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Bridge over Troubled Politics

Activists Rally Around Sauvie Island Bridge Move

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Over the dull roar of rush-hour traffic in the I-405 gulch below, a crowd gathered at NW Flanders and 15th to show a little love for a bridge that's halfway across town—the soon to be scrapped Sauvie Island Bridge.

Those gathered—a few dozen cyclists and pedestrians—support Commissioner Sam Adams' proposal to move the old bridge to NW Flanders, where it would serve walkers and bikers who want to cross the freeway. The proposal, however, was voted down by Mayor Tom Potter—who claimed the $5.5 million it would cost to rehab and reinstall the bridge could be spent elsewhere on things like sidewalks in outer East Portland—and Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who had concerns about the sole-source contract with Max J. Kuney Construction, which currently owns the bridge.

"It would create a bridge right there, across I-405," says cycling advocate Elly Blue, pointing to the gap between the auto-oriented Everett and Glisan overpasses. "It would be the largest re-use project in the history of Portland."

"This is one of those rare instances where we're expanding capacity for bicycling and pedestrians because we're creating a car-free environment down here," adds the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's Karl Rohde, noting that the mayor's objections to the proposal were "just flat-out wrong... the money for this project can not be used in other parts of Portland."

Breaking into groups, the bridge advocates carefully navigated the Everett and Glisan overpasses by bike and on foot, to call attention to their hope for a calmer crossing.

Moments after the rally began, Saltzman's office sent out a press release, announcing that he now supports the proposal: He and Adams have worked out a new proposal that addressed Saltzman's contract concerns, requiring bids "for all construction related to the project" and requiring the sources of funding to be secured "before executing contracts."

Though the project is on a tight timeline—Kuney Construction needs to move it out of its current location in the next few weeks, and is awaiting direction from the city to either scrap it or rehab it for NW Flanders—Saltzman tells the Mercury that his stipulation to secure funding at the outset means the contractor shares the project's risks.

Adams' office is now in negotiations with Kuney Construction. Check blogtown.portlandmercury.com for updates.

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