From The Editor

Local think tank contemplates Sellwood Bridge and reaches wrong conclusion!
Sellwood Bridge, Cascade Policy Institute, mistaken, Sellwood, Bridge, Southeast Portland, Oregon
On February 27, 2016, the day the new Sellwood Bridge opened with a community party, the old Sellwood Bridge stood empty, at left, awaiting its fate in demolition as thousands came to celebrate the opening of its sturdy and wider replacement. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

On the morning of May 14 we received an e-mail from local think tank “Cascade Policy Institute” that proclaimed, “Special Event! Thursday, May 23: ‘The New Sellwood Bridge: Promises Unfulfilled’ – Please join Cascade Policy Institute for our monthly Policy Picnic on Thursday, May 23, at 12PM, featuring John Charles.”

We were surprised, because the main mandate of the new bridge was actually just to replace the old one, which had been rated as a “2” on the federal bridge sufficiency scale of 100, and after 90 years of faithful service was deteriorating badly! And sure enough, it was replaced – with a wider and stronger bridge.

We read on, to find what just promise it was that had not been unfulfilled:

“In 2016 the new Sellwood Bridge opened, at a cost of $328 million. The bridge was more than twice as wide as the original bridge, but most of the space was allocated for cyclists and walkers. Planners believed that by placing a moratorium on road capacity and encouraging alternative ways of traveling, significant numbers of commuters would leave their cars behind.

“Unfortunately, the planners were wrong. Today the traffic congestion near the bridge is worse than ever, and the anticipated jump in walking and cycling never happened. This presentation will discuss the results of a multi-year case study by Cascade of what happens when elected officials refuse to provide transportation facilities needed for population growth.”

Well, none of those conclusions about the new Sellwood Bridge are correct. So, in an effort to prevent an embarrassing faux pas by the well-known local think tank, we sent the following response to the Institute. And, in case anybody in Southeast Portland thinks that reducing traffic congestion ever had any role in the replacement of the Sellwood Bridge, we also offer our response here. Here is what we wrote. . .

Your point in this presentation would be plausible if it were about City of Portland policy, but since the City of Portland was not involved in this bridge project, it isn’t plausible, and nothing you apparently plan to say about the Sellwood Bridge is correct. Did you actually bother to look into this, or are you just making it up?

The Sellwood Bridge was built by, and is owned by, Multnomah County, and their original intention was to build a four-lane bridge to replace the previous bridge. However, the Sellwood-Westmoreland community strongly objected, since the roads the new bridge would connect to at both ends are still two-lane roads, with enormous additional congestion to result from drivers thus having to funnel bridge traffic each way back down from four lanes to two, at both ends of the bridge.

The pressure to build a four-lane bridge and take out a block of the business district in Sellwood to widen Tacoma Street from two lanes to four was coming mostly from Clackamas County and, we personally noticed, from Lake Oswego in particular – entities which refused to consider building a bridge of their own anywhere in Clackamas County between Oregon City and Sellwood to accommodate the demand of their own commuters traveling between Clackamas and Washington Counties daily.

The old Sellwood Bridge was already established as the most heavily-used bridge PER LANE on weekdays in the entire state (even more so than the Interstate Bridge!), with well over 50% of those using it originating in, or traveling to, Clackamas County. Commuter congestion was then nothing new, and the improvement of this congestion was not an impetus for the replacement of the bridge – it was deteriorating, and generally in poor condition, after nearly a century of service, and just needed to be replaced.

You may recall that the Clackamas County Commissioners, as a result of the dependence of their own residents on this bridge, actually proposed a small tax to help Multnomah County replace the deteriorating bridge – but pressure from their own residents resulted in rescinding that idea, and Clackamas County paid nothing to help build the bridge their own residents relied on, and still rely on, so heavily.

The congestion problem you cite remains, because Clackamas County still will not build the bridge they obviously need between Oregon City and Sellwood. The obvious place for it would be at Lake Oswego, where access from McLoughlin on the east bank of the river is already there, and where removal of just one building on the east side of Highway 47 through Lake Oswego would allow a bridge there to provide direct four-lane access westward all the way to Interstate 5 and Highway 217. But Lake Oswego won’t hear of it, apparently.

So, Sellwood still experiences the commuter congestion it did before the bridge replacement, to nobody’s surprise. The only way to avoid it, without the badly needed new bridge being built in Clackamas County, would be to have NO bridge at Sellwood – which would not enhance auto travel for anybody, including those in Sellwood.

Why not redirect your effort and influence into getting the discussion started in Clackamas County towards getting a new four-lane bridge built over the Willamette River at Lake Oswego?

In the meantime, the new Multnomah County bridge at Sellwood has the distinction of being the only bridge in the State of Oregon that almost certainly will remain standing and usable when our epochal plate boundary earthquake does strike Oregon. (That will certainly cause congestion in Sellwood too, but this bridge will then be the essential lifeline in this river-divided city.)

If you want to trash Portland’s quixotic push to get residents, who don’t want to, to abandon their cars, why not instead point out the havoc created for residents of the Rose City by the policy of allowing big apartment house developments with little if any on-site parking? You’ll find, around these projects, a lot of renters’ cars lining the curbs in all directions – and some of these vehicles even sport new-vehicle temporary license stickers in their windows.

