Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on October 27th, 2011 at 1:59 pm
(Photo: Todd Boulanger)
The new signage and markings on the paths leading up to the I-5 bridge have been hailed as a much-needed improvement. Unfortunately, since they are unauthorized, the Oregon Department of Transportation says they plan to remove them.
After getting a phone call from a reader this morning who claimed to have seen an ODOT employee in an orange vest removing the painted stencils from the paths, I called ODOT public information officer Don Hamilton for a confirmation.
“I understand why they’re there, the bike signage needs to be improved.”
— Don Hamilton, ODOT
Hamilton went out to the site this morning and said the markings and signs — which are laminated copies of the City of Vancouver’s “Cycling the Cities” maps — are still in place (except for one map that was already torn down). Turns out the person in the orange vest was simply a surveyor working on an unrelated project.
Even so, says Hamilton, “These are unauthorized signs and we ultimately plan to remove them. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
In a phone call, Hamilton acknowledged that the existing official signage “needs to be improved.” Hamilton also said ODOT has a plan to install new signage, but he couldn’t give me a timeline on when it would be done.
Why would ODOT remove something even they feel is needed and that seems to be working quite well?
“Any time we place signs on our structures we want to make sure they are as clear and unambiguous as possible” said Hamilton. “These have not been checked or vetted; they come from the public.”
Hamilton said he understands why someone would do it, but that it’s important that new signage goes through a process “to make sure we have as good and as strong of a sign system as possible.”
During our brief chat, Hamilton reminded me that the bike plans proposed in the Columbia River Crossing project “will be significantly better” than what exists now.
So, is ODOT stalling on the new signage plan because they think the CRC is imminent? No, said Hamilton.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re not just waiting for the CRC to happen. That could be many years off. Improving bike signage on the Oregon side of the bridge is a priority for us regardless of the CRC.”
Hopefully ODOT never gets around to removing these stencils. The confusing bike route across the bridge is clearly a problem that has existed for many years and — despite even official attempts at developing new signage — ODOT has blocked improvements from happening while failing to move forward on their own solution.
Perhaps the best outcome is that this rogue signage effort is what finally spurs ODOT to move forward.
Meanwhile, I like the suggestion of Vancouver resident (and former City of Vancouver transportation planner) Todd Boulanger: “I recommend a 2012 Alice B Toeclips award ‘in absentia’ for these stencil super heros. All in favor email: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
UPDATE, 10/28 3:15pm: I’ve spoken with ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell about this issue. He says they just so happen to have a plan for new signage already worked up. There are plans to place 31 new bikeway signs in this area. I’ll have a complete story soon.
UPDATE 10/31: Please read this follow-up story for details about the new signs coming soon from ODOT!