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reality check

Just for context, this bridge will cost $5.5m. The tram cost the city about $7.5m (not the $50m number that is always erroneously quoted; most cost being paid by OHSU and private developers). The tram leveraged hundreds of millions in private investement and will generate tens of millions in tax revenue for the city over time. Yet the tram was almost universally disparaged by local media and the activist crowd, including most bloggers on this site. Yet now we are going to spend almost the same amount on a bike bridge that will serve a miniscule segment of the City population? And no outrage?


It was the fear of the new. People know what a bridge is, they didn't know what a tram was.

Bob R.

Is the choice really boring concrete vs. historic preservation/reuse?

There are some nice prefab bridge designs out there, such as the new bicycle arch bridge for McLoughlin Blvd. south of Tacoma st. Didn't that cost around $3M?

In the case of the Sauvie Island Bridge, as far as recycling is concerned, all of that metal can be melted down and recycled into new products.

Back when Commissioner Adams was asking about this on his blog (a year or so ago?), I suggested that the Sauvie Island Bridge could be useful _IF_ it provided new access for emergency vehicles ... it will be wider than a simple bike/ped bridge.

However, if it can't be reconstructed in such a way as to allow access for emergency vehicles, do we really need such a big bridge for a bike/ped over-crossing?

I do believe the need for the bridge is clear, the justification is sound (all of Flanders will be a much-needed calm street for bike access, which is difficult on the other streets which cross I-405), but I'm not 100% sold on this particular project.

As for the $1.5 million being "pocket change", well, I've been to a lot of public meetings and there are a great many capital/infrastructure projects that could use that kind of "pocket change", and are scrambling hard to find it or making do with less.


2 words , Design Competition !
We have a City full of gifted Designers , let's melt down that ugly old bridge , and design
a stunning new work of art.
Think Calatrava

Oregon Reality

Hundreds of millions of dollars of tax abatements are what generated developer interest in SoWA., NOT the stupid, over budget toy tram.

Only in PDX would people think it's a good idea to pay an extra $1.5 million to put the aging, falling apart, high future cost of maintenance, piece of junk old Sauvie Island bridge over I-405 instead of a new, less expensive concrete structure.

Write the check for the extra $1.5 million yourself, out of your personal account if you want this.

Matt Davis

Only in Portland indeed. But that's what Sam's running for reelection on. This is a smart, media-savvy suggestion from a politician who understands what it takes to get elected in this city.

Citizen Jeff (Joslin), Sauvie Island resident

There's one major piece of information missing here. The price difference results in much more than nostalgic redux. The minimimum ped connection proposal would result in a minimum bridge - probably your basic underwhelming brutalist twelve footer. The Sauvie Bridge re-use would result in a much wider expanse. In other words - one would beget a path, the other a Place.

Lastly, as footnote - we've a long history of reusing such objects. There are testles of the original Burnside bridge that were utilized as far out as Bull Run. These remnants are more than tokenistic salvage - they continue to reconnect with the past in ways that carry forward the power and essence of those times and places.


"Calatrava" Why? Do you honestly believe that some of the young firms in the this town could create works like Calatrava? We'd get some kind of retro modernist concrete box. We don't do beautiful, we do cool clean lines.

reality check

Hey "Oregon Reality".. get your facts straight. There are NO tax abatements for any condos or rentals in South Waterfront, period. Every condo owner pays full taxes. The only tax exempt development in the district is OHSU's building (they have tax exempt status in the state for all thier buildings)and the future Vetran's housing. Don't get your misinformation from the Oregonian. The South Waterfront district will repay its TIF bonds several times over(which were used for streets, like in front of your house which you did not pay for either).

Get it right before you spread lies.

Jeff G

Here's an idea... Have the McMenamin brothers front the additional 1.5 million and let them build a brew pub on the bridge. I know as a cyclist I'd love to stop midspan for a pint during my commute.

The larger width of the reclaimed Sauvie's island bridge gives Portland an opportunity to create a destination (not just a bridge). There are commercial opportunities to be had here.


