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Earl Blumenauer Bridge will break ground next week

Posted by on October 31st, 2019 at 5:22 pm

One week from today (11/7) the Portland Bureau of Transportation will break ground on a $13.7 million bridge over I-84. Dubbed the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge (formerly known as the Sullivan’s Crossing Bridge), the project will connect the central eastside to the Lloyd via 7th Avenue.

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Blumenauer riding in Washington County in 2012.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This bridge will be an essential link in our transportation network and will vastly improve safety and convenience over existing crossings at 12th Avenue and the Martin Luther King Jr/Grand Ave couplet. It lands in the Lloyd at 7th Avenue which is the start of PBOT’s Lloyd-to-Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project.

Congressman Blumenauer is a former City of Portland Commissioner who was in charge of PBOT in the 1990s. He’s credited with sparking Portland’s bike-friendly road engineering and planning and work done under his watch laid the groundwork for our big city cycling dominance that inspired many other places around the country.

Blumenauer is a frequent bicycle rider and regularly commutes in Washington D.C. as well as here in Portland whenever he gets the chance. I have a hunch he’ll be one of the first people to ride across this new bridge when it’s done. PBOT says bridge construction should be completed by the end of next year.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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40 Comments
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    John Lascurettes October 31, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    Sweeeeeet. It will be nice to have another option (and particularly car free) for getting across i84.

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    chris October 31, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Great news. What’s the estimated construction time?

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      Al November 1, 2019 at 9:20 am

      From the article, “PBOT says bridge construction should be completed by the end of next year.”

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    Andrew N October 31, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Awesome! Kudos to Earl but I’ll be referring to it as “Nico’s Bridge” because I’ll finally be able to get my kid to inner SE from our home more safely via bicycle. It will also greatly reinforce the importance of NE 7th as a Major City Bikeway from the bridge north to Sumner – which should likewise render irrelevant whatever ends up happening with PBOT’s ongoing comedy show a few blocks over on 9th.

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    Gary Sansom October 31, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Great news!! I want to be the first to Wheelie al the way across!

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    Brian C October 31, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Heres to Earl’s Bridge!

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    q October 31, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    If the bridge is a success, they could rename that area the Earl District.

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    Toby Keith October 31, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    Great bridge, crappy name. Why this guy is such a hero to Oregon I’ll never know.

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      dwk November 3, 2019 at 7:02 am

      Mr. Keith pops in again for the umpteenth time each thread with his Trumpian views to disparage the city and questions what Earl has done?
      What do you do besides post from your basement about how everything sucks here but you apparently have no ambition to move or improve your own life……
      Bikeportland has allowed you to turn this site into Breitbart with all your right wing nonsense constantly posted here….
      Meanwhile a bunch of peoples comments are monitored here, and Toby gets to post his right wing propaganda views on every thread……

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    Wylie October 31, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    The 3d rendering has people enjoying the “view” of the freeway but my time with the Gibb Street Bridge tells me that the freeway sensory experience is by far the worst part of these crossings

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      q October 31, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      I agree, and your comment is also a reminder to actually look at the rendering, which has some things I don’t like. My worry is that with groundbreaking next week, that means the design is complete, so unless it’s evolved since the rendering, the rendering is showing what’s coming (which overall is great, but that doesn’t mean details don’t matter).

      –The lighting is horrible–unshielded fixtures with the bright source glaring directing into your eyes. Light sources should be shielded. Also, people who need a handrail, or want to walk close to the railing, are interrupted by light poles every 30′ or so on the approach. And that one pole the guy biking off the bridge is about to hit is totally dangerous.

      –I’m not a fan of the splayed guardrails. Tilikum Crossing’s splay out at the bottom, and it’s a bit scary to walk a dog alongside them, since a dog can actually step through the rail and have nothing but air below them. Same with a kid falling against them. They also focus the view downward, which at Tilikum Crossing makes sense (it’s the river) but here it’s the freeway (as you said).

      At least Tilikum’s guardrails angle back inward for the upper half, so the top has a perfect handrail for those who need it, and a nice cap for leaning against when stopped. Here, the guardrail just continues outward, so it’s too far away to lean against, and there’s no handrail, which is dangerous and non-accessible for people who need it, especially given that the approach path looks sloped.

      –And not a design issue, but a rendering one…I’d like to see more variety in the people. When a project releases a several-thousand dollar rendering that shows only young, fit white (I think) adults (ok, and one dog) it makes it reasonable to ask if a project’s designers were really thinking of all types of users when they designed the project. Bike/pedestrian infrastructure already has at the very least an image problem of being seen by many as expensive (this definitely is) and aimed at young, well-off, urban white people.

