Clackamas County and Metro officials this week sought crucial feedback from community members in Lake Oswego and Oak Grove regarding the proposed bike and pedestrian bridge that might span the Willamette River between the two areas.
"From the Sellwood Bridge in Portland to the Arch Bridge in Oregon City, it's between nine and 10 miles," said Steve Williams, county transportation planner. "It's a significant stretch, particularly when you think that when you stand down on the waterfront here in Lake Oswego, it's too far to throw a rock, but it's pretty darn close."
A feasibility study is the first step in the county and Metro's vision that would bring a connection across the river, linking a number of regional trails on either side. It's part of a larger push by area policy makers to encourage local commuters to take alternative means of transportation, while also creating new recreation opportunities and economic relationships for both communities.
What would typically take between 20 to 45 minutes in a car, depending on traffic, could be cut down to as little as a 15-30 minute walk or bike ride. County planners' preliminary figures estimate that the project would cost roughly $21.5 million to build.
"We've had a lot of comments from a lot of people who live in Lake Oswego and want a connection to the (MAX) orange line, or they live in Oak Grove and work in Lake Oswego, and they want quick access over the river to get to work," Williams told The Review.
The purpose of two open houses this week — one at the Lake Oswego Operations and Maintenance Center Monday, the other in Oak Grove Wednesday — was to gain valuable feedback from stakeholders on the 11 potential alignments identified by the county and Metro.
Community members who attended the open houses had the opportunity to learn about each of the different bridge alignments, where they'd land on either side and the possible impacts each might have. They were asked to put orange dots on poster boards denoting which of the alignments they thought to be most worthwhile for the county and Metro to move forward with in further studying impacts, design and cost.
On the Lake Oswego side, the 11 bridge alignments landed near Terwilliger Boulevard, upper and lower Tryon Cove, Foothills Park, Roehr Park and the William Stafford trail. In Oak Grove, landings varied from sites near SE Bluff Road, SE Courtney Road, Rivervilla Park and Oak Grove Boulevard.
Orange dots representing figurative votes on alignments at Monday's meeting in Lake Oswego showed that most community members were not in favor of the bridge at all, but the two alignments with the most votes both landed in Foothills Park and either SE Bluff Road or Rivervilla Park.
Some of the main concerns voiced by community members in Lake Oswego are centered around traffic and environmental impacts. Most prevalent was the view that a bike/ped bridge would not be worth taxpayer dollars when so few people currently commute via bike or walking.
But not everyone at Monday's open house found county and Metro's vision to be foolhardy.
Emily Johnson is an employee of a local law firm who commutes to Lake Oswego every day. She came to the open house to see how a bridge might help her bike to work.
"I'm very excited that any of these plans are out here, and I really hope it goes forward," Johnson said. "I'd like to see more information on the Terwilliger Boulevard to SE Courtney Road connections. Basically, I like that because it crosses Highway 43 (which is) a dangerous stretch of road."
According to LO Director of Parks & Recreation Ivan Anderholm, the feasibility study being conducted by the county and Metro is laying some of the groundwork for future projects connecting Foothills Park and Tryon Cove, as well as a new bike/ped crossing of Highway 43.
"Twenty five to 30 years ago, it was envisioned that trails would come together in the Southwest metro area at the bottom of Terwilliger and in the Foothills area before branching out," Anderholm said. "This feasibility study is exciting because it's looking at one of the more important and hardest connections to attain across the Willamette River. It could open up new opportunities for people to be on regional trails, not in traffic."
According to Williams, a joint county and Metro committee will take the public's input into consideration when selecting three potential bridge alignments to study in depth. Those studies would include looking at traffic and environmental impacts on both sides, potential configurations and designs, as well as how much each might cost. That process is expected to take place over the next few months, at which time there will be more opportunities for the public to give input.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.