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Pole update: Streetcar Director weighs in, County doesn’t like it either

Posted by on January 27th, 2012 at 11:48 am

The pole has narrowed the busy entrance onto the Broadway Bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

An electrical pole recently installed on the northern side of the Broadway Bridge has raised concerns because it narrows the opening of the very busy biking and walking path to a substandard width. Concerns have been raised by advocates, citizens, and even Multnomah County (who has operational jurisdiction over the bridge) says they opposed the pole’s placement.

“We agree this is not a good location, and that it creates a pinch point for sidewalk users.”
— Mike Pullen, spokesman for Multnomah County

Chris Smith, a City of Portland Planning Commissioner, a major proponent of streetcar, and a member of the board of the private non-profit Portland Streetcar Inc. (PSI, the private non-profit that builds and operates the streetcar), has called the pole, “an abomination” because it, “creates an incursion into a bike facility with no process or consequences” and a “a crash hazard” because it, “makes it difficult for cyclists to share the space with other users of the shared use path.”

Asked whether he thinks these concerns are valid, the executive director of PSI, Rick Gustafson (the father of Julie Gustafson, a project spokesperson for streetcar contractor Shields Obletz Johnson), said he agrees that the pole’s placement is “unfortunate” and that concerns are “valid any time you constrain bicycle access,” but that there were no other feasible — or affordable — options.

Broadway Bridge streetcar pole-5

View looking west.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Smith wrote a letter (which was signed by BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky) to Gustafson and PBOT Director Tom Miller last month decrying the pole’s placement and requesting several mitigation measures to offset the negative impact the pole has on the bike network.

Mike Pullen, a spokesman for Multnomah County said County staff opposed a similar request from the streetcar project to place a pole in the south sidewalk of the bridge. In that situation, PSI and PBOT were able to locate the pole off the path by cantilevering it off the bridge railing.

“Our staff also raised concerns about the pole in the north sidewalk,” Pullen told BikePortland. But in that case, they were told there was no reasonable alternative location.

“We have a 4-foot, 10-inch passageway for bikes, so what’s the value of a 5-foot, 6-inch passageway? Is it $200,000?”
— Rick Gustafson, Portland Streetcar Inc.

“We agree this is not a good location,” Pullen added, “and that it creates a pinch point for sidewalk users.” (Pullen also said that given all the poles on the sidewalk, “one more pole should not make a substantive difference.”)

With so much agreement that the pole placement is problematic, why did PSI and PBOT move forward with it? (At about 4-feet 10-inches, the narrowed width is below PBOT’s own standard for bike-only lanes and this is a shared path.)

According to Gustafson, it’s simply an, “unfortunate trade-off.” While Gustafson echoed a PSI spokesperson’s claim that the location was chosen based on engineering feasibility, Gustafson also said it was also an issue of money:

“For a couple-hundred thousand dollars you could do it [move it somewhere else]… But you get to a point where you have to say, let’s go back and assess the value… How much per inch are you willing to spend? … We have a 4-foot, 10-inch passageway for bikes, so what’s the value of a 5-foot, 6-inch passageway? Is it $200,000?”

Gustafson has entertained the idea of moving the pole, “But they all involve an inordinate amount of money.”

When asked why the community wasn’t able to debate the merits of that expenditure, Gustafson acknowledged that PSI and PBOT made a mistake in not making the pole’s placement public prior to installation.

“I agree, that’s unfortunate. That’s a problem and it’s not how we typically operate or how we’d like to operate. It [the pole location] was a surprise to quite a lot of people.”

“You would never put a pole in the middle of a road. You shouldn’t be putting a pole in the middle of an MUP [multi-use path] — it’s just wrong.”
— Rob Sadowsky, BTA

One key issue that Chris Smith raised, and that has troubled citizen activist Joe Rowe (who has launched a Facebook page for the issue), is that the pole was initially intended to be placed in a different location, but project staff used the “change order” process to move it. That process wasn’t made public claims Smith.

Today, Gustafson denied that it was done through a change order, but he admitted that a change could have been made by construction crews and that the change wasn’t made public.

