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Moving bridge has nice side effect

On the town

At first glance, the proposed bicycle- and pedestrian-only bridge over Interstate 405 seems like a perfect fit for P-town.

I mean, how could you go wrong here with a bridge that doesn't allow cars?

This is, after all, the city whose supreme governing body once declared skateboards the legal and moral equivalent of automobiles.

No kidding. In 2000 the City Council passed an ordinance giving skateboarders an equal right to the city's streets.

And if we can do that for skateboards, it doesn't take much imagination to see where bicycles, an even more practical way of getting around while demonstrating your opposition to Big Oil, rank in the local scheme of things.

It's a well-known fact that if you're running for public office these days, it pays to be seen as often as possible either wearing a bike helmet or riding a two-wheeler.

As should have been obvious to even the most slow-witted member of the City Council, a vote last week in favor of putting a bike- and pedestrian-only bridge over I-405 was a vote for truth, justice and the Portland way of life.

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And not only that. As the supporters of the bridge proudly proclaimed, the bridge itself was being 'recycled.'

As you probably read in the papers, the plan is to transport the old 1,198-foot steel truss Sauvie Island bridge upstream on a barge, then haul it across town from the river and place it over I-405, where it will sit like an aircraft carrier in the middle of our city. Who says we don't have good taste?

Never mind, of course, that this is really stretching the definition of recycling for metal objects that have outlived their usefulness. Usually, as I understand it, we just smash them and melt them down in a furnace somewhere.

If the newspaper accounts of this episode are anywhere close to accurate, we could do the same to the Sauvie Island bridge for about $35,000.

As it happens, however, 'recycling' is another one of those words that pushes a lot of buttons in this town. And that being the case, who are we to blame the politicians from throwing it out there whenever it suits their purposes?

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Bicycles. Sustainability. And, oh yes, one more thing:

Big-time real estate interests.

Because when you get right past the green-sounding rhetoric, that's a factor here, too.

Not that anyone on the City Council, especially Sam Adams, Randy Leonard or the late Erik Sten, has been trying to pull the environmental wool over anyone's eyes, of course.

But at least to insiders, it's been pretty obvious that the bridge - which is to be plunked down over the interstate at Northwest Flanders - is part of a master plan to sweeten property values in the Pearl.

And while no one's against anyone else making an honest buck in the real estate business, there's no reason to get giddy here, either.

At $5.5 million, the plan to 'recycle' the Sauvie Island bridge is almost twice as expensive as the next cheaper proposal - like, say, the arched bike bridge across Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, just south of the Tacoma overpass.

It looks good. In fact, it'll look a whole lot better than the major clunker that Adams wants to put there, if that makes any difference to those guys.

Next time this comes up before the City Council, at least maybe they'll spare us some of the happy talk.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .