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Should we build it? Decision time nears for Oak Grove – Lake Oswego bridge project

Posted by on October 8th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

One of the leading choices for the alignment of the bridge. (Graphic: Clackamas County)

“I am extremely opposed…I feel that this project mainly benefits a small group of avid cyclists.”
— Public comment on OGLO Bridge project

Just about two weeks from today, the committee tasked with deciding whether or not a new carfree bridge should be built between Oak Grove and Lake Oswego will meet for the last time. Their choice could come down to how willing they are to push beyond opposition from a handful of homeowners who live near where the bridge would be built.

As we reported back in August, Clackamas County is overseeing a feasibility study that’s looking at 10 potential alignment options for a future bridge. Now the project’s Policy Committee has whittled those down to just two options and is set to make a final decision at their October 25th meeting. If the project is deemed worthy of construction, Clackamas County wants make sure it gets on the Metro T2020 funding list.

The two alignment options under consideration (D3 and A3, see graphics) are the only ones that could easily meet ADA requirements and that also fit within existing public right-of-way and/or publicly-owned property on both sides of the river. Both of the potential alignments would land on SE Courtney Road on the east side of the river and would connect (via a few blocks on surface streets) to the existing Trolley Trail. On the Lake Oswego side, Option D3 would connect to Foothills Park and option A3 would connect to Tryon Creek/State Street (Highway 43).

Connecting Rivervilla Park in Oak Grove to Foothills Park in Lake Oswego has been an idea with strong support since Metro first studied it in 2009. A mere 800 feet separates the two parks across the Willamette River, but you have to travel about 10 miles to go between them. With major paths (Tryon Creek and Trolley Trail) and growing neighborhoods on each side, interest in the bridge has never been stronger. Unfortunately, neither has the opposition. And they’ve made their concerns loud and clear to the project’s policy committee.

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The policy committee is made up of four elected officials from each of the jurisdictions: Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas; Lake Oswego City Councilor Jackie Manz; Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba; and Metro Councilor Christine Lewis. Here’s a sampling of the public comment they heard at their last meeting on September 6th (taken from official meeting notes):

“I am a resident of Courtney Ave right near the proposed landing site of the bridge. I have only become aware of this project in the last 30 days. I am shocked at the lack of engagement with the community affected and also the lack of transparency that is surrounding this project. As it stands… I am extremely opposed…I feel that this project mainly benefits a small group of avid cyclists, and that it would be used more for pleasure than commuting. A project of this scale should benefit more than a handful of people.”

“During my vacation I sat at Riverilla Park to inform visitors about the project and how problematic it would be for the park. It would hurt parking. Rivervilla Park is a beautiful, active park and place of neighborhood unity and that unity could be torn apart.”

“This is a foolish project that would benefit few people while the rest of the public foots the bill. A bridge that does not also alleviate traffic congestion is not worth building at this time.”

“I own a house on State Street in Lake Oswego. The project should post all objections to the project on the project website in addition to a good cost estimate. I’m concerned about user access; more parking must be considered. I don’t like the northern landing options in Lake Oswego but could live with the southern one. Consider light impacts on neighbors, as well as homeless management.”

In a recent policy committee meeting, Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas acknowledged that he has heard more negative feedback from the public than positive. Lake Oswego Councilor Jackie Manz said she’s heard from constituents that are concerned about “the homelessness issue and crime.” And strangely, the issue of parking (where people would do it and how much would be needed) has also been a major sticking point. Apparently, many people assume that the bridge will be a recreational destination and that people will drive from around the region in order to use it (either that or they simply oppose the bridge and are using parking as an anger container).

Keep in mind this was the highest rated project based on public feedback when Clackamas County updated their Transportation System Plan in 2012. It’s also strongly supported in regional plans and has the backing of dozens of elected officials and community leaders. But as we know all too well, it’s often the people most strongly opposed to something that make their voices heard.

If you want to make sure policy committee members hear from the full range of potential users of this bridge, please consider sending them an email:

– Project Manager Stephen Williams, : swilliams@clackamas.us
– Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas: bcc@clackamas.us
– Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba: GambaM@milwaukieoregon.gov
– Metro Councilor Christine Lewis: Christine.lewis@oregonmetro.gov
– Lake Oswego City Councilor Jackie Manz: jmanz@ci.oswego.or.us

And if you want to show up in person to make a stronger impression, come to the next policy committee meeting on Friday, October 25th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at Clackamas County Development Services Bldg Room 115 (150 Beavercreek Road in Oregon City). For more info, check the project website.

