PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland is years away from building a new Burnside Bridge over the Willamette River, however one group already sees the new bridge as an opportunity to re-vitalize Portland’s waterfront.
KOIN 6 News met Willie Levenson, of the Human Access Project, at the east end of the Burnside Bridge.
Levenson wants more people to have access to the Willamette River and the Eastbank Esplanade.
“There’s some barriers to get to the Esplanade right now. Really, from a landscape architect perspective, as much as anything else, this just doesn’t welcome you,” Levenson said.
Multnomah County said the new bridge would be the only one in the central city able to withstand a catastrophic earthquake.
Levenson said it should include a ramp to the Eastbank Esplanade, making the river accessible to people with disabilities, bicyclists, and pedestrians. And while they’re at it, perhaps a terraced park, like the one pictured below in Lyon, France.
“The magic of a river happens at the water’s edge. So, a lot of what we want to do is create opportunities to get people to the water’s edge,” Levenson said.
A new Burnside Bridge could cost up to $1 billion. Multnomah County has about $300 million now, from higher vehicle registration fees and is also asking the public for ways to cut costs.
Recently, Portland City Council approved $20,000 to study how much a ramp would cost instead of the elevator in the county’s current proposal.
“Replacing the Burnside Bridge is literally a once in a century opportunity to remake and re-imagine the Eastbank Esplanade,” Commissioner Mingus Mapps said.
The design phase doesn’t begin until next year, but Willie Levenson has hope that a new Burnside Bridge could bring new life to Portland’s waterfront.
“So, it’s still a long shot, but you have to celebrate your victories. There’s a lot more work ahead,” Levenson said.
Multnomah County says the new Burnside Bridge could be completed in 2029, assuming it gets federal infrastructure dollars.
Meanwhile, they are asking for the public’s thoughts regarding design and cost.