Portland to Get a Transit- & Bike-Only Bridge

Williamette River Transit Bridge to be built in Portland, Oregon

Cars have gotten a hugely disproportionate bulk of transportation funds in the U.S. for decades, over half a century even. But with more and more people realizing this is bad for our health, bad for our pocketbooks, bad for the environment, and bad for the vibrancy of our cities, this is (slowly) changing.

One of the cities leading the pack on this front, giving more and more funding to bicycle/pedestrian projects and transit projects, is Portland. I did my graduate studies on the topic of city and regional planning and I swear Portland was mentioned as a best case example in every class I took at some point.

Portland’s newest (I think) effort to promote clean, green transportation is the Willamette River Transit Bridge, the first bridge going over the Willamette River to be built in 37 years. The bridge “will link a future Oregon Health & Science University campus on the west side of the river with a museum and opera house on the east.” The bridge will include 14-foot-wide bicycle/pedestrian paths on both sides and space for public transit vehicles down the middle, but as the title above indicates, it will not be accessible to cars.

“The active-transit structure, a critical piece of a 7.3-mile light-rail line that will link downtown Portland with the south suburb of Milwaukie, will be the first of its kind in the United States,” Michael Burnham of Next American City writes.

14-foot bicycle pedestrian paths are very generous in the U.S. and will make a pleasant bicycle or pedestrian trip over the bridge that much more so.

The look of the bridge, designed by San Francisco-based architect Donald McDonald is reported by some to be anything but eye candy. It “will feature two 181-foot-tall towers that anchor cables that rise from the river like a sea monster’s fins” and has been called “Godzilla on the Willamette.” And at least one reporter is concerned its design will even “severely limit” residential development nearby.

I think this is an inflated exaggeration of one person’s own opinion on the matter, though. Gerik Kransky, advocacy director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, says: “Personally, I think it’s beautiful.” Just seeing the rendering above, I definitely think it looks nice, one of the prettier bridges I’ve seen in my life. And I think a litlle bit of a quirky design is a perfect fit for Portland. And, of course, it will make Portland even more of a bicycle and green transportation leader, which I think is the most important thing for the city.

If all goes as planned, the bridge is supposed to open in 2015.

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Image Credit: Next American City