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Exploring new connections between Marine Drive and the Historic Highway

Exploring new connections between Marine Drive and the Historic Highway

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New path along Sandy River in Troutdale. Sure beats dodging semis near freeway on-ramps!
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Marine Drive is a valuable gem in our regional biking network. Its combination of off-street paths and bike lanes make it an excellent way to connect to Troutdale, the Sandy River, and the gorgeous roads in around the Columbia River Gorge.

Unfortunately, the route most people take from Marine Drive through Troutdale to the Historic Columbia River Highway is a real pain. For years I’ve ridden through that section by going under I-84, then riding a sketchy bike lane adjacent to a huge truck stop and the busy driveways of shops and fast food joints. Now, thanks to a mix of old paths and trails (forgotten sections of the 40-Mile Loop), combined with a recently completed Oregon Department of Transportation project, there’s a much better way to make this connection.


MAp of my route. The I-84 bridge over Sandy River is in the lower left.

And if you’re open to a bit of dirt and adventure, you can extend the fun riding possibilities even further. I recently did some exploring and found a great route between the Historic Highway and Marine Drive that allowed me to completely avoid Troutdale and the I-84 freeway on-ramps and enjoy some quiet and peaceful paths and trails.

The big catalyst in this connection is ODOT’s recently completed update to the I-84 bridge over the Sandy River. As we reported last summer, that project added a new, physically protected biking and walking path to the bridge. What I recently discovered is that there are now a host of new paths leading up to the bridge.

Let’s begin on the Historic Highway, east of the Sandy River just outside Troutdale. Instead of taking the bridge (west) back to the main street of Troutdale, continue north on the highway toward Lewis & Clark State Park. Eventually you’ll see a new path along the river. Take that path (being cautious and considerate of walkers) and it will lead you right to I-84. If you stay to the left (west) you’ll get up onto the new bridge path.

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Looking north at I-84 bridge in the background.
New bike path on I-84 Sandy River Bridge-5

New bike path on the I-84 bridge.

Once over the river, stay on the path as it loops back toward the river and then heads north under I-84. This new path connects directly to NE Harlow Road on the north side of I-84. From Harlow you can choose to stay on the pavement and connect to NE Graham, or drop right into a dirt trail. This is where things get fun.

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New path under I-84 that connects to Harlow Road.
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Just off Harlow Road. The Troutdale Airport is on the left and the Sandy River is on the right.
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Looking south at Harlow Road and I-84 with Sandy River on my left.
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Turns out there’s a 1.5 mile section of the 40-Mile Loop in this area that I’d never even heard of before. It goes between Graham Rd and Sundial Rd. The 40-Mile Loop paved path is fine and good, but there are also a bunch of dirt trails below the path. These trails (on land owned partially owned by the Port of Portland and set aside as wildlife area) access the Sandy River and a bunch of other undeveloped land stretching out to the Sandy River Delta where it empties out into the Columbia River.

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The paved 40-Mile Loop section. Very popular with dog walkers so be mindful of other users.
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One of the singletrack trails led me to this awesome spot at confluence of Sandy and Columbia rivers.
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Looking west just before the path ends at Sundial Road.

After you’ve had some fun in the dirt, you’ll head west and eventually need to get on the paved path. Take the path all the way to Sundial Road. At that point, you could take Sundial back south to Marine Drive. If you did that, you’d be west of airport and would have avoided all annoying traffic and freeway on-ramps around Troutdale. But, if you are up for a bit more adventure, when you come off the paved path at Sundial, continue west. The road will veer into some industrial operations, but you’ll notice a dirt road continues at the edge of the treeline. Stay on this road (it’s very overgrown with grass) for about a mile and it will take you to NE 223rd. At this point, you’ll head south and back onto Marine Drive just east of Blue Lake Regional Park.

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Looking west where Sundial Rd ends.
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It gets pretty overgrown in parts. Sure beats the shoulder of Marine Drive.

I was very excited to make this connection and will use it every time from now on. If it’s new to you, I hope you enjoy it!

— Check out my route on RideWithGPS for more details.

