Sellwood Bridge: Can’t Get No Respect

I recently attended a meeting of the Portland Freight Advisory Committee, where the Freight Master Plan was being reviewed.

Once again, the Sellwood Bridge came up. The line of discussion: it’s not a freight project, so don’t list it as a project it in the master plan, and certainly don’t spend any funds targeted on freight on it!

The basis of this argument is that as long as the bridge is only two lanes, and Tacoma Street is only two lanes, this is not a freight-friendly corridor. Arguments were advanced to reconsider the option of a new bridge south of the existing one (through the Waverly Country Club) or to rebuild the Sellwood with four lanes on the assumption that sometime during the bridge’s 100-year-expected-life we’ll wise up and widen Tacoma.

[Credit goes to PDOT staffer John Gillam who reminded the committee of the local delivery function the Sellwood bridge – even at two lanes – DOES provide for the movement of goods and services.]

Of course, this is exactly the thinking that caused the Sellwood Bridge to get zero funding from the state OTIA process, even though it scores 2 on a soundness scale of 100 (presumably it will get marked down to zero when it falls into the river).

Meanwhile, the bridge remains the top priority for bicycle and pedestrian advocates as the weakest link in our network for alternative modes.

So perhaps we should develop a plan for a bike and ped only bridge? After all, we wouldn’t want to spend any of our precious bike dollars on something those stinking cars and trucks could use!

When will we get our thinking out of these single mode buckets and learn to think about multi-modal systems? That’s the only path to assembling the funding required to actually do something about this failing bridge.

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