I didn't ever really give a thought to Swan Island—you know, the not-even-really-an-island business park that's at the base of North Portland's Willamette Bluffs?—until a couple weeks ago when people started telling me about the big issues going on with North Portland Greenway down there. I finally spent some time on Swan Island in past week and, oh man, the place is interesting. Here's why you should care:
1. How people get to work on Swan Island is no small deal: the island is home to 10,000 jobs. That's about 2.6 percent of the city's whole workforce and some of the city's only big employers, like Daimler Trucks, who aren't out in the 'burbs. If the city is able to work with employers there to make it possible to safely and easily bike to the island, it could reduce a ton of car trips and improve traffic around North Portland.
2. It's actually really scenic, guys. I think of Swan Island and I think of super-wide roads running past warehouses. But the west side of the island is home to some beautiful beaches that would be awesome to visit. No one will believe me, so check it out:
There's already a nice biking and walking path along the beach, but it doesn't connect to the rest of the city, instead just dead-ending into a fence lined with razor wire. If Swan Island's beaches were easy to get to from the rest of the city, they could be a whole new place for people to go.
3. The city is at a crucial point of deciding what the route is going to be for the bike-walk trail planned through Swan Island. Will it run on-street along North Greeley, or will it go where neighborhood advocates want, on a stretch of flat, paved road currently owned by Union Pacific? As reported this week, that route would take substantial negotiation and pressure from the city. From the story: "There's a joke among planners about dealing with the railroads: On the spectrum of tough negotiations, first there's neighbors, then there's other local governments, the state government, and then the feds. Then God. And then the railroads."