Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Checking in on five languishing bike projects

Posted by on August 19th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

N. Rosa Parks Way at I-5-1

A plan to make N. Rosa Parks Way
safer for bicycling has been
in the works since
April 2008.
(Photos © J. Maus)

As part of my daily work here at BikePortland, I track a lot of projects. The other day, prompted by a question from reader Jessica Roberts, I began to think about all the bike projects that are currently delayed and languishing for one reason or another.

Below are updates on five such projects. Each of them has been planned, discussed, and promised, but none of them have broken ground.

Clinton Street Bike Boulevard Enhancement Project

Bike flags on telephone poles
and street sign toppers are
both in the plans for SE Clinton.

This $25,000 project will add aesthetic elements to the already established bike boulevard on SE Clinton Street. We first reported on it in March 2008 and it was originally slated for completion in fall of that same year. As of July 2009, PBOT was still finalizing some of the design elements. As of today, PBOT has a final set of designs, but negotiations about how to install them are still ongoing. PBOT staffer Jeff Smith says he hopes to have a better idea of the revised schedule by early September, after a meeting to discuss the budget with a representative from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (one of the project’s funders).

Learn more about this project on PBOT’s website.

The Naito Gap

Crossing Naito at “the gap.”
(Photo: PBOT)

There’s currently a glaring gap in the downtown bikeway network that impacts both north-south and east-west travel. The new bike lanes on SW Naito end abruptly just south of the Steel Bridge and then continue again on the other side of the overpass. People who want to access northwest Portland from Waterfont Park (or vice versa) are faced with no way to cross Naito. PBOT began working on a plan to close the gap in June 2007 and by July 2009, the project seemed to be all set for construction. Unfortunately, the stall continues.

It took four months for ODOT to review the project and they gave PBOT the “notice to proceed” last November. Then, according to PBOT project manager Rich Newlands, they (PBOT) had to wait several more months for a design engineer to become available. Currently, PBOT is still meeting with various stakeholders to discuss how the project would impact existing traffic flow in the area. Newlands’ best guess, if they can resolve some lingering design issues, is to begin construction in April 2011 — about four years after they began discussing the project.

Browse our Naito Gap story tag for previous coverage.

Broadway – Williams

NE Broadway and Williams-4.jpg

This is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city for people traveling outside of motor vehicles and has been acknowledged as such by PBOT, yet plans for fixing it continue to be delayed. It was chosen to receive a green bike box after the tragedies of October 2007, but that has not come to fruition. In March 2008, PBOT took a closer look at the intersection to devise a more comprehensive solution, but nothing came of them until we published a photo and report on yet another serious crash that happened there. After that crash, PBOT once again put a comprehensive fix on the front burner, but then decided nothing could be done until the streetcar project was completed.

The streetcar tracks are now in place. I have asked PBOT for an update, but have yet to hear back. When I do, I will publish a separate story. For now, browse the BikePortland history of this intersection at our Broadway-Williams story tag.

Bryant Bridge Improvement Project

Bryant bridge with ODOT

The Bryant Bridge is a biking and walking-only bridge over I-5 between N. Rosa Parks Way and N. Lombard. Unfortunately, the bridge is not very inviting and many people (my wife included) avoid it due to its down-trodden appearance (it’s commonly used as a trash dumping ground) and poor sight lines. And then there are the many people who don’t even know it exists. This project, which I first wrote about in August 2006, would bring several improvements to the bridge (both aesthetic and bricks and mortar). It’s funded through a $50,000 community enhancement grant awarded by ODOT to the Piedmont Neighborhood Association.

