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The Flanders Crossing Bridge is born, and a key bikeway comes into focus

Posted by on January 23rd, 2021 at 4:38 pm

Click for captions. (Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The missing piece to a major bikeway in downtown Portland that has been over 15 years in the making was lowered into place this morning. Just after 7:00 am Saturday crews with Wildish Construction (the same company that build the Gibbs Pedestrian Bridge under the Aerial Tram) operating two massive cranes lifted the 355,000 pound, 200-foot long Flanders Crossing Bridge into its place across Interstate 405.

It was a perfectly clear and sunny day, a good omen for the future.

Flanders Crossing is the pièce de résistance of the “Flanders Bike Boulevard” first promised to Portlanders in 2005 (see below). Now referred to as the Flanders Neighborhood Greenway project, the vision is to create a low-stress, east-west connection between the Willamette River and NW 24th Avenue where bicycle users, walkers, and rollers of all types have priority. That vision has been on hold in large part because of the gap in the route at I-405.

Map of Flanders Bike Boulevard from 2005 Burnside Couch Transportation and Urban Design Plan (PBOT).

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With the bridge in place, the bikeway has been born and in about eight weeks we’ll start to see the vision become a reality. Once the bridge and bikeway are complete, Flanders will (hopefully!) become something that’s much too rare in Portland: A dense street full of commercial destination where bicycle riders feel safe and welcome.

At the site today many people gathered to catch a glimpse of the historic installation. We hoped to see it get moved across the interstate, but crews got a much earlier start than expected and the span was mostly in place before 7:30 am. Luckily Anna Bjornberg (with Go By Bike) was there to grab a few photos of the action (below).

One nearby resident named Geoff who was walking by with his young daughter on roller skates was thrilled to see it in place. “Any time we want to get into the Pearl or get to Powell’s or Whole Foods, we had to go a few blocks out of the way. So this will be a game changer.”

Not only is this bridge the key to the Flanders bikeway, it’s also going to be much safer and more pleasant than any other option. Glisan and Everett (streets one block in each direction) are both very high-stress for walking and biking and lack adequate space and protection for non-drivers. “The only other option is Burnside which is problematic,” Geoff shared. “Or Johnson and sometimes it’s sketchy down there.” His daughter is excited too. “It looks cool. It looks skatable,” she said, with a big smile.

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Imagine an all-ages bikeway in the heart of the Pearl District.

Another couple I spoke to was less enthusiastic. “This is a total waste of money,” a man said (he didn’t share his name). “There are homeless people everywhere, we should have used this money to build a condo to put them in! This is why Trump gets elected because people see liberal cities doing stuff like this!” A woman he was with was also peeved by what she saw. “Is this really necessary?” she wondered. “I mean, I don’t see a lot of bikers around here.” After I offered some different perspectives, their views softened. “Well, I’m sure we’ll use it. It’s probably for the best,” the man said, calming down a bit.

The bridge deck is 24-feet wide and the sides are covered with a steel mesh. In person the mesh looks a lot less transparent than PBOT’s concept drawings, but a great view from the bridge is still likely. Still to come is concrete for the bridge deck and new traffic signals and crossing updates on both ends. On the east side of the bridge, a signal will be installed at NW 14th (at 10 Barrel Brewing) and there will be a new four-way stop sign at 15th. On the west side, a new signal is coming to 16th. The cost of the bridge is $9.5 million paid for through a combination of an Oregon State Lottery grant (via the Connect Oregon program) and Transportation System Development Charges (TSDCs).

Once everything’s in place, figures from the city’s state grant application say bridge crossings will reach over 9,000 per day — that’s more than the Hawthorne Bridge and five times the daily bike ridership of the Tilikum Crossing bridge. By 2035, the number of daily crossings are projected to climb to 11,600.

With a late March opening planned, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is eager to have everything in place to capitalize on all the excitement. This high-profile piece of infrastructure will help rescue our brand as a leading transportation city. It also has the potential to spur economic activity and build community bonds as a Covid-safe place for people to be outside, together, in the heart of Portland.

For a city in dire need of an injection of hope and good news, this bridge will carry more than just people. It’s a powerful symbol that despite everything, Portland can still accomplish big things.

“That’s just so great,” said one woman to her friend as she walked by today. “Yeah,” her friend replied. “Sometimes this city actually does work.”

— 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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Nadia Maxim
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Nadia Maxim

Looks super cool! Hopefully it won’t get vandalized with graffiti as rapidly as the new Gideon Overcrossing did. I wish we could take better care of our biking/walking infrastructure. Great to have it though.

Rick S
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Rick S

We were hoping to see it moved into place but the crews got moving earlier than PBOT indicated on their information site. The seismic design is important I also. Can’t wait to bike across!

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

It looks wide enough for two cars to easily pass each other.

damiene
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damiene

I am very excited for this – this’ll be a key part of my route to basically anywhere once it’s open.

