Salem gets bike bridge, what about Portland?

Posted by Jonathan Maus on

[Salem will convert this
bridge to bike/ped only.]
Photo: City of Salem

Back in November, I got an email from City of Salem project coordinator David Skilton. He wanted to share news that they’re converting an old railroad bridge on the Willamette to a bicycle and pedestrian-only crossing. The Salem project sounds exciting. It’s got federal funding, is likely to get $1 million from ODOT Transportation Enhancement funds, and it just received its first private grant (from the Cycle Oregon Fund no less).

It got me thinking about the potential to do the same here in Portland. I asked around and it turns out that there are two possible candidates. The first is a railroad bridge in North Portland that currently acts as a mainline railway of BNSF and Amtrak . According to North Portland transportation guru Lenny Anderson,

“It’s quite a busy bridge, but there are ideas floating about to add a bike/ped facility to it, a la the Steel Bridge.”

But the other — and more likely option — is an existing railroad bridge south of downtown Portland that connects Milwaukie and Lake Oswego.

I did a bit of digging and found out that it’s one of the BTA’s “Top 40″ projects. In their PDF about the project they say,

[Existing RR bridge
between Lake O and Milwaukie.]
Photo courtesy David Skilton

“The bridge is privately owned (by railroad companies). Even though this bridge only sees a few trains per day, working with private railroad companies generally makes a project like this difficult.”

Heather Kent from Metro’s Parks department says they have funding to study the bridge. The study will start this summer and will explore various options on how to best convert the bridge for bike and ped use.

BTA in Eugene

[DeFazio Bike Bridge in Eugene]

I would love to see Portland have a bike/ped only bridge over the Willamette. Sure, we’ve got the Steel Bridge, but there’s something very special about a bridge without motorized vehicles. It would be a potent symbol of what this city stands for. Eugene’s “DeFazio” Bike Bridge (shown at right) and the one upcoming in Salem will hopefully provide inspiration to keep moving forward on one of our own.

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