Here’s how TriMet’s ‘A Better Red’ project will impact the Gateway Green bike park

Posted by on June 30th, 2021 at 7:11 am

Closure area map via TriMet. (Gateway Transit Center is to the right)

There’s some very bad and very good news about how an upcoming TriMet light rail project will impact the Gateway Green bike park.

First the bad news: A section of the south end of the park will be closed for about three years from this September through late 2024. The very good news is that once the A Better Red project is complete, Gateway Green will boast several exciting new upgrades.

We first shared news of TriMet’s $200 million MAX Red Line upgrade last year. Now that construction is imminent, TriMet is sharing more specifics about what to expect.

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TriMet says the closure area will include a significant portion of Linda’s Line and Rebar Ridge areas of the park.

A Better Red aims to smooth light rail flow and increase reliability across the MAX system by building a new station platform and second track line that will serve Red Line trains coming from Portland International Airport.

The project’s new MAX station will be about 500 feet north of the existing Gateway Transit Center. Two new bridges will be constructed for the second track. One of the bridges will span the existing MAX track and I-205 path adjacent to Gateway Green. The other will go across I-84 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. TriMet will also build a new multi-use path to connect the new and old platforms. The path will also extend northward on the new I-84 bridge into Gateway Green (see renderings).

To help alleviate the pain of the closure, TriMet will help Portland Parks and Recreation and NW Trail Alliance build a new southern entrance plaza to the park, as well as make upgrades to Linda’s Line and Rebar Ridge.

The new path and park upgrades should be ready to ride by late 2024.

Here’s TriMet’s map of the finished product (new south entry plaza on lower right):

Learn more about this project here.

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

The upgrades are nice. However, I am not sure I understand the planning process that has continuously shut down all or portions of the “park” since it opened.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Gateway Green always reminds me of Portland’s version of those inner city basketball courts you see in movies like West Side story. Surrounded by noise and pollution, all it lacks are high rises. I know, weird.

EP
Guest
EP

Gateway Green always makes me feel good when I ride there. It’s a great escape from the noise and pollution that fills most of this city. It’s also great to be able to go mountain biking without using my car and adding to the noise and pollution. Plus I can get a great ride in and be home in an hour and a half total. You should try it out with a more open mind.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

One aspect that I’m surprised hasn’t been covered much, if at all, in the whole Gateway Green saga is the air pollution from the freeway right next door. Has the City done any air quality testing there? Reminds me of the challenges at Harriet Tubman middle school.
Nobody wants to think a new park is toxic but it seems reasonable that we should know the reality with regular air quality measurements.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Yes, air, water and noise pollution were major concerns early in the project. There are air monitoring stations all along the I-205 corridor several miles deep. The findings were in general there is more wind and air circulation in the Gateway Green area than in surrounding neighborhoods, that the wind was moving most of the pollution away from the green and towards the neighborhoods. The area below the highways is also very quiet; these same areas are also built as bioswales to absorb some of the heavy-metal runoff from the highway before emptying into the Columbia. For most freeways with barriers, the worst air pollution is not next to the roadway, but more typically a quarter to half mile away.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

I recall there being a lot of ink spilled about this issue from Gateway Green naysayers. Far from being overlooked, the “bad air quality/public health hazard” argument continued to be raised by opponents of the project long after data demonstrated the air quality around Gateway Green was no worse and sometimes better than any number of public parks and trails including the East Bank Esplanade.

EP
Guest
EP

I’m sure the air quality isn’t as good as out in the mountains, but the long term health benefits of exercise probably offsets any negatives from exposure while there. Remember lots of people in this city live year-round just as close, or closer, to an interstate. Harriet Tubman has kids attending at least half the year, so that’s a lot more exposure than going to the MTB park is for most park users.

One interesting geographic quirk of the area is that there are more easterly winds coming from the gorge, so hopefully it’s healthier to be on the east side of 205 then it is to be on the west side, but you’re still west of 84. Jason Lee Elementary School is just to the west of 205 and GG and 84, and I haven’t heard of any issues.