“There may have been an infield decision to move it over because of an issue with the [bridge] support member… I don’t have precise documentation. If that occurred that would be a mistake on our part to make a change in the field without alerting the bike community that we violated the standard bike lane widths… And that goes for the City and Streetcar; both were in agreement to place that pole.”

BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky says if they had an opportunity to review the plans prior to installation, “None of this would have happened.”

“You would never put a pole in the middle of a road,” added Sadowsky, “You shouldn’t be putting a pole in the middle of an MUP [multi-use path] — it’s just wrong.”

Gustafson says he and PSI are “as committed to the goal of 25% bike mode split as you are,” and he recognizes that to reach that goal, “we need to have outstanding facilities” for bikes.

As for the mitigation measures requested by Chris Smith to make up for the pole’s impact on the bikeway, Gustafson says he and Smith are actively working on them and they plan to bring a proposal of improvements to PBOT Director Tom Miller and then “figure out a way to fund it.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • K'Tesh January 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Here’s an idea… Take the pole down, and modify the pre-existing (pinkish) pole to accommodate both its current function and the needs of the new one.

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    • K'Tesh January 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Really, I don’t know what color that (pinkish) pole is… I’ll just blame my genome.

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      • Paul Johnson January 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm

        Bare primer. Same color as the Golden Gate Bridge.

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        • John Lascurettes January 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

          Not the same color as the GG Bridge which is painted a color called International Orange and the light pole is nowhere near the same color (maybe it was the day it was originally painted, but not today).

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          • Paul Johnson January 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm

            When we’re talking bare primer as both bridges are, environmental factors come into play. Atmospheric content and whether we’re talking filtered or direct sunlight play roles.

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            • John Lascurettes January 27, 2012 at 10:17 pm

              It’s not primer on the GG Bridge. It was a conscious choice of color by the architect, custom by his design and named “International Orange”. Well known historical detail.

              And, q`Tzal, Let’s get it straight from the authority here:


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              • q`Tzal January 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm

                I didn’t give enough of a damn about the exact Pantone designation of the paint scheme on the Broadway Bridge because I felt that it had no bearing on the issue at hand.
                So I trusted Wikipedia for an irrelevant data point that I admitted had a reasonable possibility of being wrong.


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          • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

            Golden Gate Red is the color referenced in the Wikipedia page and we all know that Wikipedia is NEVER wrong 🙂

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          • cold worker January 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

            I do believe it is in fact painted the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge. I do not believe for a second that is primer.

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      • was carless January 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        Its blue-green.

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    • Chris I January 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      That’s a terrible idea.

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  • Aaronf January 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Sadowsky needs his eyes checked if he thinks the pole is in the middle of the MUP.

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    • whyat January 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      Agreed. The pole is clearly off to the side. Bikers in this town love to say ‘Share the road’. Here’s a perfect opportunity to do just that. Slow down, and safely cross the bridge. It’s inconceivable to me that someone can’t safely maneuver around that pole. If you’re unable to do that and avoid hitting pedestrians than you’re going way too fast. Call me a curmudgeon, but I just don’t get the uproar over this pole when there are so many bigger concerns that threaten cyclists on a daily basis.

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      • Andrew Seger January 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm

        For me its frustrating and emblematic of the fact that 100% of the eastside streetcar has been bad for bikes. From lovejoy to the far right lane on mlk areas which used to be OK and direct routes for people on bikes are now no-good zones. And look at the crummy alternatives like marshall. How much is an extra 6 inches worth? 200k seems time to me in the context of a 147 million dollar budget.

        Not to mention the funding for actually running the streetcar just vanished. Shouldn’t this be more of a scandal than it has been so far? Not to mention Oregon Iron Works hasn’t actually delivered one streetcar yet. Why don’t we just pay Europeans who know how to build the darn things correctly?

        Sorry to sound so irritated, but the streetcar expansion has just been so poorly thought out and executed this is just one more thing. I’ll be glad when its finished, at least that way they won’t be doing any more damage to the city

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        • Scott January 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm

          Well, you can take solace in beating the street car to destinations on foot. The city might have spent the money better on putting saddles on the backs of giant tortoise’s. Less maintenance, better upkeep, lower infrastructure cost, and higher speeds.

