from the design. That’s a pretty long way around over to much of the Clinton neighborhood.

    I understand the desire for a ramp, but please don’t let that exclude stairs from the design. As a former Brooklyn resident, I used to have to walk the corkscrew bridge over Powell at 9th (just a few blocks from the location in question) on a daily basis to catch the bus. I finally calculated that having to walk around those long ramps was costing me several extra blocks of walking – and several extra minutes versus stairs. Ramps are fine for wheels, not so great for feet.

    A ramp over the yard at Gideon would have to be even longer than the 9th/Powell ones, due to the extra clearance required by trains.

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      MaxD June 30, 2017 at 9:42 am

      A standards block is 200′, several blocks would be in the neighbrorhood of 600-800′. Are you telling me that the ramps were at least 600′ long! I see this an equity issue. Universal Design or Universal Access strives to provide a solution that works for everyone. Elevators have way too many limitations and too many reliability and safety issues. I would hope that TriMet would start by creating a bridge with universal access. Then, if a stair can be tacked on to the side, I agree that is a good option to include. What I find unacceptable is starting with a design based on stairs, then tacking on an elevator or stairs.

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        GlowBoy June 30, 2017 at 9:59 am

        At least a couple blocks (one on each side), yes. Go look at them! Envision them straightened out. They’re at least a block long per side.

        I can understand wanting to save money on elevators, but that doesn’t mean a ramp-only design. Pedestrians are already forced to go out of our way needlessly on a constant basis because of car-head road designs. Not having stairs amounts to prioritizing wheels above feet, which is unacceptable.

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          MaxD June 30, 2017 at 10:32 am

          This is not about saving money, it is about creating a design that prioritizes access for everyone. The primary route should work for everyone including older people, people with strollers, people using mobility devices and people using bikes. Stairs may work well for you, but they are not a universal solution. A ramp may cause a bit of delay for you, but they allow everyone to safely cross using a reliable, well-lit, not-enclosed route with relegating some people to a “back-door” solution like an elevator or a ramp placed off to the side. I don’t have a problem including stairs or an elevator, but they should be considered add-alternates (nice things to include if they can be afforded and worked into the design). The primary design should start with a solution that works for everyone.

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            9watts June 30, 2017 at 7:03 pm

            Any reason we never seem to do tunnels in this country? Seems to me that there would be a lot of reasons to favor a tunnel over a bridge (height, grade, cost, complexity being just a few). Now someone is probably going to say – oh but they’re dark and unsafe. Well I don’t know, they seem to work pretty well in other countries in small towns and big cities. Seems like any solutions will involve tradeoffs and I’m just surprised this is never mentioned.

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              GlowBoy June 30, 2017 at 7:37 pm

              “Any reason we never seem to do tunnels in this country?”

              Dementor attacks.

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          MaxD June 30, 2017 at 12:20 pm

          This is not about saving money, it is about creating a design that prioritizes access for everyone. The primary route should work for everyone including older people, people with strollers, people using mobility devices and people using bikes. Stairs may work well for you, but they are not a universal solution. A ramp may cause a bit of delay for you, but they allow everyone to safely cross using a reliable, well-lit, not-enclosed route with relegating some people to a “back-door” solution like an elevator or a ramp placed off to the side. I don’t have a problem including stairs or an elevator, but they should be considered add-alternates (nice things to include if they can be afforded and worked into the design). The primary design should start with a solution that works for everyone.

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            GlowBoy June 30, 2017 at 7:39 pm

            I think I made it perfectly clear I’m not asking for a ramp to NOT be included. Of course the disabled should have a non-stair option. But for most people who walk without reduced mobility, stairs are much faster. Obviously ADA access is not optional, but neither are stairs.

            Think about the Hollywood MAX station. When you walk in and out of the north side, do you ever take the ramp? Of course not. You use the stairs, because it takes a fraction of the time.

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    S June 30, 2017 at 7:20 am

    I commute from the Brooklyn neighborhood to NE – this would really help for those times when a freight train stops for 15 minutes or so blocking the crossings at SE 8th/11th/12th (like one did earlier this week).

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    Doug Klotz June 30, 2017 at 9:08 am

    A combination of ramp and stairs, like the Failing Street crossing in N. Portland over I-5, seems the best alternative. In this case, on the south side it seems easy to do the ramps, since it can run along parallel to Gideon toward the north. The trick is to get ramps on the northeast side of the tracks, where there’s limited room. Perhaps take away the parking lanes on SE 16th for 100′ north of Brooklyn, start the ramp there, and then put several zig-zags in the Brooklyn ROW west of 16th (in that triangle of land just south of the warehouse), to ramp up to the 22′ height above the rails necessary for the rail crossing. I haven’t worked it out, but this would have to meet ADA standards if the ramp were the sole alternative to stairs. It would also be nice to have more generous turns than at the Hollywood transit center, and maybe more generous than at Failing St. I can make the turns at Failing, but my wife can’t and I doubt that longer bikes could either.

