“We understood that this was more forward momentum than we have seen in many years.”
— Jim Sjulin, 40-Mile Loop Land Trust
Marine Drive is a gem in our cycling network and a thorn in our cycling socks at the same time. For as great as it is in some spots — and as valuable as it is as an east-west connection between St. Johns and Troutdale — it remains neglected and riddled with dangerous gaps that prevent it from being a truly great route for cycling.
If you love/hate riding on Marine Drive, we’ve got two bits of great news: There’s a new advocacy effort afoot to close the gaps, and the City of Portland has just put real money on the table to close a few of them by next summer.
First, remember the name Jim Sjulin. Now retired, he’s the former natural resources director for the Portland Parks & Recreation bureau. These days Jim is a volunteer with the 40-Mile Loop Land Trust who’s spearheading an effort to complete the Marine Drive Path — which was the first project the organization worked on when it was founded in 1982. We recently connected with Jim via email to learn more about this exciting news. “When we [40-Mile Loop] recognized that we were about to lurch from 74% completion to 87% completion in 2019, we understood that this was more forward momentum than we have seen in many years,” he shared. “To take advantage of the momentum, we are trying to push what can be moved.”
Jim has put together an impressive, 137-page presentation that documents the entire route from Kelley Point Park to the Sandy River. It gives us a complete inventory of the remaining gaps and explains what it would take to fill them. Some just need funding, others are more complicated. Atop their list is the gap between I-205 east to 122nd. Closing that gap, Jim says, “Would mean that we would have a continuous off-road [paved] trail from NE 33rd Drive to the I-84 Bridge over the Sandy River, a distance of over 14 miles. Not only that, this continuous section of Marine Drive Trail would intersect with the 18.5 mile I-205 Path (Vancouver to Oregon City) which, in turn, intersects with the Springwater Corridor and the Eastbank Esplanade.”
Work by Jim and others at 40-Mile Loop is beginning to pay off.
Earlier this month, the City of Portland announced $1.7 million in funding for a project that will add a buffered lane and other safety upgrades between I-205 and 185th.
With $589,000 in Parks System Development Charges (supported by Commissioner Amanda Fritz), $50,000 from the Bureau of Transportation’s Vision Zero program (Marine Drive is listed on their High Crash Network), and a $1.1 million federal grant (via Metro Regional Flex Funds), PBOT plans to redo the lane striping to provide more room for cycling on this 3.7-mile stretch of the roadway. In addition, they’ll install a new traffic signal at 122nd (site of many collisions), add rapid flashing beacons where the path crosses the roadway east of 138th and west of 185th, and repave the existing path west of 185th.
PBOT says construction is due to start early 2019 and should be completed by next summer.
For Jim Sjulin and the 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, the work is just getting started. They’ve already been meeting regularly with PBOT, Parks, Metro, the Port of Portland and city planners in Troutdale, Fairview and Gresham. Now they’ll move into a public outreach phase and look to connect with neighborhood groups.
Get involved and learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, visit their website, or connect with them on Facebook. Also don’t forget to put Metro’s Quarterly Trails Forum on your calendar. The event is a perfect opportunity to connect with advocates and agency staff working on this and many other regional projects. The next one is on October 24th.
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