 
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Another couple I spoke to was less enthusiastic. “This is a total waste of money,” a man said (he didn’t share his name). “There are homeless people everywhere, we should have used this money to build a condo to put them in! This is why Trump gets elected because people see liberal cities doing stuff like this!” A woman he was with was also peeved by what she saw. “Is this really necessary?” she wondered. “I mean, I don’t see a lot of bikers around here.” After I offered some different perspectives, their views softened. “Well, I’m sure we’ll use. It’s probably for the best,” the man said, calming down a bit.

Thanks for doing this. It’s so important not to go into attack mode when people disagree with you, and instead calmly explain why their views might be misguided. If more people did this, I think the world would be a much better place and we’d be able to make significantly more progress addressing the many issues plaguing modern society. 🙂

qqq
Guest
qqq

Will it be all one level surface, as it appears in the rendering (but hard to see)? I saw a cross section in an older article showing the sidewalks on the sides elevated a few inches from the center bike lanes (not my preference).

I was there today, and can’t wait to use it.

Fourknees
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Fourknees

This is nice. I can see utilizing this going west vs NW Johnson to get over the hill through the zoo. However Everett has always worked well going east at least until crossing 405 with very few stop compared to Flanders. Hopefully some stop signs and diverters will be used strategically.

Chopwatch
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Chopwatch

Hopefully they add and enforce 10 minute rule so people can stop briefly to chat, or take photos but can be told to move along if they linger longer if needed so it can stay clear like Tilikum. It can not be allowed to degenerated into conditions of Springwater corridor by unintended accumulation of crud.

X
Guest
X

Infrastructure does not cause people to sleep rough. It’s an unrelated social problem that has to be addressed at the roots. You can’t kill a dandelion by cutting the top, and you can’t fix your city by sweeping camps. I don’t want people to have to cook breakfast standing next to SW Main Street, something I saw last week, but I can admire the resilience of the people who are doing it.

This is a country where something that is called economic stimulus can largely go to people who need several seconds to answer the question, “How many houses do you own?”, wage increases lag productivity increases by several percent, and many people work for companies that label them contractors to avoid giving them benefits. People with clean fingernails say things like “I built this”. Every car has 3 parking spaces but many humans have no fixed address. We’re doing it wrong.

You’d like me to get back on topic? Ok, here’s this: Portland has just installed a bridge for humans on a street that, averaged end-to-end, has some of the worst pavement in NW Portland.

Fred
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Fred

The Gibbs Street pedestrian bridge is “more formally known as the US Congresswoman Darlene Hooley Pedestrian Bridge at Gibbs Street.”

People who live in the neighborhood call it “The Hooley,” as in “I’m going to walk across the Hooley and up to Barbur.”

Thanks for the good coverage. We need more of these projects around Portland. Thanks to all of the political leaders who made it happen.

To the guy who said, “This is why people vote for Trump,” I would just say: “No, people vote for Trump b/c he’s a racist, and so are they.”

David LaPorte
Subscriber
David LaPorte

Cool bridge! Flanders will probably be as slow and frustrating as Johnson and Overton are as a greenways. Waaaay too many stop signs. For strong riders in low traffic conditions, Glisan and Everett will certainly remain quicker routes.

JR
Guest
JR

I think these are the types of projects that can drastically improve biking conditions in the city and encourage more low-stress biking in the city. A cheaper alternative would be to make an existing crossing car-free, but that just didn’t seem feasible with the Glisan/Everett couplet. I’m also eagerly awaiting the new I-84 crossing in Lloyd!

Charles Ross
Guest
Charles Ross

I see the creation of these cycling ‘arteries’ as a way to reduce bicycle traffic on the transportation ‘veins’. It will reduce stress and strain for both bicyclists and drivers. Maybe we can get rid of the bicycle lane on Everett; maybe we will see fewer cyclists attempting the uphill commute on West Burnside. I look forward to no longer having to cycle up hill on Glison, a stressful experience.
Are there portions of Flanders that can be made ‘car-free? Is it time to ‘de-certify’ Johnson as a cycling route? What about a North-South route? Perhaps along North/South blocks?
This is great news!!

soren
Guest
soren

“There are homeless people everywhere, we should have used this money to build a [homes] to put them in!”

92 houseless people died on Portland’s streets in 2020.

The life of a single houseless person is worth far more than this bridge.

EP
Guest
EP

This is a great addition that’s long overdue. I used to walk across the Glisan bridge from the NW to go to Khao San for lunch. That bridge is not a great experience. The block of Flanders from 15th to 14th has the brewcycle tours and that brewpub that anheuser busch inBev owns. Seems like turning that block into a car-free zone could be a great extension/landing of the bridge into the neighborhood. The west side is real busy at 16th, I’m curious to see how that intersection gets built out. I think that bridge will need more than a couple bollards to keep cars off, we’ll see.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

“I mean, I don’t see a lot of bikers around here.”

Isn’t that the attitude … why build infrastructure when no one bikes here, because the infrastructure is lacking?

robert
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robert

The connection to the Steel bridge doesn’t really happen on Flanders.