County will host ‘Bridge Summit’ to help prioritize future upgrades

County will host ‘Bridge Summit’ to help prioritize future upgrades

Hawthorne Bridge scenes-4

Bike traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge as it goes under I-5.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

With well over 15,000 bicycle trips daily (according to 2012 counts), Multnomah County’s bridges play a major role in central Portland’s bicycle transportation network. You might not realize it, but the County owns, operates and manages six of the seven major downtown bridges: the Sauvie Island, Broadway, Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne and Sellwood spans. Three (soon to be four) of those six bridges have a separated path for bicycle traffic and the Hawthorne is widely considered one of the busiest bicycle bridges in America.

Today the County announced they’re launching an effort to update their 20-year, Willamette River Bridges Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and taking a “thorough and comprehensive look at the needs of this critical transportation infrastructure.”

To say it will be important for people who care about bicycling to raise their voices and get involved in this process would be an understatement.

A statement released today said, “The county wants to know which bridge improvements are most important to the public as it develops a list of possible bridge improvements for public review later this year… With limited available funding for major bridge upgrades or replacements, there are questions to be answered about which improvements to plan for and prioritize.”

To garner feedback, they’ve also released a short online survey and there will be a “Bridge Summit” next Thursday (3/20). That meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room 315 of the Multnomah Building at 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Being such key arteries for bicycling, you would assume bike traffic would be a major starting point in the county’s plans. However, as you can from the graphic pulled from the Bridges CIP Fact Sheet (PDF), bicycling isn’t mentioned under the “Traffic Operations” category on a list of “performance attributes” the county is using to evaluate priorities. (Bicycles do appear under the “Livable Community” category.)

Multnomah County defines “traffic operations” as “Safe, efficient operations of motor vehicles, freight mobility, and congestion reductions.”

Consider attending the meeting next week, take the online survey, and stay tuned for other opportunities for feedback. This planning process will continue throughout the year and a public review of the updated CIP is expected this fall.

You can learn more at Multco.us/bridgeplan.

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