The Burnside Bridge (Portland, Oregon) opened for a Coast Guard vessel to pass underneath it. Photo by Steve Morgan, 2012.

A Multnomah County bridge and pedestrian-friendly street upgrades in Beaverton and Salem will receive a combined $20 million in federal funding, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced Thursday. 

The Oregon funding is a portion of more than $2.2 billion allocated nationally this year through a grant program funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last fall. Overall, Oregon expects to receive more than $3.4 billion for roads and bridges over the next five years. 

Buttigieg said in a statement that the federal department considered how transportation projects would improve safety, accessibility, racial equity and economic growth. 

“We are proud to support so many outstanding infrastructure projects in communities large and small, modernizing America’s transportation systems to make them safer, more affordable, more accessible and more sustainable,” he said. “Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this year we are supporting more projects than ever before.”

Most of the new money is going to the city of Salem to upgrade McGilchrist Street in south Salem. Local governments have already put $11 million toward reconstructing the road, according to a letter submitted to the Oregon Transportation Department, and they’ll receive $13.2 million from the federal government. 

It will pay to improve about 8,500 feet of roadway, adding sidewalks, separated bike lanes, two creek crossings and a new traffic signal. The street is in the middle of a 468-acre underdeveloped light industrial area, and the project is one of several recommended for a $300 million bond Salem voters will consider in November. 

Another $5 million will go to Multnomah County to plan a replacement of the 96-year-old Burnside Bridge, a five-lane, 2,241-feet-long bridge over the Willamette River in downtown Portland. According to the county, about 45,000 vehicles, 4,000 bicyclists and 2,000 pedestrians cross the bridge each day.

It’s a “historically significant” structure that has had only minor modifications since it was built in 1926, according to the county. But it’s not prepared to withstand a major earthquake, and the county cited expert predictions of a one in three chance of a catastrophic earthquake in the next 50 years. 

A rebuilt bridge will include wider bike lanes and sidewalks separated from vehicle traffic and be designed to withstand earthquakes. Tri-county voters in 2020 rejected a multibillion dollar transportation funding measure and payroll tax that would have included $150 million for the bridge replacement. 

Beaverton will receive $2 million to design safer streets in a downtown loop, with wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, new bus stops and improved traffic signals. The loop encompasses the historic Old Town, a library, farmer’s market, city park and other downtown destinations. 

According to the city, people who walk or bike in the area have trouble with thousands of fast-moving cars and crossing two state highways and a set of railroad tracks. The altered streets are intended to reduce crashes and keep drivers, transit users, walkers and bikers safer. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.