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        Chris I November 1, 2019 at 8:06 am

        Since this is over an active Interstate, the fencing will be quite different. This fencing will be dense enough (similar to chain link) to prevent throwing large objects onto the road below. So your dog won’t have any issue with Vertigo here. Because of the taller fencing, the splaying out is important to make this crossing not feel like a linear jail cell, like some of our other pedestrian overcrossings (Bryant, Going, etc)

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          I wear many hats November 1, 2019 at 9:37 am

          But will the fencing also obstruct the obscene amounts of benzene wafting from the highway below?

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            Chris I November 1, 2019 at 10:00 am

            That’s not how transportation in America works. Auto users get to poison everyone around them with minimal barriers or regulation. However, we have to spend millions to protect them from the extremely rare chance that someone will throw rocks off of a bridge.

            Priorities.

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            soren November 3, 2019 at 11:42 am

            Don’t forget the ozone and PM 2.5.

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          q November 1, 2019 at 2:49 pm

          I agree in part. I know the fencing will be more solid across the freeway, and I agree that splaying the tall wall portions makes for a more open feeling.

          If you look at the recent pedestrian bridges (Tilikum, Gibbs, and the new Walker Bridge on W. Burnside, all have splaying features-which is a current design fad–but all are different. Tilikum’s guardrail splays out, but then back, so it has a useful top rail/handrail. Gibbs’ guardrail splays out, but not as much as Blumenauer, and its top rail is therefore much less further out and more useful. Burnside has splayed structure, but no splay in the guardrail, which has small openings, plus a solid bottom part of the guard walls, so feels more secure for people walking dogs or needing to steady themselves with the rail. The Blumenauer as the rendering shows seems the worst of all these, because it seems to have no useful handrail.

          Again, it’ll be great to have this bridge, but I think it could be better for no more cost.

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            Chris I November 1, 2019 at 8:14 pm

            Why do bridges need handrails? The sidewalks leading to them don’t have handrails.

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              q November 1, 2019 at 9:01 pm

              Any infrastructure like that should be accessible, whether it’s required or not. That’s not just for people with obvious disabilities. Pedestrian bridges get windy and icy. Most are not level at the approaches, so the slopes are especially likely to be slippery. In freezing weather, just about anyone will welcome having a handrail anywhere it may get icy.

              100% of pedestrian bridges have guardrails, so it’s easy to design graspable rails people can use to steady themselves. You almost have to try to design guardrails that can’t be grasped at the top, even if what you’re grasping is too wide to be a code-compliant handrail. All the other pedestrian bridge examples I mentioned DO have at least that feature.

              The Tilikum has an actual code-compliant handrail (not just the top of the guardrail, but a separate handrail lower where it’s at the proper height for a real handrail) the entire length of the bridge. I believe Gibbs does also. So either it’s a code requirement, or the teams responsible for those bridges agree that handrails make sense.

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        Toby Keith November 2, 2019 at 8:39 am

        You could photoshop in some people of color if you like. I was thinking the render was missing more obvious features like tents and trash piles.

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          q November 2, 2019 at 1:46 pm

          You’re actually making a good point. Putting various users into a rendering forces the project team (if they’re actually looking at the renderings with some care) to see how their design works, before it’s built.

          As an example, the City just built a pedestrian/bike rail crossing at Willamette Park. It’s only 5.5′ wide, and constrained on both sides for about 60′ by railings (except at the tracks). The railings force users to make 4 tight turns. If the project had done a rendering showing typical users (a biker with a kid’s trailer, or a biker and dog walker both using the crossing at once) the team would have seen that those simply do not fit–it’s too tight and narrow. The team could then have widened the design so it would work. Instead it’s built and it doesn’t work well.

          But like I said, it’s all meaningless if the team doesn’t look with care at the rendering. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blumenauer bridge gets built with that light post right in the way of people coming on or off the bridge, even though its so clearly a problem in the rendering that everyone on the project team has probably seen.

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            Toby Keith November 2, 2019 at 3:11 pm

            You are right, It’s all about the real-world use isn’t it? The renders always come off as fantasy land.

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    Shimran George October 31, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    Awesome news! And named after a deserving individual!

    I can’t wait until this connection comes through, it will make travel from SE Portland to NE and N. Portland so much nicer!

    I truly believe that giving pedestrian and bike access can do a lot to help revitalize a neighborhood. Hopefully this could be a great start in remaking the Lloyd from an auto-centric urban renewal area full of parking lots and have more bike/pedestrian destinations.

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    David Hampsten October 31, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    Great, yet another piece of new infrastructure named for a live white male, an incumbent politician running for election no less. And yet the city requires that city streets be named (or renamed) only for dead American people only and rightly prefers minorities who have had real impacts on society.

    Why not name it as a memorial for one of the many unfortunate bicyclists who have died on Portland’s streets?

