On Wednesday, April 4th, anyone who uses the Sellwood Bridge, or is concerned about its future and the future of the communities around it, was invited by the bridge's owner, Multhomah County, to attend a 'public workshop' in the Sellwood Middle School gymnasium from 7 till 9 pm. Unlike most such events, it featured a formal program, to start at 7 pm, so attendees were urged to plan to be there then, and to spend the whole two hours at this important public feedback event.
Multnomah County spokesman Mike Pullen told THE BEE, 'The goal for the workshop is to receive public feedback on the range of alignment and interchange and intersection concepts. We welcome your ideas for additional concepts to consider, and ways to improve the ones we've developed.'
Maps showing many of the alignment and width options already identified were to be posted around the gym; although officially the decision whether to replace the bridge or just rehabilitate it has not been made, the meetings of the Sellwood Bridge Citizens Advisory Committee has already established that building a new bridge would probably be cheaper than fixing the old one, because a new one could be built while the old one is still in use, while rehabilitating it would block its use for a long period of time, necessitating the building of a costly temporary bridge for traffic to use to cross the Willamette River during the repair.
The open house and workshop was to give the advisory committee more information to consider as it moves over many months towards making its recommendation to the county as to the 'preferred alternative'. A county panel will then consider that recommendation before itself making the final decision as to the future of the bridge.
Since the workshop inadvertently conflicted with the monthly SMILE General Public Meeting scheduled for the same date and time, the SMILE Board voted to incorporate its April meeting into the workshop and open house, and to meet at the Sellwood Middle School gym for this one month only. The address of the school is 8300 S.E. 15th Avenue in Sellwood.
Multnomah County hopes that the money will be there to proceed with the final recommendation when it is decided upon, but in case it is not, it continues regularly to inspect and maintain the Sellwood Bridge, and assures that it continues to be safe to cross in vehicles of gross weight under 10 tons, the current bridge weight limit. No further deterioration of the bridge has been noted since the weight limit was put into effect.