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Broadway/Williams update: Why the project will wait for streetcar

Posted by on December 1st, 2009 at 7:30 am

NE Broadway and Williams-4.jpg

The project will move the bike traffic
lane curbside (among other things).
(Photo © J. Maus)

New details about pending safety improvements for the notorious NE Broadway/N Williams intersection have emerged since we published an update last Monday. In our story, we reported that the bike safety improvements (which include a new bike-only signal and traffic lane reconfigurations) had been put on hold because of the impending streetcar project which is slated to run up Broadway. Engineers working on the bike project, they told us, were concerned that any changes they made would be torn out once streetcar construction started.

Our story also reprinted a statement made by PBOT Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield in October 2008, that “funding [for the Broadway/Williams fix] is available and construction could start once a design is decided on.”

But according to Jamie Jeffrey, the PBOT traffic engineer in charge of the streetcar project, “funding was only available for the signal’s design phase. Construction of the signal will be paid for using streetcar funds.”

“While I am as impatient as the rest of the bike community to see these important safety improvements completed, I hope this helps explain why the dependencies exist.
— Chris Smith, Portland Streetcar Inc. board member

It turns out that, like the new streetcar itself, the Broadway/Williams bike safety improvements hinged upon receipt of a major transportation investment from the federal government. In October, the Eastside Loop Project received a $75 million federal grant that allowed streetcar expansion to move forward. The rest of the project’s $127 million budget comes from local sources. The new bike signal and lane reconfiguration will be paid for using a combination of these sources.

There are two main changes planned for the intersection, a bike-only signal and a reconfiguration of the traffic lanes. The current bike traffic lane, now precariously situated in between two right turn lanes, will be moved to the northern curbside edge of Broadway. The auto lanes will also be reconfigured to accommodate the new streetcar line, but both right turn lanes will continue to exist (which, not everyone thinks is such a great idea).

Planning Commissioner and Portland Streetcar Inc. Board Member Chris Smith wrote in to further explain the relationship between Portland’s newest streetcar line and the Broadway/Williams bike project. According to Smith, Portland Streetcar Inc. — a public/private non-profit entity that carries out streetcar construction projects for PBOT — took on responsibility for the installation of the new signal and the reconfiguration of the bike lane at the request of PBOT. Portland Streetcar is also in charge of reprogramming the signal phase at Broadway/Williams to accommodate the addition of the bike signal.

Smith also added that while he’s “impatient as the rest of the bike community to see these important safety improvements completed” he feels it makes more sense to do all the lane adjustments and signal work at one time in order to “maximize the amount of funding available for bicycle improvements elsewhere.”

Jeffrey also stressed the importance of installing and programming the signal in conjunction with the lane reconfiguration, but expressed concern that no timeline for this phase of the project has been finalized. She said, “I’m advocating for the new bike signal to be installed at the same time that the rails are laid. If the lanes are reconfigured and the signal has not been installed, then the bike lane won’t be functional.”

Additional reporting for this story provided by Jonathan Maus. Browse prior coverage of this project here.

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bobcycle
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bobcycle

Very dangerous intersection! In a perfect world we would mark bike routes like ski slopes. At Broadway just west of MLK a sign would be placed warning of “black diamond” route ahead and directing “novices” with out the prerequisite skills to take an alternate route over to Tillamook, then back to Broadway via Flint. This intersection is only for very experienced cyclists familiar with the inherent dangers of a very poor design and willing to take the risks.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

My only question is this: How is moving the bike lane north going to help? I’ve never hit that light when it’s red, and now I’m going to have two lanes of cars to dodge instead of one. I’ll stick with the far south lane, thanks.

Daniel
Guest

sounds like it will have a separate bike signal similar to the west side of the broadway bridge, but not a separated path. not sure how many cyclists will actually obey the signal, and how many will just ride in the middle auto lane to make the green light. we shall see.

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

The new design will be a bicycle ghetto. We’re going to get shuffled to the margin and told to wait our turn while car drivers get to whizz on by.

The hysteresis of the light will be just like on the west end of the Broadway Bridge: auto traffic will get the lion’s share of the green, while cyclists will have to stop, trigger the bicycle loop, wait a full cycle for their green, then receive a relatively shorter period to make it through the intersection.

Boy, it’s great to be a Platinum city in North America, no? They’ll do what ever it takes to serve cyclists, as long as it doesn’t cost too much or meaningfully inconvenience motor traffic.

peejay
Guest
peejay

It’s surely going to be interesting to see how it all pans out. Some people are going to take the lane (as they should do now with the current configuration), and some are going to use the facility provided. I’m guessing whichever is the most efficient way will win out, which is related to how much green each way gets.

Kris
Guest
Kris

“Smith […] feels it makes more sense to do all the lane adjustments and signal work at one time in order to “maximize the amount of funding available for bicycle improvements elsewhere”

If the current bike lane configuration is inherently dangerous for cyclists – and there is plenty of evidence it is – we shouldn’t treat it as a project that competes for funding with other projects on the bike/ped wish list, but get a temporary fix in now (more signage, new paint, recommended detour via Flint) to avoid that anyone get hurt while we are all waiting for the Streetcar to come along.

There have been so many serious bike/car crashes and close calls at this intersection, that I find it hard to believe that everyone is fine waiting around for another 7 to 9 months .

BTA, help please!

joe
Guest
joe

so, just to summarize, there is a plan and there is funding. but, no one is in charge or responsible and there is no timeline for addressing this dangerous intersection?

we should make the people responsible for getting this done ride this intersection everyday like I do. pathetic.

are
Guest
are

repeal 814.420

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

joe: Your summary is wrong. It’s pretty clear that someone is in charge:

According to Smith, Portland Streetcar Inc. — a public/private non-profit entity that carries out streetcar construction projects for PBOT — took on responsibility for the installation of the new signal and the reconfiguration of the bike lane at the request of PBOT. Portland Streetcar is also in charge of reprogramming the signal phase at Broadway/Williams to accommodate the addition of the bike signal.

Jeffrey’s concern is that at present the bike signal installation hasn’t been scheduled. Chris Smith is a tireless advocate for Streetcar and bikes, if you have a concern about when the signal installation is occurring, you can head on over to http://www.portlandtransport.com and ask him there. Or maybe send him an email. Or maybe Adams Carroll or Johnathan can ask a follow-up question to Chris and post his answer here.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

West Cougar: Using “ghetto” to describe waiting an extra 45 seconds before you proceed is radically out of line. Have grown up with some folks who lived in Cabrini Green, I can assure you that sitting on your bike waiting for the light to turn green pales in comparison to living in fear of getting mugged or shot on your way to or from your home.

Chris Smith
Guest

We’re still doing the final construction schedule. I will advocate for sequencing anything that helps bikes as early as possible.

But the work on Broadway will likely occur during the period when the Broadway Bridge will be closed, and that’s something we need to negotiate with the County.

This work will be done in conjunction with other signal changes and restriping we’ll be doing up and down Broadway.

Also, just to be clear, while the Streetcar project will build (and pay for) the bicycle improvement at Williams, PBOT, not the Streetcar team, designed the bike improvement.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

In the meantime, why not close the lane left of the bike lane to right turn movements? I realize this would prevent direct access to I-5, but that’s what going around the block to the left is for.

jered
Guest
jered

RE: cyclist #10
I think the meaning of “ghetto” that West Cougar was using was more in line with Webster’s definition #2:
“a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure”. The difference is subtle, but from a usage perspective I think word ghetto fits.

are
Guest
are

ghetto is exactly right. these are your separate facilities, like it or not. in a rational society, the automobile would be pushed aside, not given primacy. if we ever get to the fabled 25 pct. mode share, it will not be on (mandatory) sidepaths. for one thing, where would you put them. but more important: to recruit people who cannot yet let go of the automobile, you have to be visible, on “their” roads.

BURR
Guest
BURR

+1 on West Cougar’s comments. Moving the bike lane further to the right and forcing cyclists to wait forever for a short bicycle signal phase is NOT an improvement.

There’s really no reason for dual right turn lanes here, it’s actually more dangerous for motorists as well as for cyclists, as you would certainly know if you’ve ever driven through here and used the left hand right turn lane to turn onto Williams or the right hand right turn lane to access I-5.

I hope cyclists still have the option of using the regular travel lanes and the motorist signal phases, but somehow I doubt it.

Steve B.
Guest

I dig the idea of forcing right turning traffic to make a series of lefts to queue up for the on-ramp or turning onto Williams, but I bet PBOT prefers the queuing to be on Broadway. Restricting right turns here seems like a simple, temporary solution.

I find compliance with the bike signal by both cars and bikes on the broadway bridge inconsistent. I hope the same issue doesn’t plague this new design.

Rico
Guest
Rico

I guarantee cars will turn right on red during the “bike signal phase”. It will be worse than now since the left most right turn lane will not see the bikes to the right of the the right most right turn lane who have the green bike signal.