Since I first wrote about it in August 2006, the project has had several stops and starts. ODOT removed unneccessary bollards back in February 2008 and neighbors have worked with local artists to approve a host of improvements since then (see them here). Brian Borrello, one of the artists working on the project, says they’ve been stalled for years “trying to navigate city contracting.” The grant money has been transferred from ODOT to the City of Portland, but Borrello and the neighborhood have not been able to free up the funds. Clearly exasperated, Borrello said he’s trying to remain patient and work within the system. He wants the neighborhood to manage and implement the project themselves because he’s worried that a City-run project would mean most of the $50,000 would be burned on administrative costs. “The problem is, there’s no current policy that allows citizen projects like this to occur. If you don’t want to give your [grant] money over to the [City] bureaus, the contracting process is not conducive to getting anything done.”

Browse the history of this project at our Bryant Street Bridge story tag. Learn more about the project, and view drawings of the plans, here.

Rosa Parks Way Bicycle Improvements

N. Rosa Parks Way at I-5-2

In April 2008, an ODOT grant was awarded to a project to add bike lanes, new signals, and other bikeway improvements to N. Rosa Parks Way between Vancouver and Interstate. The project hit its first snag in August 2008 when ODOT engineers took a closer look at what the plans called for over the I-5 overpass. With freeway on-ramps and some tricky intersections and traffic signals, this project has gone back and forth between PBOT and ODOT for over two years now.

Thankfully, PBOT project manager Winston Sandino says they’ve broken the logjam and plans should be finalized any day now. Of course, the final plans will have to be reviewed by ODOT once again, and then the plans will be have to sent out to bid. Sandino says they hope to break ground in October of this year — four and a half years after the grant was awarded.

I hope to bring news of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings on all these projects very soon. But, given their track record of delays and pushed back timelines, I’m not holding my breath.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • A.K. August 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    What about the Springwater repaving project? Have all segments of that been completed yet, or did the rain earlier this summer delay the project? I haven’t been out to the end of that path in long time because of the paving project.

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  • Austin August 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I still dream of sharrows on the St. Johns.

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  • Dave Thomson August 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I was just thinking about the Waud Bluff trail from UP down to Swan Island today before I read this post; Google found nothing in the past 8 months about when it might be constructed including the new bridge over the RR tracks.

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  • Jim Labbe August 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Wow. Thanks. I just contacted someone from the City about the Naito gap the other day after chatting with Jessica Roberts… and I was curious about some of these other projects. Ooh… yeah… and what about Wauds Bluff? How I miss Gregg Everhart.

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  • Jim Labbe August 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    …. On a positive note… some exciting stuff is happening this summer on the Cazadero Trail!

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  • Mike August 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    There are a bunch of references to artists and aesthetics in the above article. How about we pay for making things safer and smoother first and worry about whether it meets our artistic standards later.

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  • Shamus August 19, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. It’s hard to keep track of all the projects going on out there – good to know you’re keeping an eye on them (and keeping the pressure on).

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  • Dave August 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Mike: because that’s part of the thinking that leads to the Marquam bridge or the CRC designs we’ve seen so far. I agree, it’s hard when design holds up a project, but it is an important part of our public space, i think.

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  • CaptainKarma August 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    A. K. (#1)

    Springwater is progressing. A lot is done already and it is really nice. Just this morning I saw men & machine toiling away east of 82nd. It will be very pleasant riding. I do wish it had better lighting like on the 205 path – it gets mighty pitch black dark in some areas on moonless nights. And some kinda anti-tagger & creepydude technology. Maybe if the bike cops (do we still have any?) took a training ride once a night on Springwater, in uniform?

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  • Tonya August 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks for updating these, Jonathan. Those last 3 impact me on a regular basis, and would love to see some progress!

    I will say that I’m really pleased that the Bryant St bridge is being maintained and I feel much safer on it now than I did when I first discovered it 3 years ago. I see far fewer shady characters and any graffiti gets painted over pretty quickly. The more people use facilities like these, the safer they are!

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  • mmann August 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    A.K. (#1) – The Springwater is done out to about 132nd, except for a couple small gravel strips about 2 feet wide waiting for concrete. It’s really smooth riding now. I talked with one of the guys on the crew yesterday and the final section out to 172nd will be torn up next week, with repaving completed in about 2 weeks. Original schedule was by the end of August, so this project, at least, is on schedule.

