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Neighbors weigh options on SE Foster Road’s future

Posted by on November 15th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Cycle track on Foster? It could happen.

After years of residents clamoring for safety improvements, options for how the City of Portland will ultimately redesign SE Foster Road from SE 52nd to 90th are now on the table. Among them are exciting changes that could finally add room for bicycles to travel on this key southeast Portland corridor.

This project is part of an effort to update the 2003 Foster Streetscape Plan. Sometime next year, following a public planning process that began back in September, City Council will adopt a new street plan and will begin to implement $3.25 million already set aside for improvements (thanks to federal and PDC grants). Whether or not those investments lead to high-quality bicycle access the entire length of the project depends largely upon who speaks up and the stakeholder advisory committee will be left to hash it all out.

Over at FosterUnited.org (a blog that serves several of the neighborhood associations around this segment of Foster) resident Nick Falbo (who’s also on the stakeholder advisory committee) has provided a helpful breakdown of the cross-section options under consideration.

(In his blog post, Falbo rightly points out that it’s premature to debate the options because not enough is known about how/if they impact traffic and how much they would cost to implement.)

PBOT has broken down the street into three sections based on how much room (curb-to-curb width) they have to work with. There are 14 different cross-sections being considered. That’s confusing; but the good news is that nearly every option on the table includes at least some degree of bike access — from a standard, 6-foot bike lane next to traffic to a 7-foot, curbside, protected cycle track with a 3-foot buffer to parked cars.

By way of comparison, check out the two cross-sections below. The first shows how a cycle track could fit and the second shows the current configuration of four standard lanes:

As you can see, there’s a lot at stake with this project. Locals — and even Mayor Adams — refer to this road as the “Foster Freeway.” As we’ve seen countless times on other projects, whenever a change to lane configurations is considered, people get emotional and fears begin to fly about traffic impacts, the sky falling, and so on.

But — similar to Sandy Blvd in northeast — Foster’s diagonal layout, it’s budding commercial districts and neighborhoods, and it’s ample width (in most sections), make it a perfect candidate for high-quality bikeways.

High Crash Corridors campaign launch-2
The freeway.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Foster-Powell resident Brett Holycross shared with me recently that at first he thought putting a bikeway on Foster was a crazy idea. But then he changed his mind. “Initially, I was skeptical of the feasibility of bike facilities on Foster Road and didn’t give it much thought. But, as I began to attend meetings and outreach events, I started to believe that Foster Road is uniquely suited to benefit from bike facilities.”

It’s also worth noting that Foster is a designated High Crash Corridor and it has a long history of collisions. The Mayor has already fast-tracked some safety investments to the street and a group known as the Foster Road Coalition made up of neighborhood and business associations has already endorsed a road diet.

Other things to keep in mind while following this project are that since the 2003 Foster plan was completed Portland City Council has adopted a Streetcar System Plan and a new Bike Plan. Foster is flagged as a future streetcar corridor and the 2030 Bike Plan says it should be a “City Bikeway” with “separated in roadway” bike facilities.

Tonight’s stakeholder committee meeting is at 6:00 p.m. at SE Works (7916 Southeast Foster Rd., #104). Review the cross-sections at FosterUnited.org and learn more at PBOT’s official project website.

Stay tuned for more coverage of this project.

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Comments
  • 9watts November 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I look forward to improvements. I bike on Foster with some regularity but I’ve rarely if ever seen anyone else on a bike out there. If the speed limit could be lowered/road rage proclivities kept in check that would help. Also the transition from Foster onto Ellis (a bike boulevard) is awkward heading East. Mostly it is ugly. Those drawings with all that vegetation look downright attractive.

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    • Eric November 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      I’m there! but only in the early morning (before 7am) when you can use the parking lane as a bike lane. I avoid it on the way home in the afternoon. And as someone who lives close by, I imagine it would take longer on the days I drive on Foster, but it would be worth it to have a street I actually wanted to walk along and spend time on.

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  • Jim Lee November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    With 90 feet of right-of-way the possibilities are tantalizing. Present sidewalks alone are 12 feet plus.

    The greatest dangers on Foster Road are the many diagonal plus lateral intersections. Commonly is is necessary to watch six ways to ensure not being picked off by a speedy vehicle making an obtuse turn. Fixing this will not be simple.

