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Tens of millions in unused parks fees could boost bike-path projects

Tens of millions in unused parks fees could boost bike-path projects

trail dedication ceremony- Swan Island

Swan Island, north of the Fremont Bridge on the east bank of the Willamette, is home to a lonely segment of what could be a future North Portland Greenway.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation is rarely discussed as part of the answer to Portland’s transportation problems.

Instead of relying mostly on relatively costly off-street paths, which are the main channels for low-stress bike transportation in most of the United States, Portland generally prides itself on improving its actual streets for biking.

But the city’s parks bureau is currently facing a problem that many transportation advocates don’t know about: How to spend the tens of millions of dollars in fees from new development that have been pouring into city coffers for years now.

To be clear, the parks bureau has a very long wish list, worth $1.2 billion over the next 20 years. More biking and walking paths are only part of it.

But a number of potentially major biking corridors — the Red Electric Trail and Willamette Greenway Trail in the southwest, Sullivan’s Gulch Trail in the northeast, the North Portland Greenway in the north — have been envisioned for years and are mostly just awaiting cash.

It’s cash that the parks bureau, increasingly, might be able to start spending.

sdc revenue surge

Image from Portland City Budget Office report.

System development charges, the fees paid to the city by developers of new buildings, will rise sharply on July 1. In March, a city budget report showed that SDCs have already been arriving at the city faster than it’s been spending them, piling up to a $42 million stash by last summer. During fiscal year than ends June 30, the city is expected to have collected $20 million more.

Compare those figures to the $1.4 million per year that the city’s new gas tax will dedicate to protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways, and you begin to get a sense of how much difference a bit of parks funding could make for transportation.







Here’s a list of $55 million in possible work on the four trails mentioned above, all of it 100 percent eligible for system development charge money and 95 percent of it allocated to be spent in the early 2020s, if the city council ever decided to add it to the bureau’s to-do list.

SDC-eligible trail projects

New parks and trails would also increase the city’s operating expenses

A family ride from NoPo to Sellwood-5

Recreation and transportation are intertwined.

Though a surplus of money for constructing and improving parkland is obviously a good problem for Portland to have, it does come with complications — for example, the need for the operating funds that keep new parkland clean and safe.

System development charges can’t be spent on mowing crews or park rangers, for example; property taxes and other revenue would be needed for that. This is from the city budget report:

The expansion of parks services will necessarily require a shift of General Fund resources away from other City priorities, such as public safety and housing, in order to fund the operations and maintenance of new park facilities. The City needs to take into account the negative impact of reducing these other services – along with the equity impact this may have on specific communities – when making decisions about expanding Parks’ services.

And this:

Council’s recent direction to no longer enforce camping restrictions on public spaces has caused an increase in the need for ranger services in parks across the city, but particularly along the Springwater Corridor Trail. Rangers receive some training in working with homeless individuals and referring them to appropriate service providers; however, CBO notes that to the degree other solutions in the FY 2016-17 budget alleviate the number of individuals camping in parks, the demand for this type of ranger service may be lessened. Second, due to staffing constraints in the Police Bureau, there has been a decrease in patrolling and community policing, which have increased reliance on Park Rangers to provide response to non-urgent park incidents. Whereas some safety concerns were previously being addressed by police officers, rangers now address these situations or the situations are not addressed.

All public space requires operating costs. For cities, the question is whether it can deliver value to justify those costs.

Most Portlanders like parks; a 2014 property tax ballot measure to repair old ones won by a 43 point margin. And most Portlanders like bicycling, too, both transportation and recreation. Combining two values together to find the common links, though, would require politics.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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The post Tens of millions in unused parks fees could boost bike-path projects appeared first on BikePortland.org.

NPGreenway hires new coordinator to speed up completion of path project

NPGreenway hires new coordinator to speed up completion of path project

shamus

Shamus Lynsky at a Sunday Parkways
event in 2009.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Not satisfied with an official estimated project completion date of 2032, npGreenway, the group pushing for the North Portland Greenway path, has hired their first paid staffer.

