Blumenauer Bridge still not ready for installation as city says it’ll be ‘a few more weeks’

Posted by on September 2nd, 2021 at 10:08 am

Ohhh the longing!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“[We want to] be really sure that everything is working and we have a schedule that we’re going to be able to stick to before we make any announcement about the closure and moving forward with the project.”
— Mark Lear, PBOT

If all went according to plan, we’d already be pedaling across a new carfree bridge over I-84 on 7th Avenue. But the latest update from the City of Portland is that it won’t be slid into place for at least a few more weeks. This morning’s announcement, made during a monthly meeting of the Portland Bureau of Transportation Freight Advisory Committee, pushes the opening of the bridge even further back into summer 2022.

The $14 million Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, a lynchpin in Portland’s central city bicycle network, broke ground in November 2019 and most of the preliminary work to supports on both sides of the freeway gulch are complete. The 475 foot long bridge is currently lying-in-wait behind a chain link fence on the south side of 7th Avenue.

PBOT initially said the bridge would be installed in August 2020. Then in late June of this year PBOT gave notice of a July 9th installation, a logistical feat that would require the full closure of I-84 and sign-off from Union Pacific Railroad. Eight days before that planned installation, PBOT updated their notice to say that because of “additional coordination work to do” the project would not move forward.

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View of the bridge deck looking north with Lloyd area buildings in the background.

At Thursday morning’s Freight Committee meeting, PBOT staffer Mark Lear updated members on the status of the project. Here’s what he said:

“There was some missteps in the communication about when we thought we were going to do the work and, looking back at what happened, the understanding is that the contractor had some assumptions as they were working through their work and how things were going to be processed by the railroad, and those assumptions were I think overly aggressive with the change that was happening in the project as they were out in the field doing some of that work. And so there’s no blame on the railroad as far steps they were asking us to go through. It’s just some of those complications where the contractor thought things would be as that process went on.

At this point the contractor has approval for three of the four items [the railroad is asking the city for]. So they’re working on one remaining item. We are hopeful that we’ll have that issue resolved in the next few weeks, but obviously at this point [we want to] be really sure that everything is working and we have a schedule that we’re going to be able to stick to before we make any announcement about the closure and moving forward with the project… we’re in a reasonably good place at this point and he [PBOT Project Manager Dan Layden] sees the project continuing to move forward and we’ll let you know when we have more information.”

So there you have it folks. Stay tuned!

UPDATE, 10:34 am: PBOT Comms Director John Brady just shared this explanation for the delay:

“The delay is explained by a mix of factors, including schedule changes caused by the pandemic and the inherent complexity of building a bridge to span a major freeway. Currently, we are waiting for final approval from the railroad to work near their right-of-way and that is extending the timeframe.”

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

Portland, the city of ghost ramps…

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

“require the full closure of I-84 and sign-off from Union Pacific Railroad and TriMet.”

Why does TriMet have to approve it? They have no facility anywhere near here.

Michael Mann
Guest
Michael Mann

For those of us who remember how hard it was to finally get the multi-use path across the Steel Bridge, Union Pacific’s tactics are familiar andcome as no surprise. Granted, rerouting trains for a couple days is more complicated than rerouting cars. But still, it’s not like they didn’t know this was in the works. Now about that Sullivan’s Gulch connector…

rick
Guest
rick

The new and very car-centric Sellwood Bridge went over budget. Underground freeway-design. There are only three railroad bridges that go over the Willamette River in the Portland metro area and not many over the Columbia River.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Uncle Pete can be fickle. With the Dry Creek Canyon bridge replacement complete, I don’t see why this can’t happen soon.

https://www.freightwaves.com/news/union-pacific-reopens-dry-canyon-bridge-in-northern-california

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

The City That No Longer Works

Dwk
Guest
Dwk

I guess reading the article is too much to ask…. The delay is not the cities fault.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

I’m sure you meant that the delay is not the *city’s* fault. That’s ok, grammar is hard. So is reading comprehension. According to PBOT “[t]here was [sic] some missteps in the communication about” when the installation would occur.

Are you privy to whose miscommunication specifically resulted in the delay (in addition to the other factors)? Do tell.

When do you think faultless City will approve the last item needed by the railroad to allow installation to move forward? And while you’re at it, please explain why the City not granting the approval needed is not its’ fault?

dwk
Guest
dwk

The railroads are notoriously hard to deal with and have been forever. I worked in Engineering for 30 years, my former firm is the the engineer. It is the Railroad permits that are stalling this, so yes , I do have inside information.
Thanks.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

So, spill!

