Guest article: PBOT responds to Williams Avenue opportunity

[Publisher’s note: In a story last week I hoped out loud that City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) would seize the opportunity to re-stripe Williams Avenue north of Broadway with a wider bike lane. The road is currently torn up for a repave, so what better time to try and eke out an extra foot or two for bikes? PBOT got in touch with me after reading that story and requested to write a guest article about the situation. I agreed and I’ve published the piece in its entirety below. I’ve put some of the most important bits in bold.]

Williams Avenue torn up-12
Williams is currently torn up.
When it gets re-striped, the bike lane
will likely be one foot wider.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A BikePortland headline from May 27 asked, “Williams Ave getting repaved: Can we get a wider bike lane?” We are writing today with an answer: Yes. And not only can Portlanders get a wider bike lane on North Williams, but they probably will get one in the next month and may get something better in the next year.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is currently reviewing proposals for the North Williams Bikeway project, which will include a consultant contract to redesign the street with better bicycling in mind. We’ll also likely paint temporary lane stripes that give cyclists one more foot of space in the N Williams bike lane as a short-term fix for some problems identified by the bikeway project and general public. The temporary lane lines will be laid down in paint rather than thermoplastic so that they can be easily changed when the North Williams Bikeway project has determined the best long-term use of this important street.

“We’ll also likely paint temporary lane stripes that give cyclists one more foot of space in the N Williams bike lane as a short-term fix for some problems identified by the bikeway project and general public.”

The bikeway project stretches from North Weidler to North Killingsworth and aims to improve the comfort and safety of an existing bikeway, as directed by the recently adopted Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. The project development phase that’s just beginning will make use of a consultant team (under selection right now) to help the Bureau of Transportation engage stakeholders and examine a range of ideas about how to improve the bicycling experience on this heavily used bikeway. Once the bureau chooses a consultant team, we will schedule public workshops this summer to gather as much public input as possible before making any long-term decisions.

Bike traffic queues up on
Williams at Broadway.

In the meantime, the pavement on North Williams has been ground down between North Broadway and North Stanton in preparation for repaving. Each year, the Bureau of Transportation coordinates all paving and street improvement projects to ensure that our time spent working in the right of way is as efficient as possible. In what is looking to be the busiest transportation construction season in decades, there was an oversight by the Bureau of Transportation and this specific paving work began early. The North Williams paving project was planned to start after August 2010 due to Portland Streetcar Loop construction in the area. We are working to make sure oversights like this don’t happen again.

The current bikeway project is one of many that has affected the North Vancouver/Williams corridor in inner North Portland. Historically, this area includes one of Portland’s oldest commercial districts and was a main street for Portland’s African-American community. With its distinguished history, emerging bicycle-oriented business community and more than 2,500 bicycle riders every day, the North Williams Bikeway project area has many stakeholders who should be involved in discussions about the future cross-section of the street.

One example of recent collaboration between the North Williams riders and the bureau happened last month. On May 7, the bureau’s Signals and Street Lighting group modified the traffic signal timing for North Williams at North Broadway, giving more green time to North Williams to better match with bicyclists’ speeds.

For more information about the North Williams Bikeway project, contact Ellen Vanderslice at (503) 823-4638 or Thank you. — PBOT Staff

We’ll be watching this project closely so stay tuned for a confirmation about the extra foot of width and about the process to determine a more long-term solution.

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