Clackamas County and Metro officials are seeking the public's involvement in helping to identify and select an alignment and landing locations for a potential bicycle and pedestrian bridge to span the Willamette River between Oak Grove and Lake Oswego.
The OG-LO bike/ped bridge feasibility study is in full swing with multiple opportunities to give feedback coming at the beginning of August. The project involves officials from LO and Oak Grove, the county, Metro and residents of both sides of the river and greater region at large serving on two committees to shape criteria for where and how the bridge should be aligned.
The idea dates back more than a decade, with planners hoping to cut the 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River with no crossing for bikes and pedestrians, by basically half. According to county staff, it was originally hoped that the railroad bridge could be modified for bike and pedestrian traffic, but a 2009 study led by Metro concluded that Union Pacific, the bridge's owner, would not support the idea.
County planners' preliminary figures estimate that the project would cost roughly $21.5 million to build.
At a June 6 meeting of the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) — members of which include Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas, Lake Oswego City Councilor Jackie Manz, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba and Metro Councilor Christine Lewis — Clackamas County Transportation Planner Steve Willaims laid out the criteria identified by the project's Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) for selecting alignment and landing locations. That included connectivity and safety, cost and economic impact, environmental impact, compatibility with recreational goals, compatibility with existing neighborhoods and compatibility with land use planning.
"Over the course of the coming months, we'll be bringing out alignments for the possible bridge and landing locations so that members of the public can look at those, see what the alternatives are, and give us feedback on any issues they're concerned about, questions they might have or preferences they have for which particular option they might prefer," Williams told The Review.
According to Williams, the County will bring options to the CAC for feedback at a July 22 meeting, as well as to the greater public at a meeting at the LO Operations and Maintenance Center (17601 Pilkington Road) the evening of Monday, Aug. 5. The time is yet to be determined, as well as the time, date and location of another meeting on the Oak Grove side of the river that same week.
Following those opportunities for public input, the PAC will meet again Friday, Aug. 16 from 8-10 a.m. to identify the top three choices for the bridge's alignment and landing locations.
"(The PAC) is very supportive, very enthusiastic about the project. I think all of them recognize that ... south of the Sellwood Bridge, there's not another crossing of the Willamette River open to cyclists and pedestrians until you get to the Arch Bridge in Oregon City, a distance of about 10 miles," Williams said. "I've run across many people who either live or work on one side of the river or live/work on the other, so their commute takes them from LO to Oak Grove or the opposite, and if this bridge is built, they'll be able to make that commute with a relatively short bike or walk trip. As it is now, they have to take fairly long and frustrating drive in traffic to get from one side to the other.
"That's a pretty exciting concept that we could replace a half hour-long drive with 10-15 minute long walk or bike ride."
An online survey of 546 people conducted between May 16 and June 17 showed that 71 percent of respondents said they would use the bridge in some fashion, whether daily, weekly, monthly or just once a year. A majority of respondents said they'd use the bridge for recreational purposes, be it bicycling, running or walking.
Of the 280 respondents who said they live on the Lake Oswego side of the river, 120 of them responded saying they would never use the bridge.
County planners say the project would connect two high-density residential areas on either side of the river and would expand access to transit — the Oak Grove end of the bridge would likely be within two miles of the Park Avenue station on the MAX Orange line.
County Commissioner Paul Savas estimates that there are about 70,000 people on both sides of the river who would benefit from the bridge.
"If you can take 10 miles off a trip to get across the river, that's a worthy investment," Savas told The Review. "It just seems a natural fit."
For Jackie Manz, the opportunity to open up Lake Oswego to new forms of multimodal transportation access for workers on both sides of the river is an exciting prospect. She said she's anxious to begin delving into the policy side of the project in identifying what an intergovernmental agreement between Metro, Clackamas County, Milwaukie and Lake Oswego might look like if this bridge proves to be feasible.
"Our connectivity in LO from a bike/ped standpoint is limited; this would open us up to inherently new universes in that regard," Manz told The Review. "This is an exciting project, and I hope people go to the open houses as they come available to learn more about it."
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