Al Berg
Guest
Al Berg

The inmates of the jail that use to be there did sue because of the freeway air pollution – hence them moving the jail to downtown… least that’s the story I was told.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I love being able to get a few laps in after work without having to drive my bike somewhere. There are access issues and other problems, but Gateway Green is a wonderful park. I just wish the city would build on the success and allow similar parks in other places (Forest Park, Riverview, etc)

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

Though the park pieces are neat and welcome the whole idea that there needs to be another MAX platform at Gateway makes one wonder at the management team at TriMet. As a long time user (pre-COVID) of the Gateway Transit Center and MAX I don’t see the need. I’ve never heard complaints and it was always advantageous for passengers to have basically one platform (3 in the immediate area) to transfer from one train to another. So now if someone dares to ride the Blue line wanting to go to the airport with multiple bags of luggage they have to schlep much further (they’ll love it when it’s pouring rain) to another platform to catch a train to the AirPort. The justification that there’s a bottleneck there by the one track to/from the Airport also stretches belief. I’ve never seen it be a bottleneck in all the years I’ve caught a train there.
Sounds like, yet another, train project that will just enrichen developers/builders and not serve the customers.
C’est la vie.

Another Engineer
Subscriber
Another Engineer

Per my understanding having been in the room a few times on this topic.

It’s not a bottleneck in day to day operations, its a bottleneck in scheduling. When TriMet builds out their schedules, headways, each year they start at the two largest bottlenecks, the Gateway single track and Rose Quarter interlocking. If these were improved TriMet could run more trains which it will need to do based on modeling of future demand for the system.

Cooper
Guest
Cooper

I think adding track for the Red line at Gateway will improve the reliability of all 3 lines that backup down the Banfield while they wait for clearance at this junction. No longer will the Red line trains have to travel south from Gateway before making a hairpin turn north to the airport. Switching from the Blue to Red can still be accomplished without schleping at any of the stations between the Convention Center and 82nd.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Outbound trains will still take the hairpin turn, but they can immediately speed up after the turn, while the inbound trains had to crawl all the way from I-84 to the Gateway platform. This also eliminates the inbound trains having to cross the outbound mainline.

This also removes any limits on red line frequency. The single track sections will both be gone in a few years, so frequency could be improved (although the Steel Bridge will still restrict overall capacity).

Cooper
Guest
Cooper

Thanks Chris, I had that backwards

drs
Guest
drs

As others have said, the Gateway area, which is single track, causes scheduling limitations for the whole system. TriMet could run trains at a slightly higher frequency, but they reduce the whole system throughput to avoid situations where trains would just be waiting for the track to clear in order to get through. And if a situation did arise where there was an actual temporal overlap of trains in the day-to-day operation, they would hold the trains at the nearest station. They wouldn’t just send them out on the track and have them pause while the next train cleared that area.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Both inbound and outbound red line trains have to share the one-track section between Gateway and Gateway Green. When an outbound train is waiting for an inbound train (max speed 25mph) to clear this section, it has to sit on the eastbound platform at Gateway. This can back up other eastbound trains on the I-84 corridor, and it does on a near daily basis. You have to know what to look for, as the holding is not obvious. I’ve had inbound trains hold just before the tunnel by Gateway Green, outbound ones sit at the Gateway platform for a few minutes, and had Green/Blue trains stop several times between Lloyd and Gateway, waiting for the signal block to clear.

This project will speed up the red line, and remove the second biggest bottleneck in the system (the first is the Steel Bridge). If riders with mobility issues want a cross-platform transfer, they can get off at 82nd Ave and switch to Blue/Green trains in either direction. Oh, and this project will also free up the 3rd platform at Gateway, giving Trimet the option of staging trains there for service disruptions, taking trains out of service for layovers, or turning Green trains back to Clackamas if there are disruptions further west.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

So if you are coming from east or south of Gateway and want a same-platform transfer to the red line, you have to go to 82nd and then backtrack to the airport? This will probably affect a small number of people but seems to have been glossed over in all the explanations I have heard.

Doug Allen
Subscriber
Doug Allen

SolarEclipse has it close to correct. This project attempts to solve a real problem in an extremely wasteful and harmful manner. I fully covered this issue in my comments on Jonathan’s article a year ago. We don’t need a rehash of the problem, we need a smarter solution, which TriMet staff themselves presented internally to now-departed GM Doug Kelsey. This is about bringing federal money to Portland for engineering consultants and contractors, not doing the right thing by transit riders.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

How would you solve the issues that the red line causes at Gateway (shared single track section that then crosses the eastbound line with no holding space for eastbound trains) in a less wasteful manner?

