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Sellwood Bridge rebuild reaches 60% Final Design phase

by: David F. Ashton Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury welcomes members to the Sellwood Bridge Public Stakeholders Committee meeting.

After a late August Sellwood Bridge Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, and a mid September Sellwood Bridge Public Stakeholders Committee (PSC) meeting, final design details of the reconstructed bridge are beginning to emerge.

During the August 29 meeting, members of the CAC focused their attention on making decisions that would lead to a '60% Design and Funding' presentation to be made before government officials.

With no public comments made, the CAC got directly to business while dining on pizza.

First came a robust discussion of both the style of the new bridge's design features, including:

• Gateway Feature

• Multi-Use Path Surface Treatments

• Structural decorative lighting

• Belvederes

• Benches

• Fencing

• Multi-Use path lighting

Going down the list once again, CAC members then discussed cost considerations of each of these design features.

By meeting's end, they'd set the groundwork for their presentation to the PSC.

Sellwood Bridge Public Stakeholders Committee meets

At the Multnomah County Building Board Room on September 12, members of the Sellwood Bridge Public Stakeholders Committee (PSC) gathered. Those on the committee represent Multnomah County, Clackamas County, City of Portland, Metro, ODOT, Federal Highway Administration, TriMet, and three different elected leaders from the State House of Representatives and State Senate, plus a representative from Senator Jeff Merkley's office.

'The PSC meets only at major milestones,' explained Sellwood Bridge project spokesman, Mike Pullen, before the meeting began.

'Late last year they met to discuss the 30% Design phase; today's topic is the 60% Final Design phase,' Pullen observed. 'This is a stage where we are asking the partners from the different member agencies to give us approval that this is the proper package of design features. They'll also discuss funding alternatives.'

Due to illness, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen didn't attend; Commissioner Deborah Kafoury welcomed those attending, and invited self-introductions before giving the floor to facilitator Vaughn Brown.

Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) neighborhood association President Mat Millenbach presented a letter adopted by SMILE on September 12. It advocated for the funding option supported by Commissioner Kafoury and Chair Cogen - and a fallback plan, if full funding isn't received, that integrates 'safety necessities into the bridge design'.

Millenbach also said that SMILE supports the CAC's recommended design features and streetscape safety design features.

'We urge the PSC to prioritize the funding of features that enhance safety, calm traffic, are aesthetically pleasing, and represent only a small fraction of the overall cost,' said Millenbach.

Staff and CAC members reviewed for those at the meeting that the chosen design will be a Steel Deck Arch, built with the shoo-fly detour bridge option, using a 'compressed' west-side interchange.

The PSC learned how the Multi-use Path on the new bridge will feature coloring and striping to separate bicycle riders from pedestrians from vehicular traffic and one another.

In total, the recommended design features are estimated to cost $4.1 million. According to updated estimates, the current 'funding gap' stands at $22.7 million.

At meeting's end, the requested PSC action was to recommend to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners to advance the 60% Project Design and secure full funding; adopt building a less-complex interim Westside interchange, if full funding is not secured - and revisit the funding plan in March to consider the next steps.

This recommendation will go before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in mid October.

Meantime, on Sunday, September 18, some motorists were dismayed to find the Sellwood Bridge closed to vehicular traffic for most of the day.

'A contractor was removing small concrete samples from the bridge deck, in preparation for the 'shoo fly' relocation of the old bridge in 2012,' Pullen explained. 'Another crew also filled potholes, and worked on bridge lighting.'

The bridge remained open to bicyclists and pedestrians, and reopened by 3 pm.