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Streetcar project puts pole on Broadway Bridge path – UPDATED

Posted by on January 20th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

A new pole for the eastside streetcar project has been placed at the mouth of the Broadway Bridge.


Have you noticed the new utility pole installed on the eastern end of the westbound Broadway Bridge path? The pole narrows the opening of one of the busiest bikeways in the city. Activists — including the BTA — have raised alarms about it, but the contractor for Portland Streetcar Inc says they evaluated other locations and found this one to be the only plausible option.

(Photo: Joe Rowe)

Citizen activist Joe Rowe emailed City and streetcar construction officials with the hopes of getting the pole removed. He feels the pole could have been mounted outside the adjacent railing (learn more about Rowe’s efforts in a document he shared in the comments below).

There also looks to be plenty of room to have placed it on the main roadway; but Julie Gustafson with streetcar contractor Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc. says the current location “was evaluated extensively by the design team, the City and Multnomah County.” Gustafson says putting the pole up on the biking and walking path was necessary because the pole requires a specific type of foundation, there are limits on where it can be located “with respect to attaching it to the structure,” and where the pole must be “with respect to the other poles in the alignment.”

They considered a few other locations, but Gustafson says that, in the end, “Due to structural constraints of the Bridge, the current placement was the only option that was viable and approved by all parties.”

To prevent people on bikes from running into the pole, contractors initially placed some white tape leading up to it…

(Photo: Joe Rowe)

That tape is now gone, but bright orange advisory cones remain…

On December 19th of last year, Portland Streetcar Inc (PSI) Board Member and City of Portland Planning Commissioner Chris Smith wrote a letter (PDF here) to PBOT Director Tom Miller and PSI President Rick Gustafson, asking why this pole was placed in this location and asking for mitigation. The letter was signed by BTA Director Rob Sadowsky and cc’d to Mayor Sam Adams’ Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo. Here’s an excerpt:

“We are writing to request mitigation for the catenary pole placed at the Northeast corner of the Broadway Bridge as part of the Streetcar Loop project. This pole is a crash hazard, narrows the existing bikeway, and makes it difficult for cyclists to share the space with other users of the shared use path. As you know, this is one of the most heavily used river crossings in Portland’s bicycle network.

Unfortunately, this is not the only location on the Streetcar Loop that created compromises with the bicycle network. But it is unique, because it was implemented through a field change order, in having absolutely no opportunity for review by citizens or stakeholders.

According to BTA staffer Gerik Kransky, PBOT and PSI have not yet responded to the letter.

We’ll keep you posted with any developments.

Have you noticed this pole?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Jeff
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Jeff

That’s a huge bummer.

Alli
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Alli

Any idea what the plans are for when the cones are eventually removed/lost/blown away? It’s a dark pole and could be tough to see at night! I’d hate for anyone to run into that.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

Two big concerns:

1) The main path is already a tight squeeze for traffic flow when bikes pass in opposite directions. This will force riders to stop and wait for oncoming traffic to pass, and that’s alot of traffic during peak hours.

2) In the dark of night, someone is sure to crash into that thing. If it’s going to stay, I think it needs a (well lit) 4-foot-high skirt that funnels the approach from about 20 feet on either side.

I just find it unlikely that it can’t be moved any amount of inches to the south, out of the path of traffic. Six inches would buy alot of relief, and twenty inches would solve the problem while still (probably?) maintaining the foundation location.

JRB
Guest
JRB

Broadway’s on my commute and I certainly noticed the pole and I am not crazy about it. It has not proven a hindrance so far. But as anyone who rides the Broadway knows, there is a steep downgrade with several lights leading up to this bottleneck. There is a lot passing of cyclists who had to stop for one of the lights by others who didn’t have to stop and who have a lot of momentum built up.

My concern is that somebody passing may not realize the pole is there until too late. I’ve always thought it was a bit reckless for folks to pass in that particular spot but I saw it happen a number of times before the pole was installed. Everytime I approach that spot now part of me is hoping that nobody is flying down the hill behind me and getting ready to pass. I am concerned that if the pole isn’t moved there is going to be a nasty collision there.

