The Missing Link – A stroll along the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor

When not consulting or teaching computer classes, MJ Coe spends his time as a board member of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association, as President of Portland Progressive Toastmasters, and as a member of the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor Steering Committee.

Travel down the I-84 corridor/Banfield Highway between the Convention Center and Gateway during rush hour, and what do you see? (Besides brake lights and gridlock, that is). Well, you’ll see two sets of adjacent railroad tracks — light rail and freight. Anything missing here? What about all those overgrown weeds and blackberries sitting idly by the side, doing absolutely nothing?

A group of east-side citizen activists have a vision for reclaiming that industrial wasteland, and creating something useful, productive and special for our region. It’s called The Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor — a proposed multi-modal transportation path for bicyclists, pedestrians, and others, running through the heart of our region. Considered by many as a “missing link” to an important east-west alternative transportation network, this corridor will connect downtown Portland and the Willamette River with Gateway, Rocky Butte, the I-205 Bike Path/Springwater Corridor network, Portland International Airport, Gresham, and beyond.

Just imagine a trek along this new corridor section…you’ve just gotten off work in the Lloyd District, or you’re headed from a new Gateway community development center to the Rose Garden for a concert. You enter the corridor where a state-of-the-art bioswale is capturing rainwater runoff — water that would normally be taxing our storm drainage system and polluting the Willamette River. Blackberries have been replaced by native plant species, and you’re beginning to notice more and more bird songs on your route.

You pass innovative community developments of mixed retail, affordable housing and commercial ventures that encourage alternative modes of transportation. You’re happy that you’re not on the Banfield Freeway as you pass the traffic gridlock below. Your property values continue to rise.

You seem to have more energy now that you’ve decided to walk or ride your bike to work.
And it’s so much easier, safer, and quicker now to get to all parts of the city…
just imagine.

Our region is preparing for the growth of nearly one million citizens in the next 25+ years. A project of this magnitude and quality will be a valuable asset for meeting many of our regional growth goals, i.e.; strategic infill, economic development, innovative community development projects, alternative modes of transportation that promote the health of its citizens…where work, life and play are all in closer proximity. Quality of life issues can be addressed, like clean air and water quality standards, abundant nature experiences, healthier citizens gaining less weight, expanded greenways…all contributing to the livability of our region.

The Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor Steering Committee is currently soliciting support for this exciting project from neighborhood, and business associations, as well as public/private stakeholders along the corridor. For more specifics, please visit the corridor’s web page at:

There you will find links to an online brochure (.pdf Acrobat Reader file), a map (web page), and an online powerpoint presentation.

Your support for this project is needed soon. Our regional public officials are currently in the process of deciding which alternative transportation projects will be funded in the foreseeable future. The Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor Steering Committee is asking that our regional representatives recommend allocating federal transportation (MTIP) funds totaling $250,000 to start a master planning process. Your letters of support and public testimony during the public comment period starting mid-October at METRO with help get this project rolling. For more information on how you can offer support, or become involved in this project, please contact any of the following steering committee members:

MJ Coe:, 503-233-1911 Brad Perkins:, 503-317-6455 Dan Lerch-Walters:, 503-284-7605


14 responses to “The Missing Link – A stroll along the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor”

  1. the walking corridor is a bad idea… consider the fumes and noise, and sooner or later some kid or adult will wander on one or both set of tracks and get killed… NO NO NO

  2. Dick –

    Weren’t you the one how said, “I get thoroughly pissed at outsiders who attempt to solve our [Wash county] problems.. Butt out…?”

    Now you are commenting on a proposal in southeast Portland. How is that different?

  3. Speaking as someone who lives 2 blocks from where this trail would go, I strongly support it: The trail truly would provide a missing link.

    If I wish to ride my bike into town now, I must either ride on a busy street not entirely striped with bike lanes, or take a zig-zagging, somewhat hilly route along a network of local streets. (Not bad if you need the exercise, but not a logical direct route if you intend to actually bike commute.)

    A trail along I-84 would allow a direct, gently sloping route connecting Gateway, Rose City Park, Hollywood, Lloyd District and Rose Quarter, shaving many minutes off of bike travel time and increasing safety and accessibility to those not comfortable with the current routes.

    I do not understand the comment about “fumes and noise”, after all, all the drivers on the road are also breathing the same air but nobody says we should close I-84 because of it.

    As for noise, well yes, it is noisy (just stand on a light rail platform next to I-84!), but the inverse square law is your friend. In many places it would be quieter and the air would be cleaner than along the East Bank Esplanade, which is still very popular and well utilized despite the immediately-adjacent I-5.

    (Of course, the Esplanade also has incredible views and many public amenities… the I-84 route would be more utilized by people trying to get from Point A to Point B, rather than people taking it solely to enjoy the journey.)

    – Bob R.

  4. The proposal for this bike trail is a good case scenario to enact a bicycle tax whereby the bicyclist users pay for the infrastructure they desire. Either that or make the trail a toll bike path.

  5. Think of it as a bicycle “freeway,” and it makes sense. Not a place to enjoy nature, etc. Is security an issue with limited access, etc.? I would still give priority to getting some Greenway Trail along the eastbank in N. Portland, but then, Swan Island is my beat.

