Budget cuts to Burnside Bridge project could mean smaller bike lanes, no Esplanade ramp

Posted by on June 15th, 2021 at 1:49 pm

Multnomah County is looking to shave about $180 million off the cost of the new Burnside Bridge. A smaller budget for the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project could lead to a narrower cross-section that has less space for walk and biking. Another potential cut could be the cycling ramp from the Eastbank Esplanade up to the new bridge deck.

The County announced at a project task force meeting on Monday night that they’ve begun a series of cost-saving studies to determine which course of action will save the most money and have the least negative impacts for users. The budget tinkering is being done to make the project more competitive for looming federal funding opportunities, made even more crucial to the county since the $150 million they hoped to secure from the Metro transportation funding measure failed to come through.

With the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement back in February, Multnomah County was ready to move into awarding construction contracts this coming winter and start construction on the $900 million project in 2024. Now they’ll push the timeline back six to 12 months to do the cost studies and develop a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement based on what they find. With just $300 million set aside for the project so far, the County needs to win a federal grant from the Biden Administration and they hope bringing the cost down will make that more likely.

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If they decide to narrow the bridge, the specific lane widths could still be debated.

The impact of all this to bicycle riders could be significant. According to County spokesperson Mike Pullen, the largest cost savings — estimated to be $140 to $165 million — would come from narrowing the overall width of the bridge from 101-feet wide to 78-feet wide. They would do this by eliminating one of the general purpose lanes and shaving several feet off the bicycling/walking lanes. In the Draft EIS, the bike path and sidewalk was up to 20 feet wide on each side, or about eight feet each not including buffers and shy distance. The County says a narrowed version would reduce the cycling and walking facility to “at least 14 feet on each side”.

As you can see in the graphics above, the driving space on the bridge would be reduced by 11-feet on a narrower bridge. The 14-foot bike/walk space would be divided with eight feet going to the sidewalk and up to seven and-a-half feet going to a bike lane. The final width allocations would be decided later. It’s important to note that the existing width of the bike/walk space on the Burnside Bridge is 12.8 feet — nearly the same as what the County will consider for the new bridge.

Pullen said the path would feel similar to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. While the bike/walk space would be less than the County hoped for at the outset of the project, Pullen said they remain committed to physical separation. “The crash worthy barrier between the bike/ped facility and the traffic lanes is not something we would sacrifice. We will not engineer that out.”

On second thought, maybe not.

One thing that might be engineered out is a ramp from the Esplanade up to the new bridge. As we shared in October 2020, project designers were working on a ramp similar to the one on the east end of the Steel Bridge. Now they are considering the “least cost options” for both the east side connection to the Esplanade and for the west side connection to the MAX light rail station at Skidmore Fountain. Pullen confirmed that bike ramps could be cut, but the cost studies could still leave the door open. “We’re committed to funding an ADA-compliant connection and our decision will be the lowest cost option — that could be elevators and stairs, or elevator and a ramp.” Pullen left the door open to a financial partnership with the City of Portland and/or TriMet that would ensure ramps stay in the plans.

The next big opportunity for the public to weigh in on these changes will be February 2022 when cost analysis will be complete and the SEIS comes out for review. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Mark smith
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Mark smith

Yes , please put in elevators and stairs. That Multnomah county would be the first to show both how low cost (and High reliability) and how useful stairs are over a continuous ramp.

Tell me multnomah county, so you make car users cue up for stairs and elevators to get their car across a bridge?

ivan
Guest
ivan

Honestly I don’t really see this as terrible. I hope they don’t cut the Esplanade ramp, but having slightly-narrower bike lanes doesn’t seem that bad. Given that it also cuts a lane of cars (which is a plus in my opinion) if this is what it takes to rebuild the bridge with PBLs and earthquake resistance, so be it.

I would hope that if they do cut the ramp (and again I hope they don’t) they at least engineer it so that a ramp or elevator could be added at some point in the future.

Jeremy Myers
Guest
Jeremy Myers

Making cars idle in traffic is definitely a plus, right? – some of the bicyclists here are more interested in making drivers’ lives miserable than actually helping the environment or being decent human beings.

Adam
Guest
Adam

If you ever find yourself feeling miserable because you’re idling in traffic, mindlessly contributing to local air pollution, just remember you chose to put yourself in that situation. You are the traffic and your misery is your own doing.