Instead of 2032, npGreenway wants to have the path completed or have funding in the bank by 2020.

The person hired to step up the urgency around this project is Shamus Lynsky. A resident of St. Johns, Lynsky is the former political director of the Oregon Trial Lawyer Association and also served as executive director of the Oregon Consumers League. Far from a newcomer to the politics of bike advocacy, Lynsky served seven years as a member of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and he co-authored the ODOT grant that brought new bike lanes and other safety improvements to N Rosa Parks Way back in 2011.

With a new project coordinator at the helm, npGreenway says they will now focus on “building a citizen’s movement for a dedicated trail to connect North Portland neighborhoods.” The scrappy non-profit has spent the last 10 years laying the advocacy groundwork for a path along the Willamette that will connect Kelly Point Park to the Eastbank Esplanade. But, like many bold and ambitious bike-oriented plans in Portland, the project has languished, adrift in a sea of stagnation.

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“We’re at that fork in the road… npGreenway needs to grow in order to build that juggernaut that tells the City, Metro, the State, and business owners along the route that we’re willing to work with them but we are going to move it forward.”
— Joe Adamski, npGreenway

To build urgency for the project, npGreenway plans to get much more engaged with the community and policymakers. Board Member Joe Adamski said in an interview this morning “We want to push the City, the State and Metro into doing it sooner because the need is so great,” he said. “We need to get the community power behind it to force the trail completion in a faster timeline … It’s critical to get this going.”

The 2020 completion date for a 10-mile path that remains largely unbuilt might seem ambitious, but much of the legwork and planning for this project is already done. And earlier this year, the Bureau of Transportation’s Bicycle Advisory Committee listed the path as one of their top ten highest priorities. Unfortunately for the Greenway’s fans, PBOT isn’t managing this project. Because it’s considered a “trail” project (I don’t like to use that word because it minimizes a project’s importance as a vital transportation link), the North Portland Greenway is being managed by Portland Parks & Recreation. “So there is that [Parks Bureau] mindset,” Adamski added.

npgreenvision

Vision for the entire route.
(PDF)

Adamski, also a St. Johns resident and bike advocacy veteran, said the hiring of Lynsky will increase npGreenway’s capacity to do more engagement with the community and policymakers. From here on out, we can expect the group to become much more visible. They’ll share a booth with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance at the upcoming Sunday Parkways in north Portland and they’ll lead a Pedalpalooza ride on the future alignment of the path on June 27th.

For Adamski, the addition of Lynsky marks a key turning point for npGreenway and the project itself. “We’re at that fork in the road. Boards either have to get bigger and stronger and more in-tuned with their mission — or they can wither away into obscurity. npGreenway needs to grow in order to build that juggernaut that tells the City, Metro, the State, and business owners along the route that we’re willing to work with them but we are going to move it forward.”

— Get involved and learn more about the North Portland Greenway at npGreenway.org and by browsing our 10 years of past coverage on the project.


The post NPGreenway hires new coordinator to speed up completion of path project appeared first on BikePortland.org.

PSU grad students will help plan Green Loop and North Portland Greenway

PSU grad students will help plan Green Loop and North Portland Greenway

green loop options

Examples from (in order) San Francisco, Copenhagen, New York City and New York City in an online survey about preferred ideas for a “green loop” bikeway connecting the South Park Blocks with Tilikum Crossing.
(Screenshot from survey)

Two of Portland’s most visionary long-term biking projects will get a boost this spring from two teams of Portland State University planners-in-training.

One team of Masters in Urban and Regional Planning candidates will be throwing their brains into Southwest Portland’s quadrant of the Green Loop, the concept of a comfortable bikeway circling the central city on both sides of the Willamette River. A second team will work in support of the North Portland Greenway, a citizen-driven plan to create a continuous comfortable bikeway along the east bank of the Willamette between the Rose Quarter and St. Johns.

Brian Gunn, the research lead and community engagement assist for the five-person Green Loop team, said they’ll be conducting stakeholder interviews, an online survey and focus groups with “bike groups, running groups, walking groups, parents, business organizations in town.”

