bikeways in the Rose Quarter.
(Photo © J. Maus)
Because of one powerful stakeholder, the future of a plan to improve bike access on NE Holladay Street through the Lloyd District hangs in the balance.
Last week I reported on significant progress for two of the three Lloyd District Bikeway Development projects: Crews have already begun striping the NE Wheeler Ave/Vancouver project and the Stakeholder Advisory Committee approved a plan to begin implementation of changes to the NE 12th Ave overcrossing.
But for the Holladay project — which would create a much-needed, low-stress, east-west bikeway corridor through the Lloyd District — the way forward is far from clear.
Commercial real estate firm Ashforth Pacific — who has opposed the project on grounds that it would remove on-street parking on Holladay — is now urging the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to shift its focus onto NE Multnomah.
“There was never a vote to look at Multnomah or expand the scope [of the SAC]… I don’t know why we’re talking about it.”
— SAC member
Ashforth’s opposition remains even after PBOT has worked to address their concerns and a public process to move the project forward has lasted nearly 10 months.
Ashforth surprised project staff back in May when they refused to accept the loss of any on-street parking on Holladay. Instead of picking a fight with one of Portland’s most powerful companies, PBOT went to the drawing board and figured out a way to shift parking off of Holladay and put it on NE 9th (via new diagonal parking stalls).
(Photo: Ashforth Pacific)
When that proposal debuted on Thursday morning, it was endorsed 12-1 by the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The lone objector was Wade Lange, Ashforth’s VP of property management (Lange also speaks for American Assets Management, a San Diego firm that bought several of Ashforth’s Lloyd District properties back in April).
Lange told the SAC on Thursday that, following private talks with PBOT Director Tom Miller, the Lloyd Transportation Management Association (TMA) has agreed to do a detailed traffic analysis on Multnomah to see whether or not it would be feasible as a major bike route. If the volume of auto traffic is low, the idea is that Multnomah should become a candidate for significant bikeway improvements.
“Maybe we should postpone this until those counts are completed,” Lange said at the meeting.
Lange hasn’t yet made it clear what specific objections he and Ashforth have to the current Holladay proposal.
(Photo © J. Maus)
Another SAC member who wants to look at Multnomah instead of Holladay is Justin Zeulner, who represents Portland Arena Management (Rose Garden).
Zeulner told the committee that he rides east-west through the District frequently. “Will I utilize it [Holladay] as an east-west commuter on my bike? Probably not,” he shared at the meeting, “Will it get people out of their cars and onto bikes? Probably not.”
Zeulner feels that if any money is spent on a bikeway through the Lloyd District, NE Multnomah is the place to do it. In his mind, Holladay is simply too out of the way for most people and he doesn’t think it would be as popular as a bikeway on Multnomah. Reconfiguring the wide, six-lane cross section of Multnomah (which has two bike lanes and four standard vehicle lanes) would do more to enliven the District and would be a more “visionary” project than Holladay, he says.
For some SAC members, hearing Lang and Zeulner bring up Multnomah, after nearly 10 months of discussions about Holladay, was frustrating to say the least.
Scott Bricker, the private consultant hired by PBOT to steer the process, expressed his concerns at the outset of the SAC’s discussion of the project;
“My main concern is that by not taking action today, this process just sort of closes down, doesn’t move forward, and no east-west route is created through the District; which in my mind was a major priority.”
Bricker also reminded SAC members that a recent evaluation of east-west corridors through the Lloyd District found that NE Holladay Street is the best choice for a bikeway.
the main east-west bike street
through the Lloyd District.
At least one member of the SAC spoke up to say he was confused as to why Multnomah was even being discussed at all. “There was never a vote to look at Multnomah or expand the scope [of the SAC]… I don’t know why we’re talking about it.”
According to Bricker, there isn’t any money left in the contract to continue the process or to convene the SAC to look more closely at Multnomah.
“I don’t know what to say,” he told the SAC on Thursday, “except that additional process resources will have to be acquired if there’s no motion made today to move the project forward.”
At the end of the meeting, a motion was passed. The SAC voted (with the exception of Lange) to accept PBOT’s current proposal for Holladay “with further analysis needed” and only if Holladay is ultimately chosen as the preferred bike street over Multnomah.
As for that decision, PBOT Director Tom Miller confirmed with me via telephone this morning that he has had discussions with Ashforth Pacific, American Assets Trust, and Lloyd TMA Executive Director Rick Williams about the Multnomah alternative. “They’ve asked us to look at Multnomah as a possible alternative to Holladay and they’re willing to fund a traffic count analysis, so we’re looking at that.”
Whatever happens, PBOT has only allocated a meager $100,000 for these changes. That amount of money would likely only pay for new striping on Holladay. Changes to make NE Multnomah a major bikeway — by putting it on a road diet and adding a cycle track for instance — could cost several million dollars. That money hasn’t been identified and it’s not clear where it would come from.
There are many questions that remained unanswered at this time (and that I hope to answer soon): If the Multnomah analysis shows it’s not feasible for major changes, will Ashforth throw their weight behind Holladay or simply find another reason to object? If they continue to object, will PBOT move forward anyway? If Multnomah is feasible for a major bikeway project, will Ashforth and other Lloyd District businesses be willing to tax themselves to help pay for it?
Stay tuned. For background on this story, browse the Holladay Street Project story tag.
(Rick Williams from Lloyd TMA and Wade Lange of Ashforth were both contacted to comment on this story but did have yet to return my calls.)