Jeremy Myers
Guest
Jeremy Myers

Right, I put myself in that situation by having a job that public transport takes 2 hours each way. Must be nice to think everybody has your privilege and free time and able body.

drs
Guest
drs

There are buses that go across the Burnside Bridge. It’s not like bikes and single occupancy motor vehicles are the only two options.

Jeremy Myers
Guest
Jeremy Myers

Some bicyclists must be really some of the least tolerant people around. Try doing those – the first thing I looked up when I found a job was how to get their with public transport. After 3 changes and 2 hours, I would be at work, nevermind of course my kids need to be dropped off, I have lots of things I carry etc. Some of you do not work at all, nor understand how it is to be not able bodied/have kids and it shows.

Also every single new bicycle lane I have seen has NOBODY on it. The hypocrisy is incredible. You are screwing over poor people who do not live in inner East side or West side, people with disabilities, people with kids, people who have to work far due to job availability, while screwing the environment and the city by causing people to idle in traffic and cause more traffic issues.

Bicycles are a solution for a very small group of people and the proof is in the declining numbers of bicyclists. Because of such intolerance, support for public transportation is also decreasing.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

The more capacity you build, the more gets used. That’s the nature of demand elasticity (with respect to time, rather than dollars). So the idling argument really doesn’t hold up.

Psmith
Guest
Psmith

I personally would like an option that was just one car lane in each direction and one bus lane in each direction. We should be thinking about what the future of Burnside should be, and given our climate change and safety goals it seems like one car lane in each direction should be the maximum. So i’m fine with the narrower bridge. But losing the Eastbank Esplanade ramp would be a terrible mistake.

ivan
Guest
ivan

I agree, though note that the plan also makes space for a future streetcar.

Jeremy Myers
Guest
Jeremy Myers

Almost none of you are really concerned about climate change, just sticking it to drivers and also getting more free stuff. If you did actually care about climate change, you would not push people to idle in traffic while giving them no realistic options. Bicycling is for certain groups – underemployes, or work from home or able body or well off. If you have kids, or have anything to carry etc. you are screwed.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

One westbound motor vehicle lane will be interesting, especially if the “future streetcar” actually happens.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Cars will be taken away first, then . . . Wait NOW, bicycles are definitely being “taken away” just like in China by 2008. Look at the stupid e-bike spam infesting craigslist and lack of actual BICYCLES available. Go to ur LBS and find out they havent seen anything but size XL or XS since the last wave of BS psy op blew by.

Definite manipulation at work to remove human powered ANYTHING.

CEPT THE MATRIX MAYBE.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

They’re planning to make it heavy enough for future streetcar use, but not heavy enough for future light rail trains. That seems shortsighted. Can we not anticipate that in the 100 year life, at some point the Steel Bridge might be unusable, and being able to re-route Max over the Burnside would be a very valuable option? Or the system might grow and we would have a Light Rail line on Burnside? Seems like a small marginal cost for some future-proofing!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

There isn’t much value in a mixed traffic surface line on the Burnside corridor, at least not for high-capacity transit. We need a downtown subway for the East-West MAX corridor. Anything short of that might as well be busses.

drs
Guest
drs

Agreed. But what do you think the likelihood is of getting a tunnel in the next couple decades. A light rail option on the Burnside Bridge wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

From where, to where? Are we building a MAX line down Burnside? Where would it tie in with the rest of the system?

IMO, adding bus priority lanes for the #20 (and all of the other busses that share this corridor) and adding service is the way to go. A #20 bus running every 10 minutes with priority lanes will transit downtown faster than the current MAX lines.

Drew Williamson
Guest
Drew Williamson

I’m not sure why those are the two options. Subways are prohibitively expensive at this point, in my mind that’s off the table and realistically won’t ever happen. In my opinion, mixed traffic rail transit is completely asinine and would be a tremendous waste of effort! It’s progress that we’re now giving buses dedicated space in the right of way, but I’m baffled as to why we collectively seem to only imagine that. Streetcar/light rail with its own exclusive right of way will do just fine and it’s super cost effective.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I agree, but downtown Portland has a few unique problems here. The big one is block length. Without a downtown subway, MAX trains will always be stuck at two cars per train. This really restricts our maximum line capacity. The bottleneck at the Steel Bridge is also a huge limiting factor. We can’t do better than 10 minute headways on the combined Blue/Red/Green lines because of the Steel Bridge. The second issue is speed. North of the Marquam bridge, shipping clearances require the bridges to have lift spans, or they need to be very tall (Fremont/St. Johns). The steel bridge is 15mph maximum, and even a new crossing would likely be restricted to less than 25mph. Even once you get downtown, due to the pedestrian and vehicle traffic (adjacent and on cross streets), the max travel speed is never going to get above 25mph.

