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New view of future Sellwood Bridge

by:  Safdie Rabines Architects rendering A refined illustration of the planned all-new Sellwood Bridge.

Even though the Sellwood Bridge rebuilding project received the approval of the Multnomah County Commissioners last month for its '60% Design Elements' stage, members of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) were meeting again on November 7.

A highlight of the gathering were some impressive new graphics to convey a better sense of what the new Sellwood Bridge will actually be like, prepared by Safdie Rabines Architects. These are included with this article

This month, fueled by a pizza supper at the SMILE Station, CAC members heard a review of the current funding situation, and saw presentations regarding the overall bridge design and landscaping plans for the west-side interchange, including plans for a new, larger retaining wall on the west side of Highway 43.

As the meeting started, Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge Project Manager Ian Cannon gave a funding update.

'The project is still short by $22.7 million,' Cannon said, 'but we've just completed an application that we feel really good about, seeking a US Department of Transportation TIGER Discretionary Grant. President Obama has asked the DOT's decision-making process be sped up, so they'll announce [whether the grant will be made] by the end of the year.'

If no TIGER Grant money is forthcoming, the project will put in place a temporary west-side interchange. 'It would be better than what's there now, but would eventually have to be replaced,' explained county spokesman Michael Pullen.

However, if the project ends up being short from $1 to $5 million, the budget gap will be closed by 'trimming some amenities' from the project.

CAC members learned from Pullen that in-water construction will begin in December. 'They'll be putting in the river piers for the Shoo-fly, or detour, bridge. In Spring 2012, they'll be building the land section.'

Other activity, Pullen said, will include contractors making construction material staging space at both ends of the bridge; it will begin at the site of the former Mela Building in December.

'The Staff Jennings buildings will be removed in January or February,' Pullen disclosed. 'After the project, the area will be planted with native grasses and plants.'

'And, Powers Marine Park will close in December or January - its parking lot, south of Staff Jennings, will become unavailable. They don't want people parking along Highway 43 to use the park.'

During a presentation by a representative of the project's landscape architect, from Safdie Rabines Architects, regarding plans for the west-side interchange, CAC members learned that making a nearly vertical rock cut will reduce the height of the concrete wall to a maximum of 30 feet, sloping off to 20 feet or less along the length of the retaining wall.