Saturday, September 01, 2012

Sauvie Island Bridge

[View Larger Map]

Today's installment in the ongoing bridge project takes us up to the shiny new Sauvie Island Bridge. This bridge opened in 2008, replacing a 1950 bridge that didn't hold up under truck traffic. (PortlandBridges has a photo of the old & new bridges together when they briefly existed side by side.) I never got around to walking across the original bridge; word is that it wasn't really a fun experience, though, so I wouldn't exactly call this one of my main regrets in life. I'd meant to at least go up and take a few photos while both the old and new bridges were stil there, but I was on a deadline at the time and didn't quite get around to it. Again, would have been interesting, but not a lingering source of regret.

Some people have criticized the new bride for still only being a two lane bridge. This was actually deliberate; the thinking was that if transportation on and off the island became too convenient, and too much road capacity was in place, there would be irresistible pressure to rezone Sauvie Island and turn it into yet another cookie-cutter commuter suburb.

I don't always buy into urban planners' worst case scenarios, but I'm pretty sure they're right about what would happen here. Sauvie Island is so close to downtown Portland that you could even make a reasonable argument that development there would be preferable to building way out in Sherwood and Damascus and North Plains. Shorter commutes, less gas burned, less CO2 emitted, better transit options, and so forth. Before anyone flames me for saying that, please note I'm not actually arguing in favor. I don't have a strong opinion either way; I'm just saying there's a reasonable argument that isn't just based on the greed of venal developers. There would also be obvious downsides: US 30 would become a major commuter route, so there'd be highway upgrades and maybe a new MAX line (since a big new car-only development would never get the ok here), and certainly this bridge here wouldn't be up to the job. That would all be expensive. The island's also no stranger to flooding, so there might be levee upgrades in the cards, plus the potential cost of rebuilding after another 1996-style major flood. And obviously more suburbs would mean the loss of farmland, the eternal bogeyman of the planning community. People sometimes get kind of touchy-feely when talking about Oregon farmland and their romantic attachment to it, but I do think that's a legitimate cultural value, not to be lightly tossed aside.

In any case, it's a two lane bridge for a reason. Unlike the old bridge, though, the new bridge has wider landes and adequate sidewalks, making this installment of the bridge project pretty uneventful. I parked at the TriMet park-n-ride lot just on the island side of the bridge, walked across, crossed the street, and walked back, and now I can say I've done it if the subject ever comes up. It usually doesn't, but the story might be useful someday in case I'm trying to bore someone at a party or something. I saw a few cyclists but didn't meet any other pedestrians while I was walking across; there really isn't much right on the mainland side of the bridge except a houseboat marina, and on the island side there's just the TriMet lot and the island general store. So it's really convenient if you need to walk over and grab some brewskis and jojos and lug them back to your houseboat without being flattened by a truck full of cucumbers. Still, I approve of the nice wide sidewalks just on general principles.

So, as is often the case, I don't have a plausible form of peril to offer up for the "not dying" angle on this bridge. If you aren't familiar with that from earlier bridge posts, the idea is that I try to offer at least one helpful safety tip about how not to meet with a horrific demise while copying my latest astonishing walking-across-the-bridge-and-sometimes-back adventure. Some say these safety tips are of, uh, varying degrees of helpfulness. I, of course, beg to differ. Be that as it may, the one serious danger I see here is the part where you cross the street on the mainland side of the bridge so you can walk back on the other side. Which you're doing because you're trying to exactly copy what I did, for some peculiar reason. Traffic isn't that heavy on the bridge most of the time, but it picks up around October because Sauvie Island is where everyone takes their kids to pick out Halloween pumpkins. Then you get traffic jams, endless minivans full of pumpkin-addled first graders, driven by harried parents who just might run you down in a moment of inattention. Maybe the driver will be looking down at his or her phone, complaining about the crazy traffic to their idiot friends from high school on Facebook, and suddenly thump, you're a statistic. If the impact itself doesn't get you, the sheer irony will. So the nice people over in Legal said I had to at least try to discourage you from walking over the bridge in October, or at least on weekends in October. Or if you absolutely positively have to do this on a Saturday morning in late October, at least consider not wandering right out into traffic. Because there might be a minivan out there with your name on it, and that's just a terribly undignified way to go. Ok?

Thx. Mgmt.

No comments :