Saturday, November 03, 2012

Gibbs St. Pedestrian Bridge

A slideshow of the shiny new and long-awaited Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses I-5 directly beneath the Portland Aerial Tram. It looks better than the design sketches I'd seen of it; the slight curve makes a big difference in it not looking like just another ugly overpass. The bridge was a long time coming: First there was a federal grant to obtain (which IIRC was originally supposed to rework the Naito Parkway overpass/intersection with SW Arthur St.). Once the money was finally in hand, the project finally kicked off, and it was time for an interminable Portland-style design process, and a parallel process of discovering what could and couldn't actually be built with the money on hand.

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The South Waterfront side of the bridge includes several flights of stairs to get down to street level, plus an elevator that's been in and out of service repeatedly in the months since the bridge opened. Which is a problem since, as a series of BikePortland posts note, the current bike gutters on the stairs aren't really up to the task.

I'm sure there are people whose daily commute was revolutionized by the new bridge, or it at least made it easier to get around as a pedestrian. The impact would undoubtedly be even greater if it was easier to get to the west side of the bridge, but the stretch of Naito between I-405 and Barbur was built as a limited access semi-freeway back in the 1940s, and getting across it involves one of various creepy tunnels under the street, and/or the old skybridge over to the Bermuda Triangle area (where the naturopathic college is located). A few years ago I wrote a couple of posts about the transportation issues in this part of town. I was a bit more wound up and snarky about things back then, so please take that into account, but my point there basically stands. In these days of austerity and shrinking budgets for everything, I'd be happy if they simply added a traffic signal or two (and crosswalks) on that part of Naito, for now. I haven't seen any recent discussion about doing that, though I admit to not paying close attention for the last couple of years or so. If we're lucky, maybe the new bridge will lead to pressure on the city to finally do something about the Naito situation.

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