The formal work will wrap up in June.

The Green Loop project is unique in Portland transportation planning at the moment because it emerged from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability rather than the Bureau of Transportation.

Gunn said the main focus of this spring’s PSU project will be creating a comfortable bicycling connection between the South Park Blocks and Tilikum Crossing.

“Essentially we are looking at separated bike lanes, whether that be through grade or through plantings,” he said. “The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is one of our primary case studies.”

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npgreenway

As for the North Portland Greenway team, they’re partnering with the citizen group npGreenway (which is, conveniently, about to hire its first dedicated staffer) to do a similar online survey about the preferences of people interested in that trail.

The North Portland team, which calls its project Grow Willamette Greenway, has put up a website and Facebook page dedicated to their project. Their work will focus less on design details and more on getting more Portlanders excited about the concept of an off-road path to North Portland.

“We’re actually looking at the entire greenway alignment,” said Geena Gastaldi of the North Portland team. “We identified with npGreenway some gaps in their argument. What are the health impacts?”

Gastaldi’s team will be preparing graphic designs and releasing descriptions of the North Portland Greenway in English and Spanish.

Gunn said that although their report will consider the political and financial costs of different options, one of the stakeholders his team had spoken with had advised them to “dream big.”

“As students, we have that chance to do that,” Gunn said.

The post PSU grad students will help plan Green Loop and North Portland Greenway appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide

Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide

bac top 10

What do you think?
(Click to enlarge, or see below for details and links)

As we reported earlier this week, the City of Portland is trying to hone its massive transportation to-do list by asking people to rank their 10 favorite projects.

In a letter circulated this week, the citizens’ committee that’s most closely tied to Portland’s biking policies shared theirs.

Here’s the list, with a links to past coverage of each project:

1) A biking-walking bridge across Interstate 84 between NE 7th, 8th and/or 9th Avenues. This would create the most comfortable inland freeway crossing in the city between inner Northeast and Southeast Portland, linking the rapidly redeveloping Lloyd District and enabling a “green loop” of comfortable bikeways ringing the central city. $8.3 million.

2) Northeast Broadway Corridor improvements from the Broadway Bridge to NE 24th. This would link up to an anticipated protected bike lane on NW/SW Broadway all the way to maybe the #1 biking destination in the city: Portland State University. $3.5 million.

3) Terwilliger Bikeway Gaps. These would create a continuous bike lane over the hills above Barbur Boulevard and through Southwest Portland past another major biking destination, Oregon Health and Science University. $1 million.

4) Inner Barbur Corridor improvements. The needlessly wide stretch of road between Terwilliger and SW 3rd sometimes known as the Barbur Woods, where the land is mostly flat but the bike lanes end at two bridges and one person dies per year. $3.7 million.

5) I-205 undercrossing at NE Hancock and I-205. Connecting the 82nd Avenue area near Rocky Butte to Gateway Green and ultimately the developing Gateway regional center. $2 million.

We rely on financial support from readers like you.

6) 4M Neighborhood Greenway. A neighborhood greenway, already fully planned, snaking from the I-205 path past David Douglas High School and eastward to the Gresham border. $450,000.

7) 122nd Avenue Corridor Improvements from NE Sandy to SE Foster. Bike lane, sidewalk and public transit stop improvements on East Portland’s most important north-south street. TriMet has said it would upgrade the 71 bus to frequent service if changes like these are made. $8 million.

8) North Portland Greenway Trail from Swan Island to the Rose Quarter. A direct link between two of the city’s fastest-growing job areas, Swan Island and the Central Eastside, and part of a continuous off-road path from the tip of the St Johns peninsula to the Springwater Corridor.

9) Portland Bike Share. Using shared bicycles to create an active and supremely cheap form of all-hours public transit in the central city and surrounding neighborhoods. $4.5 million.

10) NW Flanders Neighborhood Greenway, including a biking-walking bridge across I-405. The first comfortable link between downtown Portland and the city’s densest residential neighborhood, connecting to the Steel Bridge and TriMet MAX. $3 million.

