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New objective for Williams project: Honor neighborhood's past

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 9th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

History of the neighborhood
looms large over this project.
(Photo © J. Maus)

At their meeting earlier this week, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the North Williams Traffic Safety Operations Project spent several hours hashing out new language to guide their decision making process and to add two key elements to the project's "purpose and objectives."

As we've reported, the make-up of the SAC changed considerably back in July when concerns over racial bias and a lack of engagement with the African American community were brought up. Since then, PBOT added nine new people to the committee and they've re-started the entire public process.

One of the results of the restart is taking a fresh look at how the committee makes decisions as well as the scope of the discussion itself. On that note, two small but key additions have been added to the "Project Purpose and Objectives."

"To honor the history of North Williams Avenue through elements of the transportation project."
— New line in the project's Purposes and Objectives

The item that initially read, "To explore innovative solutions and strategies," has been amended to read, "To explore innovative solutions and strategies in the North Vancouver/Williams corridor."

This change came about after a robust discussion on Tuesday. One committee member, Alan Rudwick, didn't want to limit the discussion to only Williams. He put forth a motion to consider improvements to Vancouver (Williams' couplet) as well. "Let's not handcuff ourselves by limiting ourselves just to talking about Williams," Rudwick said.

Rudwick's motion failed to get a second, as most members of the committee felt like opening up discussion about Vancouver was beyond their scope. However, in the ensuing debate, project consultant Michelle Poyourow pointed out that, "If scope is limited to Williams, than you can't talk about Rodney."

Poyourow was pointing out that discussion of making N. Rodney into a neighborhood greenway had gotten a lot of attention at committee meetings. The amended purpose and objectives makes it clear that the committee is not limited to only discussing solutions on Williams.

The other key addition to the purpose and objectives is the following item:

"To honor the history of North Williams Avenue through elements of the transportation project."

This idea was one of the main themes at the recent community forum on the project (and I also advocated for it back in July).

On a more wonky note, the committee also revised its official charter. The key change to the charter is an agreement that, "A decision will be made when 2/3 of the Committee members in attendance support a proposal." The committee also agreed to accept written dissenting opinions from members who don't support a proposal.

How decisions get made is at the heart of the Williams project story. It's one of the key concerns raised by some people around the table. This new super-majority rule is a step closer toward consensus and finding solutions that have broad support among stakeholders.

The other addition to the charter is that the committee has formally agreed they will make a recommendation to PBOT by March 2012 (that's the latest date PBOT says they can hold the budget set aside for this project). That gives them just three more meetings — and given all the issues around this project, that's a tall order.

One SAC member commented on Tuesday that, "We're word-smithing the heck out of this and it's not accomplishing anything."

But then again, with a foundation of a more equitable decision-making process and a strong sense of purpose, they could be poised for serious progress.

Read more about the Williams project in our archives.

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Comments
  • davemess December 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    One SAC member commented on Tuesday that, "We're word-smithing the heck out of this and it's not accomplishing anything."

    Couldn't agree more.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • 007 December 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Paralysis by analysis.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris I December 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I thought this was a transportation safety project?

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Kiel Johnson December 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Does anyone know how many meetings are left before a decision has to be made or the money goes away?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Benjamin Foote December 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Three:
      Tue Jan 10
      Tue Feb 7 (tentative)
      Tue Mar 6 (tentative)

      Council will make a decision "by June" otherwise the funds will no longer be available. The SAC has been advised that the recommendation needs to be provided to the Council with enough time for them to give it consideration.

      Perhaps that means there's wiggle room for an April meeting, but that seems kind of quick.

      I have the pleasure of being on the SAC.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • kiel Johnson December 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

        3????!!! Best of luck with that. I'm not envious of any of the SAC members.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • q`Tzal December 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Honor our history accurately:
    () reduce automotive travel lanes to ONE
    () reduce speed limit 20MPH or lower.

    Recommended Thumb up 16

  • Rita December 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    "I thought this was a transportation safety project?"

    Well, the installation of US Route 99/Baldock Freeway along the west side of the river was a transportation project. It caused polution, denied access to the river, created a safety issue, and other woes, until it was eventually replaced with Waterfront Park. Expensive to build, expensive to remove. If they'd had some foresight, the project might have come out differently. It's good to at least consider these projects holistically.

    It's not just a transportation safety project. It's a project running through these people's front yards.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • davemess December 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      So you're comparing installing and removing a freeway to (what I think will eventually be) restriping of Williams?

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Chris I December 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Hardly a fair comparison. This project does not touch private property and does not expand the public ROW in any way. It is a simple lane reconfiguration, and should be treated as such.

