BikePortland

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


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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