A new crossing of Naito Parkway at the Steel Bridge is finally imminent

Looking south on Naito with Steel Bridge on the left and NW Glisan/1st/Flanders on the right. Approximate location of the new crossing is marked in orange. (Note that the ramp from Naito on the right is no longer open.)

I have some really good news: the Portland Bureau of Transportation finally has a plan and funding to close one of the most nagging gaps in our bike network.

At the May 9th meeting of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), one of the members asked a PBOT staffer if there was an update on the crossing of NW Naito Parkway at the Steel Bridge and NW Glisan. My ears perked up because PBOT has been actively working on a fix here since at least 2009. Much to my excitement the staffer replied, “Yes there is some goods on that one.” Turns out a project has been confirmed by all parties, funding has been secured, and construction is scheduled.

This is a huge deal! The bike path on the Steel Bridge that connects to the Espanade/Interstate Avenue and Waterfront Park is one of the most important bikeways in the city. And it has become even more important in recent years as PBOT has vastly improved the bikeway on NW Naito Parkway (the glaring bike lane gap near the Steel Bridge was finally closed in 2016). And in 2021, PBOT opened the Ned Flanders Crossing and has just recently put the finishing touches on the NW Flanders neighborhood greenway that connects to it.

Once this new crossing is built, we’ll have a quality bikeway from the Eastbank Esplanade to NW 23rd.

The problem is there’s no way to connect the new bridge and greenway on Flanders directly to the Steel Bridge. The big sticking point with this project has always been its proximity to a heavy railroad crossing used by Union Pacific Railroad. Dealing with railroads is always cumbersome. It also meant that ODOT’s Rail Division had so sign off on any plans. And the Old Town Neighborhood Association was also in the mix because they’ve wanted a “quiet zone” at this crossing for years. The nearby railroad crossing meant that anything PBOT did with a new crossing had to pass muster with Union Pacific and ODOT and the project had to include upgrades to the tracks, signals, surrounding signage, and so on.

“In the last year-and-a-half, we’ve made more progress than the last 10 years.”

– Gabe Graff, PBOT

Portlanders have wanted a new crossing here since at least 2001 when conversations first started about building a skate park at this location (a project that is still being talked about).

Well it appears that all the pieces have finally come together. “In the last year-and-a-half, we’ve made more progress than the last 10 years,” PBOT Project Manager Gabe Graff shared at the BAC meeting. Graff said Old Town neighborhood advocates deserve a lot of credit for lobbying state representatives and other decision makers and ultimately breaking the bureaucratic logjam. The final piece was funding and ODOT has stepped up with $2.4 million in the current Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

According to PBOT plan drawings shared with BikePortland (PDF), the new crossing will begin on the east side of Naito 10-20 yards north of where the current curb ramp from path to the bike lane is now. The 10-foot wide crossing will likely have green and white stripes (to help separate biker and walkers) and it will connect to NW 1st Avenue right near the corner it creates with NW Glisan. Other changes to the bike path near the crossing will be made to ensure safe sight lines.

Right now PBOT, ODOT and Union Pacific are ironing out an intergovernmental agreement (IGA). Construction on the new crossing is scheduled to begin in 2025.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Greatdane
Greatdane
8 months ago

This is so exciting!! I live just north of the bridge and ride through here multiple times daily. We also use the area as pedestrians. Having a crossing there will also facilitate getting to the Max as pedestrians coming from the greenway. Thanks for sharing this good news.

maccoinnich
8 months ago

I’m glad that this is finally (finally!) moving forward. Getting from the Steel Bridge to the Flanders greenway is a pain, and it really holds back the potential of the greenway. I really look forward to the day that this is complete.

dw
dw
8 months ago

This is cool. Looks like it will also create a connection if you’re trying to continue South on the dank Naito bike lane.

Stephan
Stephan
8 months ago

This is great news! I hope they will also consider:

  • Making the connection from Naito / Waterfront to Flanders more clear and intuitive. Yes, you can figure it out, but no, it is not easy. A bit paint and a sign would do wonders.
  • Creating a direct connection from Naito to the lower deck of the Steele Bridge. Currently Naito only connects directly to the upper deck, which is 3ft wide. To get from Naito to the lower deck you have to either move to the Waterfront at Burnside Bridge, or ride your bike through some grass / down some stairs (while wondering why on earth there is no bike-friendly connection between two of the best bike infrastructure parts in town).
John
John
8 months ago
Reply to  Stephan

Here is the way I get on the Steel Bridge from Naito. It’s pretty direct even though that’s a sharp turn.

Screenshot 2023-05-24 at 15-28-05 Google Maps.png
maxD
maxD
8 months ago
Reply to  John

John,
thanks for the very clear graphic! That clearly shows the route and the sharp turn. Riding that route is worse than it looks because of the grades and a patch of blackberries that block sight lines. I hope PBOT will make the effort to fix this connection as part of this project.

Stephan
Stephan
8 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Yes, thank you John! I did not know about this connection and will try it out.

Let me then rephrase my second point: I hope that PBOT will create a clearer and more intuitive connection from Naito to the lower deck of the Steele Bridge.

An occasional bike user riding the first time on these bike streets should find it easy to get from Flanders to Naito to the Steel Bridge (or any other combination).

I’ll reach out to Gabe, maybe this is something PBOT will consider as part of the project.

maxD
maxD
8 months ago
Reply to  Stephan

Let us know what response you get!

Paul
Paul
8 months ago

I was very happy until the last sentence. But I’ll take it.

Steve C
Steve C
8 months ago

Going south on Naito, I’d use the left turn lane to cross over to the sidewalk/riverfront path north of the train tracks. It worked fine, but this might be ok too. With construction beginning in 2025, I guess we’ll have to wait (a while) and see.

Will
Will
8 months ago

I know it’s a lot more expensive, but this is a crossing where I feel like a pedestrian/bike underpass is warranted instead of a level crossing.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Will

That would be a dangerous space within a few days of opening.

Daniel Reimer
8 months ago
Reply to  Will

There isn’t too much traffic at this spot on Naito and the cars are generally going pretty slow as well. A painted crosswalk at this connection would be a lot less stressful than crossing some of the other busier intersecting streets on Flanders.

Jeff
Jeff
8 months ago

A contra-flow bike lane on Flanders between 2nd and 3rd would be nice. As it is, cyclists just ride the wrong way down that section, but it would be nice to do it legally.

I prefer using Everett westbound right now, because the light changes often at Naito, but when this crossing goes in, there’s more reason to stay on Flanders.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago

“A new crossing of Naito Parkway at the Steel Bridge is finally imminent”

And by imminent, you mean years away.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago

I suppose if you compare the obvious need for this connection to the length of time it has remained undone you have a point.

Allan Rudwick
Allan
8 months ago

I’m annoyed that the new crossing won’t line up with Flanders or Glisan for that matter, instead just creating another set of awkward turns. When do we get straight and direct connections?

Excited nonetheless, I will use this every day

ActualPractical
ActualPractical
8 months ago

Will there be a signal? Motorists don’t seem to stop for anything else. Yellow flashing light beacons included.