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A new bit of hope for fixing the ‘Naito Gap’

Posted by on July 16th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Curving paths would help cross
the Steel Bridge railroad tracks.

After six years of promising to fix a persistent rift in downtown’s bike lane grid, city planners have a new plan to link the bike lanes north and south of the Steel Bridge on the Naito Parkway.

As you can see from the city’s tentative sketch, lots of hardware changes are required — tasks that will have to be completed by Union Pacific Railroad are marked in red — but project manager Rich Newlands tells us that the city is springing for its own analysis of the situation in order to avoid further delays from partner organizations.


The plan relies on adding soft curves to the bike lanes in each direction so they can intersect the cross-cutting railroad tracks at close to a right angle.

“The railroad will not give us a cost estimate … until we have an approved rail crossing order from the state (can take up to 6 months after completion of 90% plans) and they have done design engineering (up to another 6 months),” Newlands writes. “So, instead of waiting that long to see if it really is still a feasible project, we have hired a consultanting firm (D[avid] E[vans and A[ssociates]) with railroad design expertise to come up with a cost estimate for the railroad work. We met with them earlier this week and should have the estimate by early August.”

We’ve been covering this annoying disconnect for a long time — Jonathan named it as one of “five languishing bike projects” citywide in 2010, the rest of which are now complete — and once a solution is finally found, this’ll be a great help in linking the waterfront housing north of downtown with Portland’s richest job and commercial district.

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Comments
  • Todd Hudson July 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Hopefully the railroad is cooperative.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Steve B July 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    The ped/bike crossing across Naito is really important too. I hope we can see this on the ground soon. Thanks for reporting on this.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Brandon Van Buskirk July 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Yes…do we know if there are any plans to create a Flanders crossing from Waterfront Park anytime soon?

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Reza July 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Or even a path from Davis Street to Waterfront Park, where the grass is worn from all the riders?

      Recommended Thumb up 4

      • Erinne July 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        I’m determined to make a goat path there. Give me a couple more years.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Michael Miller July 16, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      The sketch shows a crosswalk being added from Waterfront Park to NW 1st Ave, 1/2 a block north of Flanders. It doesn’t show whether there would be a resolution for the lack of a direct, legal eastbound access from Flanders at NW 3rd.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Reza July 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Wow, talk about a zombie project rising from the dead. It’d sure be great to never have to bike on the Waterfront Path to get downtown again during the summer.

    I wonder how southbound Naito riders will transition to the Steel Bridge crossing, will they use the new Naito ped crossing? Currently, I take a left at the McCormick Pier condos and ride the east sidewalk for a block before crossing the tracks (which it looks like they would remove, in favor of a new ped crossing adjacent to the bike lane).

    Also, will these changes include a Quiet Zone designation for this crossing?

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • gutterbunnybikes July 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Trade the railroad the cost of these improvements for access to cement road ??????……

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Michael Miller July 16, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      What is there to trade? This won’t cost UPRR anything. Taxpayers will pay for the entire project — the railroad doesn’t get any benefits from this project.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy July 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Wow, this would be great. I too had been wondering if this would ever get fixed.

    Next, maybe we can persuade Beaverton to do the same thing to the south (eastbound) side of SW 5th on the tracks by 217. I’ve seen several of my fellow cyclists go down there.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • CPAC July 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Almost anything would be an improvement over the current disappearing lanes. But as long as they’re reconfiguring this stretch, why not simplify things by eliminating one lane in either direction at the intersection of Naito and the Steel bridge? Right now, Naito goes from four lanes to two lanes just north of the steel bridge. Push this transition south and you’ll keep things slower and simpler where they are most narrow and confusing.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Spiffy July 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      it looks like they’re removing a southbound motor-vehicle lane but not a northbound one… not sure why they couldn’t remove a northbound one and use it as a buffer zone… a buffer would help since it’s a curvy and hilly little area…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Michael Miller July 16, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        It may be to maintain queuing capacity when the crossing is blocked by a long, slow freight train

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • i ride my bike July 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Does this improve the connection betwee Naito north of the tracks and the Waterfront Park path or is this just for bike traffic staying on Naito?

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    • Reza July 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      That’s what I am trying to understand. What will be the “sanctioned” method to get from the Naito bike lanes north of the tracks to the Waterfront Park path and the Steel Bridge? That engineering drawing is so busy (and low resolution) that I can’t decipher where I would go or if there are any ramps to access the sidewalk besides at the new ped crossing, which is a pretty awkward location. It looks like they are also going to remove the existing northbound ramp from the sidewalk to the bike lane just north of the tracks.

