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Better Block’s 2016 street demos will reimagine Burnside Bridge, Broadway, PNCA

Posted by on February 19th, 2016 at 2:58 pm

better ankeny explanation
Curt Fisher, left, explains the concept for a demonstration plaza at SW Ankeny, Burnside, Pine and Broadway to two attendees at Better Block’s volunteer appreciation meeting.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The streets-for-people group Better Block PDX unveiled four main projects for its “2016 season” Thursday night to a crowd gathered in a bike warehouse.

better block crowd

The proposed demos, conceived by Portland State University planning and engineering students as part of Better Block’s new partnership with the school, will be on the Burnside Bridge, inner Northeast Broadway, the Northwest Park Blocks and Southwest Broadway at Burnside.

All are in or on the outskirts of the central city; Better Block organizer Ryan Hashagen mentioned that the group hopes to broaden its geographic range in 2017.

Thursday’s event also included a short history lesson for the dozens of attendees from Better Block PDX co-founder Melissa Kaganovich (visiting from Toronto) and a view of its future from Gwen Shaw, the recent PSU engineering graduate who came up with the academic partnership that’s designed to carry it forward.

gwen talking
Gwen Shaw, the brains behind last year’s Better Naito demo of a multi-use path just west of Waterfront Park.

“This idea popped in my head: why don’t we make this a thing?” Shaw, who now works for Lancaster Engineering, recalled of the day she was putting her planning and engineering knowhow to work setting up last year’s Naito Parkway demo. “We got to do real stuff, do real work.”

After a video about the Naito demo, the people behind each of four projects spoke. Let’s take a quick look at each.

Better Burnside Bridge
burnside-bridge-w-bus-lane--protected-bike-lanes
A different use of the space is possible.

With Multnomah County preparing for a $30 million repave of the bridge in 2017, Better Block is planning to test a design that would upgrade the bridge’s bike lanes to protected bike lanes and add a dedicated eastbound bus lane.

Since the bridge’s streetcar line was removed, it has had two westbound lanes but three eastbound lanes. That extra room, combined with the width of the lanes, leads to a lot of speeding on the bridge: presenter Andy Kutansky said the 85th-percentile speed is 40 mph.

This proposed design was one of the options we floated here last year, after a man’s car veered onto the sidewalk and killed Ben Carlson while he walked across the bridge.

The main complication will be the right-turn lane and traffic signals on the east landing of the bridge, but the designers think they have a signaling plan that will work. A live test this summer will see if they’re right, while showing off the possible improvements for people walking, biking or taking one of the three bus lines that cross the bridge.

Better Northeast Broadway
empty family dining
Not ideal for anyone.

Presenter Kiel Johnson began his pitch for this plan by asking people where they go when they have out-of-town friends visiting.

“Raise your hand if you might take them to Hawthorne,” he said. “Raise your hand if you might take them to Mississippi or Alberta. Raise your hand if you might take them to Broadway.”

“OK, that’s what we want to change,” Johnson said after nearly all the hands dropped.

Broadway hasn’t seen as much economic success as other streets, Johnson said, because unlike those streets it has three lanes of westbound auto traffic, making it unpleasantly noisy and hard to cross.

Johnson, who lives just south of Broadway and serves on the district’s community association board, said he’s hoping to find three businesses between NE 7th and 24th Avenues that are excited about possible changes to Broadway. Each of those blocks could then be set up in a different way, to illustrate the various possible changes to the street: one with a parking-protected bike lane, maybe, or one with a planter-protected lane and no parking.

Better North Park Blocks
explaining park blocks
Lora Lillard, left, explains the concept for improvements to the parking lot immediately north of the North Park Blocks.

The parking lot just north of Northwest Glisan Street serves as an unfortunate front yard for the Pacific Northwest College of Art. As the block awaits likely redevelopment, PNCA students are working with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to do something more interesting with it for a few years.

