Posted by Adams Carroll (News Intern) on December 1st, 2009 at 7:30 am
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.