Public gets first look at new Sellwood Bridge design options

Even if you infrequently drive over this aging bridge, you’ll be paying for the new one. Here’s your chance to vote on it’s design – online – if you get to it before August 8 …

Led by June Carlson, of Ch2MHill, the July Sellwood Bridge CAC meeting gets underway.

Story and photos for David F. Ashton
Many folks in outer East Portland don’t give the Sellwood Bridge – and its impending replacement – a second thought. However, since all of us who live in Multnomah County will be paying to build the all-new Sellwood Bridge – we’ll bring you up-to-date.

> Then, you can take the online survey – it ends August 8 – and vote on the type of bridge structure you favor.

To large committees, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and Public Stakeholder Committee have been meeting on a regular basis to “in an effort to provide balanced representation of stakeholder interests.”

At a CAC meeting a couple of weeks ago, the committee spent the evening with an overview of the process they’ll use to recommend a bridge type, and discussed refinements to the aesthetic criteria that will be used to compare different bridge types.

Asked to define the term “bridge types”, Mike Pullen from Multnomah County’s Public Affairs Office put it succinctly: “Options the CAC – and the public, by way of an online survey – are considering include eight styles, or types, of construction. They include steel or concrete box girder, steel plate girder, delta frame, ‘tied arch’ or ‘deck arch’ (in steel or concrete), extradosed, or ‘through arch’ (in steel, or a concrete/steel hybrid).”

> The County’s website has images of each bridge type posted online at this website link: CLICK HERE to see it.

Many folks, from both sides of the Willamette River, came to the Sellwood Bridge Open House held at Oaks Park’s Pavilion, to learn more about the new bridge designs being proposed.

Bridge types presented at Open House
Then, at a July 21 open house, many people from the community came by Oaks Park to see, and to comment on, the eight “bridge types” under consideration.

In the past, former Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler had made it a point to attend public meetings and open houses. At this event, even though she’d spent six hours in Sellwood Bridge committee meetings during the day, District 1 Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, followed tradition and came by to lend her support to the process.

District 1 Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury stops by the Sellwood Bridge Open House, lending her support to the process.

“People in this community really care about the Sellwood Bridge,” commented Kafoury. “They want to be involved in the design, they want to be involved in the decisions that are being made. It’s important to them, and that’s important to me.”

Taking up most of her time on this particular project, Kafoury added, has been finding money. “We’re still trying to secure the remaining bits of funding for the entire $330 million package. We have a $40 million request to the federal government; and we’ve had great support from our federal delegation, Senators Merkley and Wyden. Congressman Blumenauer has come out and publicly supported this as well.

“But still, times are tough at all levels of government. And so it’s going to be a struggle for us, but we know that rebuilding the Sellwood Bridge is important; we will prevail.”

Says project is ‘on track’
Kafoury added that the County is “right on track” in meeting planned timelines. “The federal government will release the Record of Decision sometime in early fall. At that time, we can make final decisions on the bridges design. And, hopefully, we’re still ‘all-systems-go’ for starting construction in 2012.”

Cookie Hayashi looks at the exhibits, and remarks, “I thought we had already selected a bridge style. I like the arch style the best.”

Helping to unravel the mysteries of  the several “bridge types” under consideration to Westmoreland residents Jim Clark and Janie Nafsinger is John Ferguson of TYLIN Engineers.

Neighbors comment …
Although he said he hadn’t yet made up his mind, Sellwood “sustainability activist” Philip Krain said, “I will vote for a bridge design that’s simple, yet effective. I want to use our money effectively. It should provide not just a grand bridge design, but be able to provide all of the human interaction accessories, if you will, that are desired by the community.”

A member of the Community Advisory Committee, Heather Koch said she had donated the time to participate in the process, “Because people in the neighborhood really care about what kind of bridge that ends up here. I’m listening to people from the neighborhood, and trying to represent their concerns.”

What she’s hearing now, Koch said, is that people in the area are wondering when they’ll move past the “big picture” bridge types, and into more the detailed design features of the bridge.

“The reason is, people are starting to think about the cost of various options,” Koch explained.  “It’s a question of how each of these bridge types promote walkability, livability, and safety in the neighborhood. Also, how do we save enough money to add amenities? We’re also trying to get a sense of how the design of these bridge types will help the neighborhood handle the traffic impacts coming into Sellwood on S.E. Tacoma Street.”

Miller points out how the “extradosed bridge” design option increases the bridge’s width beyond what was approved for the project.

Eric Miller, said he saw problems with the “extradosed bridge” design (a cross between a girder bridge and a cable-stayed bridge type). “I am concerned because the superstructure above the deck would be much wider than the 64 feet that was approved by the Policy Advisory Group.  Where the superstructure goes up above the deck, it’s going to be 10 or 12 feet wider in some spots than the narrowest point.”

Later this year the committee will recommend its preferred structure type for the new bridge.  However, design decisions will not be made until after the federal government approves the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Online survey closes August 8
Multnomah County wants to know if the new Sellwood Bridge should be:

  • Tall and slender?
  • Low and boxy?
  • Contemporary or classical?
  • Showy or minimalist?

The options must meet a basic set of criteria, including:

  • Cost $170 million or less
  • Can be built without a long-term bridge closure
  • Minimize impacts to the environment and private property
  • Accommodate streetcar
  • Do not require a raised median dividing the deck

“A decision on the structure type will be made by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners this fall,” Pullen said. “Federal approval of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is needed before the structure type can be selected.”

To learn more about the project, and then take the survey, visit the Sellwood Bridge website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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