At a glance, extending a bike and pedestrian trail near the Columbia River might seem to have little in common with improving freight access to a major industrial park – one project offers quiet, scenic journeys, while the other promises a nearly constant grumble of the diesel engines and heavy haulers.
But in the northeast corner of the Portland region, Metro is helping fund two such projects within the same neighborhood, with the same overall mission of creating access for an area ripe for adding new jobs.
Both projects – the Troutdale Industrial Access Project and Fairview’s Levee Trail – are being managed by Port of Portland and are located in and around a 700-acre former brownfield site just north of Troutdale, now known as the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park.
Both projects have also received part of their funding from Metro’s regional flexible funds allocation, a program which, every few years, helps finance transportation priorities across the region with funds from three federal programs: the Surface Transportation Program, the Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality Program and the Transportation Alternatives Program. The funds from these federal programs allow for a greater amount of discretion in their use – hence the “flexible” name Metro uses to describe them.
The Metro Council allocated about $8 million toward Troutdale Industrial Access Project in 2013, a funding cycle in which local and regional leaders gave priority to projects designed to spur economic development in the region. Selected projects from that cycle are set to have their funds distributed over the course of 2016-2018.
Coordinating with the Oregon Department of Transportation, Troutdale and other regional entities, the Port of Portland applied for flexible funding to support what it saw as a key component to transforming a former Superfund site into a modern, vibrant industrial park.
The project is aimed at improving freight access into the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park by widening narrow Graham Road to accommodate heavy use by large trucks, as well as extending several other roads through the park, opening an additional 214 acres to potential new tenants the Port hopes to attract over the next few years.
“The whole project is really complicated, and the transportation component is critical and was something that we did need funding help with,” said Philip Healy, senior transportation planner with the Port. “The structural makeup of Graham Road in particular doesn’t meet certain criteria for handing freight, so this project will address that as well as extend other roads into and around the park to improve access.”
Hopes are high for the future of the industrial park, which was once home to an Alcoa aluminum plant and is officially Oregon's largest brownfield. The park has already attracted a large FedEx regional distribution hub employing over 700 people. With I-84 and I-205 nearby, as well as ready access to Portland International Airport, two rail lines and port facilities along the Columbia, the Port of Portland sees the park as an alluring location for industrial, manufacturing and shipping companies looking to expand in the region. Though it will depend on which companies choose to locate there, estimates say as many as 5,000 jobs could eventually be created.
Providing those potential new employees with options for getting to work -- as well as new opportunities for travelers from around the region -- will be one of the aims of another project in the area funded by regional flexible funds: the Levee Trail. When completed, it will be the latest segment of the 40-Mile Loop, a long-envisioned ring of trails connecting parks around the region.
The Levee Trail project will construct a 10-foot-wide asphalt path along the top of the Columbia River levee, starting from an existing trail near Chinook Landing and Blue Lake Regional Park. Running east for 1.7 miles, the trail will feature new plantings, benches and trash cans, finally connecting with Sundial Road and an existing stretch of trail on the north side of the industrial park.
Connections from the existing trail southeast to Troutdale and the I-84 Sandy River bridge path may also be provided if funding allows.
The Metro Council allocated $2 million in flexible funds toward the project for the 2010-2013 cycle, a funding cycle in which active transportation improvement projects were a top priority. However, construction is still awaiting the go-ahead from the Army Corps of Engineers as they finish up a survey of the levee’s structural integrity – part of new, post-Hurricane Katrina federal standards regarding construction on or around levees.
But that isn’t dampening anticipation for the trail.
“A lot of people in that area are excited for that trail project, including FedEx,” said Phil Healy. “A lot of their employees live within a mile, mile-and-a-half of their facility, many of them riding their bikes to work. So this will improve their ability to get to work and reach nearby parks.”