    Please, please, do not even consider streetcars, which by themselves annihilate all possibility of cycling!

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    • Alan 1.0 November 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

      please, do not even consider streetcars

      That’s because of the rails embedded in the street, not the trolley cars or the wires, right?

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  • Psyfalcon November 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I like the road diet. Fewer lanes.

    Speeds on Foster need to be slower to allow for easier crossings, not just down street travel. Its just as bad as Powell for crossing without a traffic light.

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  • davemess November 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    I don’t know how accurate that second picture is, as a good bit of Foster has a full width turn lane running down the middle. I often look enviously at that lane as I’m riding down Foster (which I only do at off peak hours), wondering if tonight is the night I’m going to get hit.

    So excited for this project!

    The area down around 65th is starting to really pick up with a lot of new businesses going in recently.

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    • Spiffy November 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      that good bit of Foster with the full width turn lane is only between 69th and 70th… most of the road is a double-double-yellow line with a turn lane only at key intersections…

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      • davemess November 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm

        Thank you for the snarky retort! I stand corrected.
        I guess it always looks wider from the far right side of the road.

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  • Hart Noecker November 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I’d love to se separated cycles tracks and street cars in the middle. But y’know, that would make the sky start falling.

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  • ScottB November 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Low cost yes, but not transformational.
    How about creating a median with bike lanes and trees and only have auto crossings at the major intersections, or a set spacing. 60 feet permits two 8 ft parking lanes, two 12 ft travel lanes (generous) and leaves 20 feet in the middle to work with. So two 6 ft bike lanes and two 4 ft (std) planting strips for trees. Peds stay on the sidewalks outside the curb line. Consider the elimination of right hooks.
    If you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results…..

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  • john peterson November 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I think Foster should be left mostly as it is…maybe a couple more signalized crosswalks…I don’t think restricting cars would be a good idea…I think bicyclists need to to allow for streets that are primarily for cars (39th, Powell, 82nd, and Foster)….I have always enjoyed riding the quiet neighborhood streets around Foster….I would not want to screw up those streets trying to restrict cars off Foster…

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    • Hart Noecker November 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Restricting cars is of utmost importance. If you’re interested to learn why, here’s a good place to start: https://vimeo.com/36750762

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      • Gregg November 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

        Besides, people driving cars wouldn’t be restricted. They would still have a travel lane going both directions. Where is the restriction? Do people in cars need the entire 60 feet (Curb to curb) for driving and parking? Sheesh.

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        • Cora Potter November 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

          Yes, they do – so they can do things like pass buses or streetcars that are stopped to let passengers board and alight.

          Really the most constructive thing to ask is: do we need 17 foot sidewalks and separate bike lanes, or could we make a grade separated bike lane in the sidewalk ROW by moving the planting areas into the parking lane (leaving room for some cars to park inbetween)?

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    • Nick Falbo November 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

      Whatever option is selected may also come with adjustments to mitigate for diverted traffic on other streets. (Though realistically, if diversion is a potential, it’s probably a non starter with the advisory committee).

      One interesting thing about Foster is that the diagonal nature eliminates easy parallel routes. Even if there is slight added delay, it’s still faster than taking the long way around.

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    • davemess November 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

      So I attended the SAC meeting last night (after reading about it at 5:15 on this site, thanks Jonathan). The first thing that hit me was, where was the publicity for this process? Other than this site, I would have never heard about the meeting. Would it really kill the city to post some signs around Foster so that people knew what was going on. (A few people at the meeting voiced this concern).

      All in all, I think this is shaping up to be a pretty big battle for what Portland and the immediate neighborhoods priorities and visions for the future are. There were definitely pro-bike commuters on the SAC (making me feel confident that “some” level of bike infrastructure will be implemented), and also a few of the “you’re cutting down four lanes of auto traffic over my dead body” types. One fellow (public comment and not on the committee) went on a bit of a rant about how he has to commute to Intel in Hillsboro and Pdx is doing everything to kill industry, and why would an industry on Foster want a bike lane running in front of it. He then promptly left before anyone could really address him.

      A few comments to questions posted on this thread: Most likely it looks like they will use the options that don’t require moving the curbs. Jonathan is right that there is a decent chunk of money available for this project, but it’s not bottomless, and moving curbs (even for cycle tracks) requires major money (moving utilities/etc).