John R
Guest
John R

Regarding your previous post about having a mayor who is fighting for bikes, this is why we need one. We may get tired of the fights, but the fact is that things like this, street car tracks in SE that make things worse for bikes, etc. keep happening.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

On a similar note, I was surprised by the Eastside Streetcar engineers choice of not using combined poles for both the street lighting and the support for the cantenary system.

The separate poles are placed right next to each other really muck up the streetscaping of this corridor. I wonder if it was a jurisdictional issue or a short term cost saving issue (vs. long term cost savings on maintenance of a single pole).

Scott
Guest
Scott

This is unacceptable. The only information I have is what is in this article, but I find the explanation unsatisfying.

“with respect to the other poles in the alignment.”???
It is NOT in line with respect to the other poles in the alignment. Would that have been the location approved by all parties if it narrowed the automobile lane by 20%?

jeff
Guest
jeff

how about y’all just slow down and ride according to the terrain and obvious dangers abound? if someone runs into the pole its their own d*mn fault for not paying attention and riding according to the conditions. what won’t some of you folks complain about?

Allan
Guest
Allan

The first (red) pole already has me moving to the right at this spot, so the second pole doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. if it IS a big deal, then perhaps we should work on getting both removed at the same time.

Do you remember back when there was that emergency box just past the lift heading westbound? That thing has being removed solves what I felt like was a way bigger problem.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

Once again, streetcar infrastructure compromises (makes worse) bicycle infrastructure.

John Lascurettes
Guest

The foundation excuse sounds like a bunch of crap. You could create a new foundation right at the curb’s edge. Neither auto, nor pedestrians would be pinched.

This seems to be a pattern in Portland, where sidewalk space is not actually sidewalk space. See the sidewalk on the north side of NE Prescott between 37th and 42nd to see what I mean. The sidewalk is only 5′ wide as it is and then the utility poles pinch them off by two feet several times per block. There is not enough room to walk side-by-side with a companion, and barely enough room to walk with a dog on a leash.

Seems as though ODOT should set up a better standard for what can and can’t be done on pedestrian/MUP right of ways.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Have you noticed this new pole?

Since the day it went in and have been cursing it ever since.

Steve B
Guest

Jonathan, thanks for covering this! Yes, another obstacle for cyclists put in place by the new streetcar project. AROW raised this issue with PBOT & PSI and we were told there was no other place to locate this pole based on bridge structural reasons and coordination with Multnomah County who owns the bridge.

I’m sure we have an engineer among us who could help solve this challenge. The location of this pole is a serious downgrade of a vital bikeway connection. Again, where is the mitigation for this?

JOe
Guest
JOe

Seriously, every time I go by this pole I wonder who the heck let this happen? It really cannot be moved a bit off the sidewalk? All the infrastructure going towards the streetcar and the bicycles end up with a pole in our path. Find a solution engineers!

Gerik
Guest

A little over a month ago, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Streetcar Inc. Board Member Chris Smith sent a letter to the Bureau of Transportation and Streetcar Inc. regarding this issue. The letter is available here: http://btaoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/catenary-pole-mitigation-request-letter.pdf

Essentially through his role on our internal Advocacy Committee, Chris Smith, advised us that despite safety concerns associated with this catenary pole the likelihood of getting it removed is next to zero.

In our letter we ask the city and streetcar to consider the following mitigation options in response to the safety concerns on the Broadway Bridge.

– Restriping the Broadway ramp of the Broadway bridge to provide a southbound buffered bicycle
lane.

– Restriping NW Hoyt St. between NW 9th and Broadway to provide bicycle lanes.

– Removing the unused freight rail tracks where the NW Johnson and Overton neighborhood
greenways cross NW 15th Ave.

– Implement a North Park Blocks bikeway by striping buffered bike lanes on NW 8th and Park and
providing a crossing treatment at Burnside.

Ideally we would not have to deal with transportation projects of any kind that place physical barriers directly in a lane of travel. Can you imagine a light pole being placed within an auto lane? What makes it okay to place this pole in a bike lane?

