How worried is the Oregon Department of Transportation about an upcoming closure of the Interstate Bridge? They’ve announced it nearly one year in advance.
Last week ODOT made notice of a nine-day closure to the northbound span of the Interstate 5 Bridge between Oregon and Washington. The full closure will be from September 12th to 20th. It will give crews a chance to repair a damaged section and replace old parts in one of the towers of the 102-year old span.
“The closure is expected to create significant traffic snarls and delays,” says ODOT. That’s because the bridge carries about 300,000 car and truck users every day. During the closure, bridge users will share the southbound span. Yes that means two-way traffic on the bridge deck and on the sidewalk. Here are more details:
During the closure, the southbound span will remain open to traffic in both directions. Northbound and southbound travelers will share the three lanes and the sidewalk on the southbound bridge. Movable concrete barriers will provide two lanes of traffic in the busiest direction. During the morning commute, two southbound lanes and one northbound lane will open for traffic. At midday, crews will move the concrete barriers to provide two northbound lanes and one southbound lane for the evening commute.
In a video on the project website, ODOT says if the amount of car and truck drivers remains constant, people can expect up to 16 hours of congestion a day and backups that extend for four miles on either side of the Columbia River. It’s also likely that spillover traffic will clog the I-205 Bridge and local streets like Lombard (Hwy 30) and Columbia.
This closure should be an interesting test of how willing (or unwilling) people are to change their travel behaviors — especially given that talks of a new I-5 bridge replacement project are already heating up.
To avoid carmaggedon ODOT is encouraging people to plan ahead by working from home, carpooling or taking transit. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) ODOT doesn’t even mention bicycling in their announcement or on their website. Bicycling across this bridge isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly possible and it’s something hundreds of people do every day. It’s a shame that ODOT has so little respect and awareness for cycling that they don’t even present it as a feasible mobility option.
As for cycling conditions, the existing sidewalk is already so narrow that some people are afraid to use it. One small silver lining is that the southbound sidewalk is a tad wider than the northbound one. Even so, with two-way bicycling traffic ODOT will need to invest in signage and education to prevent collisions. ODOT closed the northbound sidewalk for 10 days back in 2013, so they should have ample experience with this issue.
Do you ride the I-5 Bridge? What will you do during this closure?
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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