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      Shimran George October 31, 2019 at 11:59 pm

      I’m from NY, so I am from the land of politicians circle-jerking each other by naming infrastructure after the most-unworthy people. I actually like the name given that he ran PBOT, is a strong cycling advocate (for a very long time) and even started the Congressional Bike Caucus.

      Some people have brought up a good point though: is it correct/ethical to name after a living individual, up for re-election no less? I think we need to set some codes-of-conduct when we name these.

      For what it’s worth, I’d like to keep in the tradition of naming after some of the native american names for the area. It brings back uniqueness to the region and a homage to the native people of the area.

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    Kittens October 31, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    Cool bridge. Though I think we should stop naming infrastructure after living people. Somehow it diminishes the honor.

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    idlebytes November 1, 2019 at 8:19 am

    What’s their plan for getting people heading north across 7th? It seems like a regular crosswalk could be sketchy with how cars fly down the hill to 7th. I can imagine it working like the ones on 122nd where the near side stops and the other lanes just keep on going.

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      maccoinnich November 1, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Do you mean across Lloyd Blvd? If so: the street will go from five car lanes to three, with a full traffic signal added at the Lloyd / 7th intersection.

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        idlebytes November 1, 2019 at 10:45 am

        I mean where Sandy intersects with SE Washington and SE 7th. If you’re using the bike lane on 7th you’ll have to merge into traffic and make a left across Sandy to continue on 7th. It looks like ultimately they might make 6th the cycling street that is part of their “Green Loop” but right now 7th is the designated route and there’s no marked crosswalk there just a center turn lane.

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          maccoinnich November 1, 2019 at 11:21 am

          Ah, got it. The Central City in Motion plan proposes to make that intersection signalized, but it’s not part of the scope of this project.

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    Gregg November 1, 2019 at 9:17 am

    While I type this, PBOT is installing actual buffers between the cycletrack and the parking lane on Rosa Parks (THANKS PBOT!) Rosa Parks is now my favorite street in town.

    I’m looking forward to riding with kids from Rosa Parks via a Safest-Greenway-In-Town to this new bridge. What will that look like? 7th? 9th? Nothing?

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      drs November 2, 2019 at 12:03 am

      That’s great news. I was wondering if they would ever get around to putting the physical barriers in that were promised when that bike lane was first installed.

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    maxD November 1, 2019 at 11:47 am

    It is very exciting to be getting this much needed piece of infrastructure. IMO, the bridge is super ugly, but oh well. The bigger issue is the lack of connections. Why isn’t there a robust greenway south of this bridge with safe, signalized crossings (bikes and peds could use 12th/Grand while this is under construction)? Why isn’t the Sullivan’s Gulch connection being constructed at least from the Esplanade to 12th? How will bike users connect to this on the 9th ave greenway since there is a massive gap at Irving Park. We really need this bridge, but haivng a bridge is not going to be of much use with the half-assed connections to and from it.

    For context, I have been commuting via bike between North Portland and the CEID since 2008. This SHOULD fix my commute, but that now seems unlikely. The gap in bike lanes on Skidmore between Michigan and 7th/9th will not be fixed. The greenway south will not be complete. The route through the CEID remains an unsafe mess. I am likely to continue to use the sidewalk on MLK heading north, or take the lane on MLK heading south to cross *$ since the rest of the routes/connections are so sub-par

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      idlebytes November 1, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Looks like currently they’re planning to make all these connections by 2035. So with their typical delays maybe we’ll have it done in 20-25 years 😐

      https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/71158

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      Toby Keith November 2, 2019 at 7:36 am

      I’ve inquired with PBOT about improving Skidmore from Michigan to MLK, and while there is nothing scheduled as of yet, it’s been discussed at least. Fingers crossed that street gets some attention. The apartments have really screwed it over.

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    GlowBoy November 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    This will be a big improvement over the 12th crossing many of us use today, but there are still connection issues to the north and south that will eventually need be resolved before 7th becomes a truly great bike route.

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    Phil Richman November 1, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Will I be allowed to ride my new e-scooter across it?

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      drs November 2, 2019 at 12:06 am

      Who’s going to stop you? I see cars driving on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure with impunity all the time: the Greeley to interstate connector, the bike paths at I-5 and Marine Drive, etc. If people get away with driving cars on bike paths, you can rest assured that you can ride an e-scooter on them.

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      GlowBoy November 4, 2019 at 11:29 am

      Why wouldn’t you? They’re allowed on any pavement where bikes are.

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    Matt November 4, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    What I love about the limited pictures is how it feels so oriented toward bikeability. No weird ramps up to a caged-in chainlink sidewalk with ramps/steps/elevators to get back down. This is based on luck, as the highway is sunken, but I can still admire that part. Just ride across…..

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    janowa November 4, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    PBOT’s site says the location changed to NE 7th and Flanders.

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