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12th Avenue overcrossing plans moves forward, with concerns

Posted by on June 16th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Vic Alfonso, owner of Alfonso Cadillac,
explains his concerns with PBOT project manager
Ellen Vanderslice after this morning’s meeting.
(Photo © J. Maus)

After six months of meetings, analysis and negotiations, the City of Portland appears poised to implement changes that will improve bicycle access on and around the 12th Avenue bridge over I-84 in the Lloyd District.

At a meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Lloyd District Bikeway Development Projects this morning, a straw poll on whether or not the current plans (see them below) are “on the right track” was just one vote shy of unanimous.

Here are some highlights from the currently proposed plan (followed by official drawings):

  • Signal timing changes that have shown to reduce travel times and vehicle queues on the bridge deck.
  • Convert four 10-foot lanes to three, 11-foot lanes (one in each direction and a center turn lane).
  • Install a 7-foot wide northbound bike lane.
  • Southbound bike traffic would have two options; either head onto the sidewalk where new markings will indicate a biking/walking shared environment, or stay on the road where sharrows will be installed.
  • In the streets around the bridge deck, three new bike boxes are planned, as well as a new bike-only signal at the southern end of the sidewalk.

The deck of the overpass will have both a sidewalk and road option (with sharrows) for southbound bike traffic and a 7-foot wide bike lane northbound…

Detail of northern section with NE Lloyd Ave…

Detail of northbound turn lanes (see alternative option below that would make a dedicated bike lane between both of these turn lanes instead of the shared environment)…

Alternative option for northbound turn lanes (the final one chosen could depend on discussions about turning radius for westbound trucks that need to turn left (south) onto the bridge)…

Detail of southern section at NE Irving Street (Vic Alfonso Cadillac is in lower left corner):

Download PDF of draft concept

While several members of the SAC have concerns about some technical details of the proposal, this morning’s straw poll made it clear that enough consensus exists to move forward with this alternative.

That being said, significant concerns remain from nearby freight-centric businesses and from the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC).

CEIC president David Lorati.

You might recall the CEIC made headlines back in April after sending a letter to PBOT in opposition to the project. CEIC President David Lorati wrote that, “Jobs are at stake here in the Central Eastside. We cannot afford to alienate the economic pillars of our community.”

In recent months, PBOT has worked hard (both the project manager and Director Tom Miller went on a ride-along in a triple-trailer along the route) to quell the CEIC’s concerns as well as concerns of nearby businesses including Franz Bakery, Portland Bottling Company, and others.

Lorati and reps from those businesses were in attendance today as a possible vote on the plans were on the agenda. Also in attendance today was Vic Alfonso, owner of a Cadillac dealership at the southwest corner of the project.

PBOT traffic signals manager Peter Koonce
tries to explain his data.

A major focus of this project has been to improve signal timing and operation. Project manager Ellen Vanderslice says existing signals were like, “two gears that weren’t in sync.” PBOT has spent the last four weeks modifying signal performance. They’ve upgraded signal hardware and done lengthy analysis on travel times and vehicle movements.

PBOT has also placed cones in the roadway to mimic conditions once the changes are made.

PBOT’s head traffic signal operations engineer presented findings of their analysis at the meeting today. Overall, he concluded, the signal changes showed decreased travel times. However, Koonce ran into a wall of confusion from the freight businesses in the room. They felt the before and after comparisons weren’t apples-to-apples and they called into question PBOT’s results.

“I want to make sure everyone knows that Franz Bakery is happy to improve the street, but whenever I speak it seems like I get blogged to death about the evil Franz company and how bad we are with bicyclists. I want to clear that up. We like bicyclists.”
— Jim Kennison, Franz Bakery

Representatives from Franz Bakery (not on the SAC) made it clear that their new concerns have to do with how signal changes on the bridge are impacting traffic further south. They complained to the SAC that backups are occurring on 12th all the way to Davis. “That’s the area that’s concerning us now,” said Franz Bakery General Manager Jim Kennison.

Truck drivers are also concerned about how the proposed changes might constrict turning movements. Kennison said they are in support of the project, but they still have some concerns:

“I want to make sure everyone knows that Franz Bakery is happy to improve the street, but whenever I speak it seems like I get blogged to death about the evil Franz company and how bad we are with bicyclists. I want to clear that up. We like bicyclists.”

Another issue that sprouted up today was the relocation of a TriMet bus stop. Currently, there’s a bus stop at the southwest corner of the bridge sidewalk. Because new plans route bike traffic onto that sidewalk, the project team decided to relocate the stop further south, at the corner of Irving and 12th — directly in front of Vic Alfonso Cadillac.

