August 2nd, 2010 | Published in News
To the delight of residents, the knots of freeway ramps and overpasses proposed for the Columbia River Crossing’s Hayden Island interchanges appear to be untangling.
After almost a year of contention, the latest design for Hayden Island is set to be unveiled at an Aug. 5 public meeting as the $3.6 billion project begins to lurch forward.
“Hallelujah,” longtime Hayden Island activist Victor Viets said of the comprehensive redesign known as Option D. He and other residents have been meeting with planners two days a week since March to find a compromise. “The design is one that is universally accepted by our design team, city, the [Jantzen Beach] mall and the neighborhood.”
Since October of last year, activists and planners have tried to reconfigure a cost-cutting CRC proposal that would have covered the heart of the island with 22 lanes of traffic, 50 overhead structures and a web of undulating ramps and bridges. Much of the freeway would have sat on a broad earthen berm that would have driven the area’s major east-west roads 12 feet underground.
Under Option D, the new interchange will be reduced to roughly 17 lanes on piling rather than earthworks. Most importantly a new local access bridge will bring light rail transit and local traffic from Portland to a redesigned, neighborhood-scaled North Tomahawk Drive.
“People from Hayden Island will be able to get on a local bridge and go to Northeast MLK Boulevard and Bridgetown, without getting on the freeway,” said Viets. The island “will be more like a community than an isolated place.”
In addition, east-west roads will sink no farther than 6 feet below grade. Ramps, columns and flyways will be minimized and leveled to create a uniform overhead superstructure about 25 feet in the air.
The island is in the midst of other massive redevelopment. Only last week, the city of Portland moved ahead with plans to develop the far-flung west end of the island as an environmentally friendly port facility.
Also last week, the Jantzen Beach SuperCenter Mall announced that it would move forward with plans to redevelop its shopping center. The old indoor building will be replaced by a pedestrian- friendly outdoor complex with roughly a quarter-million square feet of retail and restaurant space. In accord with the island’s neighborhood plan, North Tomahawk Drive will continue through the property as a neighborhood main street.
The mall has plans to open a new grocery store and pharmacy in a redeveloped Target store before the CRC construction would demolish the island’s Safeway.
CRC opponent Ed Garren was also co-chair of the Hayden Island Neighborhood Plan. Garren said that he was satisfied with how both the CRC and the mall redevelopments are panning out.
“In terms of the freeway not cutting the island in half and the mall creating a more village-like feel, I think it’s working out,” Garren said. He said he believes years of public pressure are finally paying off. “For my part, I’ve been relentless.”
The process reaffirms to people “that you can change things, and that your presence is essential to changing it,” said Garren, who lives in the island’s manufactured-home community. “These are blue collar people who are used to just taking it from people in power. We don’t have to take it. We can carve our own path.”
Viets expressed a similar sentiment. “It’s amazing that this had happened, “he said. “We were dumbfounded. I’ve been on a lot of projects, but I’ve never seen one where they stopped and opened the doors and said come on in.”
In a statement released Friday, Govs. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon and Chris Gregoire of Washington confirmed that the Hayden Island design had reached consensus and that both states were committed to building the new bridge.
“I’m pleased that the Hayden Island issues are being addressed through the local process so that we can turn our attention to the pressing issue of cost,” Kulongoski said.