Pearl wants Sauvie Bridge
Sauvie Island Bridge may find new life as a bike/pedestrian span
Portland Business Journal - July 20, 2007
by Andy Giegerich
Taking sustainability to drastic new levels, the city of Portland wants to spend $5 million to move the Sauvie Island Bridge to the Pearl District. That's twice the cost it would take to build a new bridge in the Pearl altogether.
The neighbors and the city aim to create an Interstate 405 overpass connecting the Pearl and the Northwest 23rd Avenue area at Northwest Flanders Street. Once installed, the structure would limit its traffic to bicycles and pedestrians, serving as the centerpiece of a proposed Flanders Street "bike boulevard."
The $5 million project, which still needs various approvals but would take place once the new Sauvie Island Bridge is completed next summer, would create a logistical spectacle.
As the entire structure remains in one piece, workers would place it onto a massive barge, then float it upstream on the Willamette Channel to the Willamette River, then seven miles from Sauvie Island to Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
The bridge would then be loaded onto a truck and driven 14 blocks west to Northwest Flanders Street.
Neighbors like the idea so much that they're volunteering to help pay a big chunk of the estimated $2.5 million cost difference between moving the bridge's arched center truss to the Pearl and building a new one.
The Pearl District Neighborhood Association's planning committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to support creating private funding sources for the project, from both neighbors and businesses, as well as exploring whether the district's urban renewal funds could help defray some of the project's $5 million price tag.
If neighbors don't pay for the whole project, the city may need to kick in up to $2.5 million of the costs, or roughly the amount it would cost to build a new structure over I-405 as opposed to moving the Sauvie Island Bridge there. The city's share could come from system development charges or transportation funds.
"The nice thing is, this won't take money out of the general fund," said Patricia Gardner, who chairs the Pearl neighbors' planning committee. "But we're willing to raise funds for it. This is something that will work."
Neighbors and city leaders believe moving the bridge, rather than building a new one, would provide a better bike and pedestrian link between the Pearl and the Northwest 23rd neighborhood. It's difficult crossing I-405 on either Northwest Everett or Glisan street because those overpasses contain narrow sidewalks and minimal room for bikes.
As for moving an existing bridge at a higher cost than building a new structure, a new $2.5 million overpass would be 12 feet wide, as opposed to the 40-foot-wide Sauvie Bridge, making for a better walk or bike ride. It would also nicely preserve a piece of history while serving as a monument to sustainability, supporters say.
"You can build something new more cheaply than you can preserve something that's old," said David O'Longaigh, the city's bridges and structures supervising engineer. "But it's kind of like the difference between building a skinny row house, which was built to last 40 years, and moving a carriage house, which was built to last 200 years."
City Commissioner Sam Adams, who oversees the city's transportation efforts, told neighbors a year ago he wanted them and other private sector types to fund the move, said Roland Chlapowski, Adams' policy director.
"While it's a great project, we can't fiscally see diverting funds from anywhere else for it," he said.
While the project has generally drawn support, one commenter to Adams' blog voiced concerns that bicyclists, who'd benefit the most from the move, wouldn't pay their fair share toward the project.
One business owner, initially skeptical about the idea, now strongly backs it.
"It would be a wonderful amenity," said Reuel Fish, a principal in the Urban Wineworks store at 407 N.W. 16th Ave. "When you watch people coming from Northwest to the Pearl, it's certainly not pedestrian-friendly. It would actually enhance the flow of people and potential shoppers to both neighborhoods."
The most expensive part of the project, $1.6 million, would come from moving the structure upriver to Waterfront Park. It would cost $500,000 to build new foundations and $1.4 million to remove the bridge's lead paint.
Another half-million would pay for items such as stormwater provisions and relocating obstacles during the bridge's move; the final $1 million are contingency fees for unexpected developments.
The bridge weighs 500 tons, with 300 tons being concrete and 200 tons being steel.
O'Longaigh said the 200-foot-long bridge would span I-405 with 10 to 15 feet to spare and contain no intermediate supports.
"It's a perfect fit in many ways," he said. "We think we can support it on piled foundations right in that location."