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Planning for new ‘earthquake ready’ Burnside Bridge reaches milestone

Posted by on March 16th, 2018 at 9:26 am

Now that we’ve got your attention…
(Graphic: Multnomah County)

“I’d like to see a bridge for our future… but it will take visionary leadership from county, and I haven’t seen that yet.”
— Mark Ginsberg, advisory committee member representing The Street Trust

Multnomah County has reached a milestone in their project to make the Burnside Bridge “earthquake ready”. They’ve whittled down a list of 100 options to just two: an “enhanced seismic retrofit” or a full replacement.

The Burnside is a designated “lifeline response route” which means it has special priority when it comes to disaster and long-range resiliency planning. Owned and operated by Multnomah County, the bridge is nearly 100 years old and it shows many signs of age. A separate maintenance project is going on now.

We’ve been watching the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project from afar until this point. With the options narrowed down, the County will now delve more deeply into each one of them in order to determine the future of the bridge.

Here’s where the process stands today…

Graphic: Multnomah County

According to an announcement yesterday, at this point the plan is to either strengthen the existing bridge to withstand a major earthquake and replace the section that goes over I-5 and the railroad, or replace the entire bridge with a fixed bridge, a movable bridge, twin bridges, or a tunnel.

These two remaining options will now be further evaluated based on the following six categories:

Seismic Resiliency
Does the option support reliable and rapid emergency response after an earthquake?

Non-Motorized Transportation
Does the option support access and safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, and people with disabilities?

Connectivity
Does the option support street system integration and function for all modes?

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Equity
Does the option minimize adverse impacts to historically marginalized communities and promote transportation equity?

Built Environment
Does the option minimize adverse impacts to existing land use as well as parks and historic resources?

Financial Stewardship
Does the option ensure public funds are invested wisely?

In need of an update.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As you can see, things are starting to get interesting.

This coming spring the County and their volunteer advisory committee will make the final decisions about these two remaining options and by this summer a report will be up for adoption by the Multnomah County Commission.

Bike advocate and lawyer Mark Ginsberg sits on the committee as a representative for The Street Trust. He told us via email this morning that he’s not impressed with the process so far. “I am disappointed in the lack of diversity on the committee,” he wrote. “When setting up the stakeholders only OPAL [an environmental justice nonprofit] was asked to join, when they said it was outside of what they do, no other group bringing minority voices to the table were sought.”

And Ginsberg says he’s concerned the project will be a “lost opportunity for three generations.” “It seems like what we are being presented with is not looking a forward thinking multi-modal plan… We have the chance to make this a world class accessible facility for all of out street users, for wheelchairs, bikes, pedestrians, mass transit and private automobiles, while meeting the needs of water access below, but it seems like we’re just doing more of the same. I’d like to see a bridge for our future, a resilient, safe usable bridge, and it is possible, but it will take visionary leadership from county, and I haven’t seen that yet.”

County spokesman Mike Pullen says whatever comes out of this process won’t be built for another 12 years because it would still have to get planned, designed, funded, and built; but as savvy activists know, decisions made in these early stages will influence the outcome.

And don’t despair if you want better biking on the Burnside in the shorter-term. Pullen says there are other projects in the pipeline that could result in changes to the existing bike lanes.

The County is on the radar of the City of Portland’s Central City in Motion (CCIM) project. The Burnside Bridge is listed as an “essential link” in the CCIM’s early planning documents, a designation that could result in an upgrade to its bikeway sooner rather than later. And if that project doesn’t net improvements for the bridge, Pullen says the County is actively seeking funding for a list Capital Improvement Projects — one of which would add a buffer zone and delineator posts to the bike lanes. If the County finds funding for that project it would happen after the current maintenance work is completed in late 2019.

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

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billyjo
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billyjo

The lack of a big picture plan drives me crazy. This city should have a solid idea of where we are going in the future so that everyone can be on the same page. If we know that a bridge or a roadway is being replaced down the line we can focus on the replacement instead of what is there now. We need to have routes planned out for streetcars, we need to have a plan in place for bike transportation, etc. Knowing how things get done around here, they’ll plan a replacement and then 2 months later announce the upgrades needed for a streetcar line…..Just like with 7th, they announce a new bridge but still have no idea about the infrastructure needed to utilize the bridge.

billyjo
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billyjo

Why does this city not have a planned network of bike infrastructure? If they built world class bike lanes on the bridge, then what? You get dumped onto MLK or Grand? with nothing? You work your way over to Sandy? And then what? Why is there not a comprehensive plan for growth over the next 10 years?

9watts
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9watts

What would Utrecht do?

