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Glimpses of the French Prairie Bridge in the Wilsonville Bike/Ped. Masterplan

posted Apr 6, 2012, 9:18 PM by Patrick Croasdaile
In 2006, and with the endorsement of the City Government, Alta Planning & Design undertook the most comprehensive study of walking and bicycling in Wilsonville. The end result was the City's very own bicycle and pedestrian master plan. The master plan examined many topics pertaining to existing walking and biking conditions in the Wilsonville area and identified the need for specific improvements. One of the improvements identified was the need for an enhanced bike and pedestrian crossing of the Willamette River. Reporters noted that “the lack of any crossing option other than the Boone Bridge (I-5) greatly reduces the opportunities for people to walk or bicycle to [back and forth] south of the river” (Alta Planning & Design 2006, 97).

In addition to the suggestion of a new, stand-alone bridge, Alta Planning considered, adding a multi-use, right of way addition to the Portland & Western railway bridge, adding a path onto the side of the I-5 bridge, adding a “shared-use path running underneath the I-5 Bridge”, and establishing a pedestrian and bicycle ferry (Alta Planning & Deign 2006, 97). It is also worth noting that master plan reporters considered doing nothing and continuing on with existing conditions.

Using a point-based criteria system, Alta Planning & Design settled upon the construction of a new, stand-alone bridge as the preferred solution to crossing the Willamette River for bicyclists and pedestrians. Alta did not, however, believe that
the planned location of the French Prairie Bridge was the most ideal--or direct--location for a new crossing. In fact, Alta felt that placing a bridge between Memorial Park and Charbonneau was the "strongest", most direct location for north-south bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Reporters did feel, however, that this option would be difficult to implement due to the level of development on the Charbonneau side of the Willamette River. Regardless of where Alta believed the bridge should go, it is clear from their perspective that the construction of a new bridge would be a key infrastructure addition to the region as a whole. From the report, “A separated bicycle and pedestrian bridge would provide safe and convenient passage across the Willamette River and would also serve as a gateway to Wilsonville, the Northern Willamette Valley, and the Mt. Hood region, creating strong regional ties” (Alta Planning & Design 2006, 98).

After considering many different proposals, Alta recommended that the City of Wilsonville should explore the construction of a new, stand-alone bridge for bicycle and pedestrian traffic crossing the Willamette River. While Memorial Park to Charbonneau would have been the most direct, and "strongest" link, Alta designated Boones Ferry Park to NE Butteville Road at the Marina as the most "likely", and acceptable, location for bridge construction (Alta Planning & Design 2006, 101). From the report:

This bridge will fill in a major gap in the Wilsonville system while appealing to all types of users, from bicycle tourists, to more serious recreational riders, to parents with kids out for a leisurely ride. The bicycle/ pedestrian bridge would enhance Boones Ferry Park while providing a stronger connection to Old Town Wilsonville, and would also create additional access and a stronger connection to the river.

Alta Planning & Design, City of Wilsonville, OR: Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan (Portland: Alta Planning + Design, Inc, 2006), 101.

Reporters suggested that the City of Wilsonville might consider implementing a short-term solution—such as a ferry—for non-motorized traffic attempting to cross the Willamette River (Alta Planning & Design 2006, 101). Even in 2006, Alta Planning & Design recognized the positive economic impact Bicycle Tourism could have on the Wilsonville region. According to Alta Planning & Design, increasing active transportation links across the Willamette River at Wilsonville would help the city "capitalize on its proximity to the [Willamette Valley] Scenic Bikeway and Wilsonville's connections to other regional destinations" (Alta Planning & Design 2006, 101).

While not explicitly named as such, the French Prairie Bridge materialized largely in part from discussions about an improved river crossing during Alta's recommendations for Wilsonville in their 2006 master plan. The Wilsonville Bike/Ped. Master Plan is the city's most comprehensive study of active transportation, to date. As such, its endorsement of a new bridge across the river enhances the validity of recent citizens' attempts to start the bridge's planning process.

Feel free to read the the City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan here: