Portland Mayor Sam Adams has made a major announcement outlining his “next steps” for the West Burnside-Couch Couplet project.
Given the controversy that has surrounded this project for nearly a decade, Adams announced today that he’s considering a new direction and that he won’t pursue a streetcar-laden, $80 million plan that PBOT proposed back in 2007. That plan — and the Couplet idea in general — has spurred sharp push-back from critics and even an organized opposition movement.
On his blog today, Adams says the 30,000 vehicles per day street has been a “dysfunctional, unsafe, high-traffic speedway” for decades. Still hoping to “humanize” the street, Adams now says, “If we are going to move forward with a couplet proposal, it will be the “stripped-down” version.” That version (PDF of plans here) would cost $18 million and Adams says he has support from over 50% of Burnside business owners to make it happen (it would be paid for through a Local Improvement District assessment tax.)
In addition to that proposal, Adams unveiled to new concepts today (in response to FOIA requests from The Oregonian).
The “Hybrid” would be what Adams refers to as a “Burnside-only” approach (leaving Couch untouched):
– Download PDF for full plan=
The “Hybrid” concept reduces West Burnside to three traffic lanes between 4th and 19th Avenues. This provides left-turn opportunities at 3rd, 4th, 5th, Broadway, 9th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th, which could be extremely helpful to business in the corridor. Removing a travel lane and portions of the existing median islands (existing trees would be moved) might also create an opportunity to add some combination of wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and parking to this section.
And the “Skinny Couch” concept would keep eastbound traffic on Burnside and reduce Couch to one lane:
– Download large JPG file for more detail–
The “Skinny Couch” couplet, is a variation on the original couplet design. In this concept, Burnside would carry eastbound traffic and Couch would carry westbound traffic. However, the Couch half of the couplet would be reduced to one lane between Broadway and 14th. The intent of “skinnying” Couch would be to reduce the traffic volumes moving through this section of Couch, preserving the pedestrian-friendly qualities of the street.
Adams says he’s now looking for feedback on these proposals over the next three to six months. If consensus develops around a single proposal, he says “we will work to move the proposal forward.” If no consensus emerges, Adams will make his own recommendation to council.
To give you a sense of how Adams sees this project, here’s his list of problems that need to be fixed:
- Traffic speeds make it difficult for pedestrians to cross the street in many places, giving it the highest concentration of pedestrian crashes in Portland.
- With few left turns allowed, Burnside drivers must circle the block in a series of turns to reach their destination, unnecessarily burning gas and gridlocking adjacent streets;
- Businesses located on or near Burnside suffer from lack of left-turn access for customers arriving by car; and,
- Bicycles lack safe accommodation as they come into downtown across the Burnside Bridge
This will be an important project to watch. Read Adams’ full blog post here.