          I think next ODOT should invest in America Online and dial-up internet technologies.

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        • Sigma January 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

          Andrew, the money to operate the streetcar didn’t vanish-it never existed. And it still doesn’t, as far as I know. Although I suspect the subsidy to streetcar is buried somewhere in the $16 million budget cut. Neighborhood greenways and bike parking are getting slashed, but hey, at least you’ll be able to ride a trolley from the convention center to OMSI.

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        • Pete January 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm

          What Portland really needs is a Monorail…

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          • Paul Johnson January 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm

            A rare Matt Groening Swing and a Miss. Episode was a pretty obvious criticism of the Westside MAX project that was then in the planning stages. The problem was less technology (as bad as the 2, 3 and 4 series cars are) and more scheduling issues (budget and NIMBYs on the Westside line prevent late night service, the latter being the bigger factor going back to Westside opening).

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      • A-biker January 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm

        Thank you thank you for saying that! Finally a something there to keep cyclists from riding like jack*****. I ride across that bridge everyday and while the pole could have been placed better, if you are not doing stupid passing maneuvers (aka being a jack***) it should cause no problems.

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    • Joe Rowe January 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Without the pole the width is over 7 feet of tire clearance. with the pole it’s reduced to about 4.5 feet. That is close enough to the middle in my mind.

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  • Allan Folz January 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I have to wonder whether anyone in this decision making process rides on the Broadway Bridge. I strongly suspect not.

    If they did they would understand it’s not just the width of the pinch point, but also the length. With the existing, salmon-colored light pole, yes there was a pinch point. But now with the addition of the steetcar pole, there is a pinch zone. Look at the amount of sidewalk behind the white striping. The pinch is both wider and longer. In terms of area it is about 10-20 times larger.

    It is either extremely naive or intellectually dishonest to portray the difference only the 8 inch reduction from 5’6″ to 4’10”.

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  • Allan Folz January 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    It’s most disappointing that they did not use this opportunity to do the proper fix which would be to widen the entire sidewalk into what is now unused roadway (look at the picture, bridge is narrower than the roadway approach) and relocate both poles to make the sidewalk completely unobstructed.

    Again compared to the overall budget this is pennies. They completely tore off and relayed the bridge deck twice for crying out loud. Now they’re stingy and cheap-out when it comes to the sidewalk treatments.

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    • NW Biker January 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      For that part of the bridge that’s wider than the car traffic lane, is there something above that space that would preclude putting the poles there?

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      • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        Most likely the conversation went something like this:
        “Stupid engineers, that old concrete won’t support the load”
        “Gonna hafta drill in to the foundation.”
        “Man, that’ll take forever. Do you even know how thick it is there? Are we even allowed to drill there?”
        “Sure nuff can’t put it in the road or we’ll catch hell”
        “Gotta get approval for anything that is permanently installed in the road anyways.”
        “What about the sidewalk? We could put it at the edge and it won’t take up any more room than that decorative light pole.”
        “Still hafta drill the whole way down and then its too close to the surface.”
        “Just slide it over until a reinforcing plate can mounted. It’ll be right up against the foundation and it’ll probably be OK.”
        “Good call! Go ahead, if it’s not in the road we don’t hafta get permission.”

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      • Alan 1.0 January 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm

        NW Biker For that part of the bridge that’s wider than the car traffic lane, is there something above that space that would preclude putting the poles there?

        Streetviews shows power lines crossing over that area. It would take site inspection to determine exactly how much impact they would have on any particular design. There is no question that the site is tight with a number of obstacles but there are still many possible ways to solve the problem, and interfering with bike/ped usage should have been (SHOULD BE!) considered one of the no-can-do obstacles. I’d be very interested to hear from SOJ about just what alternate solutions they considered.

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    • Matt January 28, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      That pretty much nails it in the head.

