Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 6th, 2011 at 4:22 pm
about safety risks posed by
tracks before they sign
off on future streetcar
(Photo © J. Maus)
Turns out that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is also concerned about the issue. The potential of a new streetcar line from Porltand to Lake Oswego on State Highway 43 has spurred ODOT to look into new research to determine how the presence of the tracks might impact vehicle users.
ODOT's risk management department has requested a green light to go ahead with a research project titled, "Coefficient of Friction of Rubber Tires on Streetcar Tracks under Dry and Wet Conditions." In the research problem statement (PDF here), ODOT lays out their concerns:
"Risk Management recommends the Highway Division to run rubber tire skid resistance tests on streetcar tracks to determine whether any mitigation is needed to increase the coefficient of friction of the tracks and/or the area surrounding the tracks. If the tracks have a low coefficient of friction, the Highway Division has the following safety concerns:
1. A car with the same track width as streetcar tracks skidding on the steel tracks especially in wet conditions; and
2. A car rotating due to braking with one tire on the track and the other tire on the concrete."
While the problem statement lists cars specifically, after a bit of follow-up, I found out that ODOT would likely include bicycles in their research as well.
Back on January 31st, ODOT Region 1 Major Projects Manager Andrew Johnson wrote a letter to Metro as a comment to the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Here's an excerpt from that letter that refers to ODOT's desire to study the safety impact of streetcar tracks:
"The addition of streetcar tracks onto OR43... will need further research, analysis, and development of bicycle and vehicle safety measures for installation on a State Highway, and obtain ODOT's approval prior to construction."
It's interesting to me that ODOT seems to be more proactive about this issue than the City of Portland. PBOT has allowed many miles of streetcar tracks to be laid throughout the city, without ever delving into rigorous research on how those tracks might be impacting other users of the road. Not only has PBOT not done research but they have been slow to react to bike safety concerns brought to them by the community.
Stay tuned for more coverage.