A downtown subway would be very expensive, but enabling 4-car trains, removing the Steel Bridge capacity bottleneck, and massively reducing time to cross downtown will be worth it.

Rihnay Hincoop
Guest
Rihnay Hincoop

I really hope we can keep the ramp and wider bike lanes. Frustrating to hear about these cuts as Multnomah county has received millions and millions of dollars from the federal government recently. I’m afraid Deborah Kafoury is going to blow it all on some ill conceived and poorly thought out homeless plan and we won’t get any long lasting benefit for the region from this windfall of federal cash.

Jeremy Myers
Guest
Jeremy Myers

This is idiotic. Why take a car lane from one of the busiest bridges? Do some of you hate cars so much that they prefer thousands of vehicles idle in traffic? PBOt’s whole idea is to make driving so miserable that people will sit in cars anyways LOL. Not like there is alternatives for most drivers, it rains 9 months here, and bicycles are not an option for many people.

ChadwickF
Guest
ChadwickF

Perhaps one could hop on the bus or streetcar occasionally. That seems like it could be a good alternative for bicyclists and drivers if it’s too wet outside to drive or bike.

Adam
Guest
Adam

As the article states, they do not have enough money to make the original vision a reality. You think every other mode should have to be sacrificed except the mode you prefer. Tough. Life is full of choices and you’ve obviously made a series of choices that have made you think you cannot get around without a car. Good for you. Enjoy your future commutes!

Watts
Guest
Watts

You think every other mode should have to be sacrificed except the mode you prefer.

Sounds like the plan for protected bike lanes on Hawthorne!

Joseph E
Guest
Joseph E

Jonathan, I think the comment above can be moderated out. Key words are “idiotic” (this term is insulting without adding information), “LOL”, “hate”, “miserable”. Language like this does not add to the discuss here.
Please remove this comment, and the proceeding comment.

 
Guest
 

I disagree. Jeremy isn’t calling a person idiotic, he’s calling an idea idiotic. I see a huge difference between these two: a comment calling a person idiotic should certainly be moderated, while a comment calling an idea idiotic probably could have been phrased better but doesn’t for me cross the line.

Rihnay Hincoop
Guest
Rihnay Hincoop

Joseph
I feel like you are attempting to shut Jeremy down because you don’t agree with him. I don’t either but I don’t think he was being offensive. I think we need to be tolerant of other’s opinions even if we don’t agree.

ivan
Guest
ivan

In this case I think the absurdity of the post and the roasting received in replies is a better solution than removing it.

Also “people who ride bikes” isn’t a protected class (anymore than “people who drive cars” is). People can call bicyclists idiotic if they want; I don’t think that should result in their comments being deleted.

The idea is stupid enough that it should be allowed to shine. (Cute obligatory/possibly-apocryphal Lincoln quote about remaining silent.)

Lesley F.
Guest
Lesley F.

Ivan,
Just to clarify Jeremy did NOT call cyclists idiotic. Just as you did NOT call him stupid.

drs
Guest
drs

Never heard of buses, have you?

Psmith
Guest
Psmith

Worth pointing out this is a Multnomah County project, not a PBOT project.

Jack S.
Guest
Jack S.

Reducing number of car lanes isn’t what causes traffic. Induced demand is a well understood and accepted theory. If you really want to reduce traffic on the bridge, you could advocate for there being a equity balanced toll.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

There are already more than forty traffic lanes across the Willamette in central Portland (between the Ross Island and Fremont bridges). It’s not like dropping a lane is going to cause that much more misery.

Scott
Guest
Scott

As much as I’d like a bike ramp connecting down from the bridge it is absurdly long while looking very out of place and only accessing the northbound traffic lane. I’d still end up in likely going to an alt bridge for river access to avoid that thing after giving it a try in the first week.

bbcc
Guest
bbcc

It’s not just for bikes, though. It’s for more general ADA accessibility.

