Board, advisory committees will continue examining one alignment option, engage public

It's fair to say that deciding whether it's "feasible" to connect Lake Oswego to Oak Grove by constructing a pedestrian and bicycle bridge is no easy feat.

Clackamas County officials made that clear during a public hearing about the Oak Grove-Lake Oswego Pedestrian/Bicycle (OGLO) Bridge Feasibility Study Oct. 15 when they were tasked with providing a direction about whether to move forward with the project or to cut it loose.

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners decided against a transit lane on the proposed OGLO bridge, which was proposed by Metro and would increase the cost significantly by requiring a larger bridge and adequate road space on the bridge's landing points.

Study area being considered for bridge.Instead of moving forward with Clackamas County's Department of Transportation and Development's (DTD) recommendation to advance to preliminary engineering and environmental assessment of the top three landing sites for the bridge, which would include a more in-depth engineering design, analysis and completion of environmental studies — Metro has already committed an additional $500,000 to fund this phase — the board decided to have the DTD work with Metro staff to gather more information and figure out the cost estimate for only one landing location for the bridge.

All involved parties will help narrow down the three alignment options to the least impactful location.

Many commissioners also wanted more time to actually tour the three proposed landing locations for the bridge and more time for public engagement after presenting them with hard data and specific cost for one alignment.

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.

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 current effort is being funded by Metro and the feasibility study determined that the bridge could be developed between $28.1 and $51.5 million for the bridge alternatives that are between 2,440 feet and 3,775 feet long.

According to Mike Bezner, assistant director at DTD, the feasibility study has been underway for some time — the project was included in the county's Transportation Plan in 2013.

And after two public open houses and online input from hundreds of community members, 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 — identified the top three choices for the bridge's alignment and landing locations.

The three alignments that were found to have the least impact out of the 10 options the PAC came up with were at Foothills Park in Lake Oswego crossing to the intersection of Courtney Avenue and Fairoaks Avenue in Oak Grove; Terwilliger Boulevard in Lake Oswego to the intersection of Courtney Avenue and Fairoaks Avenue in Oak Grove; or Foothills Park in Lake Oswego to Bluff Road in Oak Grove.

The feasibility study showed that with these three options, there were no private property impacts from the bridge and limited environmental impacts.

The scientific survey also conducted as part of the study showed 63% of people in favor of the bridge — support being stronger in Oak Grove and Milwaukie.

Anatta Blackmarr, an Oak Grove resident who attended the Oct. 15 meeting, said the bridge would obstruct Rivervilla Park views and would have a significant impact on residential neighborhoods. But Blackmarr supported the idea of a bicycle and pedestrian ferry that would go from downtown Milwaukie's riverfront to a landing in Lake Oswego, and not interfere with people's homes.

Paul Savas, Clackamas County commissioner and policy representative — who said he didn't feel comfortable spending $500,000 to develop designs for alignments that are not popular and supported by the public — also discussed looking into additional alternatives like a ferry that connects to shuttle service.

"I just have issues of where we are with this," Savas said. "I think we need to look at the scope a little bit differently or cut bait."

Commissioner Ken Humberston said putting transit on the table "threw some serious sand in the gears for any constructive discussion for how you could do a bike/ped bridge."

"Our major transportation funding issue is the Sunrise Corridor which is a Tier 1 project (capital projects that are needed and have anticipated funding)," Humberston said. "The OGLO bridge in any format is a Tier 2 project (projects that need to be done that don't have funding yet) and I'm not particularly interested in wasting a bunch of political capital trying to move a bicycle bridge up when our transportation needs are more capacity on the roads."

Ultimately, Clackamas County officials wanted to have more community engagement after one alignment is studied in-depth and has a specific price tag.

After deciding to move forward and negotiate with Metro about funding for preliminary engineering on one alignment, Humberston said what the board settled on "will give everybody an opportunity to look at the data, look at the information, decide what they can live with (and) can't live with."

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