Clearly this policy isn’t effective in responding to the needs of either residents or renters, and is simply reducing Portland’s envied quality of life for both.

Eric Norberg
Editor, THE BEE newspaper
Southeast Portland

TV transition postponed to June 21

A couple of months ago, we warned BEE readers who get their local TV free with an antenna that two local stations would be changing frequencies in early April, and when they disappeared from the TV dial, readers would have to “rescan” their TV’s to get them both back. But it didn’t happen according to the original deadline.

These two stations – KATU, channel 2, and KNMT, channel 24 – found they couldn’t complete the technical work in time, and applied to the F.C.C. for an extension to finish the work.

The application was granted, and now both stations are supposed to complete their transition by or on the first day of summer – June 21. If and when one or both disappear from your dial, “rescan” your TV tuner, and you’ll get them back.

Viewers paying for cable or satellite service won’t have to do this, since their provider will make the change for them.

Letters to the Editor
baby reader, THE BEE, Southeast Portland, Oregon

Our youngest reader


Here’s a photo of my 22 month old daughter, Elise, reading THE BEE. A newspaper I enjoy reading as well. Thought you’d get a kick out of it.

Janis Zuments
S.E. 35th Avenue


Trees not saved; new ones planted


It was kind of The Bee to call my unsuccessful effort to save the trees on the Metro-owned Sellwood Gap (south side of railway tracks, between S..E 9th and 11th Avenues) “valiant.” But it was never just my campaign; many people in this neighborhood south of Tacoma Street participated to try and rescue that biodiverse urban woodland strip with fruit trees. We had support from across the city, and even as far away as Sheffield, England, and Kathmandu.

Engineers and construction people among us were proposing alternatives to modify the extra-wide pavement and save trees, but Portland Parks & Recreation rushed ahead and cut so many mature trees that they filled a logging truck, then scraped away every other bit of vegetation. The devastation included an apple tree that renowned nature writer Robert MacFarlane called “more a civilization than a single being.”

The neighbors here are doing our best to plant a variety of new trees. For mitigation Portland Parks has planted three trees between S.E. 9th and 11th, and a grove of oak and maple saplings on a different lot across the intersection of 9th and Linn Street. They have planted native shrubs on the excavated bank next to the now paved path.

We have always welcomed this safe route for bike riders and walkers to explore our beautiful neighborhood and connect riverside trails to rural pathways. We hope that it will again be shaded by trees in future years.

Edith Mirante


The Eastmoreland Historic District issue


Regarding “Eastmoreland 'Historic' vote: Court disqualifies 'trusts'” in the May BEE, Thank you for an informative article. 

However, local [homeowner and] developer Tom Brown was given the last word, leaving the impression that opponents of an Eastmoreland Historic District want a more inclusive, diverse neighborhood, while supporters want the opposite. This is absurd, given that every house that’s been demolished has been replaced by one or two far more expensive homes. On my street, a 1682 sq. ft. house was sold in 2017 for $577,875 and replaced the following year by a house that sold for $1,200,000.

In my conversations with neighbors, people’s positions were straightforward – opponents wanted the freedom to remodel their homes without interference or extra expense, and supporters wanted to protect the neighborhood from needless demolitions. Mr. Brown’s assumption of a moral high ground looks a little disingenuous, as property speculation and redevelopment slowly price the middle classes out of Eastmoreland.

Katherine Showalter

Cleveland High, Flora Abrams, Eastmoreland, Portland, Oregon
Cleveland High grad Flora Abrams

Distinction for Cleveland High grad


Eastmoreland resident Flora Abrams was awarded the P.E.O. STAR Scholarship in May. She is a Cleveland High School senior who will be attending the University of Washington next fall where she plans to study biomedical engineering.  Flora is one of Cleveland’s most exceptional students, with a strong background in robotics and service commitment. Her enrollment in International Baccalaureate courses during her junior and senior years has conferred advance standing toward her college coursework. She is especially committed to building robotics capabilities among girls, having taught an all-girls Explorer Scouts course on basic programming and electronics, while serving as a student teacher in ChickTech’s robotics boot camp. In her sophomore year, Flora founded Here’s a Coding Klub (HACK) for girls, to find a supportive environment in which to learn computer coding.

Joan Barnes
via e-mail

Thanks from All Saints’


All Saints’ Episcopal Church would like to thank Stumptown Style, and owner Paul Liniger and his crew, for donating time and materials for a natural play area! All are welcome to enjoy the space created on the corner of S.E. 40th and Woodstock Avenue.

Andria Skornik
All Saints’ Episcopal Church
via e-mail


In the May BEE article “Changes approved for two Inner Southeast church properties”, the statement appeared, “In both cases, parishioners have commented to THE BEE that declining attendance had been the motivation for making the change.” The statement was accurate in the case of the Christian Science Church property in Westmoreland, but the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Sellwood informs us that it is untrue in their case, and that they are selling an unused portion of their property to benefit the community. The statement appeared in the edited version of the story, but was not written by David F. Ashton, the author of the article. THE BEE regrets the error.

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