Posted by Guest Opinion on September 30th, 2021 at 2:30 pm
This article is from guest contributor Don Baack, founder of SWTrails.
One of the challenges to providing good active transportation networks in greater southwest Portland is that we do not have many continuous east-west and north-south routes. Our hilly terrain does not lie on a grid and all transportation modes rely the same handful of roads to travel any distance.
A small number of bicycle facilities serve the region: the gutter lanes on the high-crash corridor Barbur Blvd, with its high speeds and pollution; Terwilliger Blvd, which has steep grades and significant traffic; and Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. None of these routes are low-stress or safe, and the few neighborhood greenways we do have are short. Southwest Portland has 280 miles of streets, but 210 miles have no sidewalks.
I started SWTrails 25 years ago to help people walk around the southwest on safer routes. Today our network consists of almost 50 miles of urban trails, built with volunteer labor and the cooperation of government agencies.
Our next goal is to see the completion of the The Red Electric Trail, a six mile-long proposed trail along the route of the old Red Electric Southern Pacific Railroad line. When completed it will provide a family-friendly walking and biking connection from the downtown Portland and the Willamette River to Garden Home. [Readers might remember that BikePortland toured the proposed trail with Baack last February.]
With the commitment of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland Parks and Recreation we can make The Red Electric Trail a reality. Here’s what’s needed:
1) The Red Electric Trail must cross Barbur Blvd’s Newbury Bridge to connect with Slavin Road and Corbett Ave. The failure to provide safe bicycle improvements on the Newbury Bridge has hamstrung efforts to complete the Red Electric Trail. With the Southwest Corridor Light Rail indefinitely on hold, it is time to consider other options. Either take one vehicle lane on the Barbur Bridges for bikes, or build a new bridge beside the existing bridges to accommodate north bound vehicles and a possible light rail facility. The existing bridges are not in bad condition, despite being 88 years old. Being wood structures makes them more earthquake resilient.
2) A safe route from Hillsdale to downtown Portland requires rebuilding 700 feet of old Slavin Road, and also a short but expensive hillside connection to local streets from Barbur Blvd through Georges Himes park.
3) To complete the Red Electric Trail west of Hillsdale, the city needs to acquire two segments of right-of-way: west of SW 33 Rd, and the north side of Alpenrose. Senator Ginny Burdick appropriated $750,000 toward that effort in the last legislative session.
It’s time to move ahead with this much needed project.
— Don Baack is the founder of SW Trails.
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