Pessimistic in PDX
Guest
Pessimistic in PDX

Projected completion by late 2024? Linda’s and Rebar would open just in time for people to ride them while wet and create lots of work for the 2025 season. We’ve already seen major delays to the park getting to where it is right now, pre-covid mind you, so re-opening on schedule feels like a bit of a joke. Meanwhile every other mountain bike accessible trail is just as far away as they’ve always been. I’d love to hear if NWTA has gained enough evidence to show that we need more sanctioned trails inside of PDX and what work has happened to that goal. The seemingly inevitable alternative is an increase of unsanctioned trail building and use, as riders wait on 3-5 year plans.

EP
Guest
EP

It would be really great if some equal or greater trail opportunity was developed to fill the void this will leave for the next few years. Then we just keep that park open, too. I’d take a MTB-only bike trail at a Portland park as some kind of compromise. Maybe we can get the funding to develop the north side of rocky butte and keep the campers and garbage out.

Stinky
Guest
Stinky

So they just finished a ~$6 million (!) improvement to the park that gave us two new trails, a very nice pump track and some “facilities” and now the new trails are being razed and replacements won’t be available for 3 1/2 years? Essentially we got water, a bathroom and a pump track. Am I missing something or were these projects done in the wrong order? Instead of building the two new lines at the south end of the park (that will be closed for years and then have to be rebuilt) why wasn’t the effort put into the north end instead?

Pessimistic in PDX
Guest
Pessimistic in PDX

Per the NWTA meeting regarding Gateway shortly before shutdown, TriMet schedule didn’t allow for it to happen any sooner than it’s happening now, and multiple problems backed up the work that did just wrap up. Most of the space on the north end was left untouched with the recent work for this reason. I am rather displeased with the projected timelines, especially since this has been the singular project being pushed publicly. Hard to want to invest time and money into things that’re moving at a snails pace and consistently closed more often than open.

Curious if the multi-use path access from the north will remain open through the work as well. Currently Maywood Park doesn’t want anyone parking near the south access, people still do but space there is very limited either way. Loss of north access would effectively close all of Gateway to most users for the duration of construction.

Pessimistic in PDX
Guest
Pessimistic in PDX

I seem to have mixed up my north and south.

EP
Guest
EP

I’m not sure to what level they’ll be destroyed, but it doesn’t sound good. I think it was great to have them, if only briefly. Yes, we need more mountain bike riding opportunities in Portland! Sadly, the north end of the park doesn’t have the gradient that the south end does.

Giovanni Russo
Guest
Giovanni Russo

“To help alleviate the pain of the closure….”
Maybe instead fund a security patrol that would keep drug addicts from shooting up in broad daylight in the park. That’s what I saw a few months back on my first visit. 🙁 Haven’t been back since.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I see that the south end of the park is closed for this 3-year period, but does that also include the I-205 MUP itself? Did they say anything about the I-205 underpass? Can we assume that once Better Red opens, we will have the I-205 underpass open?

Thom Froster
Guest
Thom Froster

If anything, the last few years living in Portland has taught me that where there’s cover from rain, there will be tents. I’m worried about increased illegal camping, trash, fires, etc. in the park as a result of routing the overpass through. Not that anyone at city hall is listening…

Look at recent reviews for the I-5 Colonnade in Seattle for an example of what I’m talking about.

Irina
Guest
Irina

Yes, we should plan our infrastructure to prevent it from being vandalized and misused.

Douglas Kelso
Guest
Douglas Kelso

With the planned PBOT bikeway Halsey Street project scheduled to break ground in 2022, this project would be a really good opportunity to connect the 205 bikeway underneath I-205 to the Halsey Frontage Road east of 92nd.

It looks like they aren’t doing that, though?

plm
Guest
plm

just give us back riverview already

Michael Mann
Guest
Michael Mann

In the last graphic, feature 10 is “Boulder Wall.” Is this a decorative feature, a bike feature, a retaining wall, a rock climbing bouldering wall? Just curious.

Paul
Guest
Paul

It’s everything you said, but not a rock climbing wall, the best I can tell.

Chris Hornbecker
Guest
Chris Hornbecker

Please for the love of god go visit the Boise Bike Park and Duthie to see how 2 and 2.5 million can be spent on an actual bike park that people want to go to. I would rather drive to one of those than across town to Gateway Green. Seams crazy to keep spending money on lines that then get destroyed every 2 years. Glad we’re spending so much money on a park maybe next time we can try to build a bike park.

Shonn Preston
Guest
Shonn Preston

Will there be a through path from gateway transit center to maywood and airport way/marine drive? Or will bikers be required to ride 110th or 82nd north? That’s gonna suck for 3 years.