French Prairie Bridge ProjectProject History

Over the past 20 years, the Wilsonville community has worked to refine its vision for a new bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the Willamette River.

The proposed French Prairie Bridge would be in the approximate location of the historic Boones Ferry, which served as a critical link between the Willamette Valley and Portland region for more than a century.

The timeline below describes the history of this site as a crossing location and key moments in the community conversation about this project.

The Boones Ferry – 1847-1954

Founded by the grandson of famous explorer Daniel Boone, the Boones Ferry operated from 1847 to 1954. The ferry served as a primary access point for Willamette Valley farmers bringing their goods to market in Portland. Boones Ferry Road still extends from Woodburn to the south all the way to the edge of south Portland.

Over its time of service, the ferry provided access for modes of transport ranging from horse and buggy, to cars, to people on foot.

  • Ferry crosses with cars on the deck.
I-5 Boone Bridge – 1954-current

In 1954, the Oregon Department of Transportation built the Interstate 5 (I-5) Boone Bridge over the Willamette River. Shortly after the I-5 Boone Bridge opened, Boones Ferry was decommissioned.

For the past 60 plus years, the I-5 Boone Bridge has offered the only fixed crossing in a 30-mile stretch of the Willamette River in the south Portland metro region—serving as a primary freight route and offering access to cyclists and pedestrians on the shoulder of the freeway. The only other Willamette River bridges in the south metro region are the Hillsboro-Silverton Highway 219 Bridge near Newberg and the Highway 43 Bridge between West Linn and Oregon City (see map).

Identifying a need for improved bike and pedestrian access over the Willamette River – 1993

The Wilsonville community identified a need for safe bicycle and pedestrian access across the Willamette River in the 1993 Bike & Pedestrian Master Plan.

Prior planning efforts and conversations, including the 1991 Transportation Master Plan, identified the shoulders of the I-5 Boone Bridge as an existing bikeway and preferred route for cyclists and pedestrians. Subsequently, the northbound shoulder was reduced in width to four feet.

Refining the vision for a safe crossing – 1994-2016

The concept of improving bicycle and pedestrian access over the Willamette River was further refined in the City’s Bike & Pedestrian Master Plan (2006), Parks & Recreation Master Plan (1994, 2007), and Transportation System Plan (2003, 2013, 2016). The Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan evaluated several options for a pedestrian/bicycle crossing, including cantilevering a bridge from I-5, adding a bridge to the railroad crossing, and establishing a bicycle/pedestrian ferry. A standalone structure was identified as the best long-term option for the City.

Additionally, Metro’s regional Ice Age Tonquin Trail Master Plan (2013) identified this proposed crossing as a future connection over the Willamette River—bridging access between the cultural resources of the Willamette Valley with the planned 22-mile trail connecting Sherwood, Tualatin and Wilsonville.

From an economic development perspective, the Wilsonville Tourism Development Strategy (2014) identified improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as a key element needed to attract bicycle tourism to the area.

Planning for the future: French Prairie Bridge Project Feasibility Study – 2014-2015

The City applied for federal funding to develop plans for the proposed bridge, and was awarded $1.25 million through Metro’s Transportation Improvement Program in 2009.

 

In preparation for the grant-funded planning and design project, the City conducted an initial feasibility study to determine whether potential bridge locations on the east side of the I-5 Boone Bridge, near Charbonneau, should be evaluated along with locations west of I-5. Due to significant challenges associated with potential east side bridge locations (including topography and property impacts), the City Council decided that the current project should focus on alternative locations between the I-5 Boone Bridge and the Portland and Western Railroad Bridge.

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French Prairie Bridge Project in Wilsonville – 2016-2018

The French Prairie Bridge Project is developing preliminary designs for a new bike, pedestrian and emergency access crossing of the Willamette River.

The project aims to develop a solution that supports the community’s vision of having a safe, earthquake resilient crossing that promotes both economic and physical health.

The study area for potential bridge alignments is between the I-5 Boone Bridge and the existing Portland and Western Railroad Bridge over the Willamette River.