Tomorrow is a big day for bicycling in Portland. At around 11:00 am we’ll be able to roll across the Flanders Crossing Bridge over I-405. It might seem like just another new bridge, but this project has been over two decades in the making.
It was the year 2000 when city planners and downtown advocates began talks to rebuild Burnside into a world-class boulevard that offered Portlanders more than just a bunch of lanes for driving. Those talks led to an $80 million proposal to add streetcar to the street and create a couplet with Couch (one block over). There was a lot to like in the Burnside – Couch Couplet Plan for sustainable city and transportation advocates, but there were no bike lanes. Because everyone knew Portland was Bike City USA, a promise was made to create a bike boulevard on Flanders that would include a new crossing of I-405. In 2005, city council set aside $3.65 million to establish Flanders as the main, east-west bikeway.
Just three years later, Portland almost made good on that promise when former Mayor Sam Adams (then commissioner) hatched a plan to re-use the old Sauvie Island Bridge span at Flanders. Adams had broad community support. “We can’t afford to wait. We should act now,” said Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now The Street Trust) leaders Scott Bricker (now at Travel Oregon) and Catherine Ciarlo (now at PBOT) in an op-ed published by The Oregonian on April 22nd, 2018.
But that project was not meant to be. In the middle of a mayoral race and with fears about funding (using the old span would be more expensive than building a new one) and equity (Adams’ competition, Sho Dozono, said it was unfair to spend money on a new bike bridge downtown when people in east Portland didn’t have sidewalks), the plan was scrapped at the last minute.
13 years later we finally got it done. Along with the bridge, Portlanders will get the bikeway they’ve long deserved and will be able to ride from Waterfront Park to the shopping district of NW 23rd on a low-traffic, (mostly) low-stress “neighborhood greenway”.
There are two rides planned that will end at the opening ceremony:
- Led by local advocate Hami Ramani, meet at Salmon Street Springs at 10:00 am, leave around 10:15. More info here.
- Led by PBOT staffer Timo Forsberg, meet at North Park Blocks at 10:00 am, leave around 10:30 or so. More info here.
I’ll be doing a live interview on KGW tomorrow morning at 6:45 am or so. Tune in and/or I’ll see you on the bridge later!
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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