      This Proposal covers Foster from 52 about to 92nd, so we will be pushing for full bike facilities the entire length.

      I don’t personally think the streetcar issue is going to be a big deal here, as that’s so far down the pipeline (2030?). Its in the drawings, but it didn’t seem like a lot of the SAC was that interested in the idea.

      Diverted traffic is definitely being considered, and the city will have more info about traffic consequences of each option at the next meeting.

      All in all it was a pretty positive meeting and people were VERY excited about trying to fix the street, which is clearly broken.
      Lack of cycling facilities and the pedestrian fatalities came up multiple times. SO I have faith that this process is moving in a good direction for cyclists.

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    • davemess November 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

      But John Foster is REALLY screwed up right now. People are dying on the street. That’s not good for anyone cars, pedestrians, or cyclists.

      Not to mention there really is no real “alternative” to Foster, as it’s at a diagonal (other than going a longer route at right angles).

      I think Foster is a perfect example of Portland trying to figure out where it’s priorities lay:
      In a multi-mode future or in keeping the road in the 1960s quasi-highway style it currently is.

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    • Jonathan Gordon November 16, 2012 at 11:25 am

      I couldn’t disagree more. Foster is one of the most dangerous roads in all of Portland. If any street cries out for a project that is monumental rather than incremental, Foster is it.

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  • Bike-Max-Bike November 15, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Why do cyclists get less usable road space than a parked car?

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    • Spiffy November 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

      because of this train of thought: http://bikeyface.com/2012/11/02/not-cyclists/

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    • davemess November 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

      I brought up this exact point about the first segment (52nd to 72nd). The options presented all had parking on both sides of the street. I made the point that many sections of Foster don’t really need parking on both sides, as they’re underutilized now, and that maybe putting parking on only one side could allow for a “have it all” streetscape where we don’t lose any car lanes (even add a turn lane) and still have bike infrastructure and wide sidewalks.

      The city rep. said they would consider that and possibly add another option without so much parking.

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  • resopmok November 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    At the worst we can use this as a case example to see how the city really feels about cycling. We are quickly falling behind the curve with infrastructure improvements, and missing this vital opportunity will only put us farther behind. This would be an especially good connection if that dusty ol’ 52nd bikeway plan thing ever got implemented too. My only concern, what happens when you hit 82nd? Bike utopia dumps you directly into car hell..

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    • Spiffy November 16, 2012 at 10:42 am

      true… they need to extend this all the way to the bike lane that starts at 91st…

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      • spare_wheel November 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

        and once again pbot comes up with a cycle track design where a wall of parked cars creates new right-hook risk. why not a two way cycle track with no adjacent parking?

        it was very disappointing to see pbot propose options with no new bike facilities.

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        • NF November 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

          Two way cycle track have their own added left-hook risk. Which is better? I’m not sure.

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        • davemess November 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm

          There are no bike facilities on Foster, so ANYTHING Is a new bike facility (if you’re meaning a facility not tried anywhere else in the city, than I guess you are correct, although the South waterfront cycletrack is totally off street).

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  • Alex Reed November 16, 2012 at 5:24 am

    I’m a proud new FoPo homeowner and you can bet I’ll be at those stakeholder committee meetings advocating for a a calmer street that’s better for walkers, bikers, and businesses!

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  • i ride my bike November 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

    So in that option 5 cross section, given this is a rebuild why not pour concrete curbs btwn parked cars and cycle track instead of crosshatched paint?

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    • Spiffy November 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

      paint is a lot cheaper than cement…

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  • DK November 16, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Looks great but would be nice if the improvements stretched much farther East than 90th. …At least to the intersection with the Springwater trail.

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    • Nick Falbo November 16, 2012 at 8:09 am

      There are bike lanes on foster starting at 90th, which do go all the way to the Springwater and beyond. They’re not great bike lanes, but they’re better than the nothing that exists farther west.

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  • Duncan November 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I like the idea of building in for future streetcar expansion. Allowing for the maximum number of non sov transportation is key. If we end up in a bikes against streetcar mentality we both lose out.

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    • i ride my bike November 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Amen.

