After years of public advocacy and planning, construction begins this week on the Waud Bluff Trail connecting North Willamette Boulevard to Swan Island. Currently unimproved, the path is used by employees of Swan Island, neighborhood residents, and University of Portland students.

It will provide an essential, safe alternative access point to the north end of Swan Island and eventually connect to the greater North Portland Willamette Greenway trail system.

“This is an upgrade to a path that’s existed for years … and it’s been used,” says Lenny Anderson, manager of Swan Island’s Transportation Management Association (TMA).

“The [improved] trail is important because it provides safe, all-weather, all-year bike and pedestrian access to the north end of Swan Island.”

Anderson indicated that while Waud Bluff was first identified as needing improvement 10-12 years ago, it wasn't until 2004 that upgrading the trail with a bridge over the railroad was proposed. Funding was secured in 2005, and the design was selected in March 2011.

One of the TMA’s main goals is to increase freight options.

“Our strategy is ‘how do we make room for trucks,’” says Anderson. “A big semi tractor trailer takes up the same road space as two people driving along in their cars. … We’re trying to reduce the … demand on Going Street and Basin Avenue, so that the freight traffic, which is essential to Swan Island, can make its way in and out.”

Construction Plan for Waud Bluff Trail
Construction Plan for Waud Bluff Trail

Advocacy and grant support came from many businesses on Swan Island, Anderson says, including UPS, Adidas, the US Coast Guard, and the nearby naval base.

“It will be a great option for cyclists, walkers [and] runners who work on or visit Swan Island,” says Clayton Hert, an employee of Daimler Trucks North America via email. “As the only alternative to Going Street, that trail is a key access point, especially since it is at the opposite end of the island from Going.

“And if it eventually links to a trail along the river toward [the] St. Johns Bridge, all the better.”

Francie Royce, co-chair and active director of NP Greenway, says her organization has worked hard to move the project along.

“We see it as an important connection between the neighborhood … and Swan Island for both jobs and recreation, and we also see it as a link to the future North Portland Willamette Greenway Trail.”

The North Portland Willamette Greenway Trail is an envisioned series of trails along the river from Kelley Point Park, where the Willamette and Columbia rivers meet, to downtown Portland’s esplanade.

George Lozovoy, Portland Parks & Recreation project manager for the Waud Bluff Trail, says via email that while construction officially began Monday, Sept. 19, “it will be slow to notice activity as the first step is for the contractor to mobilize on site and order materials.”

Construction will create an all weather trail with retaining walls.
Construction will create an all weather trail with retaining walls.

Lozovoy cites ODOT project agreements, difficulties in site design, property easements and acquisition, permitting, additional funding and staffing issues as reasons for the long delay in construction.

Colf Construction has been contracted to complete the renovations, which include improved grading and surfaces, retainer walls to control erosion on the steep bluff, and a bridge over the Union Pacific railroad tracks, according to the PP&R website. Native plants will be added as well as a cement trailhead and pedestrian island on Willamette Boulevard to address concerns regarding the nearby bus stop.

Lozovoy adds that other amenities include signage, fencing, and bicycle racks.

Construction could be finalized as early as spring of next year or as late as fall of 2012, says PP&R. Lozovoy cites the total cost at $2,545,131.

“Initially, the most benefit will be for Swan Island employees,” Anderson says, adding, “I think once the Willamette Greenway Trail begins to take shape over the next decade … then it becomes a way to get down to the trail along the river.”

“I’ve taken a lot of tours of people … along that trail,” says Royce. “Invariably, someone will stop and go, ‘Wow, this is a great view. I didn’t know all this existed in North Portland.’"

The view from the top of Waud Bluff Trail
The view from the top of Waud Bluff Trail


Detour Information

Waud Bluff Detour
Detour during Waud Bluff construction

Construction fencing is expected to go up the week of September 19. Once the project fencing is in place, access will be closed from Willamette Blvd. to Swan Island via the Waud Bluff trail for the duration of the project (Fall 2012).

The North Portland Greenway Trail and Swan Island may be accessed via Going Street during construction.