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County seeks feedback on future Burnside Bridge design

Posted by on September 10th, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Cross section proposals.

Alternative #3 would replace existing Couch Street curve with a new ramp.

Multnomah County has released an online open house survey and needs your help to design a new Burnside Bridge. Their effort to create a new bridge that can withstand a major earthquake is currently in the environmental review stage. The review is focused on four options that have been whittled down from 100 that were studied since the project began in 2016.

The survey asks for feedback on several elements of the project including: the bridge design alternatives, the bridge cross-section, how to manage traffic during construction and the criteria to evaluate alternatives.

Three of the four remaining bridge designs (one of which they’re recommending to drop from consideration) would make the bridge wider in order to, “accommodate more space for bikes, pedestrians and transit.” Alternative #3 would “smooth out” the infamous Couch Street curve.


If the bridge is replaced (versus retrofitting the existing one) the cross-section would be about nine feet wider. In their current designs, the County would use that extra width to widen the bike lanes (to eight feet) and other vehicle lanes. They also show a concrete barrier that would separate the bike lane from the other lanes.

Take a look at the options and please consider sharing your comments. The open house and survey will be up through October 4th.

In related news… while the County won’t begin construction of this project until 2024, the City of Portland already has plans to move forward on a bus lane project on the Burnside Bridge as part of the Central City in Motion plan. That project would create a bus-only lane for three TriMet bus lines and widen the bike lanes in both directions, “opening the possibility of providing protected bike lanes.”

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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paikialaJohnny Bye CarterGlowBoySpencer BoomhowerJeff Glanville Recent comment authors
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Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty

Can we retrofit (i.e. narrower profile) and add a concrete barrier between cars and bikes?

Jonathan K
Jonathan K

(A) Closing the bridge for several years or (B) spending $100 million to build a temporary bridge both seem like really bad options. For reference, the Tilikum Crossing cost $135 million.

Why not kick in an extra $50 million upfront and build a permanent 3-lane bridge on Couch street? During construction of the Burnside bridge it could carry the bus lane and one lane in each direction. Then the Burnside bridge would only need to be replaced with a 3-lane bridge instead of 5. This wouldn’t reduce costs by 40%, but maybe by 20%? That seems achievable, right? So in the end, you’d have two bridges, each with two traffic lanes and a bus lane. The cost seems like it would be a wash, or even cheaper than what’s being proposed (especially if you compare it to Alternative 3, in which the Couch bridge already extends out half the distance). We wouldn’t need to implement the west Couch couplet, it could rejoin Burnside at 3rd or Broadway.

I’m genuinely puzzled why this isn’t one of the alternatives. Maybe a permanent Couch street bridge would cost much a lot more than the Tilikum bridge or a temporary bridge (though, why?)? Or maybe it’s impacts to waterfront park?

Anyone know if this was considered, and why it wasn’t carried forward?

Opus the Poet

Too many vehicle lanes not enough transit lanes. Eliminate one vehicle lane for a transit lane and make the middle lane reversible for rush hour and closed the rest of the time. Move people, not cars with one person in them.


I assume that a retrofit would be much cheaper than a new bridge, which is good. However that cross-section is a terrible use of the width that’s available. The width occupied by the third Eastbound lane should reallocated for wider, protected bike lanes. Also bus lanes.

I made a quick little graphic of what this alternative cross-section ought to look.


If we’re going to go to the trouble of building a new bridge, it should be ready to serve as a BRT route at some point in the near future. So, two dedicated transit lanes, with the capacity to lay down streetcar tracks also.


Why on earth would they widen the vehicle lanes? People drive way too fast on the Burnside as it is!

Spencer Boomhower

Submitted feedback! Including comments I gleaned from these comments, like the idea of a Couch bridge instead, and 10′ lanes being plenty for a city, which helps makes a refurbished bridge (my preference) more feasible.

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter

Feedback submitted.

I stated that they should retrofit the current bridge and leave only one lane in each direction for the transportation modes of: motor vehicle, bus, bicycle, and sidewalk.