U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley and U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith today announced $5 million in federal funding to construct a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 at Gibbs Street in southwest Portland. The bridge will restore pedestrian access to the Willamette River for residents of the historic Lair Hill neighborhood.
The funds were approved last week by Congress as part of the Transportation Equity Act of 2005, which reauthorizes funds for federally aided highways, highway safety programs and transit programs.
"Representative Hooley, Senator Smith and the entire Oregon Congressional delegation deserve our deepest thanks and appreciation for their tenacity and dedication in securing federal support for the Gibbs Street pedestrian bridge and highway connections," said Peter Kohler, M.D., Oregon Health & Science University president. "Their commitment to the communities of Oregon, new and old, is tremendous."
Hooley and Smith secured a total of $11 million in the bill for a group of transportation projects that will resolve long-standing traffic circulation and pedestrian access issues.
"To make this former brownfield a truly Portland neighborhood, it is imperative to reconnect Lair Hill with the riverfront," Hooley said. "This federal investment does just that by funding a pedestrian bridge across I-5 and Macadam to southwest Portland and giving future residents many options for transportation."
The Gibbs Street pedestrian bridge will connect Gibbs Street at Kelly Avenue with Gibbs Street at Moody Avenue in southwest Portland. The bridge, which is still in the planning stages, is expected to cost about $5 million.
"With the construction of the I-5 freeway, an historic area of Portland was cut off from the Willamette River," Smith said. "Today, this project reconnects one of Portland's oldest neighborhoods with its newest neighborhood, the South Waterfront.
The remaining $6 million will support South Waterfront access enhancements, including improvements at district portals and the first phase of the South Portland Circulation Project.
"The South Waterfront project is a prime example of how public-private partnerships can promote job creation and strengthen our local economy," said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who was unable to attend the announcement. Wyden also has been responsible for cultivating federal support of redevelopment in the South Waterfront, particularly in the biosciences and technology commercialization. "This funding will help move the project forward by addressing traffic and pedestrian access issues in the South Waterfront district."
The redevelopment of the South Waterfront will create 5,000 new jobs during the next decade and 10,000 jobs during the next 20 years.
"The South Waterfront redevelopment effort currently under way provides a great opportunity for the city of Portland - one that can help us make sure that Portland's economy stays strong and vibrant, and that its economic future gives its residents reason for hope," said Sam Adams, Portland City Commissioner in charge of the Portland Office of Transportation.
Almost $2 billion in private funds already have been invested in the South Waterfront development.
"I want to thank Senator Smith, Representative Hooley and all of the Oregon Congressional delegation for their efforts to bring this funding home," said Bruce Warner, executive director of the Portland Development Commission. "The improvements that will be financed with these federal dollars will reconnect the residents of the Corbett/Terwilliger/Lair Hill neighborhoods to the river and to all of the new amenities that are coming to the South Waterfront, including new parks and open spaces, bicycle and walking paths, and new transportation options such as the streetcar. The pedestrian bridge is a key piece of the infrastructure that will support the tram and make that project a success. Most importantly, it is a symbol of what we can accomplish by working together to reach common goals."