      Recommended Thumb up 12

  • Oliver December 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Rodney is unacceptable as a bicycle transportation corridor.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • sorebore December 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      It seem that way to me as well, but can someone point out a link to ideas that have been made in regards to Rodney so those out of the loop could check them out?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • are December 9, 2011 at 11:38 pm

        in fairness to michelle, what she is talking about are comments received from the public at open houses. some this is summarized here:
        http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=53905&a=348091
        no one is saying [yet, and i doubt the SAC will propose] that greenway treatments to rodney should be made "instead of" making necessary safety improvements to williams. the point michelle was making [after half an hour of circular discussion on alan's motion] was that the existing project already implicitly includes some consideration of what will be the consequences on neighboring streets.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Bob P December 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Dear SAC, if you make Rodney the route, I will personally occupy the middle of Williams until you change it back. Totally unacceptable, the car equivalent would be to re-route I-5 onto MLK and designate I-5 as truck traffic only.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • are December 9, 2011 at 11:48 pm

        i don't know if it is that some context is somehow missing from jonathan's writeup or what, but these kinds of comments are rather disconnected from the realities of the situation. PBoT is seeking public input on traffic safety issues on williams. the conversation of necessity includes the surrounding streets. the suggestion has been made that rodney get some kind of greenway treatment. let's just look at that suggestion standing alone for a moment. would someone actually object if, for example, the crossing at fremont were made a bit easier for the cyclist who for whatever reason does not want to use williams? okay, so your concern is, what does that imply about treatments on williams itself. well, what exactly does the commuter cyclist need? let's say they took parking out from crosswalk corners and maybe put in curb extensions and a sequence of signals that brought motor speeds down to 20 mph. do you need an eight-foot separated bike lane? for real? is someone stopping you from asserting the necessary space on williams right now? let's all calm down a little.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Hugh Johnson December 10, 2011 at 5:49 am

      Is Rodney the same rough mess as N.E. Going? Honestly i've never been on Rodney before.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • are December 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm

        depends what you mean by "rough mess." there is one stretch of notably bad pavement on going at about 17th, and the crossings at MLK and at 33rd are distasteful, but in general going is not bad. rodney is very residential in character and considerably narrower than going (at least, it seems so), and it is rather more uphill north in places than williams. these considerations make it undesirable as a commuting route, but not necessarily as a greenway. the main issue with rodney is the connection across fremont, which is offset. northbound, the easier path to negotiate would take you to mallory rather than rodney, but it might not be impossible to put in something similar to what was done at 33rd and going. which, to be clear, i mostly do not like, but it does serve a function.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lenny Anderson December 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Historically, Williams was a two way street with a streetcar. I would go for that.
    All of this area as far east as MLK is in the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area which has in excess of $200M (yes Million) for housing and economic development. This committee needs to make Williams safe and then move on to become a part of the ICURA.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • q`Tzal December 10, 2011 at 1:25 am

      This is a bicycle website.
      Suggesting the addition of RAILS is fightin` words:)

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • ME 2 December 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Isn't ripping out I-5 the best thing we can do to honor the history of this neighborhood?

    Recommended Thumb up 19

    • Chris I December 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      Yes, but that would be dishonoring the history of the Vancouver suburbs.

      Recommended Thumb up 9

  • daisy December 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I live between MLK and Williams south of Fremont, and I really don't want Rodney to be a greenway. I feel like we'd have two major automobile ways on both ends--ie MLK and a new car-mostly Williams--and then bikes zipping through on Rodney. I don't think this would be good for my neighborhood at all. I suspect the folks proposing Rodney don't actually live within a block of Rodney.

    I haven't heard in this conversation any mention of the fact that MLK, only two blocks from Williams, is a major car corridor. The idea of giving Williams over to cars completely is horrible. I suspect putting up Rodney as the alternate bike route will raise as much ire as the Williams project did.

    I do approve of opening up the conversation to include Vancouver. Those of us who live here know that you can't talk about one without the other.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • are December 9, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    if something were done to make rodney acceptable as a greenway -- not a commuting corridor, but a greenway -- this could take some of the pressure off of what exactly needs to be done to williams to make it safer for commuters. if rodney is off the table, then you have to be thinking about how to make williams workable for the kids and kittens, which would require a hell of a lot more than paint. yes, as has been noted, not entirely facetiously, to honor the history here with something resembling reparation would require tearing out interstate five and rebuilding hundreds of houses that used to stand there (and tearing out much of legacy hospital, and restoring MLK to a walkable street). but at the very least, we can reduce the volume of nonlocal motor traffic, reduce motor speeds, and make the pedestrian crossings a lot safer. this might or might not make williams entirely comfortable for that supposed middle group for whom the greenways are intended. and it might actually make williams a little slower for bike commuters, but we should be willing to accept that in exchange for the benefits to other road users who actually live in these neighborhoods. oh, and we only have 185k to work with, so let's think on a modest scale.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • q`Tzal December 10, 2011 at 1:23 am

    To reduce non-local traffic on Williams Ave:
    install one Curb Extension / Choke Point for every section of Williams Ave that corresponds to an adjacent section on isolated I-5 travel.