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  • oliver November 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Going to coffee the other morning, I got an ear full from a colleague who was upset about the changes to Multnomah, because the congestion interfered with his travel to/from the Blazers game.

    Similarly I expect most of the opposition to come not from locals but from people who use the Foster freeway as a means of getting to their homes in/beyond Lents.

    I also agree with the other poster that if you put in a streetcar, there’s no room for option 5 as presented above. Once again it looks like the main incompatibility with bicycle facilities comes from on street parking.

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    • Alex Reed November 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      I don’t think option 5 is at all incompatible with streetcar! A future streetcar line could run in the motor vehicle lane in each direction. Stops would involve removing some motor vehicle parking and constructing a curb area. In my opinion, the only way to avoid having streetcar tracks impede cycling is to provide an attractive, clear, comfortable bikeway on the same street but with no track interference – such as the cycle track included in Option 5!

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  • spencer November 16, 2012 at 10:16 am

    This is exactly whats needed to calm Foster, multimodal planning. I often commut through SE, and Foster is completly unsafe as is. They should remove most the on-street parking as that area is filled huge surface lots that sit empty. This should extend to the Springwater at the least.

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    • Spiffy November 16, 2012 at 10:50 am

      I’d like if they took out the parking on every other block on each side of the street… north side one block, south side the next, repeat… this would not only give room to bikes but also make Foster mostly curved instead of mostly straight thus slowing down cars…

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      • jd November 17, 2012 at 8:26 pm

        Curves might be bad for visibility (and pedestrians).

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  • Terry D November 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

    This would be an excellent proposal. Foster could become a really attractive commercial zone over time if properly planned and constructed.

    They also need to integrate a Greenway/ Bikeway crossing of Mitchel-Raymond at SE 72nd. This would allow continual neighborhood greenway from SE 33rd eastward on Raymond, jogging south a block or two to Mitchell, then back north again at 72nd and Foster, then continuing east back on Raymond. This would allow for a greenway all the way east to Lentz Park.

    The south side of Foster at SE 78th/ 77th also needs a cycle-track connection. This is the future “70′s” greenway. While there is already a pedestrian light/ crosswalk, the south side of Foster needs a clearly marked bike connection through the parking lot/sidewalks. There is plenty of room to work with.

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  • Justin November 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I live in FoPo off 67th and I wouldn’t dream of biking on Foster. It’s terrifying. A cycle track would get me to ride Foster to the new 50s bikeway. I drive on Foster often and it just doesn’t warrant 2+ lanes in each direction.

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  • gutterbunny November 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Doesn’t really seem like much to debate here. Foster is a better choice for a cycle track than just about any other street on the east side.

    1) It’s got the room for it, as stated above on street parking isn’t at a premium along Foster so single sided parking is an option. Add a few more controlled crosswalks to make crossings for pedestrians and those driving to safely cross. Many of the businesses along there already have parking lots for their customers too.

    2)The last few years have seen good local businesses start to move into the old beautiful abandoned/empty buildings in the area (with more just waiting for some love).

    3) It would connect to the SE 50th bike “highway” and would make it more appealing in that another bike safe shopping district would be available from the highway. Where as without good bike facilities on Foster few will dare the SE route from the highway.

    4) This area of SE is in desperate need of some bike facility improvements. (South of MT. Tabor to Springwater is pretty much a bike commuter wasteland)

    5) Ends up in Lents where the city has been trying desperately to improve (and for the most part has failed) for the 20+ years I’ve lived here.

    6) Adds more bike connections and easier access for locals to the Max as well (for those commuters that work on the far West Side burbs)

    Add something like a cycle track and Foster could very well end up as the “goto” shopping district in SE. Beating even Sellwood and Hawthorn. It’s got the room for it (especially considering alot of the blocks that run east west that intersect it are zoned for commercial and residential, and the possibility for direct bike access instead of this riding 3 blocks away from the shops on the sharrows because there is no room for bike lanes on the existing streets of other SE shopping districts.

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  • jim November 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    It doesn’t look like the parking spots are wide enough for trucks.

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  • jd November 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    These improvements are very exciting. I agree with other commenters that Foster-Powell is loaded with potential. We have great businesses and residents here already. But the neighborhood is currently limited by two streets that are scary to cross or ride a bike on. Hooray for everyone working to improve Foster!

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