The details for this installation aren’t nailed down yet, but it’d likely involve a spring demo of one week or so followed by a permanent paint job in August that would create areas for PNCA students, staff and others to spend time.

placemaking ideas
Inspiring ideas from elsewhere.

“The real opportunity here is placemaking,” said presenter Lora Lillard of BPS.

Better Ankeny + Southwest Broadway
Stormy roads 2-10-14-17
Why not?
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The expanse of pavement on Broadway just south of Burnside is one of the most visually dead spaces in downtown, and one of the most unpleasant to walk across for the 300 to 400 people who do so in every rush hour.

But every time it snows in Portland, an alternative future appears: it could easily become a public plaza.

Partly inspired by what PSU’s Curt Fisher called a “famous BikePortland photo” and wishing for a space at the heart of the city that could become Portland’s answer to Times Square, a team of planning students developed two concepts: one for a triangular space that’s currently unused for almost anything except walking:

bb1

And one more ambitious version that would take Broadway down to one southbound travel lane plus a bike lane to create a large parklike space with food carts and more:

bb2

Both plans also envision a new “Ankeny Alley West”: repeating the experiment of SW Ankeny Street between 2nd and 3rd, where a block once used mostly for parking has been rented by businesses to add outdoor cafe tables.

bb3

The schedule for this project is a little vague — maybe August? — and presumably depends on the capacity of volunteers and the interest of adjacent businesses, but the simpler version of this would probably be the easiest of all these projects to pull off, and the more ambitious version would probably be the most transformative of any.

If any of these projects excite you, Better Block would love to have your help: they’re recruiting people for communications, fundraising and installation committees. In the meantime, PSU students will be spending their spring terms developing traffic control plans and other details for each of these, with an eye to installments starting in late spring.

We’ll be eager to cover all of these projects in the coming months — and, if they’re successful, the permanent changes any or all of these could catalyze.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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33 Comments
  • gutterbunnybikes February 19, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Never did understand that road space on Burn/Broadway/ Ankeny.

    Move the Portlandia statue to a plaza built in the Burnside/Ankeny triangle.

    The statue needs a better and more prominent home.

    Recommended Thumb up 27

  • Adam H. February 19, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I’m personally most excited about the Broadway/Ankeny project. This one has the greatest placemaking potential of all the proposed projects, as that massive swath of pavement is currently vastly underutilized. Ankeny already has some successful businesses along that stretch and the roadway is already very narrow, so a car-free space would work very well there.

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  • mike February 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Sweet! Now I can camp on Broadway!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 19, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    This is so awesome. And sort of funny.

    I was bummed to not be at the event last night so I was eagerly awaiting Michael’s report about it. Then our site was down all morning so I didn’t get to see his copy until a few hours ago.

    And I’m editing this piece and boom… There’s my sneckdown pic from Ankeny and Broadway! I think about that intersection every time I ride by it. So much unused space. Such an amazing location. So much potential to unite people and place instead of separate us. I want to just to go to PBOT and say… Come on! Do this! .. And now here’s Better Block, putting real thought and ideas and plans on the table.

    I couldn’t be more excited! I/we (BikePortland) plan on doing whatever we can do to help. Sign me up to volunteer for the day it happens.

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  • SilkySlim February 19, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I like all four of these projects, and am especially excited for North Park Blocks as my office is right on the park.

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  • MaxD February 19, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I hope that Parking lot at Boadway/ Ankeny get redeveloped with nice wide sidewalks around . The City should anticipate this and establish some reasonable traffic patterns around this and definitely include some bike lanes on Burnside. I love the proposal for the Burnside bridge with improved bike lanes and a dedicated transit lane!

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    • Brad February 19, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      It’d be nice to take another travel lane from cars on the bridge for double wide bike lanes for easy passing. Cars could get a reversible center lane for rush hours. Portland, don’t be afraid of reversible lanes!

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson February 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    With redevelopment going full bore at both ends of the Burnside Bridge, the city and county must go with this reconfiguration. Glad it made the Better Block’s list.