Psmith
Guest
Psmith

The ramp would include a signalized crossing of the bridge, so you would be able to go in both directions.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Didn’t Multco just pass the biggest budget ever? Didn’t some of this budget come from car tabs? If they are going to be cheap then why is right now the right time to do this project?

drs
Guest
drs

Will you still be asking those questions when a subduction zone earthquake hits and all the other bridges collapse? We are past due for the big one. No reason to delay bridge construction.

Roberta
Guest
Roberta

Actually ODOT has spent the last 20 years and about 1/3 of its historic transport dollars earthquake proofing bridges at the expense of other transport needs. We don’t need anymore earthquake proofing based on fear.

 
Guest
 

That’s the same logic that the far-right used to disband the emergency pandemic preparation programs that used to be in place, and look where that got us when a pandemic actually struck. Just because a disaster hasn’t happened in our lifetimes doesn’t mean we don’t need to do everything we can to prepare for when it inevitably does happen.

Rihnay Hincoop
Guest
Rihnay Hincoop

I would assume car tab revenue is down. Riding my bike around Portland it seems like about 15-20% of vehicles have either expired tabs or no plates. Seems ridiculous that they are not enforcing the regulations we have on the books for car owners.

ivan
Guest
ivan

I believe they paused enforcement on expired car tags due to the overwhelming DMV backlog as well as equity (pandemic etc.) reasons.

Lesley F.
Guest
Lesley F.

It’s only a 6 month grace period due to the pandemic. Registration cannot be more than 6 months late. I imagine the grace period will end soon. Also, there was no grace period for cars without plates although they are all over Portland, most of those are stolen cars. That probably has to do more with the police defunding and city council members that are confusing excessive leniency with compassion. Car owners need to follow the regulations.

J
Guest
J

This bridge does not need five traffic lanes. Not at all. During morning rush hour, most of the traffic is westbound. During afternoon rush hour, most of the traffic is eastbound. So make it four lanes with the two center lanes reversible with signal lights. In the morning, one lane E/B and three lanes W/B. In the afternoon, three lanes E/B and one lane W/B. Use signal lights to designate the bus-only lane during appropriate hours.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Most roads should have this concept.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Exactly. Why is this concept not used here in Portland? Is there a legitimate reason? If I have to ask, I guess the answer is probably $$$.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

It’s different. It’s experimental. It’d be confusing.

None of these are problems for the “creative diversity” of facilities for bikes, mind you, but I’m guessing it’s part of the issue with reversible lanes.

squareman
Subscriber

It’s not experimental. It’s been around a long time and the engineering patterns, signage, and signals are all well established. Many municipalities around the country use reversible lanes to accommodate commute patterns. Some even shut down the center or shared lanes during non-peak hours to keep speeds low and keep a larger buffer between opposing traffic.

 
Guest
 

See here for one of many successful implementations of reversible lanes that didn’t degrade safety (in fact it actually decreased crashes). Or the Golden Gate Bridge, where reversible lanes have been around a long time. It’s not experimental or confusing, MultCo just doesn’t want to for some strange reason.

Douglas Kelso
Guest
Douglas Kelso

Not that anyone’s talking about this, but I’d love to see the Legislature create a “Willamette Bridge Authority” that would take over all Willamette River bridges from Sellwood to St. Johns, and toll all of them. Use the combined tolls to pay to replace one bridge at a time until all the bridges have been brought up to modern design and seismic standards. That should solve the budget problems for the Burnside Bridge.

Once every bridge has been upgraded or replaced, cut the tolls until they are just high enough to maintain all the bridges in perpetuity.

Let's Active
Guest
Let's Active

The idea of a bridge/toll authority is excellent. It’s a model used in many cities. These bridges are aging and need sustainable funding to operate, maintain and, eventually, replace. Plus you get the benefit of congestion management through tolling. One issue to getting them all under one authority: ODOT owns the Fremont and St. Johns. The Fremont is on the interstate system and I am skeptical that they could be brought under one umbrella. But it’s a great idea and should be pursued.

ivan
Guest
ivan

I agree in principle, but it would need buy-in from: PBOT and other city agencies like BES and PPR, ODOT, TriMet, UPRR, Multnomah County, and probably Metro (given the regional nature of several of the bridges) — or else it would just be another agency on the list of agencies that would have to give the green light on every project.