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      • Matt January 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm

        On the head. Damn keyboard…

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  • borgbike January 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I had an uncomfortable encounter with that pole this morning. I was going west over the bridge this morning. As I got near the pole I noticed a pedestrian walking in the opposite direction approaching the pole in such a way so our timing would have meant we would have had a tight mutual squeeze to get through the space. Fortunately the ped saw me and early-on chose to go around the pole from the other direction, courteously giving me a clear path. (Thanks, kind ped!) If he hadn’t I would have had to make a precipitous slow-down and basically walk or very slowly ride so we could both safely negotiate this bottle neck.

    My take on this situation is that it underscores how engineers/planner often fail to see the world in the same way that bicyclists do. At a slow walking pace maybe there is enough room to have two-way traffic. But, realistically, few bicyclists will be willing to lose momentum to get over the bridge. If the decision makers rode to work over this bridge for a week or so this problem would become obvious. Otherwise, from their perspective, there’s not much of a problem.

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    • Allan Folz January 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Right, and it’s that there is a pinch _zone_.

      Consider 6 widely spaced bikes headed west and one oncoming pedestrian, wheelchair, cyclist, what-have you. With one pole the east-bound person can stay to the side and easily time passing the pinch point of a single pole between the spaced-out oncoming bike traffic. With the zone that is there now there is never enough time to get past the entire area before meeting the next oncoming cyclist. This isn’t hard to figure out for anyone that has bothered to ride through there.

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    • Nathan January 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      I’ve only had two encounters around this pole (so far). Just after it was installed, I ended up slowly riding on the street side of the pole to pass a couple of westbound pedestrians who had stopped due to mobility problems (something I don’t hope to revisit).

      The other encounter was coming across Jonathan Maus riding east, to which I think I laughed.

      For everyday riders, this will be another step to remember in the dance down Broadway. For the unacquainted, I only hope they’re paying attention and making eye contact with other users.

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    • sabes January 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm


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      • Alan 1.0 January 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm

        It’s the difference between two bike/ped “lanes” (ability to pass side-by-side) or single file.

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      • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm

        How does that fly with the auto driving community?
        Ask them to slow down and drive safe for adverse conditions – see how that goes.

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        • Pete January 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

          I’m a member of the auto driving community and always reduce speed and drive safely upon “adverse conditions” (such as a cyclist like me taking a lane).

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          • q`Tzal January 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm

            Double Plus Gold Star for YOU!!!

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    • was carless January 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Well, they never actually defined the parameters for how much space bicyclists and pedestrians need on MUPs, cycletracks, and various non-automotive transport infrastructure.

      Someone needs to put together a “best practices” guide for engineers – especially considering the lack of creativity these people show in these situations. Engineers are known to be very conservative when it comes to adhering to their playbook… things that are undefined (in this case, MUPs) are basically ignored.

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      • Unit January 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

        There already is. AASHTO defines 10 feet as the typical minimum for a MUP.

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  • Aaronf January 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    It seems like if the loudest complainers here had their way, infrastructure construction projects would go like this:

    Construction worker “Well boss, it looks like we can’t mount this pole where we had planned to.”

    Construction Foreman “Oh!  You’re right!  Well then, everybody go home.  We can come back to work after we run our plan to move the pole by the bicycle community at an open house, and then after an independent team of engineers comes in and verifies that we aren’t incompetent.  If this ends up messing up the timeline of the larger streetcar project, and causes us to fall behind on other deadlines, costing us and the city money… well, we can’t worry about that.  We can never use any judgement in the field if that means that MUP users are inconvenienced.”

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    • peejay January 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Just repeat your argument for the case where they were considering putting a pole in a car lane. Go ahead: do it.

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    • Granpa January 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      IF the loudest compaliners here had their way the project would go like this: Construction worker -“Well boss this set of plans have been reviewed by all the stake holders and engineers and we will mount the pole where it is out of the way”

      PSI and PBOT displayed disregard for other users vetting with users, but more than that they did bad design. Simple site analysis prior to design would have shown that the location is faulty. All they had to do was to look at the site! Planning 101 talks about site analysis and this was a dumb, lazy oversight. They say that it will cost $200000 to move. Doing it right the first time would been a darn sight cheaper

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      • 9watts January 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

        I’m with Granpa. The $200,000 figure seems rather disingenuous if I’m hearing everybody using that figure correctly. It would cost $200,000 EXTRA to move it “a few inches,’ but
        (a) surely that figure is irrelevant if it had been put in a better place to begin with, and
        (b) what is this talk of a change order? If the location was indeed already changed, how about some accounting from those invoking the $200,000 figure that reflects this (cost)?
        You can’t have it both ways, Gustafson. There’s just something fishy/asymmetric here about how the burdensome cost of getting this right is bandied about.

