A key connection between northeast Portland neighborhoods and the Portland Airport, Whitaker Ponds Natural Area, Columbia Slough, and other destinations has a major upgrade in the works. PBOT plans to break ground as soon as later this year on a $17 million project to replace the 42nd Avenue bridge over Northeast Lombard.
Portland City Council authorized the project back in 2018 with a $3 million down payment from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s Build Portland program. That program returns property taxes from expiring urban renewal areas back into the city’s General Fund.
The 42nd Avenue overpass sits between the Holman Street Neighborhood Greenway in the Concordia and Cully neighborhoods and the new protected bike lanes on 47th (which aren’t quite finished yet). Currently there’s no bikeway on the bridge and bicycle riders share the space with car users who have a 35 mph speed limit.
Beyond its inadequacy for bicycling, the overpass is an impediment to freight truck drivers. Lombard (US Route 30) is designated as a major freight route and the current bridge is so low (15 feet, 10 inches) that large-haul truckers go out of their way to avoid it. The Portland Bureau of Transportation sees replacement of the bridge — and raising it to nearly 18 feet of overhead clearance — as a key part of their strategy to smooth out east-west freight movements.
At a meeting of the PBOT Freight Advisory Committee Thursday morning, PBOT Project Manager Zef Wagner said, the project is, “Fully funded, mostly designed, and ready to go.”
Keeping with the freight committee’s preference to separate bicycle users from freight truck drivers, the new bikeway on the bridge will be grade-separated. The new bridge cross-section will have two 13-foot, general purpose lanes with 10-foot wide multi-use paths on each side. That’s a huge upgrade from the narrow sidewalks and in-street sharrows we have today.
A new bridge will also open up possibilities for a better bikeway on Lombard below it.
Many of you will recall the preventable death of Martin Greenough. Greenough was new to the area and was biking in a bike lane gap under the 42nd Ave bridge when he was hit and killed in December 2015. His tragic death was partly due to ODOT’s dangerous street design and they responded by settling a lawsuit with Greenough’s family and building a new bike path on the south side of Lombard.
But ODOT didn’t do anything to the same, dangerous gap on the other side of the street (in photo above). They claim bridge supports and an adjacent railroad line don’t leave enough space for a bikeway. At this morning’s meeting, PBOT’s Wagner said the new bridge will provide that space. “Right now, the bike lane drops underneath because of the bridge support and bikes have to merge into traffic. This is a 45 mph road and it is not a good situation,” he said. Wagner said it will be up to ODOT if they choose to create a separated space on the north side of the street similar to the one they created in response to Greenough’s death.
With the new bridge likely to be completed by 2023, ODOT might want to draw up some plans.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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