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  • Larry August 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Leave us alone. Quit sucking our blood.

    Portland needs many things. It does not need you bloodsuckers draining money.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 19, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      Hi Larry,

      Thanks for the comment. For clarification, can you explain to me who “us” is? I’m also curious who you’re referring to when you say “you bloodsuckers”. Also, I realize I didn’t include dollar amounts for all these projects… but you’ll be happy to know that they’re a pittance compared to projects that improve the system for motor vehicles (I’m thinking multi-hundred million dollar projects that reinforce bridge pillars, widen highways, rebuild onramps, etc..). When you think about it.. if we were able to do more of these types of projects, we could move a lot more people around for a lot less money than we do now. Not much of a drain in my opinion. Just a thought.


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  • Paulie August 20, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Aside from some painted markings that showed up weeks ago, there has been no visible signs of work on the SE Bush bike boulevard. Is this just another unfulfilled promise to East Portland, or are they actually going to do something before the weather puts a halt on the construction season? At least put the signal in at 122nd PBOT!

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  • ILikeYourNewHaircut August 20, 2010 at 7:48 am

    The gap at Naito is pretty bad. It’s hard to explain, but the 40 feet right after you leave the steel bridge and head north is bad both on the sidewalk, and on the road. (It’s right in the middle of my daily commute).

    Also the freight trains like to stop and block this section of Naito, sometimes in the morning, but more often during the evening commute.

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  • Ken August 20, 2010 at 8:13 am

    While they are finishing Naito – next year – it would be nice if PBOT included a direct path from the NW Davis St crosswalk to the Steel Bridge. That way we all wouldn’t have to cut across the lawn.

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  • matt picio August 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Jim Labbe (#5) – What stuff is that? I know that they’re close to breaking ground on the bottom end of the Springwater into Boring, but what’s up with the Cazadero?

    General Note: Banks has broken ground on the trailhead for the Banks-Vernonia Trail. It was originally scheduled to be done this year, and it looks like they may be on schedule. Once it’s completed, cyclists will no longer have to ride that 1/4-1/2 mile stretch of highway with no shoulder and a steep drop to the drainage ditch.

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  • Michael M. August 20, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Thanks for the very informative round-up! It would be particularly nice if the Broadway-Williams project got underway ASAP, since a lot of people are already avoiding this area due to the bridge closure.

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  • A.K. August 20, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Mmann and CaptainKarma:

    Thanks for the info! I’ll have to give it a spin

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  • Joe Rowe August 20, 2010 at 9:24 am

    I agree with Mike. Let’s make these safe first and cute as a 2nd goal.

    Safety in designs often means taking out some parking spaces and some new paint. It means collecting and acting on neighbors safety first. PDOT can’t keep passing blame. They blame ODOT, the ADA laws. Seems like all I hear from them is “our hands are tied”.

    The recent Couch St. Morrison bridge “improvement” is so unsafe for bikes and cars. I fear that the Rosa Parks way fix will make things worse too. I want to see the plans now.

    These 2 young girls died on Foster. Passing blame on road safety leads to death.

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  • matt picio August 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Mike (#6) and Joe Rowe (#20) – Most of the references to “art” and “aesthetics” are in regard to the Clinton Street project. Unfortunately, the aesthetics are inseperable in that project since the funding source is RACC (the regional arts council). Without the aesthetics, there wouldn’t be a project at all.

    I think in general, though, you’re right on – focus on safety whenever possible, and the aesthetics when it won’t prevent or delay safety.

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  • matt picio August 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Oh, and Joe (#20) – I agree with seeing the plans now, but you can’t use the Morrison Bridge as justification for that – Morrison was a county project, and now that I’m no longer on the county bike/ped committee, I feel comfortable saying I’m not satisfied with any aspect of how Multnomah County handled that particular project. The city, on the other hand, has generally been very open and forthcoming in its bike projects, and detailed information regarding design is presented at many of the city’s Bike Advisory Committee meetings.