“Things are tough enough without making them any tougher for us… Putting the bus stop there, I certainly object.”
— Vic Alfonso, Alfonso Cadillac

Mr. Vic Alfonso doesn’t like that idea. He feels that since TriMet already has a stop one block away at Glisan, they don’t need one in front of his dealership. “It takes 46 seconds to walk to it,” he shared.

TriMet says they need this stop because it serves Benson High School, which is across the street.

Alfonso shared several concerns about the bus stop. He’s afraid it will have a negative impact on the look of his dealership and that it will back up traffic (if bus drivers don’t pull all the way into the parking lane).

“What’s the reason for moving it [the bus stop]? That’s our display area, we just spent millions of dollars re-doing that corner and landscaping it. Things are tough enough without making them any tougher for us… Putting the bus stop there, I certainly object.”

After all the discussion, SAC member Paul Manson said he feels like “90% of the plans feel good” and that the concerns brought up today can be resolved in the coming weeks.

The straw poll vote taken today was to approve the concept in general and acknowledge that a full recommendation could be made if these various concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

At the next SAC meeting (to happen in late July), the group will wrap up discussion on the 12th Avenue project. Still left undone is progress on the Holladay Street project. Last time we checked in on that one, there were serious disagreements around the table about parking removal, led by a surprising objection to parking removal by a representative of the Portland Development Commission.

If all goes smoothly with the 12th Ave process, construction on the changes could start soon. SAC member Paul Manson asked today if they could be done by September for the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. “Possibly,” PBOT’s Vanderslice replied, “We’ll see.”

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I failed to mention in the original story that there was a lot of support among the SAC to write a formal letter to the City to take a serious look at a new bridge to cross I-84 at 7th Avenue (a project that’s been a dream of many for a looong time). It’s likely they’ll draft that letter at their next meeting.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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BURR
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BURR

NIMBYism is alive and well all over Portland…

Kittens
Guest
Kittens

What a surprise. Just like the Williams plan this one faces neighbor opposition. Short-sighted reaction to what is one more step to a better transportation system. Examining this project in isolation is like looking at a map with a microscope. It makes no sense.

Josh Berezin
Guest
Josh Berezin

Heading northbound by bike, won’t turning left be awfully tough? If you’re staying in the bike lane til it ends, I expect it’s going to be impossible to merge into the left turn lane with cars at that point.

Sometimes I see left-turning bikes slip in between the two auto lanes, and just turn left from there, alongside cars that are also turning left. There are no markings that indicate that’s allowed, but I’ve done it, and it seems reasonably safe. I wonder if it would make sense to make that maneuver “official” with some road markings.

Rol
Guest

If I were a Cadillac/Hummer dealer, I wouldn’t want a perfectly viable, cheap, functioning transit system making stops in front of my dealership either!

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

What a mess. Just paint sharrows and leave it alone. Does anyone know why I-84 is labeled “Quebec Route 366” on google maps?

velowocky
Guest
velowocky

Why flay business owners for looking out for potential impacts to their bottom line? I haven’t read anything unreasonable in the responses quoted in the article. The Cadillac dealership spent a lot of money on curb appeal because that helps sell cars so why not consider that factor in the decision making process? Franz is a bakery which, almost by definition, needs dependable, speedy delivery routes to its customers.

I’m in full support of the recommendations for enhanced bike transit here and elsewhere but it seems like the process would be smoother with a little more I-see-it-your-way. You catch more flies with honey right? No one who supports these projects will win over those who don’t by pointing out how dumb or short-sighted they are.

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

Do people think this plan will have a significant impact on the “interested but concerned” demographic? I am really curious. There’s already a lot of congestion in that area, especially during commute times. I’m not a parent, but I keep asking myself if I would strap my child into a bike seat and negotiate that crossing after this plan is implemented. It looks like a bit of a mess; lots of moving parts where one miscue could lead to disaster. But I could also see it working, too.

Seems like a good time to remind people that the city has had a proposal to build a bike/ped crossing at 7th. It would provide a crucial safe/easy crossing of Sullivan’s Gulch east of the Esplanade but still close-in, and would also provide a nice connection to the future SG trail. And the new cycle track on 7th up to Broadway. And the bike lanes on 7th south of Burnside. Of course, that piece of fruit might be too high on the tree for the level of political will that exists in PDX right now.

Steve B
Guest

Overall it looks like PBOT has done a nice job of balancing all of the different interests in the neighborhood.

