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Two years after being listed as ‘dangerous,’ Broadway/Williams fix languishes

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The Broadway/Williams intersection is in
dire need of improvements.

[Adams Carroll contributed reporting to this story.]

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation has known for years that the intersection of NE Broadway and Williams is one of the most dangerous in the city for bike traffic. Significant plans to improve the intersection were drawn up over a year ago, but PBOT has yet to implement them.

After two Portlanders died while riding in bike lanes in October 2007, PBOT put the intersection on its list of 14 to get a green-painted bike box. When a fix turned out to be more complicated than a standard bike box, PBOT went back to the drawing board. In March 2008 they unveiled several possible design solutions including separate traffic signal phases for bicycles, lane reconfigurations, and new pavement markings.

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But those plans sat on a shelf. We didn’t hear about the intersection again until six months later when the intersection claimed yet another victim (who was thankfully not seriously injured). That story, coupled with pressure from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), turned up the heat on PBOT once again, and they responded with yet another plan to fix it.

City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield (R)
presented plans to improve the
intersection in October 2008.

Now, another year has passed and the project remains on hold. But this time, it’s not due to the usual suspects of budget woes or political will (Burchfield told us in October 2008 that “funding is available and construction could start once a design is decided on”). According to City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield, the project is waiting for construction of the new streetcar line.

In a phone interview on Friday, Burchfield said that although plans for the intersection are finalized and funded, the city cannot proceed until construction begins on the eastside streetcar loop along NE Broadway. Any bicycle infrastructure improvements made now would end up needing to be dismantled during construction says Burchfield.

Our B-SMaRT tool lists several
collisions, close calls, and complaints
at Broadway/Williams.

In the meantime, Burchfield mentioned that a ‘yield for bikes’ sign has been hung above the bike lane, but no other interim adjustments have been made at the intersection. We asked Burchfield if he could speak about the crossing’s safety record in the past year, and although he had no official data to provide, he said that he had heard reports of another right-hook collision within the past three months. According to our B-SMaRT close calls reporting tool, a man was right-hooked at this location in January 2009, requiring 35 stitches to his face.

Although the signal has been designed, approved, and funded for more than a year now, we most likely won’t see any improvements to this intersection until summer 2010. Kay Dannen of Portland Streetcar Inc. told us that streetcar construction along NE Broadway is currently set to occur alongside the Broadway Bridge closure – from the Fourth of July to Labor Day, 2010.

Currently, water and sewer crews are in the process of relocating a water main on Grand Avenue. No streetcar rails will be laid until this phase of the project has concluded. Until then, people on bicycles will have to remain highly vigilant and alert when traveling through this notorious intersection.