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What would happen if we shut down I-405? We’re about to find out

Posted by on January 19th, 2021 at 1:44 pm

Imagine what we could do with this space besides just driving: More homes, shops, and parks. This photo shows Bridge Pedal riders on I-405 in 2010.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Bridge footings in place.
(Photo: PBOT)

Something magical will finally happen this weekend: The Portland Bureau of Transportation will install the Flanders Crossing Bridge over I-405.

It’s a day we’ve dreamt about for 15 years, ever since former PBOT Commissioner (then Mayor) Sam Adams hatched the wild idea to recycle the old Sauvie Island Bridge span at the same location. We’ve written at length about why this $9.5 million bridge will be so important for bicycling in northwest Portland — both figuratively and literally.

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Detour route. If it works for the weekend, why not just keep it closed?

A major milestone in the construction of this bridge isn’t the only magical thing that will take place this weekend. ODOT also plans to do a full closure of I-405 between Highway 26 and the Fremont Bridge to facilitate the work crews. The closure will last from Friday night (10:00 pm) to Monday morning (5:00 am). If you want to watch the historic action — cranes on each side of the freeway will move the 355,000 bridge into place — PBOT says the work will begin around 9:30 am on Saturday (1/23) and will last about eight hours.

The closure will also give us a chance to feel what it’s like to remove a a freeway that goes through the heart of our city. Every year momentum builds for urban highway removals and there’s even a $10 billion bill floating around the U.S. Senate for that expressed purpose. Portland should be in that conversation. Both I-5 and I-405 are perfect candidates for removal and redevelopment. The amount of space and life our city would receive in exchange would be truly transformational on many levels.

For now we’ll focus on the new bridge, but let’s not forget that we won’t transform mobility in Portland simply by adding more bicycling and walking spaces: We must also drastically reduce driving space.

Fingers crossed that this installation goes forward. PBOT says windy weather could postpone it. If all goes according to plan we’ll be using the new bridge by spring 2021. Check the project website for full details.

Oh, and where should we meet up for the viewing party on Saturday? I hope to see some of you out there!

— 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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hamiramani
Subscriber

Great opportunity to bike to the PSU farmers market, support local famers/vendors and then go to the new bridge. Meet at market ~10:30 am, ride to the new bridge at noon. Sound okay?

Todd/Boulanger
Guest
Todd/Boulanger

Hi PSU TREC data researchers…this closure would be another great chance to collect multi day baseline data as to the noise and air pollution impact of I-405 traffic.

I'll pass you
Guest
I'll pass you

Wait…You guys say we should close collectors and arterials to cars to force them onto the freeway…but you also want to close the freeways? What about all the people that need to drive? (most don’t have the LUXURY of not driving) Just screw them?

Also, how fast until it’s covered in tents and tarps and nobody wants to use it anyway? Lol

You guys are an interesting bunch…

Steve Hash
Guest
Steve Hash

Close 405 and I5 becomes even more miserable. Let’s cap it instead. Remember, it’s only for the weekend. Not really representative of its usage.

mran1984
Guest

Good luck getting commerce to all of these “shops”. Delusional and pretty messed up too. You really want more people? People are the problem and the number one cause of climate change. How does Amazon deliver all that crap you folks click a button to receive. Sure appreciate freeways when I escape the garbage, tarps and the endless sea of people who have no plan for the remainder of their lives.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Closing I-405 permanently is an interesting idea but I worry it would just send even more car traffic onto downtown surface streets which would make cycling even worse. Because I-405 is already mostly below grade, I don’t think it has as much of a detrimental effect on the city as I-5 does. I’d rather consider taking down I-5 and rerouting it on I-405.

Momo
Guest
Momo

Assuming for the sake of argument that we want to remove these urban freeways from the downtown core but there isn’t political support for removing them entirely…how about a single tunnel replacing both I-5 and I-405, with one tunnel entrance just north of Rose Quarter (so we can truly implement the Albina Vision concept of reconnecting the grid) and the other south of the South Waterfront area? Similar to the one in Seattle, no entrances or exits, it’s purely for freight and other long-distance travel. People who want to go downtown use surface streets and boulevards.

Jim Labbe
Subscriber
Jim Labbe

Let’s shut down I-5 next and reconnect the Central Eastside to the Willamette River.

https://www.cnu.org/highways-boulevards/freeways-without-futures/2019#5

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Kyle Banerjee
Guest

All of that traffic will filter on other roads. That’s no big deal when hardly anyone is out there (which is why that time was selected) but if you want gridlock and exhaust fumes everywhere while making it miserable to do any kind of active transport, keep trying to route all that traffic through the streets.

What basis do people here have for believing everyone will start cycling — hardly anyone is on even the separated bike infrastructure we have now? For example, one of my running routes takes me along Rosa and Willamette and I jog for transportation for distances of about 2 miles or less — I run in the separated bike lane because the surface and sight lines are better. It’s unusual for me to encounter even a single cyclist but I always encounter cars. I will never favor driving as a way of getting around, but anyone who doesn’t think pavement utilization for cars is far more efficient than cyclists is kidding themselves. Even here, it’s pretty clear that a huge percentage of people who consider themselves cyclists regard cold, heat, wet, darkness, distance (or pretty much anything other than a trivial ride) to be a hardship. So how will the elderly, physically challenged, and/or people who have to deal with much more or who have actual responsibilities that require driving — this is WAY more common that people here seem to realize.

Through traffic doesn’t need to be routed through the center of the city, but it takes much more pavement to route it around the city — not to mention all the houses, business, etc. along the path need to be demolished. There is also the issue that a major metropolitan area does in fact need a significant flow coming in and out to take care of real needs.

Sure, if we make everything totally different than it is now, people would make different choices. It’s like if we wanted to move freight more efficiently — simply widening the gauge of the rails would accomplish that. Then all that remains to do is tear out and replace all the existing rail infrastructure, switch out all the cars and engines, and also figure out how to deal with the trucking and shipping handoffs, it would be done. Easy peasy and probably more realistic than the cycling solutions often pushed here.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

I-405 Southbound was shut down by cyclists in March 2003, in protest of the second Iraq war, which was started based on politically convenient lies. A lot of cyclists who participated and were detained got royally mistreated by PPB and the Feds. This is a part of Portland’s forgotten recent history (just sayin’).

I hope the bridge gets used, it would be a shame for it to go the same way as many other questionable recent ‘cycling enhancement improvements’.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Looks like there are still a bunch of misguided Eisenhauer fans even within the bike portland ranks. Car traffic is a gas that needs a small conduit in which to pass. Removing the 405 would simply move that gas to the other roads. 405 was a convenience imagined as a need when the car was king and minorities were neighborhoods to tear down. There would be no carmageddon other than some localized issues that could be mitigated with engineering. But since pearl clutching is more convincing than actual facts/math/reality, Portland will be stuck with 405…instead of what could be something incredible…