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The City of Wilsonville hosts open house before starting work on bridge design

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Wilsonville resident Roger Porzig provides input on the I-5 bicycle and pedestrian bridge project.

The idea of whether a proposed bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-5 would be a worthy project was a hot-button topic during the 2018 election cycle.

Some thought it was a waste of money while others thought it a necessary connection across town and a way to make Wilsonville a friendlier place for walkers and bicyclists.

Nearly two years later, the City is close to beginning the process of designing the bridge, which would be located near the Regal Wilsonville movie theater in Town Center and the Right Aid Distribution Center on the other side of I-5. An open house was held Wednesday, Feb. 19, to collect feedback from the community about the project.

"We're getting feedback on design elements and what should be priorities," said Zach Weigel, the City's capital projects engineering manager.

The City hopes the bridge and the accompanying eastside plaza will serve as a gateway to Town Center, which the City hopes will become a more popular destination once its plans for redevelopment there come to fruition. The City has purchased a bridge landing property on the east side of the span and hasn't determined yet if it needs to acquire property on the west side.

During the meeting, Wilsonville residents the Spokesman chatted with about the project were mostly supportive.

"I think it would really help connect those two sides of the community," Bob Swingle said. "The freeway creates a barrier and this would make it (Wilsonville) feel like a singular community."

Some attendees thought the project would be a great way to make Wilsonville stand out to I-5 drivers as a place other than the point where traffic grinds to a halt during rush hour.

"It should be visually attractive," said Planning Commissioner Simon Springall. "That's not to say we should spend tons of money on it. I think we can do it cheaper."

Wilsonville resident Roger Porzig suggested that a tall bridge with a cantilever cable design could be an attention grabber.

"I-5 is the main arterial between Canada and Mexico," Porzig said. "To build the bike/ped bridge is an opportunity to showcase Wilsonville to millions of people who will see it."

Resident Jeff Rubin was more lukewarm on the project (he's more interested in the French Prairie Bridge that would cross the Willamette River) and would like the City to prioritize cost efficiency over architectural impressiveness.

"If choosing between all the bells and whistles and 'this will do the job,' I will probably favor the latter," he said.

Marion County resident James Moore, who visits Wilsonville often for entertainment and errands, wondered whether the bridge would be worth the cost.

"I'm not sure it's needed for the money," he said. "There's other ways to get across I-5."

However, Rubin liked the idea of creating a safer transportation option for families, and generally prefers the reduction of barriers. Moore thought the bridge could be an appealing enhancement.

Others, like Wilsonville resident Mark Smith and Susan Reep, thought landscaping, greenery and artistic elements could make the project pop.

"You walk across and there's landscaping, planting, maybe a fountain. There might be a place to sit so you're not feeling like you're just walking across a dull, concrete bridge," Reep said.

Though they approve of the project overall, Wilsonville residents Patrick Donaldson and Planning Commissioner Jennifer Willard wondered whether the industrial areas near the bridge and lack of residents near the the west-side bridge landing would make the project less attractive. And Willard wondered whether people would continue to use Wilsonville Road to get across town rather than the bridge.

However, she said, "This would make (traveling) safer, especially during peak times."

Donaldson also thought the bridge could be a recruit-

ing tool for industrial businesses.

The City told attendees at the meeting to place dots above ideas they found most attractive.

As for the project's vision, the idea of the bridge being family-friendly, in harmony with nature, inclusive and welcoming were popular. Preferred design elements included separate modes of travel, distinctive lighting and solar panels. Popular plaza qualities were sustainable features like stormwater elements and a rain garden, plantings and a shade and rain shelter.

Outside of the project itself, Donaldson, Smith and Reep, all of whom are new to Wilsonville, were impressed that the City took the time to host the open house and seek their input.

"I'm intrigued by the invitation to residents to participate in all stages of the process," Donaldson said.

The City will begin designing the project soon and is expected to complete a design that is 30% finished this summer. To provide input, visit the City's public involvement website Let's Talk Wilsonville: www.letstalkwilsonville.com.


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