Big changes are coming to what is currently a very unfriendly intersection for anyone that’s not in a car. The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation recently received the final bit of funding for a $408,000 project that should drastically improve traffic safety in the area of NW Naito Parkway under the Steel Bridge.
The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee agreed to provide $387,000 in grant funds for this project. The City of Portland will match the grant with $21,000 in City funds – which will include design work by the City for a total project cost of $408,000
PBOT’s pedestrian coordinator April Bertelsen says the final piece of the funding puzzle, a $127,000 grant from the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Program (managed by ODOT), means the project will also include filling in the “Naito Gap” — a missing link of the Naito bike lane that resulted from a $10 million makeover of the street back in October of 2007. (All told, ODOT grants account for $387,000 of the project. The City of Portland will put in $21,000 in matching funds).
Riding north on Naito
just past NW Everett.
(Photo © J. Maus)
That project striped new bike lanes on NW Naito, but they abruptly vanished at NW Davis (headed northbound). The gap (also in the southbound direction) happened because the scope of the Naito project dictated the bike lane’s terminus and therefore no money existed for extra paint. There was also an issue of road width (freight interests chimed in that addition of bike lanes would make the road too narrow). The road necks down as it goes under the bridge, meaning PBOT would have to have created bike lanes more narrow than they prefer. (In world-class bike cities, connectivity of bikeways takes precedent over engineering standards — but in the U.S., standards tend to rule).
But an annoying gap in the bike lane (which PBOT said they had plans to fix almost two years ago) is just one of many reasons Bertelsen has big plans for this intersection. In an email about the project, Bertelsen wrote:
for pedestrians. (Photo: PBOT)
“This area under the Steel Bridge and ramps is full of barriers to pedestrians and bicycles. This project will provide better, safer connections to many important destinations. After all, we are in the Central City, along the Waterfront, near the Steel bridge lower deck path, future NW Flanders Bikeway, future Skate Park, the list goes on.”
According to a presentation Bertelsen gave to the Oregon Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (they dole out ODOT bike/ped grant funds), currently it is posted as prohibited to cross and there is 1,100 ft between legal crossing in this segment of Naito — leading many people to behave in an “unsafe manner.”
In addition to striping a bike lane in each direction of Naito between the railroad tracks and NW Everett, the project will include:
- Marked crosswalks on NW Naito between Flanders and Glisan and NW 1st Ave, including a Median refuge island, extended curb on west side of Naito, 3 pedestrian/bike-activated beacons, signage and striping
- Removal of a southbound auto lane (two auto lanes will remain northbound).
- Two concrete paths with curb ramps leading to NW Glisan and NW Flanders intersections
- Additional street lighting to provide illumination in advance of the crosswalk and along path under ramps
Bertelsen also notes that, in vying for funding of this project, it was helpful to have full support from ODOT Region 1 honcho Jason Tell. Tell is not only the most bike-sensitive ODOT regional manager, but his office is directly above the intersection. Bertelsen says that Tell, “Sees the demand and risky behavior on a daily basis.”
With full funding, the remaining hurdle for this project is to get review and approval of the plan designs from ODOT’s Rail Division. Says Bertelsen, “I am hopeful we will get there.”
Is there any help coming to SW Naito? The stretch between SW clay up to the tunnel before Barbur is awful. The drain grates are 8″ below the street surface, no break down lane, or bike lane..It is pretty rough going there.
Maybe Vestas can sponsor it…
It is great to see this crucial intersection receiving this treatment.
Daily, i witness peds and bikes trying to enter Old Town/Chinatown from the Steel Bridge and getting confused by the Naito Gap. The current way to legally get from the bridge to Glisan is to cross UP’s tracks twice! to use the nearest crosswalk.
Many ODOT employees bicycle. I often see them struggling to cross this intersection. It is great that ODOT employees have this bicycle empathy.
This new configuration will make biking into downtown safer for users of all comfort levels.
Thank you PBOT and ODOT!
It’s fantastic to see this gap closed. Car drivers tend to speed past here very frequently. Maybe with fewer lanes the traffic will improve and bike lanes are great.
I always thought it telling that one of the real bad bike/ped intersections is literally outside the window of ODOT’s downtown office
Nice! I commute each day between NY Hoyt and SE PDX. Crossing NW Naito there behind the train station to get to the Steel Bridge is the only part of my route that I dread. Looking forward to the improvements!
Is there a bigger version of the plan drawing? I often cut across naito at this spot to go through the gravel lot and the train station on my way to Forest Park. Curious how the changes will affect the route, but I can’t make sense of the small drawing. Thanks.
When we visited Portland, we thought this intersection was very odd when we stumbled across it coming off the Steel Bridge. Glad to see it’s getting some attention to make it friendlier to all users.
I was wondering also about SW Naito.
Echoing Jordan (#7) on SW Naito near Hawthorne – any plans for improvement on that end? If you actually ride the SB Naito bike lane, getting onto the Hawthorne Bridge is a pain.
This is great. That intersection needs work for basically every sort of user that passes through it. I hope the increased lighting has an impact. I know someone who was assaulted as they walked home through there.
Johnatan – a correction:
The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee agreed to provide $387,000 in grant funds for this project. The City of Portland will match the grant with $21,000 in City funds – which will include design work by the City for a total project cost of $408,000.
Thanks Sheila, I have added this information into the article. — Jonathan
I’ve also been using that gravel lot lately to get from the Broadway bridge to the McCormick Pier condos, where I’ve had family staying. I wonder who owns that land and if there are plans to make a paved pathway there between Naito and the train station area. I see other bikers and pedestrians doing the same thing so there is obviously demand for a better connection.
I’m also curious if part of the Naito plan detailed above includes modernizing the track crossing — it’s particularly treacherous because of the angle the tracks are at, and it’s only made worse by the deep ruts where they meet pavement…
This is the best news ever!
I don’t want to get greedy now, but it sure would be nice if a future project provided for bikes at the south end of Naito Parkway, and on to Barbur Bld….
Now this is a SMART use of PBOT resources that actually improves bike safety. This is the “nut and bolts” of cycling infrastructure they should be focusing on rather that turning Clinton into a bike themed art gallery.
Brad (#13) – That’s debatable, most bike lanes on their own do not improve safety. When they create more bike traffic, however, the road becomes safer.
Since Brad took the opportunity to slip Clinton in here, I’ll take the opportunity to reiterate that the city needs a process for bike lane REMOVAL. When a bike lane after 2 years (or 3, or maybe 5) does not increase bicycle traffic on that route, then it should be removed. The illusion of safety is necessary to get more riders on the road, which produces ACTUAL safety, but when those extra riders aren’t materializing, then the road needs to be returned to its safer condition.
re: #s 1, 7, 8
SW Naito inbound between Barbur and past the Hawthorne is abysmal. The bike lane starts after the Hawthorne bridge and the road is in dire need of repaving once you get past the fork with the Ross Island bridge traffic.
It’s as if PDOT assumed there would be no bike traffic on Naito north bound until after the Hawthorne bridge. They aren’t doing a lot to facilitate more ridership from SW with conditions like that. (And don’t get me started on B-H and Barbur…ugh.)
Yes! This has been part of my daily commute for years, and I always dread it, especially heading north bound. I have taken to bypassing the road there for the esplanade path, which despite several sharp corners, has a nicely graded crossing of those tracks. I really hope they incorporate a smooth crossing of the rails with the bike lane – it can be pretty treacherous there, as the tracks are almost 45 degrees off perpendicular to the road.
It’s been over a year, and I haven’t seen any construction. Any update?