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Holladay St project: From carfree to… compromised?

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Already half-way taken up by a MAX line,
a few parking spaces is all that stands between
an excellent east-west bikeway on Holladay.
(Photos © J. Maus)

If you’ve been paying attention you know that the City of Portland is coming up against considerable opposition in their quest to make even modest improvements to bicycle access in the Lloyd District.

We’ve detailed the opposition leveled at the City by the Central Eastside Industrial Council over the re-allocation of space on NE 12th Avenue. Now opposition has also reared its head on NE Holladay Street, where the the proposal to remove 33 on-street parking spaces faces opposition that could derail the entire project.

“… more recently we have heard opposition to removing the parking… That’s something that’s going to challenge this process more.”
— Scott Bricker, project consultant

Two years ago, NE Holladay Street was proposed by the Lloyd Transportation Management Association as a carfree transit/bike corridor that would provide a direct link from Holladay Park to the Eastbank Esplanade, “free from noise and pollution caused by the automobile.”

But today, that vision is long gone.

At the outset of the process, the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation staffer assigned to the project made it clear that a 100% carfree Holladay Street was off the table. The reason? City traffic engineers said an analysis of the street showed that it’s crucial for “circulation” and that many property owners would put up a fight if they could not retain motor vehicle access to their parking garages and properties.

While PBOT decided to not propose a completely carfree street, the leading option under consideration was partial motor vehicle closure of some sections in order to create a comfortable and pleasant bikeway that would become a crucial east-west spine in the network.

But now, real estate company Ashforth Pacific has surprised project staff and stakeholders by saying they do not support the removal of any parking on Holladay.

“We have some important stakeholders who are property owners and future developers,” is how PBOT project manager Ellen Vanderslice put it at an open house for the projects held last week.

At that meeting, member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee Lance Poehler pointed out that Ashforth Pacific wasn’t opposed to parking removal until the SAC’s last meeting. Upon hearing the news, PBOT’s Vanderslice confirmed that they met with Ashforth. “They took it to their top management,” she explained, “and it was very clear they oppose the parking removal.”

Scott Bricker, a consultant on the project working under Alta Planning and Design, said, “Starting off, there was very little support from most of the bigger property owners for closing the street to motor vehicles [except for one segment of 1st Avenue]… But more recently we have heard opposition to removing the parking… That’s something that’s going to challenge this process more.”

With opposition from such a heavyweight business interest like Ashforth Pacific, Bricker said, “It will require people to decide; Is this really the right bike street and is this worth the energy?”

According to sources, Ashforth’s reason for opposition is that it would result in lost revenue (the spots are metered) for the Lloyd TMA. (Ashforth reps have not replied to a request to comment.)

A parking analysis completed last week says the total lost revenue for the parking spaces from Grand to NE 11th would total only $12-13,000 per year.

The Stakeholder Advisory Committee is holding a meeting today to discuss this project. It’s from 3-4:30 at the Skybridge Conference Rooms inside the Lloyd Tower at 825 NE Multnomah. The meeting is open to the public and anyone concerned about the direction this project is headed should attend. Learn more about the project on PBOT’s website.

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