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.”
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.