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After years of delays on Southwest pedestrian and bike bridge, PBOT now making headway

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Tree removal in a lot along Capitol Highway marked the first signs of work on the forthcoming Red Electric Bridge in Hillsdale. When complete, the multi-use path will provide non-motorized access across the ravine between Capitol Highway and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.After years of delays, pedestrians and cyclists are closer to being able to safely traverse Capitol Highway and get to Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway without a car.

Progress on the new Red Electric Bridge got underway in April, starting with tree removal along Capitol Highway, at a lot across form Sasquatch Brewing and Verde Cocina restaurant.

The 12-foot wide bike and pedestrian bridge, will cross Southwest Capitol Highway, spitting out near Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. It includes a 10-foot-wide trail that forks south over the ravine between the two main thoroughfares and will be part of the Red Electric Trail system. The city expects the bridge project will be completed in spring 2022.

The path has been a long time coming.

"This project has been in the works for many, many years," said Hannah Schafer, a spokesperson for the Portland Bureau of Transportation. "It will serve as a major connector for Hillsdale with the Red Electric Trail."

The route's name is a nod to an old trolley line that ran through Southwest Portland from 1914 to 1929. The trolleys were said to be bright red and dubbed "the red electrics" in their heyday. They were part of Southern Pacific's rail system that ran through central Southwest neighborhoods along what is now Barbur Boulevard, according to Portland historical blog PDX History.

"This more or less follows that similar line of the Red Electric Train that goes from Fanno Creek just west of Alpenrose Dairy," Schafer said.

PBOT is constructing the project on behalf of Portland Parks & Recreation. The bridge connects to a larger Red Electric Trail project that envisions 16 miles of predominantly off-road trail between the Tualatin and Willamette Rivers, according to city planning documents. The Red Electric Bridge is also integral to the planned SW Bertha Pedestrian Shared Street and Neighborhood Greenway-- a project aimed at providing cyclists and pedestrians a safe way to move from Southwest #0th Avenue and Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. That project is slated to begin in 2023.

PORTLAND BUREAU OF TRANSPORTATION RENDERING - A map shows the planned path of the Red Electric Bridge in Southwest Portland between Southwest Capitol Highway and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.Residents might be irked by some of the recent tree removal, but city staff noted they will be replaced with new trees and vegetation, as well as a slew of other features.

We're going to be adding ADA-updated curb ramps to assist people with accessing that area, crosswalk striping, as well as new lighting," Schafer said.

Work on the $4.7 million Red Electric Bridge has been delayed several times. Initial construction was slated to begin last year, but a spike in construction costs caused delays. The initial project was designed to be four feet wider than the current plans, and include extra safety features like speed bumps. Those have since been scrapped. In an effort to bring down costs, PBOT had to redesign some elements and rebid the project, which finally got underway this spring. The transportation bureau expects work on the bike and pedestrian bridge will continue through spring 2022.

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