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  • John Lascurettes February 19, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    OMG. On the Burnside Bridge proposal: Yes Please! So much yes.

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  • Ted Buehler February 19, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Nice work, BetterBlock!

    Ted Buehler

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  • Joseph E February 19, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Burnside bridge:
    How about a reversible bus lane down the middle? Westbound in the AM, Eastbound in the PM?
    If that’s not possible, then put a bus lane on both side, and use the 5th lane to make wider buffers for the bike lanes.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • TEnder February 19, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      W-bound busses dont get stuck in congestion, only E-bound do. Plus, the bus stops are on the right, making merging more difficult if bus lane was in center.

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    • Eric Leifsdad February 19, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      The 2ft buffers are big enough for a jersey barrier. I would take at least a couple more feet from the drive lanes for 7-8ft bike lanes — unless we’re trying to encourage the 40mph 85th percentile speed.

      11,9,9,8,11(bus) should do — there will generally not be 3 trucks and 2 buses meeting and that empty bus lane next to a 10ft lane is going to encourage speeding.

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      • Andy K February 19, 2016 at 10:15 pm

        The bridge can’t support concrete barrier, and if it could, it would require an additional 2 feet on the drive side for shy distance, so that solution is out. My impression is that PBOT will not allow anything <10 feet for motor vehicle lane width.

        If protected bike lanes are installed on Burnside Bridge, flexible plastic posts are ideal. They weigh almost nothing, and they occupy a buffer space instead of creating a barrier (that needs shy distance).

        The cross section above shows 11 foot lanes – enough width to provide some shy distance yet still achieve some level of traffic calming.

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        • Eric Leifsdad February 20, 2016 at 10:11 pm

          11ft does start to feel a bit crowded at 70mph.

          I can see how 400lb/ft twice could be a problem, but a hummer h2 is 390lb/ft (do we design for bumper-to-bumper loading?) How much load is assumed per lane and does converting one to a bus lane reduce the design load? If there’s weight capacity for more than plastic posts but not solid concrete, we should use as much as possible. Sand-filled barriers would be just as heavy, but don’t have to be continuous, or perhaps could be partly filled? Or steel guardrails.

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          • lop February 21, 2016 at 8:31 pm

            There aren’t any hummers on the lift span when it opens.

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        • paikiala February 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

          Andy,
          Except, of course, vertical delineators in a buffer is not a ‘protected’ bike lane.

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  • maccoinnich February 19, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    I’m really looking forward to all of these, but am quite frustrated that something hasn’t already happened with Block 112 of the North Park Blocks. Looking at the property records, the Federal Government gave the property to the City for free in 2007. Portland Parks & Recreation have therefore had 9 years to decide what they want to do with it.

    According to the current Parks budget they’re expecting to take in $24.65 million in Systems Development Charges in FY 2016-17, a number that I expect is in line with what they’ve been receiving for the past few years. These are fees that are levied on developers building new apartments, offices etc, and can only be used for new capital projects. Given the amount of development happening in Downtown, the Lloyd, NW, the Pearl etc a lot of the money is coming from there. It beggars belief that Parks can’t find any money to plant some grass on Block 112, even as a temporary measure, and instead thought it would be a good idea to pave it over and continue to use it as a car park.

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    • Social Engineer February 20, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      My impression is that Parks staff agree with you, but they’re dealing with a commissioner who would rather spend time and dollars anywhere but the inner westside. It’s a good thing she is running unopposed.

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  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley February 19, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    All of these look fantastic!

    I’ll chime in with my support for anything they want to do to improve NE Broadway. That street could be so wonderful, and is so bad. I’ve said before and I maintain that the one-way couplet of Broadway and Weidler is one of the worst things the City has done to inner NE Portland. Broadway, in particular, is a too-fast car-sewer between 24th and the Coliseum.

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  • Mark smith February 19, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    The Broadway and Ankeny needs one thing. …a roundabout. And…please don’t put a stop sign in portland..like you did on 30th and glisan.