— 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 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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JH
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JH

Ultimately Lake O is going to do what Lake O does when it comes to cooperating with anyone that might bring anyone unfavorable into their area. I can hear it now: “Can you imagine people from *gasp* SouthEast coming in?”

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Wow, they really don’t want any connections to the “poors” on the other side of the river. I went paddleboarding down here a few weeks back, and it’s a pretty cool spot. It is terribly isolated, from an access standpoint. With a pedestrian bridge, it would be possible to ride the Trolley Trail and have great river access once you cross over. But, I suppose that is the objection. They don’t want to share it with anyone.

JF
Guest
JF

The opposition in LO isn’t from a few nearby homeowners. It seems pretty much everyone is strongly opposed to it. Look, Portland is great. But it has become a bit of a mess and I can’t fault people for wanting to do what they can to keep their community from becoming more like Portland. Lowering a drawbridge across the Willamette isn’t what people seem to want.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

John Lascurettes, that is beautifully worded.
May I quote you in my sternly worded email to the city and county officials?

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Make sure when you contact them that you let them know you don’t even live in their county.

Lisa Nowak
Guest
Lisa Nowak

The reason people think it will become a destination and cause parking problems is because project manager Steve Williams said so on KGW news. Here’s a quote and a link to the video: “We actually think if this bridge is built it will become a destination. That people will start to come to downtown Lake Oswego and over here to Oak Grove just so that they can get on the bridge and walk out. We think it’s going to be a beautiful view of the river. Y’know, something that’s unmatched anywhere else in the region.”
https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/car-free-bridge-proposed-to-connect-lake-oswego-oak-grove-in-clackamas-county/283-02409a9d-d13d-4880-abb4-62c0e74c487b

One issue that few are mentioning is that the intersection of Courtney and Fairoaks, the proposed east side landing site, it a dangerous blind corner with a rise that prohibits people from seeing oncoming traffic on Courtney until it’s about 100 feet away. Bicyclists and pedestrians unfamiliar with this area would be walking or riding into an extremely hazardous situation. And many of those involved in the study didn’t bother to do a site visit. They based their recommendations on what they could gather from an aerial photo. The PAC committee, listed above, won’t do their site visit until right before their final meeting on the 25th. This means they have two hours to visit two locations in Oak Grove, two more in Lake Oswego, and get to the meeting in upper Oregon City. That doesn’t strike me as allowing much room for being thorough.

And if we’re going to be talking about a “handful of people” who stand to lose or benefit from this, we should put that in real numbers. Project proponent Paul Savas estimated that 70,000 people will benefit from this bridge. The population of the metro area is 2.43 million. That means only 1.65 percent of the people paying for this bridge will actually get anything for their money. That seems like a bad investment considering how many other, more practical, ways the funds could be spent to benefit bicyclists and pedestrians. For example: creating a dedicated security patrol and clean-up crews for policing and maintaining the Springwater Corridor and the Trolley Trail.

It’s wasteful and insulting to taxpayers and the bicycling community to build yet another structure that will be neglected.

dan
Guest
dan

Just trying to close the italics tag

Peter Goodkin
Guest
Peter Goodkin

I live in LO. Everyone in town is not against the bridge. I championed the study a few years ago as chair of the CC Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee. Also commuted by bike south on HWY 43, crossed the the OC Arch Bridge and connected to Clackamas, where I worked, via an incomplete I-205 path. This bridge would have cut my commute nearly in half.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Avid Cyclist! Nice, mark your bingo boards folks.

Every opinion in every one of those quotes is wrong. Amazing.

Jon wang
Guest
Jon wang

Not support a carfree bridge. No bridge or multi use bridge.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Denizens of Sucker Lake beware! The “Crime Train” terminates not far distant!

WestRiver
Subscriber
WestRiver

Sucks that these committee meetings are always scheduled to benefit the privileged…

Mike Perham
Guest
Mike Perham

I live in LO and am on the citizens advisory committee for this bridge. Personally I would use it several times per month and am really excited to see a whole new area for us Lakers to enjoy and visit by bike.