That said, we hope to get some concessions and have not yet heard back from the city and streetcar.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

Doubtless, if a big enough public stink was raised, the project team would FIND a different solution. But why must it come to that? This is a harmful planning failure and deserves to be redone, and soon before a tragedy occurs. I’d be happy to help with the stink-raising should such an effort be raised.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

“…Approved by all parties…”?! Once again it is evident that the streetcar does not even acknowledge the existence of cyclists. If Streetcar does know we exist it is only to exclude us from their parties.

ScoBu
Guest
ScoBu

I pass this every day on my commute. It does pinch the available space but I’ve not had a problem with it thus far. I normally pass it at 6:45 the lighting isn’t a problem. I realize this is a cycling advocacy site but I’m ok with this pinch since the purpose of it is another street car (aka, alternate transportation). How many other cities in the nation are actually increasing their modes of alternate transportation? I moved here from Raleigh NC where riding on the sidewalk was enough of an ‘offence’ to have beer bottles thrown at you. There are no bike lanes and certainly no light rail.

As I see it, cyclists are going from a designated bike lane to a multi-use path and need to slow down anyways. And as far as this not impeding car traffic, remember, they will now have a street car in their lane. I’m sure their stoked about that, too.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Just another big FU to cyclists courtesy of the streetcar project.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

the last photo shows another light pole east of the new pole in question that does the same thing but has been there much longer. it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like the other pole impinges on the pathway the same amount. has that one not also been an inconvenience this whole time?

i really think the city should be careful how narrow they make paths though, since the standard safety bicycle is not the only type ridden. there are other human powered vehicles with wider wheelbases, or bikes towing trailers for which it can be difficult to judge these sorts of things at speed.

i don’t know who these reckless people are that try to pass in narrow areas like the broadway bridge, but frankly if you’re dumb enough to try something like that you deserve to slam into a pole you couldn’t be bothered to see. i know, it sucks getting stuck behind slow people, but it happens, so just relax and take it easy until it is safe to pass. doesn’t that sound familiar?

was carless
Guest
was carless
Tom C
Guest
Tom C

Quote: ” My route down Broadway from Flint is an increasingly fine-tuned choreography of making lights, changing lanes, and timing my descent to use momentum efficiently without overtaking others at inopportune spots”

Understatement of the year.

The entire redesign of the approach to the Broadway Bridge westbound between Flint and the ramp pictured above has been a failure. Why?

1. Poorly designed stoplight sequences and triggers. It is common to have to stop at N. Benton, then go 100 feet, only to have the light go red at N. Larrabee.

2. The north and southbound lights at Broadway and N. Larrabee do not appear to be triggered by traffic but are automatically sequenced. In the early morning, east and west bound cars and bikes frequently sit through a cycle of lights though no traffic is present on Larrabee.

3. When they moved the bike lane and bike box away from the curb at N. Larrabbee and Broadway, they forced downhill cyclists to make a rapid and very awkward transition from the curbside bike lane between N.Benton to the bike lane that is now left of the curbside car lane. Awful design, which is properly ignored by 90% of cyclists who now ‘take the lane’ well before N. Benton, but do so in a way that is now totally unpredictable to the motor vehicles approaching from behind at 30-40 MPH.

4. The elimination of the bike box and curbside bike lane at N. Larrabbee and Broadway now forces the numerous cement trucks and tractor trailers that turn right from Broadway onto N. Larrabee to stay widely left, taking the bike lane to the left of their lane. Otherwise, they cannot make the turn.

Quote “it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like the other pole impinges on the pathway the same amount. has that one not also been an inconvenience this whole time?

No: that light pole is well to the left. The new utility pole definitely pinches the approach. But I think it is less of a safety issue that the problems with the approach mentioned above.

NF
Guest
NF

This seems to be a problem with the design of the whole project. ALL of the streetcar poles installed on Grand/MLK eat into the pedestrian space more than they have to. The sidewalks are not that large, and you can see they’ve put other street furniture items (like light post and bike racks) as far to the curb as possible to maximize usable space. The streetcar poles however are a solid foot away from the curb and squeeze pedestrians even further.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

Chris smith is on the planning commission and the PSI board, and he didn’t know about this until now? This could have easily been redesigned but you can’t wait until it is 99% finished to raise an issue like this. I’m starting to wonder if anyone ever reviewed the blueprints for this project.

