Eschewing Holladay, Lloyd TMA considers road diet for Multnomah Street

NE Multnomah Street in the Lloyd
District could be going on a diet.

It’s been over two months since we last reported on the NE Holladay Street project. Remember that one? Part of a trio of Lloyd District Bikeway Development Projects, it was supposed to make NE Holladay an east-west arterial for bike traffic to connect inner northeast neighborhoods (and eventually the Sullivan’s Gulch path) through the Lloyd District all the way to the Willamette River.

But after a public process on the Holladay project fizzled out amid confusion and uncertainty back in October, a new effort pushed by a lone dissenting stakeholder who didn’t want major changes on Holladay appears to have successfully shifted the focus to NE Multnomah Street.

The Lloyd District Transportation Management Association (TMA) is now set to meet with PBOT and stakeholders later this month to launch a new process that will consider putting Multnomah on a road diet.

Let’s rewind for some background…

“We’ve been presented with an opportunity to implement some near-term changes to the right-of-way on Multnomah Street.”
— Rick Williams, Executive Director of Lloyd TMA

After a lengthy public process that began one year ago today, the Holladay project’s stakeholder advisory committee voted 12-1 to move forward with a proposal that would have made significant progress toward improving bike access by re-configuring on-street parking to make a two-way dedicated bikeway (it wasn’t the carfree proposal that we started with, but it was a big improvement).

However, despite that vote, no forward progress was taken on Holladay because that lone “no” vote happened to belong to Ashforth Pacific, a large real estate firm that holds several properties along Holladay and holds considerable sway with the Lloyd District and in City Hall.

Ashforth Pacific VP Wade Lang and the stakeholder representing the Rose Garden/Trail Blazers, Justin Zeulner, had long urged the City to give up on improving bike access on Holladay and instead look at NE Multnomah (an arterial one block north) — despite the fact that the scope of the public process never included Multnomah and despite a study by project consultants that deemed Holladay the best candidate for east-west bike improvements.

Unknown to even some members of the stakeholder committee, Ashforth had been communicating with PBOT about improvements to Multnomah before the vote back in October. After the 12-1 in favor of Holladay, Ashforth reps, the Lloyd Transportation Management Association, and PBOT cut a deal to do a traffic analysis on Multnomah to see if changes to it would be feasible.

“They’ve asked us to look at Multnomah as a possible alternative to Holladay,” commented PBOT Director Tom Miller at the time, “and they’re willing to fund a traffic count analysis, so we’re looking at that.”

Now, according to an email we’ve received from someone close to the project, Ashforth has gotten their wish.

“We’ve been presented with an opportunity to implement some near-term changes to the right-of-way on Multnomah Street,” reads an email from Lloyd TMA Executive Director Rick Williams to PBOT and a selected list of project stakeholders.

The email continues (emphasis mine):

“This opportunity came about through the coalescing of a number of developments including an emerging concept in the N/NE Quadrant Plan process that identifies Multnomah as a “retail, main street”, preliminary traffic analysis conducted by PBOT which indicates some of the road space on Multnomah could be reallocated without adverse impacts on traffic, and the continued interest in establishing a high-quality, east-west bike route through the district stemming from the Lloyd Bikeways projects.”

Williams’ email goes on to say they want to establish a “Multnomah Action Committee” in order to “take a holistic look at all transportation modes along Multnomah and potentially recommend changes to the roadway based on consensus.”

I called Williams this morning to confirm the email and their plans for Multnomah. Williams confirmed they are looking at a “re-purposing” of Multnomah. He also said the new process will be led by his TMA, not the City of Portland.

Williams told me this morning that he plans to convene a meeting this month to “take a high level look” at the potential of the project. No funding has been identified yet, but the likely scenarios would be adding back on-street parking and re-allocating roadway space in an attempt to revitalize the street.

According to Williams, Multnomah has been in their sights for a redesign for many years. He said it’s “a boulevard, but not attractive to ground-level businesses.”

Asked about a timeline and opportunities for public involvement with this new project, Williams said, “It’s all about time and money. It’d be a great to have some open houses and some design charettes… But we don’t want a long, drawn-out process.”

At their first meeting (slated for the coming weeks) Williams said via the email to stakeholders, that the goal would be to,

“gauge the group’s interest in pursuing this opportunity; discuss a proposed project process; establish ground rules and expectations, review and discuss early input from informal discussions with key stakeholders, and potentially begin to outline some general concepts for the roadway.”

What about Holladay? Williams said this new effort on Multnomah “doesn’t take Holladay off the table.”

I’m awaiting a call back from PBOT about it and will update you when I learn more.

UPDATE: Holladay might not be off the table, but it’s essentially dead. PBOT project manager Ellen Vanderslice told us late Friday that the City isn’t moving forward on the Holladay project “because of the lack of consensus on a recommendation from the Stakeholder Advisory Committee.”

“The SAC feels strongly that an east-west bikeway through the Lloyd District is needed,” wrote PBOT spokesperson Cheryl Kuck via email, “they just couldn’t reach consensus about Holladay.”

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve been informed that the above comments from PBOT — about the lack of consensus by the SAC as the reason for not moving ahead with the Holladay project — are not an accurate representation of the bureau’s position. I will update this story with a full explanation on Monday. I regret any confusion. — JM

Switch to Desktop View with Comments