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  • eli bishop August 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    A.K.: i actually like the lightlessness on the springwater, but i would love to invest in the anti-tagger & creepydude technology you recommend. 🙂

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  • Chris Rall August 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    SE Clinton is undergoing a fairly major repaving process right now (last several weeks, and ongoing). I how that doesn’t mean they have dropped the bike boulevard improvements.
    IMO it badly needs some sort of traffic reduction device somewhere between 26th and 39th to cut down on pm motorists trying to avoid congestion on Division and Powell.

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  • Joe R. August 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I was just driving on Naito Parkway earlier this week and wondering what the deal was with all that unnecessary capacity. It sits unused most of the day. I’m not stupid enough to drive downtown during the peak hour, so not sure how it is then. Seems like it could easily be narrowed to one lane in each direction under the steel bridge.

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  • Michael Miller August 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    matt @ 21 and earlier commenters re: Clinton Street:

    I attended a couple of the open houses for the Clinton art project, and I ended up feeling pretty strongly that the bike boulevard is better off without the project. The idea is to make Clinton a better biking environment through the addition of several different types of bike-themed art installations. I believe the rationale was that sprinkling bike art up and down the street would help drivers realize that they are on a bike street, and thus they would slow down, or be more attentive, or smile at the bikers. Or maybe decide that it’s not nice of them to fly down Clinton after all, so they should get back in the line of traffic on Division.

    In addition to the signage Jonathan included in the article, some of the other proposed art is two different bike-ish stencil designs to be painted on the street. My criticism is that they add visual cluttter to the street surface, but are non-standard and meaningless from the standpoint of communicating useful traffic information — they may distract drivers, till they realize that they actually need to ignore them. They will ultimately dilute any impact from actual street graphics, like sharrows or bike boxes.

    Same thing with the sign toppers and bikes-hanging-off-of-telephone-poles. They contribute visual clutter without communicating anything to drivers, so that useful signs are that much less likely to get noted.

    Adding consistent signage or graphics, like sharrows or directional signage, to Clinton and other bike boulevards throughout the city raises drivers’ awareness and ultimately increases safety. One-off, non-informative art signs will only serve to dilute the impact of the real traffic signage.

    (What Clinton desperately needs now – let alone once the Division rebuilding project starts – is diverters at a couple of locations between 26th and Chavez/39th.)

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  • OnTheRoad August 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Joe – #25.

    Naito is quite busy during the morning and evening rush hours. The few times when I have had to drive, some stretches on Naito it has taken me many (3-4 or more) signal phases to go just one block. Especially near the Morrison Bridge ramps and the Market Street area going to I-5 South.

    Every time I get stuck in Naito traffic, I remember why I ride a bike.

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  • matt picio August 25, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Michael Miller (#26) – I agree to a certain extent. I was on the citizen’s advisory committee for the project, and it was made pretty clear that there was no money for treatments that would restrict or divert motorized traffic. (assuming the residents were onboard, which is questionable) Surface treatments and signage was all that could be done with the available money. I’m not sure if the art would do its purpose, but I’m willing to see the city try it on Clinton, so long as they not apply it to all bike boulevards until the effectiveness on Clinton is ascertained.

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  • are August 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    a contrarian footnote to the clinton discussion. i would rather have seen something like the “bike swarm” logo, which was developed for this project, used to mark bike boulevards throughout the city than the sharrow, which should be used on more heavily trafficked streets. the stated reason sharrows were used was that the availability of federal money was contingent on using an MUTCD compliant device. this is the opposite of sensible policymaking. choose the appropriate device and then go find the funding. sharrows are needed on 28th, hawthorne, etc., and their deployment to mark backwaters gives exactly the wrong message.

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