A “Bikey” Look at the Sellwood Bridge Alternatives

Public comments are accepted on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement through Monday, December 22nd.

For more than 80 years, the Sellwood Bridge has provided an important connection across the Willamette River for residents throughout the region. Unfortunately, for cyclists the Sellwood Bridge has been one of the largest single barriers to cycling in the region because of its sub-standard design, as we found when researching our Blueprint for Better Biking: 40 Ways to Get There.

As it is now, cyclists on the bridge are legally required to walk their bikes on the narrow sidewalk or are forced to share narrow travel lanes with busy car traffic. Most cyclists choose to ride on the narrow sidewalk resulting in dangerous interactions with pedestrians and other cyclists. The Sellwood Bridge Project, which will repair and/or replace the bridge, offers us an opportunity to improve this facility for cyclists and enhance its value as a local and regional connector for all users.

Photo of current conditions on Sellwood Bridge

Current conditions on Sellwood Bridge

Of the 5 alternatives currently being compared in the Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS), we recommend Alternatives A or D for final selection as the locally preferred alternative. Furthermore, we strenuously oppose the facilities proposed in Alternatives B, C and E as they are all too narrow and have a variety of corollary problems related to safety, security, maintenance, transient activity and lack of intuitive design.

ALTERNATIVE A:
A completely separate, 23 foot wide, bicycle and pedestrian bridge to the north of the Sellwood Bridge alignment.

ADVANTAGES

  • Removes nearly all conflicts between bicyclists/pedestrians and motorists at the west side interchange area
  • Creates an almost 10-mile car free loop for transportation and recreational users
  • Could become a signature landmark for the city and the region
  • Makes a positive and inspirational statement about the value of biking and walking in our communities
  • Alternative A

    Alternative A

    CONCERNS

  • Approximately $54 million price-tag in a constrained economic environment
  • Separate facility may never get built due to funding constraints
  • Delayed construction of a separate facility would leave bicyclists and pedestrians with no facility on the vehicle bridge
  • Unresolved concerns with safety, security and maintenance issues
  • ALTERNATIVE D:

    Allocates 36 feet of pathway to bicyclists and pedestrians!

    ADVANTAGES

  • Offers a high quality facility at lower cost
  • Two 12 foot multi-use paths, one on each side (larger than the Hawthorne Bridge facility)
  • Two 6.5 foot bike lanes, one on each side
  • Serves both recreational and commuter bike traffic comfortably and safely
  • Alternative D

    Alternative D

    CONCERNS

  • Could result in increased neighborhood cut-through traffic if a signalized intersection is used at SE 6th and SE Tacoma
  • Would not be as safe and efficient, for bicyclists and pedestrians, if the trumpet or roundabout configurations are chosen for the Westside interchange
  • ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

    WEST SIDE INTERCHANGE
    Regardless of which bridge cross-section is selected, we recommend a signalized intersection instead of either the trumpet or roundabout options. With the high volume and speed of auto/truck traffic at the interchange, any of the free-flowing intersection designs currently under consideration will be less safe for cyclists and pedestrians, even if a bicycle activated signal is installed. Their design naturally encourages cars to go faster, and creates issues with drivers seeing cyclists and pedestrians as they try to make their way through the interchange.

    The trumpet configuration in particular could result in closure of the Riverview Cemetery access road, which is currently an important route for cyclists. Cyclists wishing to continue westbound from the west side of the Sellwood Bridge often use the Riverview Cemetery access road instead of traveling significantly out of direction, making steep climbs and traveling on narrow roads with no shoulders exposed to high speed auto traffic.

    ACCESS TO RIVERVIEW CEMETERY
    The road is owned and maintained by the Cemetery, and as such can be closed to traffic or left un-maintained by the Cemetery. The Cemetery has been gracious thus far, allowing the small number of hearty bicycle commuters to use the access road on their daily commutes. However, with improved bicycling facilities in the future, a significant increase in the number of cyclists traveling through the corridor is projected. We strongly encourage Multnomah County and the City of Portland to work with the Cemetery to reach a formal agreement on preserving access to the road for cyclists and maintenance of the roadway.

    POTENTIAL HYBRID DESIGN
    A concept for a design based on a combination of elements has emerged from conversations with the Citizen Task Force, Program Advisory Group, and Bicycle and Pedestrian Working Group. The concept is a variant of Alternative A, and includes a proposal to build a new bridge, rather than rehabilitate the current bridge. The new bridge would have two vehicle lanes plus shoulders, and a separate bicycle/pedestrian bridge. All three groups have requested cost estimates for this plan, but figures may not be available until after the close of public comment on the DEIS. We recommend continued evaluation of this proposal and, if it turns out to offer a separate bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians at a lower total cost than either of Alternatives A or D, we would consider supporting it.

    Comment

    Comments (4)

    1. David Blanchard Permalink  | Dec 26, 2008 12:20pm

      Given A or D I’d prefer D principally for one of the reasons you mentioned – The bike ped bridge may never get built.

    2. Martha Mattus Permalink  | Dec 26, 2008 06:17pm

      I prefer bridge alternative E, a new north alignment, as a vehicle only bridge, with the current Sellwood bridge becoming a pedestrian/ bicycle bridge. This would have the advantage of decreasing the width and hence the cost of the new bridge and the savings could be used to maintain the old bridge, which would require far less maintenance if it is only carrying bicycle and foot traffic.

    3. judytamarkin Permalink  | May 14, 2009 04:14pm

      Martha – please call-I’m your long lost cousin in L.A.(uggy)(310)498-8230.

    4. judytamarkin Permalink  | Aug 17, 2009 03:57pm

      Martha- please contact me at (310)498-8230 and/or j_tamarkin@yahoo.com- your cousin- Judy Tamarkin


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