TriMet and City of Portland get the green light for new SE Portland pedestrian/bike overpass safety project


Community and businesses help shape project design to maximize safety and lessen impacts on private properties

TriMet and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) expect to break ground this spring on a new pedestrian/bike overpass safety project that will span railroad and MAX tracks in southeast Portland. After meeting with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials last week, TriMet and the City of Portland will move forward with the overpass safety project linking SE Gideon at SE 13th Place to SE 14th Avenue. 

Conceptual rendering of the Gideon overpass
Conceptual rendering

Gideon overpass safety project features

  • Fully ADA accessible with stairs and elevators on both ends
  • Transparent elevators large enough to accommodate bicycles with trailers or a child’s tag-along attachment
  • Two-entrance elevators to allow bicyclists to “pass-through”
  • Added exterior lighting around stairs and elevators

Bridging neighborhoods

In 2013, the old, non-ADA accessible crossing over the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) tracks near SE 16th Avenue and Gideon Street was removed to make way for the MAX Orange Line. A new ADA accessible bridge for people walking and biking between the Brooklyn and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods had been planned. The bridge’s location was to be shifted west, closer to the Clinton St/SE 12th Ave MAX Station. When federal funding for the light rail project came in below expectations, the overpass had to be delayed.

TriMet completed construction of the MAX Orange Line under budget and sought approval from the FTA to use the savings from the project to construct the Gideon pedestrian/bike bridge. With strong support of the surrounding community and the City of Portland, as well as the intervention of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), TriMet received that approval. The bridge will not only provide a convenient crossing over the tracks, it will help address unsafe behaviors at the rail crossings at SE 11th and 12th avenues.

Increasing safety

People have been observed walking or biking through the rail crossings while gates, warning lights and bells are activated and have even been seen climbing over stopped freight trains. TriMet, PBOT and UPRR have made efforts to address safety concerns, including adjusting signal timing and adding more safety devices. Planning is also in progress to improve train switches within UPRR’s Brooklyn Yard to help reduce the time that trains are stopped in the crossings.

Use of public right-of-way lessens property impacts

The new bridge will go from SE 13th Place at SE Gideon Street on the south side of the railroad tracks to SE 14th Avenue on the north side. Recently, some neighborhood businesses raised concerns about property impacts and potential conflicts between trucks and those walking and biking on SE 14th Avenue to and from the overpass.

To help assess those concerns, the City collected information on the number of vehicles using the street. Roughly 325 vehicles use SE 14th Avenue on a daily basis, and only a small portion – about 2 percent – are trucks with trailers. The City will continue to monitor use of the street and evaluate solutions to ensure good lines of sight between trucks loading and unloading, and bicyclists and drivers entering the area from SE Clinton Street. 

After meeting with representatives from the business community, reviewing numerous design alternatives, and consulting with the FTA, TriMet and the City of Portland have elected to move forward with a design that places the structure entirely in existing public right-of-way.

TriMet values the input of businesses located in the area and, working with the City of Portland, believes that this approach is the best option for ensuring safe travel in the area while also allowing neighboring businesses to continue to operate and thrive.

About the new bridge

The new Gideon pedestrian/bicycle bridge will be located about 300 feet east of the Clinton St/SE 12th Ave MAX Station. It will provide a new north-south connection above the busy rail lines, while connecting the neighborhood to the Willamette River, completing the City’s vision for an active transportation corridor from the Hosford-Abernethy area to the Willamette River.

Construction will take about a year and cost approximately $15 million. When completed, the bridge will be owned, operated and maintained by the City of Portland.