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PBOT details fix for Marine Drive rumble strip slip-up

PBOT details fix for Marine Drive rumble strip slip-up

A reader sent in this photo of the method used
by a PBOT contractor to warn people about
the dangerous and incorrectly installed
rumble strips on Marine Drive.

PBOT’s effort to implement safety upgrades on Marine Drive as part of their High Crash Corridor program took a bit of a detour last week when one of their contractors incorrectly installed rumble strips in the bike lane near NE 122nd Ave. The grooves in the pavement have created dangerous bicycling conditions and have sparked major concerns from road users.

Because the of the incorrect installation and location of the grooves, the usable biking space has been cut in half (creating a space so narrow that it falls below even FHWA standards). And when you are forced to roll over them, the impact is so jarring it could lead to crashes, swerving, equipment failure, and so on.

Thankfully, PBOT admitted the error and they’re working to make things right.

After hearing concerns from several road users, PBOT contractors placed cones in the bike lane to warn people of the rumble strips. Unfortunately those cones created their own hazard as they were hit by motor vehicle operators and strewn about the lane. Once they heard about the poor cone placement, a PBOT spokesperson responded to a citizen complaint via email by stating:

“given your mention that the cones are not properly positioned, I’ve asked PBOT staff to follow up with the contractor so that the placement of the orange cones can be modified or corrected… and I’m asking PBOT staff (under separate email) to consider your suggestion for improved warning notification.”

As for the rumble strips themselves, PBOT is working with their contractor to repave the entire application area (300-feet on either side of the intersection with NE 122nd) and re-install them correctly. According to PBOT, the rumble strips are necessary because this intersection has the highest crash rate on all of Marine Drive (29 turning-related crashes and 16 rear-end crashes between 2001-2010).

We learned this morning that in addition to rumble strips, the plan was to narrow the lanes leading up to 122nd and widen the shoulder/bike lanes. Here are more details from a PBOT statement (emphases ours):

For 300′ on either side of the intersection, the approaching lane was treated with centerline and shoulder rumble strips. In these segments, the center double yellow lines diverge to narrow the travel lanes, and the shoulder lines should move toward the center of the roadway to convert the travel lanes from 12′ to 9′. This type of treatment has been effective in reducing crashes and lowering speeds at intersections because the narrowed lane causes drivers to slow down and drive more attentively through intersections.

In this case, the shoulder line was supposed to be moved 1-1.5 feet toward the center and the rumble strips were to be installed next to the new line. In addition, the rumble strips are supposed to be 7″ wide; it appears that the ones on the roadway are more than a foot wide. The design that was supposed to be in place would have left as much shoulder space as was there before this project.

So there you have it. Not only were the rumble strips made too wide, they were installed in the wrong place and the fog line was not moved where it was supposed to be. Hopefully once this is all made right, there will be an overall improvement to bicycle access in this stretch of Marine Drive. And let’s also hope PBOT and their contractors get this right when they eventually install more rumble strips in the bike lane between the airport access road and NE 185th.

As of press time, PBOT spokesperson Diane Dulken was unable to give us a timeline for when the fixes will be made. “We’re working as quickly as we can,” she said.

— Learn more about the changes slated for Marine Drive as part of its High Crash Corridor Safety Plan here.

The post PBOT details fix for Marine Drive rumble strip slip-up appeared first on

Blumenauer will ride to celebrate new path along Marine Drive

Blumenauer will ride to celebrate new path along Marine Drive

Section of new path in Blue Lake Park adjacent to Marine Drive.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer will be in town next week to celebrate the opening of a new bicycling path along Marine Drive. The path curves for about one-half a mile through Metro’s Blue Lake Regional Park. Blumenauer will be joined at the event by Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick on April 22nd (which is also, not coincidentally, Earth Day).

I’ve ridden the new path several times in the past few months en route to Troutdale (and points beyond) and I can say it’s quite nice. Not only is it smooth and scenic, it’s an oasis from the high-stress riding alongside fast auto traffic on NE Marine Drive. My photo at right is from January, but these days the path is even nicer as it winds through a grove of cherry blossoms and a carpet of gorgeously green grass.