BAC Chair Ian Stude said this week that the committee devoted a lot of effort to building this list, drawing on what he said is a geographically diverse membership and striving to serve a mix of neighborhoods and populations.

In its letter, the committee added:

The PBAC has concerns about the overall project selection for the TSP constrained and unconstrained list and how this aligns with the need to equitably distribute these projects throughout the city. However, we have identified 10 high priority projects from the list of 290 currently listed in the TSP draft. We ask that PSC and PBOT prioritize these projects as critical improvements to the transportation network.

How do you think they did? Whether you disagree with any (as reader Terry D-M did, vociferously and with data) or agree wholeheartedly, it’s not too late contact the city by email or using its online Map App tool.

The post Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide

Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide

bac top 10

What do you think?
(Click to enlarge, or see below for details and links)

As we reported earlier this week, the City of Portland is trying to hone its massive transportation to-do list by asking people to rank their 10 favorite projects.

In a letter circulated this week, the citizens’ committee that’s most closely tied to Portland’s biking policies shared theirs.

Here’s the list, with a links to past coverage of each project:

1) A biking-walking bridge across Interstate 84 between NE 7th, 8th and/or 9th Avenues. This would create the most comfortable inland freeway crossing in the city between inner Northeast and Southeast Portland, linking the rapidly redeveloping Lloyd District and enabling a “green loop” of comfortable bikeways ringing the central city. $8.3 million.

2) Northeast Broadway Corridor improvements from the Broadway Bridge to NE 24th. This would link up to an anticipated protected bike lane on NW/SW Broadway all the way to maybe the #1 biking destination in the city: Portland State University. $3.5 million.

3) Terwilliger Bikeway Gaps. These would create a continuous bike lane over the hills above Barbur Boulevard and through Southwest Portland past another major biking destination, Oregon Health and Science University. $1 million.

4) Inner Barbur Corridor improvements. The needlessly wide stretch of road between Terwilliger and SW 3rd sometimes known as the Barbur Woods, where the land is mostly flat but the bike lanes end at two bridges and one person dies per year. $3.7 million.

5) I-205 undercrossing at NE Hancock and I-205. Connecting the 82nd Avenue area near Rocky Butte to Gateway Green and ultimately the developing Gateway regional center. $2 million.

We rely on financial support from readers like you.

6) 4M Neighborhood Greenway. A neighborhood greenway, already fully planned, snaking from the I-205 path past David Douglas High School and eastward to the Gresham border. $450,000.

7) 122nd Avenue Corridor Improvements from NE Sandy to SE Foster. Bike lane, sidewalk and public transit stop improvements on East Portland’s most important north-south street. TriMet has said it would upgrade the 71 bus to frequent service if changes like these are made. $8 million.

8) North Portland Greenway Trail from Swan Island to the Rose Quarter. A direct link between two of the city’s fastest-growing job areas, Swan Island and the Central Eastside, and part of a continuous off-road path from the tip of the St Johns peninsula to the Springwater Corridor. $7.3 million.

9) Portland Bike Share. Using shared bicycles to create an active and supremely cheap form of all-hours public transit in the central city and surrounding neighborhoods. $4.5 million.

10) NW Flanders Neighborhood Greenway, including a biking-walking bridge across I-405. The first comfortable link between downtown Portland and the city’s densest residential neighborhood, connecting to the Steel Bridge and TriMet MAX. $3 million.

BAC Chair Ian Stude said this week that the committee devoted a lot of effort to building this list, drawing on what he said is a geographically diverse membership and striving to serve a mix of neighborhoods and populations.

In its letter, the committee added:

The PBAC has concerns about the overall project selection for the TSP constrained and unconstrained list and how this aligns with the need to equitably distribute these projects throughout the city. However, we have identified 10 high priority projects from the list of 290 currently listed in the TSP draft. We ask that PSC and PBOT prioritize these projects as critical improvements to the transportation network.