Even taking the additional costs into account, the city is getting a lot more bridge, for not a whole lot more money. Yes, using this bridge will cost 28% more, but you are getting 75% more bridge. This bridge will add neighborhood character and charm which can't be quantified in my book. This area of 405 could certainly use some charm. The bridge is big enough that I could even see planters and such lining the sides. What a cool place this could be. Are we actually advocating for a six foot wide strip of concrete instead of a charming piece of history?

This is Portland, aren't we all about adaptive reuse? Wasting all of that power to smelt the bridge isn't really the greenest way to work either. Just because it can be recycled doesn't mean that there isn't environmental fallout from the recycling process...

Besides, as a regular driver of 405, I would much rather see something interesting span the freeway than just another hunk of concrete. Long live the Sauvie Island Span!



The 405 at NW Flanders isn't the only place in town where two separated pieces of city could benefit by being connected in this manner, is it?

Looking for a way to reuse this bridge could very well be a good idea; acting like the only possible use for it would be to enhance two already notably well-off areas of town might not.

Citizen Jeff (Joslin), Sauvie Island resident

PG - Timing is everything. The new Sauvie span's nearing completion, the old span needs a new home coincident with a summer/fall dismantling, or it's off to the scrapyard.


greg - i have no idea what you have against the local design community, but you show your ignorance every time you open your mouth.

new reality

Reality check, you figures on the tram are badly out of date. The operating costs alone are far exceeding estimates. And there has been little to no private investment to date. Perhaps you've noticed the end of the cranes in SoWa? Where is the biotech? The new "neighborhood?"

The 25% / 75% is also a bogus comparison. What are the extra 50% valuable for if always empty? You don't NEED a full size bridge for bikes / peds. It's an idiotic comparison.

This is nothing more than a mayoral campaign stunt. There are better uses for 1.5 million.


who needs another castrated concrete army corp of engineers bridge? where have you been living if you think this is a good use of money? get real - if we could build the Marquam bridge over the Willamette again would we opt for the beauty we have there now!? no way! you are an idiot if you think - yes. here is not only an opportunity to re-use, but to have character where the money from today could not afford. the opportunity if not taken will be pissed away in politics. maybe PDC could sponsor a competition and we could all waste our time arguing about bringing some international guru to town and then all stand stupid with nothing. We should jump at the chance to use this bridge and change how we cross our freeways - call me a nut - but Vera at least had some vision - parks over the freeway. when will see vision again with our politicians?


"However, if it can't be reconstructed in such a way as to allow access for emergency vehicles, do we really need such a big bridge for a bike/ped over-crossing?" Bob R

The Oregonian article reported engineers as stating that the Sauvie bridge could be repaired to easily withstand the weight of cyclists and pedestrians. They ought also to be able to advise about the bridge's ability to withstand periodic emergency vehicle use, and that probably should be a critical consideration in approval of the use of the bridge rather than a cheaper new concrete bridge. Some kind of automatically operated device ought to be able to deal with keeping cars out and letting emergency vehicles across when they need to. MAX tracks have them.

Personally, though, I like the idea of using the old steel bridge. Its design has a gentle, nostalgic charm that is appealing to me. The way I'd look at a decision about what to do, might be to ask, 'how much would it cost to build a bridge that has more charm and visual appeal than than the plain, functional concrete bike/pedestrian bridge planned?'. If 'fiscal responsibility' just means some butt ugly bridge like the Salmon St bridge, then I'd say 'whoa...let's think this over very carefully before scimping here'.


Greg's limp.

He's all disparagement and no input. I encourage him to add something to the discussion other than broad, sweeping (vague) dismissals. Genuinely, Greg, if you have a considered opinion please share it with the rest of us. We will appreciate it, I assure you.


Forget the bridge. Cap 405.


Not to change the subject, but Brian you said "...the couplet is a rogue project that is about much, much more than transportation." I've been against this couplet since first reading about it, but I've always assumed transportation is exactly what it is all about. If it isn't about moving cars/people/streetcars/etc, then what is it about?
And regarding the pedestrian bridge I'm all for reuse of the Sauvie Island Bridge. This is pretty small change in the big picture and something that would really benefit the neighborhood. Now if only we could get some equal attention to the east side and that ugly canyon we call I-84.


Why do we need another bridge there at all? There are already bridges at Everett and Glisan. This pedestrian bridge would be a nice amenity, but in a rational decision-making process, how does it stack up against other needs in the city?


