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PBOT eyes changes in the Pearl to reduce auto traffic on NW Marshall

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

PBOT planner Mauricio LeClerc presented
plans for the Pearl District last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

After NW Lovejoy was decommissioned as a bikeway by the city, NW Marshall Street was supposed to take its place. The Bureau of Transportation added sharrows, smoothed out cobblestones, and installed signage and pavement markings to direct bicycle traffic from the main thoroughfare (Lovejoy) onto Marshall.

Unfortunately, it’s not working out as planned.

The idea was for bikes to use Marshall and for cars to use Northrup (designed as the westbound route in the Lovejoy-Northrup couplet). It’s not that Marshall is a terrible street to bike on, it’s that auto traffic likes it too. When you have a narrow street with cars and bikes vying for space, it’s impossible to create a comfortable bicycling environment.

“At this point, we feel the bike boulevard [on Marshall] is not performing as it should.”
— Mauricio LeClerc, PBOT

Realizing that Marshall isn’t the bike street they intended it to be, the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) now plans to take additional measures to discourage auto traffic on it. The plans were unveiled at the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night.

PBOT planner Mauricio LeClerc (who’s also working on the Pearl District Access and Circulation Plan) told attendees of our Pearl District Get Together back in April that PBOT had counted a higher than acceptable amount of cars on Marshall.

Last night he acknowledged that the problem remains: “At this point, we feel the bike boulevard [on Marshall] is not performing as it should.”

The first step PBOT wants to take is to move the existing streetcar stop just south of Marshall one block to the north. LeClerc says the idea is to put the stop closer to the existing traffic signal at Northrup in order to “tie-in” the signal to streetcar movements, thus improving traffic flow and also encouraging cars to use Northrup instead of Marshall.

If that doesn’t change traffic patterns, LeClerc says PBOT will then look to install a semi-diverter on Marshall where it intersects with NW 10th. Once installed, cars would be prohibited from turning left (west) onto Marshall from 10th. Once the diverter is installed, PBOT will analyze traffic data to determine if it’s having an impact. If that still doesn’t do the trick, they’ll look to add an additional diverter at 15th (which LeClerc said could be a full diverter, essentially cutting off all auto traffic from entering/exiting Marshall).

NW 10th is a key intersection because it’s the point where bike traffic coming off the Lovejoy ramp from Broadway Bridge meets westbound auto traffic directed off of Lovejoy due to the new couplet configuration. LeClerc shared a drawing of the semi-diverter they plan to use at the meeting last night (Tanner Springs Park is in the upper left):

LeClerc made it clear that this diverter, if needed, would happen in the “near-term” as soon as funding is identified.

There are a lot of factors at play in the Pearl District, which has high volumes of transit use and cars, as well as people walking and biking. As LeClerc put it last night, “It’s a very tough challenge” to manage it all.

— Stay tuned for more coverage. On a related note, check what KGW (NBC) ran tonight as the top story on their newscast: “Cyclists push for safer route through Pearl Dist.“…

Learn more about transportation planning and how bicycle routes will be changing throughout the Pearl District at PBOT’s Pearl District Access and Circulation Plan website.

UPDATE, 4:40 pm and 8:50 pm: I’ve edited this post significantly after it was first published. I initially reported that PBOT planned to add four diverters on Marshall. I misunderstood their plans and, after being contacted by PBOT, edited the story. I regret the error and any confusion it might have caused. -JM