Zach
Guest
Zach

This is a 100 year old bridge made of iron. It is not a curb they can just dig a hole in. This post probably weighs at least a ton and is subject to loads in all directions from wind and pressure on the wires. It sounds like it would have been put somewhere else if there was a reasonable way to do that.

That said, it would be great to see the details behind the claims.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Aesthetically, the new black pole is ugly and doesn’t match with anything near it. In the street view we can see a copper patina, natural concrete and Golden Gate red.

I can’t find good AND current imagery of this area. The two images above are current but the angle is misleading. Both of the included photos above are taken from an angle that exaggerates the perceived distance that the new pole stands out. It would be nice to have a distance measurement. I may be there with a tape measure tomorrow.
From what I can see from other street views all I can see is really bad photo angles.

At the very least if this is a permanent installation this needs safety signage to bring it in to compliance with the MUTCD Section 2C.65 Object Markers for Obstructions Adjacent to the Roadway as displayed here and implemented by ODOT on the Sunset MUP here.
According to the Metro Regional Trail Count the bike traffic at the Broadway Bridge is over 10x higher than the Sunset MUP. If safety signage is justified there it is certainly justified here.

jim
Guest
jim

Imagine if it wasn’t a pole but a person standing there, would they get run into by somebody passing, out of control?? I would sure hope not. What if they put up a cardboard cut out of someone pushing a baby stroller on the pole? Would that make it safer? What if they put some speed bumps down to slow them down before they swoosh through there?

J_R
Guest
J_R

I consider the pole to be an inconvenience. The rails in the road are a HAZARD. Still, I’m disappointed. It could have been avoided.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

Lawsuit waiting to happen. With all these comments, they’ll never be able to say that they didn’t know it was an issue.

Jerko
Guest
Jerko

I rode my bike around the pole.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

At one point cyclists as a group, on average, were likely very supportive of the streetcar project.

No more. Not solely because of this pole placement of course, but because it is simply one more safety hazard on top of dozens or hundreds already caused directly by new streetcar infrastructure, most of which were not even necessary but caused by poor design.

I won’t be supporting the streetcar any longer.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Slow news day I see…

The potentially alarmist nature of such a first world problem is what’s really raising the alert level here….

Chris Smith
Guest

Chris smith is on the planning commission and the PSI board, and he didn’t know about this until now? This could have easily been redesigned but you can’t wait until it is 99% finished to raise an issue like this. I’m starting to wonder if anyone ever reviewed the blueprints for this project.

The point is, the current location was NOT in the blueprints. The location that was in the blueprints was found to be unworkable during the installation and the pole was moved to the current location. The extensive review occurred after the installation to find alternatives.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

As Zach stated, it would be great to have independent engineers see and review the details behind the claims the pole must stay. Calls from everyone will make that happen.

I’ve posted a lot of photos and phone numbers where people can call and stay involved. Bitty Google URL below.

http://goo.gl/FMT5t

Call the contractor (503) 242-0084. You will not get past their PR staff, so make them cough up the details and send you constant updates.

We can’t let those who accept this pole frame the problem or offer hush money. This pole is an indicator of the many streetcar and active transportation problems noted here. Stay engaged.

Tom M
Guest
Tom M

How long before there is a lawsuit because of this thing? I’m not the litigious sort but this strikes me as a suit waiting to be brought. Either that or the thing will mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night (not by me, but I am sure there will be plenty of volunteers).

If this is the only place to put this then its the wrong solution from word go.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Folks — if you want to see this pole moved ASAP, send an email to safe@portlandoregon.gov and ask them to

“Please move pole 533+41 off of the Broadway Bridge sidewalk.”

CC it to other people if you like, like Mayor Sam Adams, or Mike Pullen (Multnomah County’s public communications person) at mike.j.pullen@multco.us

(the pole’s name is “533+41”)

Thanks for covering this, Jonathan.

