Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 8th, 2020 at 4:25 pm
The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge is beautiful and connects towns, many destinations, and excellent cycling opportunities. Unfortunately bicycling over it is prohibited which means there’s no way to legally and safely pedal across the Columbia River for 40 miles between Cascade Locks and The Dalles. But a project to replace the bridge is reason for optimism that a bikeway could finally be on the horizon.
Even if you flaunted the law and tried to sneak over the bridge today, you might regret it. It’d be harrowing. There’s no pavement, just spiked steel that you can see through to the Columbia River below. And with a roadway deck of just 18 feet 9 inches for two lanes of traffic, bicycle riders would have to to share the space with impatient drivers for a full mile before reaching the other side. A new bridge with bike lanes would be a game-changer.
Currently in the planning stages, the Port of Hood River has just released the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review and comment. This is a federally mandated document that will get the Port one step closer to final environmental review by the end of next year. After that, they’ll be cleared for full engineering, design and construction.
According to retired Portland optometrist and former Chair of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Armando “Jerry” Zelada, the plans for the bridge are good news for bicycle riders; but could be better. He points to the EIS which spells out that current plans for the new bridge include, “a wider two-lane facility built to standards including 12-foot lanes plus shoulders. The new bridge will also provide accommodation for pedestrian and bicycle users.”
The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Replacement Project Final Transportation Technical Report released on November 30th includes more details:
The project roadway would consist of two 12-foot travel lanes, two 8-foot shoulders, and one 12-foot transportation facility for shared use (pedestrian and bicycle) travel on one side. The 12-foot shared use facility would be located on the west side of the bridge, with a physical barrier separating motor vehicle traffic from people walking or riding bikes. The shared use path would provide a transportation facility that connects to existing and planned sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails on either end of the bridge. The posted speed limit on the bridge is expected to be 35 mph.
While having any dedicated space for cycling feels like a big improvement, Zelada, who organized the Gorge Pedal ride last summer, is worried that the proposed bike facilities on the new bridge might not be enough. Zelada says this bridge could see a huge influx of bicycle riders.
“We need cyclists to voice their support for larger bike lanes and larger pedestrian lanes.”
— Armando Zelada
“When you look at other trails like the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail and the carfree Hatfield Trail (east of Hood River), one sees the limits of width conflicting with the increased popularity,” Zelada shared with us in an email. “We need cyclists to voice their support for larger bike lanes and larger pedestrian lanes… I might even suggest lanes on each side of the bridge!” he added.
The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to finish work on the Mitchell Point tunnel segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway by 2023, leaving a scant 1.6 miles left to fulfill the vision of a safe I-84 alternative for cycling between Troutdale and The Dalles. This will increase cycling in the Gorge even more, putting pressure on other bikeways in the area.
If you’d like to voice support for cycling space on this new bridge, you can leave a comment via the online survey through January 4th.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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