How do you think they did? Whether you disagree with any (as reader Terry D-M did, vociferously and with data) or agree wholeheartedly, it’s not too late contact the city by email or using its online Map App tool.

The post Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide appeared first on BikePortland.org.

With $50k grant, North Portland Greenway shifts from planning to organizing

With $50k grant, North Portland Greenway shifts from planning to organizing

082008 npGREENWAY ride 116

Let’s get it built.
(Photo: npGreenway)

The 50-year-old vision of a continuous mixed-use path along the east bank of the Willamette River, connecting Kelley Point Park, on the tip of the St. Johns peninsula, to the Steel Bridge, has made it on all the planning maps.

Now, the little nonprofit that has brought the concept this far is preparing for the last stage: getting it on the ground.

Thanks to a $50,000 capacity-building grant from Metro awarded last fall, the nonprofit North Portland Greenway organization is preparing to hire its first dedicated staffer, a consultant who will spend up to 10 hours a week preparing for a transition on npGreenway’s volunteer board.

“I think this grant will be the tool to take our organization to the completion of the trail.”
— Joe Adamski, npGreenway board member

“In 10 years we’ve done an awful lot, but we know there’ll be another 10 years before that trail is completed,” said Joe Adamski, a longtime npGreenway board member, in an interview Tuesday. “We’re now at the point where we’re pushing and agitating for building and finding the money and the support. And we couldn’t put a website together if our life depended on it. Twitter? We’re all 60 or 70.”

Adamski said most of the existing board consists of people with experience in planning rather than in political action.

Key political challenges for the group include lining up enough money to build the path and to secure the building rights from landowners like Union Pacific Railroad and Ash Grove Cement, two companies that control the crucial segment between the Swan Island industrial area and the Broadway Bridge area.

npgreenway

In 2013, we reported that the city, UPRR and advocates were discussing an inland route just south of Greeley that would avoid the contentious Cement Road, an existing private road near the shore that is crossed by rail tracks and used by Ash Grove cement trucks.

“The connection to Swan Island is going to be the crucial place that’s going to drive the whole trail,” Adamski said Wednesday. “We will support that alternate line [south of Greeley], but we still have a preference towards the Cement Road alignment. The reality is that if it’s going to happen, probably it’s going to be that alternate Greeley alignment.”

UPRR’s concession to allow an off-road path on the south side of Greeley, rather than forcing it to be built into a hillside north of Greeley, came out of a 2013 meeting attended by UPRR, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Mayor Charlie Hales.

npGreenway has already retained Bill Weismann of Grassroots NW to complete the first phase of their 18-month project, which is to develop a strategy that’ll be carried out by the board and its part-time staffer during the longer second phase.

Adamski said the group aims to be ready to bring on its second-phase staffer by late March.

“I think this grant will be the tool to take our organization to the completion of the trail,” Adamski said.

The post With $50k grant, North Portland Greenway shifts from planning to organizing appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Greenway trail group agrees to alignment compromise through Albina rail yards

Greenway trail group agrees to alignment compromise through Albina rail yards

“It was not easy to give up our vision of a near-river side alignment… The UPRR’s willingness to surrender more than one-half mile of active rail line within the city for a multi-purpose trail is unprecedented and offers a Greenway Trail alignment, we believe, that better serves all of north Portland.”
— Friends of the North Portland Greenway Trail

The Friends of the North Portland Greenway Trail (a.k.a. npGreenway) has decided to give up their vision for a route along the Willamette River and instead will work on a compromise alignment through the Albina Yards with the City of Portland and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).

Back in October, a major breakthrough was forged when the City of Portland announced they had brokered a deal with UPRR to allow a path to be built along the eastern portion of the railyard. At that time however, leaders from the Friends group were skeptical and continued to push for the Cement Road.

Today, the Friends announced that they’ve agreed to give up the Cement Road and will work with UPRR and the City of Portland on the route proposed last fall which now known as the “Albina Yards alignment.”