I’m not 100% on either side of this issue, but I’m definitely leaning towards the thought of reusing the sauvie span. If the numbers are correct, it would be a great deal for the city.

A few thoughts:

- the cost of the concrete span is probably fairly fixed and reliable. The cost of reusing the sauvie bridge is an estimate. My guess is that it’ll be more, based on past experiences. We should have a limit as to what will be an acceptable price to pay for this project.

- a “calatrava” inspired solution will be much, much more expensive.

- if we follow the guidelines for development and infrastructure from those sharing “oregon/new reality’s” libertarian leanings all our publicly funded projects will have all the charm of east germany in the cold war era. lovely.

- also note that the differences of opinion between potter/adams has much more to do with politics than transportation. anyone wanna guess where sho’s going to land on this debate?

- the couplet’s a stupid idea. can we please stop pandering to the car? if adams believes we need the streetcar, then leave burnside the way it is and put the streetcar on couch. my guess is that most of the NIMBY's in the henry will be OK w/ a toy train running past their front door.

Brian Libby

Mike, I agree with everything you said except the "toy train" comment, which is disappointing to read from a longtime member of the city's office of sustainable development. To be sure, it's slow and there are too many stops. But calling it a toy sends the wrong message about mass transit. Would you prefer a bus belching smoke and causing an instant traffic jam everywhere it goes?


different mike, sorry.

i will say that i think that the streetcar is a fine idea, and we need to expand the system. personally i'd prefer it to expand to the eastside, rather than into northwest (again). at least initially.

also, the IDEA of the couplet is great. the NEED for the couplet is what i question.




How about something new, exciting, forward-thinking, inspiring? A bridge made for its place and use?




I think there's a lot of the general public that hasn't yet grasped the idea that numbers of people walking and biking to get around Portland may dramatically increase in years to come. If that does happen, using the Sauvie Bridge will probably look like excellent foresight.

Really, everything considered, what are the chances that numbers of people walking and biking will decrease rather than increase?

There was excellent coverage about this issue today on bikeportland.org. Commissioner Dan Saltzman along with Mayor Tom Potter kept the council from meeting the unanimous vote needed to move this project along. I don't fault Saltzman in pressing for better budget certainty for the bridge project, but I hope he's keeping in mind the future needs that bikes and pedestrians will represent, and how this bridge could effectively meet them in a fiscally responsible way.




how much would you be willing to pay to ensure that portland retains it's own identity, rather than picking a dull every-city bridge out of a catalog?

a cheap minimalist span is a freeway "just move them through" way of thinking. we want our lives enriched. i think the sauvie island bridge is the most economical and efficient way for us to get a span which will serve the current and future bike/ped population and will sustain and further the portland identity. this is our city and we demand beauty and inspiration on a daily basis. please don't kill my spirit with a catalog bridge.


As a former inhabitant of the Island, I have to pipe up. They moved to decommission the old one because of "cracks...found on the Sauvie Island Bridge during a routine inspection". Anybody remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse last year?

The argument that it won't matter because it will just be holding up pedestrians, bicyclists, and the occasional emergency vehicle seems kind of specious to me.

If it's not important enough to serve that purpose on a friggin' island with only one bridge to the mainland, why does a neighborhood overserved with bridges and roads need it? I'd rather see a backup for the Island, to be honest, than even more money blown on Westside infrastructure.


George...as "...a former inhabitant of the Island", are you saying the Sauvie span should stay there as a backup, even though it has "cracks"?

Don't you think that maybe the cracks should be fixed? That's what I understand is going to happen if Portland decides to use the span at Flanders St. It won't be sturdy enough to support hundreds of cars and trucks everyday, but it's said that it will be able to handle cyclists and pedestrians just fine.

Could it have been fixed as it stood, on Sauvie's Island for use as a pedestrian/bike bridge? I think that idea was discussed and rejected, but I can't remember the details. Maybe you can fill us in.


the city council is holding a hearing on april 30th on an ordinance (to be put forth by adams, leonard and saltzman) to acquire the sauvie island bridge for pedestrian access at nw flanders. a second hearing and vote will be may 7th. yippee!

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