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  • Andy K February 19, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    If you want to support Better Block financially, click here to make a donation.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Chris I February 20, 2016 at 6:12 am

    That Burnside bridge concept is fantastic. That is exactly what this city needs.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu February 20, 2016 at 7:22 am

    John Lascurettes
    OMG. On the Burnside Bridge proposal: Yes Please! So much yes.
    Recommended 6

    A dedicated eastbound bus lane on the Burnside bridge will make little difference to congestion. The rush-hour congestion eastbound is not caused by the bridge, it is caused by E. Burnside. Cars turning left on Grand block the left lane, buses at stops block the right lane.

    A marked left-turn pocket on E. Burnside at Grand would help. There is actually enough width in the left lane for left-turning cars to hug the curb and not block cars trying to go straight, but since the lane isn’t masked that way, they don’t.

    Continuing that dedicated bus lane all the way up E. Burnside to 12th could be very interesting. It would speed up the bus commute, even though buses would still be occasionally held up by cars trying to turn right. The rush-hour congestion in the other lanes might not get much worse.

    Barriers on the bridge bike lanes are a bad idea, unless those lanes are widened to at least 2X their current width. 5 feet would not be wide enough; 8 feet would be. Some riders go very, very slowly up the bridge. Other riders need enough room to be able to pass the slow ones. Being stuck behind a 5 mph B-Line bike truck will ruin what is now one of the easiest and fastest bridges to cross on bike. A porous barrier, that allows cyclists to move between traffic and bike lane, might be okay.

    If, that is, any barrier at all is needed. Have there been any bike-car accidents on the bridge? Enough to show that an actual problem exists? The only accident I know of the freak accident where a driver lost control of his car and hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk; that could have occurred on any sidewalk in the city.

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    • Social Engineer February 20, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Yes a bus lane that doesn’t get you past the mess at Grand is pretty worthless. I can assure you that PBOT is looking at dedicated transit lanes all the way to 12th.

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    • Gary B February 23, 2016 at 9:51 am

      FTFY:
      … the “freak accident” where a driver “lost control” of his car…

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  • John Liu
    John Liu February 20, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Joseph E
    Burnside bridge:
    How about a reversible bus lane down the middle? Westbound in the AM, Eastbound in the PM?
    If that’s not possible, then put a bus lane on both side, and use the 5th lane to make wider buffers for the bike lanes.
    Recommended 3

    There is too much traffic on the bridge to have only a single car lane in each direction.

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    • Eric Leifsdad February 20, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      “There are too many eggs being laid to have only a single chicken.” If there were a single car lane in each direction, would there be too much auto traffic on the bridge? Or, would the intersections on each end look exactly the same?

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      • John Liu
        John Liu February 21, 2016 at 8:55 pm

        Where two lanes of Burnside or Couch merge into a hypothetical single lane on the bridge, there would be a big bottleneck. At rush hour, W. Burnside would be backed up, maybe well past 4th. E. Couch would be backed up through the S curve and past E. Grand. Think the current state of the Broadway Bridge, but much, much worse because Burnside Bridge carries much more traffic than Broadway Bridge. The time buses save due to the dedicated lanes on the bridge would be lost in this multi-block traffic jam on the way to the bridge.

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        • Eric Leifsdad February 22, 2016 at 10:25 pm

          Ah, but you agree that there would not be too much traffic on the bridge.

          A reversible middle lane, or zipper drills? One solution, drivers don’t want to pay for and the other, they aren’t capable of doing. Both would be worth trying for a week. How many car-free days are we having this year?

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  • Melissa Kaganovich February 22, 2016 at 8:49 am

    PS: The video was expertly done, by Yelena Prusakova, a Better Block organizer & member, who has been involved from a construction, implementation and design perspective on third avenue and continues to draw details and mock ups and work on the implementation side for Better Block PDX. She’s also behind the scenes making Better Block PDX an official 501c3.

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