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Once feared of becoming the “ugliest bridge in America,” now the bridge TriMet is building may be the country’s most useless, at least for people trying to cross it on foot or by bike without an extra leap of faith.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Construction will soon begin on a deck so people may eventually be able ride their bikes and walk underneath the light-rail bridge over Kellogg Lake.Local residents in 2011 panned TriMet’s design for a 1,675-foot-long light-rail bridge across Kellogg Lake, but its look got an aesthetic redesign. The bridge also gained favor with a concept for adding a parallel structure underneath to connect Lake Road with the Trolley Trail walkers and bikers. In 2012, city leaders celebrated getting the Oregon Department of Transportation to approve $1 million in Transportation Enhancement funds for the multi-use structure under the light-rail bridge being built across Kellogg Lake.

Called “the final piece of the light-rail puzzle for the city,” an official news release in 2012 said “the multi-use structure will directly link downtown Milwaukie with neighborhoods south of Kellogg Creek and Highway 99E, including Island Station and Oak Grove.” But last week, Milwaukie’s light-rail construction manager Stacy Bluhm said, Not so fast: The pedestrian/bike bridge will be about 9 feet above Lake Road’s sidewalk when it’s complete.

“There’s a lot of ground we have to gain between the end of the bridge and to get you up to Lake Road,” Bluhm said. “We will need more money to see these connections made.”

Milwaukie is responsible for an estimated $1 million shortfall to construct the bridge, according to its contract. Federal and state agencies are funneling $1.2 million through TriMet to complete the bridge, and, so far, Milwaukie has only allocated $200,000 more.

“My concern is it’s like the bridge to nowhere,” said City Councilor Mike Miller. “You can jump 9 feet once you get to the end of it to get down to the ground and then walk off, if you can do that. But if you don’t have the connection on both ends that gets you from point A to point C, it doesn’t make any sense.”

City Manager Bill Monahan reminded other city officials that Milwaukie put in its application for bridge funding fully knowing of the shortfall.

“My recollection is that we made the decision to put the deck in because it was cheaper to do it now than to go back in a few years time,” said Councilor Dave Hedges. “We knew we didn’t have the money for the two ends, and it was better that we put the deck in, even if it was just there as an isolated deck and we couldn’t use it, because we were saving ourselves several million.”

With the help of TriMet’s work bridge already in the lake, Bluhm said that the final cost of the bridge will be “quite reasonably priced,” especially when compared with other local bridges of similar size that have run more than $10 million.

She is hopeful that the current funding will get the bridge to the bank on either side, but that wouldn’t get people to the street on the Lake Road side. On the Kronberg Park side, the bridge will arrive at the height of the bank, but there would still need to be some type of path installed to cross to the Trolley Trail at the traffic signals with the intersection of River Road.

City officials will consider a recommended budget on April 10. One version of the budget will include more general-fund cuts that would have to be made if voters don’t pass a May ballot measure to raise property taxes to pay off TriMet for its remaining light-rail obligation.

Milwaukie’s Design and Landmarks Committee has approved lighting fixtures for the bridge, but those aren’t yet part of the current bridge budget either. Kellogg Bridge will be constructed of weathered tubular steel starting this summer through the end of September, when TriMet will have to remove its work bridge from Kellogg Lake.

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