Spiffy
Subscriber

that bridge is too big… if they keep it they need to seriously constrain the motor lanes (the narrow lanes on the Hawthorne work well) and put in a (real) separated wide bike lane along with widening the sidewalks… that’s a lot of infrastructure for an old bridge to handle…

whatever is done we need to get cars to be able to go no more than 25 mph over that bridge… chicane the heck out of it… narrow the lanes… put in speed bumps…

right now it’s like a freeway raceway on that bridge with everybody using the wide open space to gain a car length over the other people racing for pole position to commute through the city…

Mike Sanders
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Mike Sanders

Miami (in spite of the ped/bike overpass disaster yesterday) is rapidly building a regional trail system that uses the East Coast Greenway as its spine, with plans for an east-west Route to Tampa Bay moving forward. Other East Coast cities, such as Philadelphia, are taking the same approach. We should be following that idea, using the Springwater Trail and it’s extended alignment west to the Banks/Vernonia Trail and onward to the Coast as the backbone. Washington State is likely to designate a National Bike Route corridor between Seattle and Portland this summer, which would likely make the I-205 Trail as the likely extension into Oregon for points south. We should be building a regional system with that idea in mind, with Metro’s Intertwine project as the basis. We can’t wait any longer. We’ve got to start moving forward, and we can’t waste time dithering.

DJ
Guest

Mark raises some good points, especially around who hasn’t been at the CAC table, but focusing on the design at this stage is rather premature, as the process has largely been a technical/engineering focused process. There will be other milestones to ensure we get a much better design than the current one and guarantee comfortable, accessible facilities for people of all ages and abilities.

What concerns me more is the overall lack of planning around how people will get around in the aftermath of an earthquake, especially with related failures around fuel, electricity, etc. The city and region as a whole need to take a deeper dive into aligning resiliency with transportation investments beyond just a single (though very critical) structure, and how we can forecast/utilize the certainy of natural disasters to prioritize a built environment where walking, biking, and transit are safe, accessible, efficient, and convenient for all.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

One thought that has come to mind, since this bridge must cross the current I-5 corridor: might it be less costly if I-5 weren’t there? Maybe this could be the impetus to finally remove the Eastbank Freeway and the non-earthquake-safe Marquam Bridge.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

Sheesh, 12 years from now when the bridge is slated to be built, we will probably not have fossil fuel powered vehicles for the masses anymore, so fighting over personal motor vehicle lanes will be like fighting over who can have the biggest permit to make buggy whips in 1905.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Perhaps the best planning “for the worst” would be to have the City take over responsibility for one of the Willamette’s older arterial bridges so as to divide up the County’s responsibilities among an additional entity…just in case the process/planning/ funding stalls at the County level…placing your eggs in than one basket.

[Plus there should be a disaster management plan for multimodal access to the Fremont Bridge (Cook/ Kerby to Slabtown) if many of the other bridges “go down”.]

Justin
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Justin

Should make it bikes only E/W, W/E and in both directions underneath. Much cleaner and safer than cars and boats.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Here is an alternative to consider.

Suppose, instead of spending close to $1 billion to build a full capacity, many lane bridge that carries normal traffic volumes of car, bus, freight, bike, ped, rail, etc and that will survive the “big one” earthquake – suppose we instead spent $50 million to build, store, and have ready an emergency floating bridge that is merely two lanes and will carry just emergency and critical traffic for a couple years after the big one.

Because we don’t know if the big one will be next year or in fifty years. If its fifty years, we don’t know how much and what kind of traffic we will need to carry in fifty years. We don’t know if the $1 billion bridge built in 2025 will be the ideal bridge for 2075. Maybe it will be better to simply build the right bridge at that time.

We do know that, for years after the big one, life in Portland will not be back to “normal”. There will not be the normal daily commuter flows over the river for a long time, for years when downtown, the freeways, the roads, water, sewer, etc are being rebuilt. So the emergency bridge will serve the immediate need, while we build the right bridge for 2075 – hopefully with all federal money 🙂

In World War 2, the military carried sectional pontoon bridges that could span the big rivers of Europe and carry heavy armor, trucks, artillery, troops. I expect we have such equipment today.

Lenny Anderson
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Lenny Anderson

Making the Burnside earthquake resistant (proof?) would certainly be a better use of regional transportation funds than adding a lane to I-5 thru the Rose Quarter. About 1/2 Billion for each at this point. Shift the I-5 $ to this key bridge AND remove I-5!
I do wonder if ODOT, PBOT and Multnomah county are talking to each other…apart from Metro’s JPACT.

X
Guest
X

If we take that illustration of a broken bridge as written, I wonder what you would see if you could scroll around central Portland? We can get some idea of what happens after a disaster by looking at Kobe, New Orleans, Christchurch, etc. Part of our preparation can be “build stuff” but a lot of it has to be resiliency. My quick take? Our possible damage is going to be like Christchurch, or even worse, Kobe, but the recovery process is going to be more like New Orleans. Japan responded to a 2.6 % drop in economic activity after the Hanshin earthquake with a recovery effort that ramped up the economy by 3.4 %. Our national government is making a science of disfunction. I don’t think we can count on that kind of response.