The new TriMet bridge and river navigation

Discussion of the Milwaukie MAX bridge’s impact on river users.

After a recent news report addressed the issue, there has been a lot of comment in the open thread about the new TriMet bridge, which breaks ground in slightly more than two weeks, and its impacts (existing and potential) on river navigation on the Willamette. Relevant sections of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement are here, here, and here, and an older TriMet FAQ is here.

In response to some of questions of readers, we submitted a few questions to TriMet via spokesperson Mary Fetsch. The questions, and her answers, are reproduced after the jump.

Have the necessary permits (from the USCG or any other authority) been requested? If not, when will the permit application be filed?

There are two permits outstanding for bridge construction. The US Army Corps of Engineers was submitted in July 2010. We have commented on the draft approval language and expect that this permit will be issued on Thursday June 16th. The US Coast Guard permit was applied for on July 15, 2010. We have been in contact with the US Coast Guard staff and believe that this permit will be issued on Monday June 20th or Tuesday June 21st.

Both of the permits required the issuance a 401 Water Quality Certification which requires that erosion control and water quality treatment plans be detailed. In order to issue the 401 permits, construction details needed to be developed by the Kiewit/Ty Lin our Design Build contractor. In addition, this permit required significant coordination between DEQ, TriMet, Kiewit and Zidel which is expected to start in-water soil remediation in July 2011. The 401 Water Quality Certification was issued on May 24, 2010.

If yes, have the relevant authorities provided a response? If no response has yet been received, when is one expected? Is the permitting process at this point a formality, or is there a realistic chance that the Coast Guard might deny the permit?

TriMet has closely coordinated with both regulatory agencies over the last three to four years. We don’t anticipate that there any problem with securing these final permits.

Is completion of the FEIS a prerequisite to applying for the permit?

In order for these permit to be issued, we needed to have completed the FEIS and have had an Record of Decision issued for the Project (which was issued in November 2010). In addition, it is required that we complete consultation with NOAA fisheries, State Historic Preservation office, finalize the Section 401 Certification and a host of other requirements. All of these requirements have been met by the Project.

Are there any outstanding objections among river users, or does the completion and publication of the FEIS foreclose any further objection to the present design?

There is one sailboat owner who has continued to request a bridge height of 85 feet Columbia River Datum (CRD) which is approximately 7 feet higher than the proposed 77.52 CRD. With his current fleet, all vessels will be able to proceed 100% of the time under the center main span during the highest water levels. Mr. St. Clair has stated interested in purchasing vessel with a higher mast, about 2% of the trips would be limited during the high water months. The Project has carefully balanced the needs of river users, urban design, ADA needs, and costs. In order to secure the US Coast Permit, the Project must show that we have accommodated the reasonable needs of river users now and in the future.

2 responses to “The new TriMet bridge and river navigation”

  1. As I have remarked before, TriMet was thoroughly professional in addressing all issues with this bridge design. The Coast Guard, navigation interests, maritime lawyers, any special interests were accommodated at extensive open public planning sessions that I attended.

    Vera Katz, chair of TriMet’s special committee on the bridge, made sure everyone was heard, even if they were reticent. Any objections at this point are simply flaky.

    Good for TirMet! Wish I could say the same for MultCo and the Sellwood.

  2. Seems like every link I can find shows the current Sellwood bridge as being 75 feet, which is shorter than the proposed 77 feet.

    So how is the bridge height an issue?

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