Double right turn and double left turn lanes should be reserved for the suburban collector roads where there are no bikes or pedestrians. One that I cross daily is the double left turn from the Morrison bridge onto SW 3rd. It’s bad news if you’re a pedestrian with a walk signal.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Perhaps the bike community needs to invite the Alberta business owner who sparked the pedestrianization of Alberta to ‘park’ an abandoned car in the dangerous second right turn lane one Friday to make a ‘refuge’ island/ buffer lane out of it.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Problem is the dangerous turn lane is also a through lane. Really, changing the through/turn lane to a through-only lane (making the right turn for N Williams only, I-5 traffic going around the block to the left) would be a good fix given that anything that happens now is going to be short-term.

joe
Guest
joe

cyclist, you are right, I totally missed the existence of Portland Streetcar, Inc in my reading of this. I have emailed them http://portlandstreetcar.org/contact.php to express my concerns.

also, I am going to start cutting over to Tillamook then to Vancouver on my way across the bridge. I enjoy riding Broadway because it is fast and it wakes me up but I have had too many close calls.

I guess I am just frustrated that this known dangerous intersection will wait another 2+ years to be addressed.

are
Guest
are

I use Tillamook and Flint if I am approaching from farther north, but if people coming from Broadway or farther south start going three blocks out of the way to avoid this stretch, the terrorists win. Not sayin’ don’t do what you need to do for your own safety and peace of mind, but let’s not just yield this point without a fight. Burying the bike lane even farther inside the right hook is the wrong answer. If limiting the right turn to one lane will result in a backup of auto traffic, let them look for some other solutions (sending the motorists an extra three blocks) before dumping it all on the nonmotorized user.

GLV
Guest
GLV

Really, changing the through/turn lane to a through-only lane (making the right turn for N Williams only, I-5 traffic going around the block to the left) would be a good fix given that anything that happens now is going to be short-term.

I’m not sure that would be possible, given that the next intersection to the west already has three signal phases: Vancouver SB, Broadway WB, and I-5 off traffic. While that’s a good idea in theory, it would result in a huge increase in traffic volume through that intersection (all of which would use the Broadway WB phase), and the phase for Vancouver traffic is already about as short as it can possibly be.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

Great comments, Yes This is a dangerous black diamond in the middle of something that should be a long green bike lane. The final design will be just as risky, pushing bikes to the margin.

Until the final design is fixed something must be done for the sake of short term safety. Does another Bret have to die in a right hook? The car luxury of a double right turn lane needs to be converted into a single right turn.

As James Chasse taught us, the city only understands death, injuries and the resulting lawsuits.

Prevention is not part of City Staff thinking.

GLV
Guest
GLV

Prevention is not part of City Staff thinking.

Joe, did you consider the fact that since this is adjacent to a busy freeway on-ramp, ODOT just might have some say in how motor vehicle access can be restricted?

Do you honestly think that the folks who do bicycle and streetcar planning have anything at all to do with James Chasse, or anything related to Police Bureau policies? That’s quite a broad brush you are wielding.

carless in pdx
Guest
carless in pdx

I drove through this intersection – trying to turn onto I-5 (I’ve been carefree for awhile) and I forgot how confusing it is. From a driving standpoint, the intersection is terrible. It would be an improvement to cut the double turn lane down to 1 turn lane.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

The family of a cyclist injured at Broadway and Williams is going to be able to sue and get big money out of the city for their lack of action.

It’s directly connected to the theme of Portland city staff who can’t respond to very clear and valid complaints of safety. The city only responds to litigation, not public concerns.

http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/top25settlements08.html

Long before the Chasse death many in the community were asking for police training and removal of a few abusive cops with repeat offenses.

Broadway and Williams is a repeat offender when it comes to eating bike riders.

Sorry if my connecting the dots made it seem like the dots are too far apart.

GLV
Guest
GLV

Lawsuits related to police misconduct are not germane to the subject at hand. Citing “City Staff” is too general for me to accept as a legitimate complaint. You are really saying that several thousand people don’t care about public safety? The dots are planets, and you are connecting them with the Voyager.

The city only responds to litigation, not public concerns.

So there’s a lawsuit pending about Broadway/Williams?

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

Hey GLV. Let me guess, you or a friend works for the city?

Ever heard of institutional racism? Well Portland has institutional risk prevention problems. Call one staff person and they’ll send you on a trail of blame and calls that go nowhere.

Here’s one more example:

Ride your bike Southbound down the hill on Mississippi. Start at Alberta St until you crash on the 10 foot pothole at Shaver that has been there 2 months. I’ve called the city’s 823-SAFE hotline to report it and they said they can’t do anything about it, they blamed any delay on the utilities.

2 freking months!! 10 foot bike eating pothole in a very tight spot.