The problem isn’t so much that, say, the Hawthorne Bridge and the Burnside Bridge and the St. John’s Bridge aren’t owned by the same entity. The problem is that even the entity that does own and operate a bridge can’t fully control it, because it intersects jurisdictions/ROWs of all these other agencies as it crosses the river/tracks/freeway/waterfront.

Psmith
Guest
Psmith

Sounds like a good start to a downtown cordon pricing system!

LASM
Guest
LASM

Anyone know the current bridge width?

nic.cota
Guest
nic.cota

I might be on the unpopular opinion here on BP, but 14′ for ped/bike is still pretty great… This width on the Tilikum Crossing is fairly manageable (unless its the rare crowd of folks that don’t see the line for the bike lane)

Its seems misleading to compare the 14′ protected width in the proposal with the 12.8′ existing width without mentioning that the existing bridge has no lack of protection and that there is a monstrous 10″ curb between bikes and peds. That same width behind a concrete barricade and at one height changes the realm completely.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I ride the Tilikum daily and completely agree. On those rare cases you need to pass another bike you can easily move into the Pedestrian area or slow a bit and wait for an opening. So it works great on the Tilikum without much hassle. I have no clue though if more folks walk/bike the Burnside vs Tilikum so that could be a factor.

J
Guest
J

Bike/ped volumes are much higher on Burnside, in normal times. Also way more erratic, deranged peds on Burnside that you need to ride clear of.

don
Guest
don

If a bridge narrowing is to occur it needs to be equitable. The top option reduces motor vehicle/bus lane width by only 19% and walking biking with by far larger 30% amount. Not equitable. The lower option reduces both by 23%. Start here I say.

Lesley F.
Guest
Lesley F.

Well, as Confucius (I think) once said….”Life isn’t always fair (or equitable)” :(, 😉

JR
Guest
JR

Very odd that the auto lane removed in this lower cost option is in the westbound direction. Why not just keep one auto and one transit lane in each direction? Not too concerned about the reduced bike/ped facilities as long as they are fully separate from the autos.

What a historic reversal from the original Burnside and Sellwood Bridge projects from last century. Downtown businesses pushed the county for an elaborate and oversized Burnside Bridge and left very little for the Sellwood Bridge which was undersized from the start. This century and the roles are reversed – an oversized Sellwood Bridge and undersized Burnside Bridge.

RipCityBassWorks
Guest
RipCityBassWorks

Yes on the elevator(s), similar to the Gideon Crossing. Elevators are safer than a long ramp and probably more convenient for those with disabilities.

Luke S
Guest
Luke S

The disadvantage that in lawless Portland elevators gets vandalized. There was recently human feces in the Gideon Crossing elevator and it doesn’t get cleaned regularly

You can call if you see poop or graffiti. It might get cleaned.

The elevators are maintained by Facilities Services at 503-823-5252

https://forums.bikeportland.org/t/gideon-ped-bike-overcrossing/981

PS it’s now the Bob Stacy crossing

https://mobile.twitter.com/trimet/status/1387891665126387715

Jeremy Myers
Guest
Jeremy Myers

Bicycle lanes that have been added, and bus lanes are almost NEVER USED. Just go and watch any of the new ones except the ones that are at the most convenient. EVEN IN SUMMER. One bus every 30 minutes – sure let’s put a lane just for that. 5 Bicyclists an hour – sure let’s put a lane just for that. If you go to outer east, where bicyclists screwed over poor residents that have mobility issues, have kids etc and have to work far, traffic is horrendous while NOBODY uses the bicycle lanes.

Bicyclists are the biggest impediment to solutions for climate change by being radical and self centered and causing everyone else other than the 5% to suffer – there are NO REALISTIC options for a vast majority of people. If there was, bicyclist rates would not keep dropping despite the city of portland’s war against drivers and making people’s lives miserable.

You have blood on your hands as well – it is not a coincidence that traffic deaths are increasing the more lanes are taken away and with the likes of radicals like Eudaly and Hardesty.

I used to be a pro bicyclists – the more I meet some of you, the less I like bicycles.