It's a funny, audacious idea: take the old Sauvie Island Bridge that was recently replaced by a new span, and recycle the structure into a new bike and pedestrian bridge over I-405. It also may be an indication of the risk and reward of Commissioner and mayoral candidate Sam Adams, a proponent of the idea, versus current/outgoing mayor Tom Potter.
The bridge has been discussed for a few years, but originally the idea was to make it a simple, cheap concrete crossing. That's what Mayor Potter still supports, according to an article in today's Oregonian, because it's about $1.5 million cheaper than recycling the Sauvie Island Bridge. But $1.5 million is practically pocket change to a major metropolitan city like Portland, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't choose, money aside, the Sauvie span for its superior aesthetics and the message it sends about Portland's values.
Potter has every right to oppose an extra budget outlay, but when I read that he opposes Adams on this matter, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Tom Potter is a good man, no question about it. But this is the latest case where, at least when it comes to the built environment, he just doesn't get it. Adams does.
I mean, a long ugly concrete slab in the central city, to save a million and a half? That's like choosing a kiddie burger over a Big Mac to save a nickel.
At the same time, the fact that Adams, as head of the city's transportation department, may be able to push this through, also may show his danger, or at least the irony of this whole thing. The original discussion about a bike/pedestrian bridge was born of talk about the Burnside couplet, which Adams has pushed hard. The bridge itself is just the kind of project that Adams ought to champion, but the couplet is a rogue project that is about much, much more than transportation; a change this big really ought to come as part of a larger central city planning process coming from...city planners. So in other words, I think the bike bridge battle shows Adams at his best, but it's also inextricably tied to a bad idea.
Adams and Potter are like the eager son and the fatigued father. I'd rather have the son leading in this case, but he could perhaps use just a little of the father's restraint. In the case of this proposed bike/pedestrian bridge, though, I think the island is Potter, not Sauvie.
As always, though, I say this as a conversation starter, not an ending. What do the rest of you think?