In a letter sent to the City of Portland and UPRR, the Friends group wrote,

“It was not easy to give up our vision of a near-river side alignment on the existing private (UPRR) AshGrove Cement Road/North River St. alignment. But we are convinced that the prospects for the latter are slim to nil, while the former [the Albina Yards alignment] we expect to be expedited by our partners, City of Portland and UPRR.

The UPRR’s willingness to surrender more than one-half mile of active rail line within the city for a multi-purpose trail is unprecedented and offers a Greenway Trail alignment, we believe, that better serves all of north Portland.”

The new alignment. (Large PDF file here.)

At issue is how best to route the future bicycling and walking path through UPRR’s property between the Fremont Bridge and Swan Island. The Friends group has pushed for a riverfront route for many years; but given the heavy industrial use and private ownership of the land, it was considered a very heavy political lift. In September 2012, the City of Portland avoided the area entirely and proposed an alignment for the future path on Greeley and Interstate avenues. That proposal would have put the path adjacent to heavy motor vehicle traffic and would have used narrow bike lanes. Not surprisingly it was met with very sharp criticism.

The Friends group was also hoping for an alignment near the riverfront along the “Cement Road” — a paved path already used by many people who bike to and from Swan Island. However, according to a statement released by the Friends today, UPRR representatives made it clear that they are not willing to allow any public access on that road.

(In other North Portland Greenway Trail news, the bridge between Chimney and Pier parks in St. Johns is now open. Read more stories about this project, in the BikePortland archives.)

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly reported that PBOT would apply for a federal TIGER grant to pay for this portion of the trail. They do not plan to apply for a TIGER grant for this project in the current cycle.

Progress on North Portland Greenway in St. Johns area

Progress on North Portland Greenway in St. Johns area

The newest piece of the North Portland Greenway
is this paved path through cedar trees in Pier Park.
(Photo by NPGreenway)

There’s progress being made on the North Portland Greenway, a project that will someday connect the existing Eastbank Esplanade at the Steel Bridge with a biking and walking path all the way to the Columbia River north of St. Johns.

According to photos and an email sent to us by NPGreenway Core Team co-chairperson Francie Royce, the City of Portland is currently building the new bridge and paved trail that will connect Chimney Park and Pier Park (north of downtown St. Johns). Currently, the two parks are separated by a gulch that provides right of way for a Union Pacific Railroad line that leads to nearby industrial areas.

As we reported last year, the Pier-Chimney Bridge that spans between the two parks attracted protests from tree conservation advocates. That dispute was resolved amicably and construction is on pace to be completed this year. The estimated price of the 120-foot long bridge is $1.7 million which was funded through a federal grant and $220,000 from the City of Portland.

Another bridge that will connect greenway users from Chimney Park over Columbia Blvd and into the St. Johns Prairie (formerly known as the St. Johns landfill), is also funded and slated for construction in 2016. Portland Parks initially had an at-grade crossing planned where greenway users would have had to cross Columbia Blvd via a signal or other crossing treatment. But advocates — including Metro Councilor Sam Chase — successfully lobbied for the bridge.

Check out the detail map below of Portland Parks’ Trail Segment 2 to better understand the context of the new path and bridges:

Learn more about the North Portland Greenway on the City’s official project website.

Progress on North Portland Greenway in St. Johns area

Progress on North Portland Greenway in St. Johns area

The newest piece of the North Portland Greenway
is this paved path through cedar trees in Pier Park.
(Photo by NPGreenway)

There’s progress being made on the North Portland Greenway, a project that will someday connect the existing Eastbank Esplanade at the Steel Bridge with a biking and walking path all the way to the Columbia River north of St. Johns.

According to photos and an email sent to us by NPGreenway Core Team co-chairperson Francie Royce, the City of Portland is currently building the new bridge and paved trail that will connect Chimney Park and Pier Park (north of downtown St. Johns). Currently, the two parks are separated by a gulch that provides right of way for a Union Pacific Railroad line that leads to nearby industrial areas.

As we reported last year, the Pier-Chimney Bridge that spans between the two parks attracted protests from tree conservation advocates. That dispute was resolved amicably and construction is on pace to be completed this year. The estimated price of the 120-foot long bridge is $1.7 million which was funded through a federal grant and $220,000 from the City of Portland.

