County’s Burnside Bridge project plans put bicycle riders on sidewalk for two years

(Graphics: HDR/Multnomah County)

Next month Multnomah County and private contractor will kick off a major rehabilitation project for the Burnside Bridge. The project will nip and tuck the historic span in hopes of getting another 15-20 years of service out of it.

According to construction plans released by HDR (the contractor hired to perform the work), there will be significant changes to bridge operations for two years while the project is completed. From November of this year through November 2019, the plan is to have bicycle users share a sidewalk/sidepath with people walking. The plan will also reduce the number of standard vehicle lanes from five the three.

Here’s a close-up of the cross-section that was distributed by HDR last week:

Notice in the graphic above that during the project one of the bridge’s sidewalks will remain open while the other is worked on. Bicycle users and walkers will share the existing, six-foot wide sidewalks on one side — and on the other side the County will construct a new shared and separated space in the roadway. We haven’t yet heard how wide this temporary sidewalk will be and we don’t know exactly what will be used for the separation from motor vehicle traffic.

The County will spend around $20 million on this project to upgrade and repair the bridge surface, railings, sidewalks, electrical system, steel frame, and so on.

This bridge is in dire need of a bike access upgrade; but County spokesman Mike Pullen says this repair project will only work on “basic fixes,” and, “does not materially change the facilities.” It’s unclear whether this project will include re-striping the lanes; but with a $20 million that seems likely. If new striping happens, this could be an opportunity to reconfigure them in a way that better reflects current needs and adopted city goals. The existing bike lanes on the bridge were installed in 1995. Since then there has been tremendous residential and office development on both sides of the river. According to PBOT bicycle counts, the number of bicycle users on the Burnside Bridge has also grown seven-fold in that timeframe (from 620 to 2,345 trips per day).

In an interview today Pullen said the County will likely embark on a planning project in the “next couple of years” that will look specifically at bicycling and walking upgrades. When asked about the shared sidewalk plans during the upcoming construction project, Pullen said the decision was made by the project manager in coordination with the consultant.

This two-year construction project and temporary lane configuration will have a major impact on bridge users. Cargo trike operators from B-Line Urban Delivery rely on the Burnside to go from destinations in Old Town/Chinatown to their new hub in the Central Eastside. Their trikes do not fit on the sidewalk so they’ll have share the lane with auto users.

We’re still awaiting further comment from the County and HDR about the traffic plan.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the project on the official website and at an open house this Thursday night (3/23) from 5:00 to 7:00 pm in the Multnomah Building (1st Floor Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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