      I’m hoping they can come up with a solution that doesn’t have me continuing to ride the sidewalk.

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  • Michael Miller July 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    This is the second article where a linked document has taken me to a google docs login requesting a portlandafoot.org email address (from the “tentative sketch” link in the text; the image link works fine, although viewing a PDF in that format was awkward, especially since it needed to be rotated). The links to the diagrams for the crosswalk fixes to SE 17th and McLoughlin did the same thing.

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  • Ted Buehler July 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Looks like a good improvement, hope it moves along faster now that they have designs on the table.

    2 comments:
    * After crossing tracks (in both directions) bikes make a swooping curve to the left. They need to make sure that the street surface has minimal superelevation in that curve so that bicyclists aren’t faces with the choice of risking wiping out in the curve, slowing a to 5 mph to be sure they can navigate it, or risk falling in the tracks by taking a shallower angle across the tracks. (i.e., *don’t* make it like southbound Vancouver Ave just past NE Weidler)

    * re: irmb and Reza, they could add two left turn options for southbound Naito to use the crosswalk:
    1) a left turn pocket in the median (like SE Clay and Ladd in Portland, or 3rd and Columbia Ave in Vancouver, or
    2) a two-stage turn box on the right hand side (if they moved the crosswalk about 8′ to the south & put a curb to the south to protect it from the Steel Bridge exit ramp traffic).
    This would expedite bicycle traffic, and reduce pathway conflicts between bicycles and pedestrians on Naito’s east sidewalk.

    As always, note that ODOT says
    “If you have an opinion, comment or question, or need personal assistance with an ODOT concern, we would like to hear from you.” http://highway.odot.state.or.us/cf/comments/comments.cfm or AskODOT@odot.state.or.us

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Allan July 17, 2013 at 10:20 am

    The real problem here is that even after this is finished (I hope it goes through), Naito lanes are still narrow and uncomfortable. Where are the buffered bike lanes or 2-way cycletrack that should exist here? The pedestrian experience on the south waterfront could be much better if more folks enjoyed riding along Naito

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Garlynn July 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Echoing others comments, this project really does need to address four-directional bicycle movement (north-south and east-west), and I really only see it currently addressing north/south movement. This project should also allow bicyclists from the Steel Bridge to easily access Old Town by continuing straight across Naito, and vice versa, allow bicyclists from Old Town and Naito southbound to access the Steel Bridge.

    And I agree with others about a road diet for Naito to allow buffered bike lanes… that would be top-notch.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Scott Kocher July 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Another big reason to do this project is to take pressure off the Esplanade path.

    With the Naito Gap fixed, the bike lanes on Naito will replace the Esplanade path as the best choice for most north-south riders.

    A better connection between the Naito bike lanes and the Steel Bridge path will also be needed so that riders coming to/from the east side will use Naito instead of the Esplanade path.

    Naito’s stop lights also need to flow better through downtown if Naito is going to be a viable alternative to the Esplanade path.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Ted Buehler July 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Was down that way around 5:00 and checked it out.

    * Northbound — needs the road diet. No problems that I could see. It cuts to 1 lane just north of the tracks anyhow. Why do they need 2 lanes for the first south of the tracks? Only thing I could think of was to store queued up cars when a freight train went through. At 5:20 we conveniently had a freight train, blocked the crossing for 10 minutes. The left-lane backed up as far as Davis, but the right lane still had space for about 12 cars. So if they cut out a couple hundred feet

    * Southbound, plenty of space for a left turn pocket in the middle, I think folks would use it.

    * Bike count, I counted from 5:35 – 5:40, got 36 bikes. That’s 7 bikes per minute. 432 bikes per hour. Going every which way through the area. But over half were doing the southbound Naito => Southbound Esplenade (or Steel Bridge). Many did what Reza said he does — left at the crosswalk a block north of the tracks, then down the sidewalk. Many turned left at the tracks, too, either not crossing them, or crossing them twice.

    * Most folks didn’t angle at all crossing the tracks when riding on Naito.

    FWIW,
    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ted Buehler July 17, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Amended —
    [So if they cut out a couple hundred feet] of the right turn lane to add a bike lane northbound, cars might back up south of Davis when a slow train goes by. Just for a minute or two, through. And the whole town was already gridlocked — all the freeways I could see from the Steel Bridge area were jammed.

    So even if the road diet results in 2 extra minutes of car congestion a day, I think that getting more folks on bikes would have system-wide benefits by freeing up some space on all sorts of roads all across town…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • i ride my bike July 21, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Naito Parkway screams for a 2 way cycletrack

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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