12th Avenue overcrossing plans moves forward, with concerns

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):

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.

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