    So for example:
    From N Lombard St to N Rosa Parks Way there are no other I-5 exits so there would need to be one curb extension/choke point for each corresponding section of Williams Ave.

    This choke point would serve to reduce the distance pedestrians need to cross thus increasing safety.
    By reducing the through lanes from 2 to 1 in just this spot it allows the road to remain 2 lanes for local use but inefficiently 1 lane for non-local "I-5 is too congested" use.
    Overall speed would be reduced, pedestrians would be safer and on street parking would be preserved.

    With careful and deliberate engineering of this minimal implementation even the fire department may approve.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Greg December 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Given the new charter, it seems less likely the SAC will come up with a recommendation.
    Given the results of the SAC's decision on Holladay, it may not matter what they decide.

    Anyone else think this is just placating the citizens until PBOT does whatever PBOT decides to do?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • are December 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      nope. PBoT wants to go into the council with the endorsement of the SAC. going in with no result or with a statement in opposition would make it harder to get council approval. to the extent that they probably wouldn't even go forward with the ask. so unless your suggestion is that PBoT wants to go through all this in order to sink the deal, i would say no, this is not intended as an empty exercise.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • 007 December 10, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Maybe if there were effective bus routes and those on Williams ran more than once every 1/2 hour more people would take the bus and drive less.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • spare_wheel December 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    i thinks its interesting and amusing to see those who describe this as a "transportation safety issue" become upset about the rodney as a greenway alternative. what could be safer than a slow leisurely traffic-calmed greenway?

    this issue is not only about *safety* but about a certain vision of what the neighborhood should look like 2, 5, 10 years from now. and after witnessing what happened on mississippi, williams, and alberta i welcome anything that slows down this quote unquote development.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Andrew Seger December 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm

      Er it's not williams *and* rodney it's williams *or* rodney. Ms Easterly, the SAC member, has publicly advocated for removing the bike lanes from Williams and replacing it with a greenway on Rodney. From that perspective you can understand the pushback against Rodney (or Mallory, which would work better norht of Fremont)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • are December 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm

        that's one person.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lenny Anderson December 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

    The safety issue to crossing Williams more than riding a bike on Williams. Two lane couplets are speed ways and should be eliminated throughout the city.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Chris I December 12, 2011 at 8:31 am

      It's a lot easier to cross a busy two-lane couplet than it is to cross a busy two-lane bi-directional street. Even worse are the 4-lane streets like 39th. Ever try to cross 39th during rush hour at a non-signalized intersection?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • q`Tzal December 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I think we as a nation, state and region need to pay more than lip service to addressing the root cause hazardous road conditions: road users.

    Mainly auto drivers, but not excluding bicyclists, dangerous road users are the ultimate cause of all of the ills we speak of on this site.

    Whether the cause is lack of education of the rules of the road, lack of manners or the simple inability to distinguish the TV car advertisement fantasy of the Open Road(tm) versus the reality of modern congestion everywhere road users are the cause of all the deaths on our roads.

    As such: all road users have within themselves the power to make road safer place in their presence.
    To drive and ride within safe speeds.
    To watch for more vulnerable users and yield the right of way EVEN IF we are not required by law.
    To apply Hanlon's Razor ("Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity") to our daily travels so as to reduce the overall level of rage on the roads.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Roll with it December 15, 2011 at 12:10 am

    I live smack on Rodney near Fremont and I have to say that I,as well as many of my neighbors who also live on Rodney have wanted it as a Green way. True, there needs to be a special signal and crossing for bikes and Peds at Fremont, which has been a crossing issue for many years. Despite what I'm hearing here there is a lot of support for this option where it matters. I'm a life long cyclist with one car so our family bikes everywhere in all weather and many people in this short area do too. I rarely ride up Williams and actually avoid it, why would I want to ride in that rat race of cars and buses and crazy skill level cycling differences that make it a nightmare at certain times, make that most anytime? The birds are chirping and the porch lights are entrancing on Rodney; you'll ride past our community center and notice it and then suffer up a tiny grade for a block what's the deal with that whiny crap? People seem to say that riding up a Green way with a tiny hill will keep them from getting home on time with their spandex clad legs? Then those legs whine that they can't deal with the slower riders on Williams and future death etc. A Rodney Green way helps this area as far as I'm concerned and I back any past paid respect to this neighborhood as it is due for far too long.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • jim December 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      A greenway on Rodney only makes too much sense. It would be a nice compliment for the neighborhood.
      I know the editor disagrees with my opinion, so this one might get deleted. again

      Recommended Thumb up 0

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