Lauro Ritubo
Guest
Lauro Ritubo

It will be a bittersweet day for me when it finally opens. Happy because it will be cool to have another bike bridge, sad because it will be a bummer to have it shortly covered with graffiti and populated with tents. We just don’t take care of our infrastructure here in Portland

ivan
Guest
ivan

…and populated with tents.

One might counter that by saying that we don’t take care of our people here in Portland; thus the need for some of them to live in said tents.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

You just put your finger on the reason that the homeless issue never gets any better. The assumption that ‘we need to take care of our people’….people need to take care of themselves. As long as there are those that think there is some societal obligation to supply every person with housing, the issue will get kicked down the road. Society only has a contract with those truly unable to care for themselves. Adding in the majority who can, but choose not to, care for themselves, makes any solution impossible.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

`So true. And with “hiring” postings all over the place it is difficult to fathom why able bodied people won’t join society. With widespread evidence that urban campers are contributing to litter, vandalism, crime and public health issues that result in a degradation of the “commons” it is easy to understand why compassion is expiring in our city.

Jason McHuff
Guest

some of them have fallen down the ladder and are not currently “able bodied” due to drug/alcohol usage and lack of treatment options, mental health issues, etc.

In my view, people who fail society often do so because society failed the person.

Tad
Guest
Tad

Steve, you hit the nail on the head with that one. I rarely hear that voice here in Portland which has kept us stuck in our current quagmire. Here’s to the hope for safe, usable bike paths and bike infrastructure free from
vandalism.

Brandon
Guest

Steve, are you are saying that if we do nothing the tents will disappear, I find that hard to believe?

I know many hard working, employed individuals, that struggle to make rent each month; it would not take much to push them onto the street. It’s easy for myself, as a college educated white male who had a stable childhood, to blame them for not working hard enough, but the reality is that many people work hard for decades just to pay rent and eat, never having enough left over to save for an inevitable unexpected expense which sends them to the streets. Once you no longer have stable housing it’s nearly impossible to stay in the job market without help, and drugs offer an escape from your reality. I think we all agree that we don’t like the current state, but pointing fingers at the humans in tents doesn’t solve anything. We have a mental health crisis, a housing affordability crisis, and a drug crisis; they all present similar symptoms and all require different responses, none of which are free, and all of which are very difficult to fix at a local, or even a state level. We are kicking the proverbial can, spending money cleaning trails and moving camps, not addressing the underlying systemic issues.

Douglas Kelso
Guest
Douglas Kelso

Nobody who can take care of themselves “chooses” not to. But the housing market in this city is insane. Currently, minimum wage in Portland is $14.00 per hour. If you have a full-time minimum wage job, you make about $2,333 per month pre-tax, give or take. Assuming you spend 40% of your gross earnings on rent, you could afford $933 per month for rent.

I just checked Zillow. Zillow lists 31 apartments for rent in the entire City of Portland for $950 or less. Yeah, Zillow doesn’t list all of them, people can double up with roommates, work two or three jobs, yadda yadda yadda. This is not an easy market for renters these days.

If someone is unemployed, working part-time, has nobody to help them out … it’s not like they can conjure money out of nowhere, and it’s not like they have a whole lot of housing options. I have friends who are renters, and some of them are one paycheck away from homelessness, in part because their landlords jacked the rent. They are one catastrophic illness or lost job away from sleeping on a friend’s couch with their personal possessions in storage somewhere.

Want to require people to help themselves? Fine. But we as a society should ensure that anyone with even a part-time job can at least afford a roof over their head.

squareman
Subscriber

I’m willing to bet that if it were a motor vehicle overpass, it would be installed by now.

rick
Guest
rick

The complex yet simple bridge over Tryon Creek for SW Boones Ferry Road kept getting delayed for years. Even the trail connection that would connect downtown Lake Oswego to so much of sw Portland and north Lake Oswego wasn’t built in that bridge project. SWTrails knows about that.

qqq
Guest
qqq

It’s great to see the PBOT project manager is Dan Layden. He was the ODOT project manager for the NE MLK street improvement project in the 90s that undid some of the damage done to MLK in the 70s when medians were put in and parking removed in order to focus MLK on moving commuters through NE at the expense of people living and working in NE. He did a remarkable job on a project that initially had zero support from PBOT or ODOT.

So here he is decades later doing this one. It could be interesting to interview him about doing these types of projects for PBOT and ODOT over the decades.