I would ask anyone that can, please go to the policy meeting and show your support.

Rip City
Guest

I didn’t even know about this proposal until now: that would be awesome finally having a good way to get from the Milwaukie area to Lake Oswego. Not to mention that Courtney Avenue is an easy bike ride to the Orange line. I’d bet big money that the exact same people who opposed the new Sellwood Bridge and the Orange Line oppose this now, and look at how those turned out…

Tom
Guest
Tom

I frequently ride from SE Portland to Lake Oswego and have three routes, none of which are that great.

(1) Springwater Corridor to Sellwood Bridge, then up through Riverview Cemetery and down through Tryon Creek State Park. Preferred route, but it has a 500-foot hill to ride over in both directions.

(2) Springwater Corridor to Sellwood Bridge, then onto Highway 43 all the way to Lake Oswego. Shortest route, but 43 has heavy traffic with no shoulder in some sections, and there is still a 250-foot hill to ride over.

(3) Springwater Corridor to 17th Avenue Path, then Trolley Trail to Gladstone and onward to Oregon City. Over the bridge onto Highway 43 and North to Lake Oswego. Exceptionally long route that only makes sense if I have some business in Oregon City.

With the Oak Grove/Lake Oswego Bridge I’d have a fourth route.

(4) Springwater Corridor to 17th Avenue Path, then Trolley Trail to bridge and Lake Oswego. Much shorter than the other three routes, practically flat, and nearly the entire distance on dedicated bike paths.

ADD
Guest
ADD

I live very near the proposed terminus in Milwaukie and really hope this gets built. I’ll make sure I write in, thanks for the heads up.
I know more than one person who drives across the river from LO, parks in Milwaukie/Sellwood, and then bikes up the Springwater-Willamette back across the river to downtown Portland. Maybe this bridge could convince them to eliminate the car leg.
Perhaps someone should point out to LO that a bike/ped connection to the Orange Line could help them avoid getting their own very scary Crime Train forced upon them for a little while longer?

pdx2wheeler
Subscriber

Our Metro region is horribly divided by both geographical features and our own man-made obstacles. We desperately need to better connect our communities and this bridge exactly fits that bill. As a Clackamas County resident I’m 100% for it, let’s build it!

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

Oh, forgot this pearl! As far as I’ve read or heard the bridge would be engineered to be strong enough to accommodate emergency vehicles, and likely only be needed or used in the case of a regional emergency or natural disaster. Just trying to figure out whether by “small buses” you’re trying to obfuscate saying fire trucks or ambulances LOL!!

Would be ironic if they build the bridge and in 5 years we get the Cascadia earthquake. Courtney Rd cracks on the slope from Oak Grove and it’s a fire truck from Lake Oswego that can make it to the other side and save houses (maybe yours?) from a natural gas fire.

Lisa Nowak
As for noise, there’s a very good chance there would be vehicles on the bridge. Metro is pushing to have it built to accommodate small buses..

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

I sent an email to all the contacts listed in this article and got a fairly quick reply back that they are taking all written comments into consideration with the proposal so please email them with your support!

q
Guest
q

I love all the types of routes that aren’t open to cars, but are to people walking, running or biking: Trails, stairways, pedestrian bridges…I love the idea that they can make it significantly faster to bike or walk than to drive. I’d use this bridge just for the fun of crossing the river on it.

It just happens to be a great location for a non-vehicle bridge, too.

If it does turn out to be used “more for pleasure than commuting” as the objector in the article stated, so what? I believe it could end up being that–not because it’s not popular for commuting, but because it would be even popular than expected for recreation.

q
Guest
q

I like how it fits into the river’s portfolio of bridges that work for walking or biking. The Sellwood Bridge is far better for that than the old one, but you’re still walking alongside cars, something I’m sensitive too given that I’m often with my dog. Hawthorne Bridge is similar–not bad for walking or biking, but you’re still next to cars. I’d call them functional but not much more.

Tilikum Crossing provides a better crossing experience, since the bus and streetcar traffic isn’t constant as with typical vehicle bridges. But when they do pass by, they’re loud.

The Steel Bridge is an incredible experience–close to the water, and right up against the historic industrial structure, and totally separated from vehicles (except for their noise).

