New Sellwood Bridge opens with a “Dang!”

New Sellwood Bridge opens with a “Dang!”

Cheers for the new Sellwood Bridge turned to jeers less than 12 hours after it officially opened.

Multnomah County says at about 6:00 am this morning a woman drove a pickup truck onto the biking and walking path on the north side of the bridge. Then when the path narrowed and the truck got sandwiched between two barriers, the woman got out and left the vehicle.

County spokesman Mike Pullen said the woman likely approached the east end of the bridge from the parking lot of the Riverside Corral, a bar located on the northwest corner of Tacoma and 6th. “She probably drove over a curb,” he said. Pullen added that, “There were signs in the vehicle that indicated drug use.” The County filed a police report.

Portland Police Public Information Officer Pete Simpson told us they’ve contacted the woman. “An officer spoke with driver on the phone who said she got on the wrong path and got it stuck overnight,” he said. “No arrest, no cite, no damage.”

This strange episode resulted in lots of traffic for about an hour. We heard reports from several readers that people were cutting-through neighborhood streets to get around the backup. Crews eventually used a fork-lift to pick the truck up and carry it away.





bridge-truck2

(Photo: Sellwood Bridge Project)

It’s worth noting that after our report on the bridge yesterday, several readers were dismayed to find out that Multnomah County will not be adding green color to the bike lanes on the bridge as promised when the final design was adopted in 2012. Without some sort of protection, they worried, people in cars will be tempted to use the bike lane to pass and park. The county’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee was asked by bridge engineers if they felt the color was needed and they said no. One of the committee members told us they don’t think encroachment will be an issue. “Let’s just see how it goes,” he said, “Some sort of paint or coloring could be added later if there appears to be a big problem.”

It’s not clear yet whether this morning’s incident will qualify as a “big problem.”

Mike Pullen thinks it was an anomaly. “It is very difficult for a driver to get onto our multiuse path at the east end of the bridge. It is not a signage issue for the project. The driver took a very reckless action that took a lot of effort,” he said. Then Pullen added, “We will look at when we can do, such as a bollard to prevent this from re-occurring.”

In 2013 a similar thing happened when a woman managed to drive her car for nearly a mile on the bike path that runs in the center of the I-205 bridge over the Columbia River. After the path narrowed and woman’s car got stuck, she panicked and called 911. In that case (which wasn’t even the first time someone had driving on that path), the Police also felt it was just an innocent mistake and did not cite the woman. “Apparently she got confused… and got on the bike path,” Officer Simpson told us at the time. “Officers exercised discretion with someone who clearly made a mistake.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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