Ted Buehler

Tourbiker
Guest
Tourbiker

Light the pole around the base.. & do more than a simple white line, Create a section of the outside bridge railing to match, with the standard incorporated. …just One solution

Dave
Guest
Dave

Are there any Ironworkers left in this town who can construct some reinforcement attached properly to the bridge structure (not just the pavement or sidewalk) to make the bicycle right-of way safely usable by the heavy and growing traffic volumes? It does seem that obstacles to bikes are willingly placed whereas obstacles to motor vehicles would not be for safety or MUTC compliance reasons. The lack of advance dialogue makes this more symbolic of a system still biased against bike transportation as the bottom of the food chain instead of the top, where it rightfully belongs ecologically.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“where it rightfully belongs ecologically.”

where it rightfully belongs pragmatically.

i am willing to bet that the streetcar will carry fewer human beings over this bridge than the ped/bike mup.

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

I don’t see a link to Joe’s PDF. Help? The Chris Smith PDF is linked in this article (twice), but I don’t see another

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Once again, a non-issue. Riding a bike takes an amount of skill. Navigating the Springwater on a weekend day or Breakfast on the Bridge is more challenging. End of story.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Hey, on the brighter side at least that pole was made locally and didn’t come from China. Shop Local Whoo Hoo! Go Portland!

Dan
Guest
Dan

I love how many mechanical and civil engineers post comments here…

Zaphod
Guest

There are a lot of things that seem to bother cyclists as a group far more than I would think appropriate. But this pole is problematic. The route is a convergence of two cyclist inputs onto the bridge, both downhill.

It’d be one thing if it was actually necessary to install in this location but the underlying theme is skepticism that it’s actually required and couldn’t be resolved with a larger engineered base.

This route serves a lot of people and this is *unexpectedly* narrow. Someone is going to eat it at speed. I enter this thing carrying momentum and either have 150# of coffee or #130 pounds of children on-board for a combined weight in excess of 400 pounds and over 2′ wide. I mention this to point out that not everyone is rolling on a skinny light(ish) commuter bike. There are plenty of different cargo machines also rolling in this narrow space.

Ron Richings
Guest

Engineering and base issue is caused by the tension of the trolley wires and using a single pole to handle those forces. However it seems that there is a simple solution that would place the pole entirely off the travelled area. Mount a vertical pole section immediately to the left of the raised sidewalk. There is a ‘dead’ area there, as indicated by the yellow and black warning sign a few feet further on. Mount a curving pole to the right of the guardrail structure on the right. Curving section attaches to the top of the vertical pole and extends out over the roadway as far as is needed. The use of two poles vastly reduces the forces at work on the pole base. Only slight oddity is one pole curving over the bikepath, but that could be done high enough that it would barely be noticeable and certain not cause any practical problem.
The engineers or whoever who worked on this seem to have created their own dilemma by using a single pole, rather than a combination. My thought, in any event.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

The other morning as I slowed a bit approaching this narrow spot, someone shot by me on my right. That annoyed me a lot more than the pole…at least its not moving and coming up on my blind side. Yes, Streetcar infrastructure requires some care, but its the motor vehicles that really get my attention.
Then I passed two pedestrians walking side by side, not illegal but another narrow spot. Let’s face it, the Broadway bridge sidewalk is a totally inadequate multiuse path, pole or no pole. When the North Portland Greenway is in service, bike traffic will be even heavier. Maybe some of the engineers out there could look at cantilevering a few feet onto the sidewalk as was done years ago on the Hawthorne.
The new Milwaukie MAX bridge will take a lot of pressure off the again inadequate Hawthorne Bridge; maybe something along those lines is due over the River between NW and inner N/NE.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

But just think of the benefit, when all is said and done: Pearl District to OMSI in just over three hours.

Lenny Anderson
Guest

Try 20 minutes

DK
Guest
DK

Shared modes = we all share.

The only problem I have with this pole is the color. The placards are nice, but they are temporary. It would be nice to see some black and yellow stripes painted on the lower third of this thing.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

is a sidewalk MUP a mandatory side-path? can we just take the lane if we want to?

and since they reduced the width of the sidewalk to less than the legal bike path width does that mean it’s no longer a safe bike path and not subject to the mandatory side-path law?