What’s missing is a true pedestrian and bike bridge, with no vehicle or rail traffic, where you can cross midspan to look up and down the river without being run over. Imagine the quietness.

q
Guest
q

I’ve never seen a case where calling someone or their arguments “NIMBY” is productive. Same goes for people who point out that others lack “credentials” or are not “experts” or not “licensed engineers” or whatever.

Arguments are either valid or not. If someone is a neighbor making poor arguments, it should be easy to rebut the arguments, if they truly are poor.

I’ve been called a “NIMBY” when testifying about a project seven miles from my home. I’ve had arguments involving basic arithmetic (“The traffic study shows 24 parallel parking spaces in 50′, which would mean each space is only 2′ long”) responded by the Design Commission with “Mr. q, are you a licensed traffic engineer?” It’s crazy.

I also think the quickness to call “NIMBY” in regard to any neighbor’s concerns clouds the discussion about projects. Some neighbors get to feeling that concerns about how a project will impact them personally won’t be listened to, so they move to complicated arguments about things they’re less concerned with because they think at least those may be considered valid. Concerns about livability and personal impacts of projects are always valid. Better to drop the name-calling and address them, just as neighbors should not discount concerns of others.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I don’t think Metro should spend a dime on Lake Oswego until they allow public access to Oswego Lake, per Oregon law.

K Kofler
Guest
K Kofler

I grew up and have lived most of my life in the Oak Grove area.
Though I’m not opposed in principal to a car-free bridge, between The Grove and Lake O, I’m not interested in paying for it.
I feel that this is a project for which it’s supporters should fundraise, much like the new foot bridge on West Burnside; only they should pay for the whole thing instead of half.
As we’ve got way bigger fiscal fish to fry in Clackamas County, this largely recreational project seems like a squanderance of tax dollars.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I say build it! My office is moving to Lake Oswego, so my two mile commute will turn into a 15 mile commute. Highway 43 is a no go with no shoulder. My route will most likely be Barbur > Terwilliger > Country Club > Kruse Way. That’s over 1000′ of gain. A bridge at just the right spot would make bike commuting much better.

This is not just for avid cyclists.

Bill Jensen
Guest
Bill Jensen

Just noticed from the aerial photo, there are sewage treatment plants on both sides of the river. Obviously if it gets built, a nickname will emerge, but I’m calling dibs on…

Smellikum Crossing
le Pont de Poupou
The Brown Gate

N.B. I am super mature.

David DeFauw
Guest
David DeFauw

I just emailed this to the bridge committee:
Good morning,
I want to give my whole-hearted endorsement of the proposed pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Willamette connecting Lake Oswego and Oak Grove. This bridge is a no-brainer for the creation of a complete and safe transportation system. I don’t think of this as an attraction in itself that needs it’s own parking. This would be like the Tillicum Crossing Bridge, a wonderful traffic and congestion free asset that gets a person from place to place.

I used to live on Mapleton Drive in West Linn and I worked in Portland. At first I did not have a car and bicycled into Portland. I bicycled once on Hwy 43 and I feel that that was one of the more dangerous things I have ever done. I instead bicycled over the Oregon City Bridge and then down SE River Road, adding about 6 miles to my commute. If this bridge were there, I could have had a stress free commute on Old River Road, The Trolley Trail and the Springwater Trail. I finally bought a car and lined up in the endless line of traffic and congestion that inches along Hwy 43 into Portland. It is that exhaust fueled commute that finally got me to move away from West Linn.

I now own a home in Milwaukie that I am planning on moving into in the next year or two. I am hoping I can use this bridge to access the nice restaurants in Lake Oswego.

In building the bridge, I feel that you should pick a bridge that can support emergency vehicles and that can be be a lifeline after the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake. Many of the bridges over the Willamette will collapse and we will need these crossing points for our recovery. I also feel that the bridge should meet the requirements of the ADA. Therefore I suggest that you pick either plan A-3 from Terwillager to upper Courtney, or D-3 from Foothills Park to upper Courtney. This is the time to make this happen. Don’t let a few loud voices that are scared of change stop the creation of this critical infrastructure.

Thank you for considering my thoughts.
Sincerlely,

David DeFauw