Thursday, October 5

Lake Oswego Connection


The Lake Oswego planning committee was a fascinating experience for me. Despite my trepidation, I was able to reach Lake Oswego with little difficulty thanks to the fine network of paths including the Fanno Creek Trail, and the Kruse Rd trail. Over 60 people crowded into the Adult Community Center in Lake Oswego, despite efforts to keep the meeting small. Several of the people who owned property along the Historic Trolley right-of-way were present along with Metro employees, planners and residents from as far away as Hillsboro.
The reason for such strong attendance is obvious. This is one of the most challenging transportation links Portland is examining at this time. Currently there is only one direct link between downtown Portland and downtown Lake Oswego and that is Hwy 43. This road is a traffic backup for drivers, a minimally serviced bus corridor, and a suicidal pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. Topography is the main causal effect. There are two box canyons along the corridor and the hills fall steeply to the shore of the Willamette River.

Even for the rail line itself there have been safety issues on some of the steeper slopes which necessitated construction of the rail tunnel. This tunnel as well as the rail bridge are the predominant obstacles to adding a bike/ped trail alongside the ROW.





This is why the Metro study is examining both the Historic Trolley Right-of-Way and Hwy 43 corridor. Nat Brown and Karen Withrow from Metro along with Kristen Hall facilitated the meeting and discussed the options that Metro has studied.
These options included:
  • A river ferry between Lake Oswego and downtown Portland
  • A streetcar line along the Historic Trolley Line
  • A direct transit option along Hwy 43
  • Use of the existing railroad bridge to create a bike/ped connection to Sellwood
This is not the first or the last meeting which will be held on the subject. Portland Metro is putting forth a significant effort to hear all sides and fully examine the issue.

Comments were mostly civil, but opininions were obviously strong at the meeting. The main comments for those who favored a bike/ped trail along the right-of-way included lighting, safety for users, access to the Sellwood Bridge, and options to provide a packed gravel path as an interrim stage.
Comments from those who apposed the bike/ped trail mostly focused on the legality of creating a trail alongside the ROW, as well as the safety of property owners, and access across the ROW.

I spoke with people from both sides of the issue and learned a great deal from their comments. Some of the local neighbors brought up important issues such as safety in the tunnel [if a bike/ped trail were run on the ROW], property values, and trespassing.
Tom Comitz is a landowner who's property abuts the ROW. He felt that the city had resolved itself to building a trail along the ROW regardless of what residents wanted. Psychologists call this a confirmation bias.
One local resident told me that he's lived on his property since he was born, and he expects to pass the house to his children.
"Those guys will want to be crossing my property to get to the river. They can do so over someone's dead body and I'm going to be the one who decides which."
He cited an article in The Oregonian as exemplary of the security risk. His belief is that the traffic issues on Hwy 43 are overrated and that the solution is better management of the auto corridor.

Others had a different view.
One person spoke up at the meeting to say, "There aint no way that we're not going to have a trail [as part of this study].

Another person told me he has never spent a dime in Lake Oswego because of it's innaccessability. " Just as many towns along Rt 66 suffered when access to their downtown was removed, communities such as [Lake Oswego] don't do as well as they could because of limited accessability. These people have to realize that drivers don't window shop."

One planner had this to say*
"Well, I would say that they're not doing a good enough job ensuring that a high-quality trail will definitely be part of the project. Everything's still so "maybe" at this stage that I have no confidence about Metro's true commitment to getting a great trail built despite the challenges."

*Note: the planner whom I spoke with is not an employee of Metro.

The need for a better link to Lake Oswego is unquestionable. However with the land sloping steeply down from Rt 43 to the river, I don't personally know what solution would provide access for all three modes of travel.

2 comments:

Jonathan Maus said...

This is a great report Aaron. Thanks for being there and sharing this information with the community.

Seems like we'll have to work to make this bike/ped option a reality.

keep us posted.

Jonathan Maus said...

This is a great report Aaron. Thanks for being there and sharing this information with the community.

Seems like we'll have to work to make this bike/ped option a reality.

keep us posted.