Here’s more about the path:

At the junction of the Gresham-Fairview and Marine Drive trails, the new half-mile path takes pedestrians and bicyclists through a scenic portion of the park. The Blue Lake trail eventually will connect with sections of the 40-Mile Loop being developed by the cities of Fairview, Gresham and Portland and the Port of Portland…

When it’s done, the 40-Mile Loop will stretch from Kelley Point Park at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers to the Pacific Crest Trail in Cascade Locks – putting Oregon on the map with one of the nation’s premier trail.

This path is one of just several sections of the Marine Drive Bike Path that will allow you to ride east-west along the Columbia River without riding right next to fast-moving cars and trucks. It’s a real gem of a path network, but unfortunately it’s not fully completed yet. Hopefully getting Rep. Blumenauer out to see it first hand will spark his interest in taking the Marine Drive Path from good to great.

— Learn more about next Tuesday’s event here.

Will new levee regulations impact bikes access on Marine Drive?

Will new levee regulations impact bikes access on Marine Drive?

Roll On Columbia! ride

Marine Drive and its adjacent mulit-use path along the Columbia River is a popular place to ride; but tighter federal levee regulations might impact future access.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

“I don’t think there’s an immediate concern from a bicycling standpoint. But, we can’t be confident how they’ll be dealt with in the future.”
— Reed Wagner, executive director Multnomah County Drainage District

The cover story in last week’s Portland Tribune caused several readers to email us with concerns that bike access on Marine Drive might be curtailed or prohibited in the future. The story, Levee holds back flood of changes outlined tighter safety regulations by the Army Corps of Engineers prompted by levee failures during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Corps now require all levees across the country go through a process of re-certification that introduces much tighter standards about what type of development is allowed on them.

Marine Drive is a key part of many people’s regular bike riding habit. While some folks stay on the road, using it to connect to riding in the Gorge and Sandy River area, others use the multi-use path that’s just yards from the banks of the Columbia River.

Here’s the part of the article that raised some eyebrows:

“Motorists, bicyclists and joggers enjoying Columbia River views along Marine Drive may not realize it, but they’re traveling atop a mound of sand that’s the main bulwark against massive flooding of North and Northeast Portland…

Now, in response to levee failures in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, federal authorities say thousands of trees, buildings and other structures permitted in past decades atop the Columbia River levee pose safety concerns — and may need to be removed or altered.”

And a photo that ran in the story showed someone riding a bike and had the caption,

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the bike path and thousands of trees, utility poles and even buildings erected on the Columbia River levee pose safety concerns and may need to be removed.”

Concerned about the potential of losing bike access on Marine Drive, we called Reed Wagner, executive director of the Multnomah County Drainage District (the local agency in charge of maintaining the levee). Wagner explained that, “Encroachments [things built upon the levee itself] in the past that were OK are no longer OK.” However, Wagner said he doesn’t think it’s time to panic. Yet.

“I’m a biker too, and I bike along Marine Drive myself [he’s also former policy director at Metro, so he understands bike path issues]; and I don’t think there’s an immediate concern from a bicycling standpoint.” “But,” Wagner added, “What I can’t say definitely is that at some point that could change… We can’t be confident how they’ll be dealt with in the future.”

Wagner explained that in the next 2-4 years (re-certification is due in two years for the area west of NE 33rd, and four years east of 33rd) he and his staff will come up with a plan for re-certifying the levee. While he said he’s “pretty confident” they won’t have any major encroachment issues that would prohibit bike access, he did not rule it out. Since Katrina, the federal government is taking a much more stringent and conservative approach to levee encroachments. “The Corps standards prefer no development on the levee at all,” said Wagner. So right now, Wagner’s job is to apply the federal standards to our local situation. Like many issues where the feds are strict (Homeland Security), it’s a balance for local officials to weigh federal concerns with practical needs of citizens.

About the tighter regulations, Wagner said, “We want to make sure we’re not overdoing it at risk of our community values. But to the extent it [the federal stance on levee encroachments] continues to trend in a more conservative way, it could challenge some of those values.”

— We’ll track this issue as it unfolds. Stay tuned.


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