  6. I think a trail there would be a great idea… I support it.

    But as far as the air quality issue goes, I wonder if there isn’t an important difference between resting respiration while driving a car through the Gulch or any freeway (bad enough) and deep inhalation associated with vigorous bike riding through the same polluted air?

    I’m picturing diesel particulates being drawn more deeply into the lungs as a result of exercise. Anything to that idea?

    Any physicians or scientists in the audience care to comment?

  7. “and sooner or later some kid or adult will wander on one or both set of tracks and get killed… NO NO NO”

    Take a look at the portion of the Springwater Corridor trail that runs along the river in town. It runs right next to a freight rail line, but is separated by a 4 foot fence. It’s perfectly safe, and in my opinion a very smart use of the space. I assume that any future rails-with-trails project will have a similar setup, if so I think “wander[ing] onto the tracks” won’t be a problem.

  8. Terry, regarding tolls, this is perhaps the one kind of bike project where I might consider proposals, because the facility would have a large commute function, by likely utilized mostly by adults, and would have clearly definable, limited access points.

    However, as has been pointed out numerous times in the past, tolling programs have high fixed costs just to implement.

    For example, suppose a bike path was constructed and tolled (would you also propose tolling pedestrians?) between Gateway and Rose Quarter along I-84.

    Suppose this path had entry gates at Gateway (99th), 82nd Ave, 60th Ave, 47th Ave, Hollywood, somewhere in the 20’s, Lloyd District and Rose Quarter. That is a total of 8 entry gates.

    Assuming the gates can be constructed in such a way that all entering cyclists pass the same toll gate, you would need a staff of 8 persons to man the gates. Further, these 8 people would need breaks, lunches, etc., so figure a staff of 3 “roving” staffers to provide scheduled relief, plus at least 1 person to patrol the path to fine toll-jumpers, trespassers, etc, plus 2 security officers to check in on the toll booths, transport cash, etc. That’s now a staff of 14. If the path is to be open 16 hours per day (say 5AM to 9pm), you need two shifts, so we are now at 28 staffers. Inflate that another 40% to cover weekend shifts, on-call employees to cover emergencies and sick time, and administrative and legal staff and you have about 40 employees.

    Assuming an average cost in salary and benefits of $45,000 per staffer, and you have a labor cost alone of $1,800,000 per year! (Sounds like a Big Government program to me.)

    Add another 20% overhead for maintaining tolling infrastructure (gates, outbuildings, surveillance, communications, restroom facilities, ticket machines, office supplies) and you’re up to a nice $2,000,000.

    Further assume that the I-84 bike path is as heavily utilized as our most popular bicycle commute infrastructure, The Hawthorne Bridge, at 5,500 cyclists per day.


    That’s just a tad over 2,000,000 bicyclists per year.

    Thus, the toll would have to be $1 per entry just to cover the tolling infrastructure (and that assumes instant high ridership from opening day).

    If the bike path cost $20mil to build initially (at $4/mil per mile), and you charged $2 per entry, the facility could theoretically be paid for in 10 years. But would people pay $2 each way when they could get a ride on MAX for the same price in the same corridor and take their bike with them?

    I know in my (somewhat lazy) case, I’d pay $2 to take my bike on the downhill stretch, but in the evening I’d just pay $2 to take my bike on MAX to get home. Why pay to ride uphill? Assuming there are others like me, your toll revenue suddenly drops significantly, but your fixed costs stay the same.

    It would seem to me that a Local Improvement District could get the job done more efficiently, without tolls, and cover property owners who would benefit most from the infrastructure (presumably the majority of trips on the bike path would either originate or end at properties in the district.)

    – Bob R.

  9. And another point…

    This proposal is exactly the kind of bicycle infrastructure which would benefit motorists. This path would arguably take a majority of east-west bike commuter traffic operating on streets between Halsey and Glisan (and to a small extent, Burnside and Sandy) and channel it into a completely separate ROW, away from motorists.

    – Bob R.

  10. I kinda dig the idea. Except if I’m going down the trail, will it be easy to board the MAX? i.e. will there be direct path access to the stations? I kinda assume there will be…

    I’ll read more of the proposal and see wuz what of this.

  11. I think that this is an example of better utilization of an existing ROW. It would be another example of making Portland the biking capital of the US and at the same time reduce congestion and improve safety drivers and teh bike riding public.

    How to design, build and pay for this capability without steeling from every other coffer and the driving public is the big opportunity. A VAT tax on all bicyles sales and new licensing and fees for bike riders would be a must.

  12. This is a great idea to allow bicycle transportation in a very underserved corridor. Plus, it would certainly be a lot more attractive than the piles of unkempt blackberries that currently border I-84. I’ve always thought that to be a very unfortunate first impression for drivers and MAX passengers alike who are travelling between PDX and downtown for the first time.

    I’m also quite impressed with the slide-by-slide presentation on the website. It looks to be a relatively simple project, construction-wise. This would be a wonderful addition to the city.

  13. If they do build it, the Banfield corridor will be one well-utilized strip of land (bike path, freight rail, light rail & freeway). Also, there was a PSU transportation seminar on the subject, streamable here. I was a little suprised at the idea when I saw it on the seminar.

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