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      David Hampsten June 30, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      How about an MK Escher corkscrew ramp, square in design, that ramps up 15 degrees with an ADA flat spot every 15 feet, but that rises to where it starts by the time it ends every 4th right turn? People wanting to head west can use one side, those going east the other side.

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    Jeff Owen June 30, 2017 at 10:18 am

    One clarification to note: TriMet did not exactly send “remaining funds back to the federal government” – With FTA grants, TriMet doesn’t receive all the funds at once. The money comes to TriMet from the federal government over a period of years. So there is no large pot of money that comes in and you send back if you are under budget. And they only provide the funding for parts of the project they have said TriMet can build.

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    jeff June 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    will be a nice 2nd alternative to move east when the UP trains park across 12th during rush hour.

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    Matthew in Portsmouth June 30, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    A new bridge is two years away? I’m sorry but if they used a factory fabricated design that could be hoisted in place by a mobile crane, this could be done much sooner. It’s a railroad yard we’re talking about here, any standard galvanized steel design is going improve the esthetics. Why do we constantly have to have a multi-year design and bid process for a job that could be done in months?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 30, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      It’s not in the rail yard, but rather immediately adjacent to the Clinton Street station.

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      MaxD June 30, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      The span will not be the most expensive part, the supports and the ramps will cost as much or more, and they will have to custom in such a constrained, urban environment. In fact, even the span will need to be a pretty precise length to fit everything in, a prefab bridge may not be flexible enough.

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        Matthew in Portsmouth July 3, 2017 at 9:49 am

        Factory fabricated and pre-fab are not necessarily the same thing. A bridge company can survey the site and modify an existing design to fit the site. I’ve seen galvanized steel overpasses built using upright steel supports etc. The major item that can’t be fabricated offsite are the concrete footings to hold the upright columns. I just don’t see the necessity to form a committee to design a horse that ends up as a camel.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    This discussion is confusing. Can we clarify exactly where the new bridge will be?
    The photo shows a yellow line connecting Gideon and Brooklyn, but the text seems to say the bridge will be at the Clinton/12th Street MAX station that is 3-4 blocks away.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      The location is not finalized, but it will likely cross the tracks at 13th. It is close to, but not immediately adjacent to, the Clinton St. Station.

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    Alex Reedin June 30, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Anyone know if a bridge over the tracks from Division to Tilikum Way for buses, bikes, and pedestrians got into the TSP? The fact that that wonderful new bridge over the Willamette isn’t used by more transit lines is a crying shame.

    A non-twisty-ramped bridge across the tracks, combined with parking removal for a few blocks on Division and 12th to make way for protected bike lanes (potentially bidirectional), would in my mind be the only thing that would completely resolve the bike portion of the conflicts in the environs of the Clinton St. station. Then the fastest and most convenient way from Clinton to the environs of the Tilikum Bridge would be to go right on 12th, left on Clinton, and over this new bridge, with just two lights and no train conflicts to deal with.

    Plus, just as importantly, riders of the 4 and ideally the 10 could bypass traffic on the Hawthorne and sail straight into downtown.

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      Alex Reedin June 30, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Correction: the fastest way from clinton to the environs of the Tilikum Bridge would be to go right on 12th, left on *Division*, and over this new bridge *over the train tracks*, with just two lights and no train conflicts to deal with.

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    Mark smith June 30, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    If this design for cars, no expense would be spared. Ramps just make sense, along with an elevator and stairs.

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      Alex Reedin July 1, 2017 at 6:51 am

      Yup. There are two expensively grade-separated crossings for motor vehicles in this general area (Powell and McLoughlin), both of which include bike/ped facilities but neither of which is used much by people walking and biking because the facilities are:
      Inconvenient
      Unpleasant
      Dangerous-feeling

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 30, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Ramps might be 300 to 500 feet long.

    The city owns Gideon Street which is dead end and, I’d think, doesn’t get much traffic. Maybe the south ramp can go there.

    On the north, maybe remove parking on a block of Clinton or 12th to allow a ramp.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu July 1, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Sorry, posted before I finished my thought.

      My point is, yes ramps take up a large amount of footprint and there may not be enough room on the Trimet property around the station. But there is a lot of room available on the city streets around the station, and some of those streets carry very little traffic. Perhaps footprint for the ramps can be found by using a narrow strip of those streets.

      Elevators require maintenance, break down, and are slow. Where possible, ramps are preferable.

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    Terry D-M July 1, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    This is great news. As the vice Chair of Se Uplift I communicated repeatedly HAND’s request for this replacement. It is on our list of highest regional safety priorities…… particularly with Tri-Met pushing the federal government to release these funds. I will admit, we nagged them…..and I will fight like a bandit to get it ramped.

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    Mark smith July 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Ok, I know Trimet is struggling to find qualified designers to figure out a bridge without elevators.

    Here ya go. Free of charge.

    https://imgur.com/gallery/fv9hq

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