One concern I have is the extended curb at 10th, which is infamous for a ‘squeeze’ as cars make the right and theoretically bikes go straight or make the right at the same time. The extension seems to exacerbate this, when what is needed is a protected turn area for cyclists. They could put in the extension and with the right angle-downs, they could make this a protected turn lane for bikes.

merrittmade
Guest

I have to say I like the combo sharrows/sidewalk + bike box option for riders heading south, then east on Irving. I was afraid they’d go with only one or the other. Personally I’d opt for staying in the traffic lane, but giving riders the option to stay off the street and cross w/ the light from a box is a nice option.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Rather than widening the 3 travel lanes from 10ft to 11ft, I’d rather see that extra 3ft go into separating or widening the bike lane, especially given how much truck traffic goes over that bridge. Otherwise I think it’s nice.

matt picio
Guest

This looks pretty good – I hope that PBOT is able to maintain this plan despite business opposition, unless it’s going to negatively affect Franz’s truck traffic. Count me as one of the cyclists who thinks Franz is awesome, especially since they have whole lines of products with no trans fats and no corn syrup. They’re a local business, have ties to the community, an iconic sign (one of the last spinning signs in Portland), and have been straightforward about their concerns and priorities through the whole process. I’m also mystified as to why many Portland cyclists seem to dislike Franz.

I think the biggest issue is that 12th remains a busy corridor for traffic from I-84 into SE Portland, as well as servicing freight, cyclists, pedestrians, etc. With 2 major truck-oriented businesses and a high school right there, it makes it challenging to say the least.

kgb
Guest
kgb

The current Bus stop is straight across from the South Edge of Benson. The new stop would be across from the North Edge of Benson so with Respect to Benson there is no difference in distance if you leave through the front door.

Paul
Guest
Paul

As an SAC member I am pleased with the level of support. Please do not lump this process in with the other recent experiences in Portland. Ellen Vanderslice has done great work to connect with the concerned parties and even took a semi truck ride along!

The project is really down to some final nuts and bolts. Need to check some signal phase questions, look at some turning radii, and then we are good to go. I think we should be happy that there was agreement on removing an auto travel lane from the deck to make room for bikes.

Please send your support and recognize that the neighboring business has really come around on this project. They were dead-set against it – today they are cautiously supportive.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Many years ago, southbound traffic was restricted from turning left onto NE Irving St. This prevented long lines from occurring in traffic ques as cars going onto Irving are typically shooting for the I-84 eastbound on ramp nearby. Why not go back to this configuration? Cars in the past figured out how to negotiate getting onto I-84 without turning there. I’m sure they could manage it today as well. Plus, if left turns and the left turn lane were taken out, PBOT could easily permit a bike lane in both directions, reduce traffic ques at the intersection next to the highschool nonetheless, and even widen the middle meridian striping. There wouldn’t be a need for sharrows on this section as a result.

efairlay
Guest
efairlay

I’m a bicycle-only person and yet I feel like the industrial businesses need to be able to make their turns and it should be a top priority. I’m not excited by the Cadillac dealer’s business but I think he makes a valid point. And why not make a crossing signal for the existing bus stop at Glisan? Most people who take the bus wish there were fewer stops, especially the 70, because they take so long to get anywhere with all the stops (hence, the reason I bike). That said, it looks like the bicycle and traffic signal improvements should be able to accommodate everyone and let’s keep making this city the best biking city ever.

Cat
Guest
Cat

Bike box on Lloyd heading east looks great! I find the merge across the car right turn lane on eastbound Lloyd the scariest part of my ride home. That would make a huge difference for me.

When I walk Lloyd east, I just watch those cars awful closely and also keep an eye out for any bicyclists who get understandably nervous and rides on the sidewalk.

Continued thanks to everyone working on this project.

Paul Smith
Guest

This all sounds good. People can be averse to change, and I’m glad the industrial companies in the area are being at least open to it working for all. I actually feel for the Cadillac/Hummer guy, it’s like he’s rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. His business makes less and less sense, not just for the bike inclined, but for your everyday carcentric person too.

Tim W
Guest
Tim W

Anyone know how far the buffered bike lanes on 11th go? They probably only go up a block and end at Holladay. It looks like a great improvement.

mh
Guest
mh

One of the best things about the SAC’s work on this is that support for a 7th Ave. bike/ped bridge may now come from freight interests, too. I think they now recognize the need. Plus, if they’re still blaming bikes rather than personal cars for congestion conflicts, if or when bikes are mostly off the overcrossing and on 7th, they’ll realize how little difference we made.