Public weighs in on proposed bridge in French Prairie
The Willamette River room at City Hall began to fill for the French Prairie Bridge Project Open House as soon as the doors opened at 5 p.m. Feb. 22.
By 6 p.m. approximately 70 people packed the room, looking at presentation boards showing task force and city suggestions for alignments, foreseeable challenges and timelines for the proposed pedestrian, bicycle and emergency vehicle access bridge crossing the Willamette River.
The initial phase of the current project is roughly six months into a two-year process, but the desire for a new pedestrian, bike and emergency access route over the Willamette River has been in discussion since 1993. It wasn't until 16 years ago that this citizen request resurfaced during citizen input for the Wilsonville Master Plan — which was redone in 2001. Michelle Ripple, who worked on the City's master plan as a task force member and is currently on the bridge task force, said that many residents asked for such a project at that time.
The project stalled until 2009 when the City was awarded a $1.25 million federal grant to conduct the preliminary planning and design for the proposed bridge.
City Councilor and task force advisor Charlotte Lehan began one of two short, formal presentations at the Feb. 22 open house by greeting visitors and expressing her gratitude for the high number of participants.
"This is a tremendous turnout," Lehan said. "I had no idea there would be this many people."
The presenters from the City and the consulting company, OBEC, briefly covered the history of the project, initial findings from a 2015 location feasibility study and an estimated timeline for planning. At this point the cost and type of bridge is unknown, other than it would be a freestanding structure if built.
Many expressed that the location and execution of the bridge, if approved, needs to be respectful of existing residents and businesses on both sides of the river.
Wilsonville resident Susan Hanson said that she was interested in finding out more before she makes a decision on whether or not she supports the project.
"I think that knowing what the destinations are and what the trails are on each side is important," she said.
Many expressed similar sentiments: they didn't know enough about the project to be in favor or opposed or they were concerned about the impacts of the bridge on property owners.
But based on what was known and presented, several attendees said that out of the three proposed alignment corridors that they liked Alignment 1 because of its park
and trail access points, with one end landing in Boones
Ferry Park and the other connecting roughly at Boones Ferry Landing on the southern bank.
But for Old Town resident Michele Dempsey, Alignment 1 is the least favorite option for her and her neighbors."
"The neighborhood would be greatly impacted," Dempsey said.
Her main concerns are loss of green space, disturbed wildlife habitat and safety. As a third generation Wilsonville resident, having lived on Boones Ferry on and off again for the last 48 years, she said that the addition of the bridge to the neighborhood would not be a benefit to residents.
"I'm really not against it if it's Alignment 3," Dempsey said. "But I'm still not in love with it."