Another bridge that will connect greenway users from Chimney Park over Columbia Blvd and into the St. Johns Prairie (formerly known as the St. Johns landfill), is also funded and slated for construction in 2016. Portland Parks initially had an at-grade crossing planned where greenway users would have had to cross Columbia Blvd via a signal or other crossing treatment. But advocates — including Metro Councilor Sam Chase — successfully lobbied for the bridge.

Check out the detail map below of Portland Parks’ Trail Segment 2 to better understand the context of the new path and bridges:

Learn more about the North Portland Greenway on the City’s official project website.

New route through rail yard could link up North Portland Greenway

New route through rail yard could link up North Portland Greenway

The City and Union Pacific Railroad are in talks about
how to connect the NP Greenway path between
Swan Island and lower Albina.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

As the route of the long-planned North Portland Greenway comes before Portland city council this week, there’s a new possibility in the mix that could vastly improve one of the project’s most glaring gaps: the segment between Swan Island and the Eastbank Esplanade.

Union Pacific Railroad and city planners are now looking into a possible “alternative” route through UP’s Albina rail yard that could allow what the npGreenway group described as “car-free access through Lower Albina.” This development comes after Mayor Charlie Hales described on-again, off-again talks between the City and UPRR as “going very well” as of last May. Back then, the Mayor met with UPRR officials to discuss the project.

According to PBOT Active Transportation Division Manager Dan Bower, following that meeting, the president of UPRR committed to finding a solution. Their proposal is to offer the City a 20-foot wide, two mile long piece of land on the east side of the railyard adjacent to N Greeley Ave. The proposal would take path users to Interstate and Russell. Bower says PBOT has done some preliminary designs and cost estimates but they haven’t made any final decisions.

The new route would avoid the much-criticized possibility floated a year ago of directing path users uphill to a new separated path on North Greeley Avenue and existing bike lanes on North Interstate. It would also avoid the “Cement Road,” a route owned by UPRR that’s currently in use by the Ash Grove Cement company.

The dashed green route shows the Cement Road; the pink area is the rail yard.
The possible new alternative route is not marked.
(Image: npGreenway.org)

Francie Royce of npGreenway, the citizens’ group that’s pushed for years to build the trail, said Friday that she’s hoping Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the rest of city council will give strong endorsements of a deal with Union Pacific that could include the rail yard.

The language allowing that ongoing negotiation is already in the council’s proposed resolution (item 1026).

For the moment, Royce said, her organization’s recommendation to the city is that the riverside Cement Road should remain the top priority.

“We’re unclear exactly what that alternative is,” Royce said. “Until it’s very clear that the railroad is willing to make that happen, npGreenway is sticking with the Cement Road.”

Sending people up onto the surface streets at Greeley and Interstate, she said, would undermine the concept of the greenway.

“It’s a truck route, it’s not near the river and it’s not compatible with the idea of a Willamette Greenway trail at all.”
— npGreenway co-chair Francie Royce on Greeley Avenue

“It’s a truck route, it’s not near the river and it’s not compatible with the idea of a Willamette Greenway trail at all,” she said. “It’s not friendly to families and moderate bicyclists.”

The issue has particular weight because Swan Island, the industrial-zoned area the greenway would serve, is booming as an employment center. Portland Community College is preparing to open a new “Trades Education Center” there and Daimler Trucks North America has just announced a major expansion that’ll bring 1,000 more jobs to the area. Good bike connections are especially important on the island because many employees work shifts that don’t align with TriMet’s service hours.

Other than the Greeley-Interstate issue, Royce said, her group supports the “general alignment following the river.” It’ll also include a newly funded bike-pedestrian bridge connecting Pier Park and Chimney Point Park near St. Johns, to be built after 2016.

The council‘s action is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 30th in City Hall, 1221 SW Fourth Avenue.

“We would encourage people to come to city council and/or email city council members to let them know about the trail alignment,” Royce said.