(Photo: Anonymous reader)
If you’ve ever ridden through Portland’s Northwest Industrial Area, you’ll likely recall that it’s criss-crossed with miles of train tracks. Many of the tracks are abandoned and nothing more than a symbol of a bygone industrial era. Some of them are also and a major pain for people on bikes.
“If any modifications are needed to the pavement striping plan (i.e. new bike lanes), this is probably the time to address that.”
— Alex Bejarano, PBOT
This industrial zone is home to many companies (as industry has dried up, offices have moved in) and it is also how many riders make their way north from Portland and into popular riding areas like Sauvie Island, Forest Park, and the myriad climbs leading up to Skyline Blvd.
Since many of the railroad lines are abandoned, what if they were ripped up and replaced with smooth pavement? Well, that’s just what seems to be happening to at least some of the tracks.
After a reader sent in a photo of new pavement where tracks used to be on NW Nicolai, I wondered if the new space could be used for bike traffic.
I asked around at the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation and heard (via email) from Alex Bejarano, the Development Services Manager in PBOT’s Engineering and Development office. Bejarano wrote that the Burlington Northern Santa Re Railroad (BNSF) recently removed “quite a bit” of abandoned railroad track and spur lines on NW Nicolai from NW Yeon to NW 29th (see map below).
Bejarano also shared that the contractor working for BNSF is working with PBOT traffic engineer Peter Mason to “re-establish the appropriate pavement markings at the contractor’s expense.”
Could those “appropriate pavement markings” include bike lane striping and markings?
“If any modifications are needed to the pavement striping plan (i.e. new bike lanes),” Bejarano wrote, “this is probably the time to address that.”
map showing NW Nicolai.
PBOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller says that NW Nicolai has been identified as a City Bikeway since 1996. In a draft “proposed facility map” just released as part of the Bike Master Plan update, PBOT proposes that the street gets a “Separated in Roadway” bikeway treatment. According to an internal draft of the new Bike Master Plan, Separated in Roadway means PBOT wants the street to have either bike lanes or a cycle track. (It currently has neither).
Geller hasn’t looked closely at Nicolai yet, but he told me today that having new public right-of-way to work with is a “rare occurrence.” “In a general sense,” he said, “when public right-of-way becomes available to us it’s something want to take a look at and see how it might fit into the overall picture.”
Hopefully, that overall picture includes a new stretch of dedicated bikeway that will help people ride through the NW Industrial Area more comfortably.