        Congratulations to you, Jonathan, for digging up all these perspectives on this matter.

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    • Champs January 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      If you’re new to Bike Portland, understand that one of its goals is the fair consideration of bicycles as part of city traffic.

      The problem here is that no *forethought* was given to its effect on bikes. They certainly never thought to put it on the road as an obstruction to cars and trucks.

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  • jim January 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I guess that’s it then, it’s too dangerous. Bikes will have to dismount and walk their bikes through this 4’10” opening. Wait a minute, I see bikes riding closer than that to cars at just about every intersection with a red light.

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  • craig harlow January 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    $200K to eliminate an known hazard?

    With all of this public acknowledgement by the project principals that this is a known safety compromise, they really set the city up for culpability when a crash occurs.

    I won’t be surprised if the city looses more than $200K the first time they’re sued by a citizen who crashes there for (a) medical damages, (b) pain and suffering, and (c) punitive damages for willful negligence in leaving the pole where it is knowing the risk, and finally (d) having to spend the money ANYWAY when the presiding judge orders the pole moved.

    Heaven forbid.

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    • RH January 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      You’re probably right. It would be nice if people were accountable for their own actions instead of being so ‘lawsuit happy’. We live in such a cushy country now where people want to be spoon fed.

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      • craig harlow January 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm

        Not my point. It’s the city’s accountability for this glaring and dangerous misstake, and it’s likely long-term cost that I’m on about.

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    • Unit January 30, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Given that there are now signs and markings, I fail to see how anyone would win a lawsuit for running into the pole.

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  • Mike January 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    What, did Gustafson work on the Ford Pinto project? What’s the value of a bicycle/pedestrian collision? $200k? More?

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  • Paul Johnson January 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    If this is a two way path, then the minimum legal width is 12 feet, no exception. Given that it’s barely wider than the state required minimum for a single way cycleway with no opposing or adjacent traffic on the same roadway (4 feet), I’m surprised they bothered putting an obstacle sign on the back of the pole.

    If it’s legally two way, then it needs to be widened to 12 feet or changed to one-way to comply with statewide standards.

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    • Paul Johnson January 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      Additionally, if it’s legally two way, it makes no sense given that it terminates on either end in a one-way bike lane.

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      • Alan 1.0 January 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm


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    • bikeyvol January 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      AASHTO alllows for “design exceptions” in certain circumstances. 4′ 10″ is most likely outside of the exception range, but not all MUPs are designed to be 12-ft across all the time. There are distance limits to narrowing facilities.

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      • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        This path will have been grandfathered in, however, as a general design rule we shouldn’t make a substandard feature worse.

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  • Rol January 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    You make a mistake, you fix it. What’s the value of that? Priceless!

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  • NF January 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    $200,000 is nothing. 50,000+ people ride their bike in the City of Portland each day. $4 each? go for it.

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  • Angel January 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I think $200k is a lot of money when there isn’t enough money for anything. If you had to pay that yourself I bet you would suddenly not mind having to take it more slowly through that space. The city is laying off people and you don’t want to slow down – give me a break!

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    • 9watts January 28, 2012 at 8:19 am

      I think a close look will reveal that the $200,000 figure is a red herring, a straw man, a disingenuous play to paint those complaining as wanting special favors, extra money spent to address their pet projects. I think Gustafson may end up wishing he’d not used that figure/put it that way.

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  • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Why should outside contractors obey the parameters of their contract if there are no consequences?
    Why should PSI and PBOT not be held responsible for not following their own rules?
    Gustafson denied that it was done through a change order, but he admitted that a change could have been made by construction crews and that the change wasn’t made public.
    Then the construction company should be fined. How about the projected cost moving this pole?

    Also I was noticing something odd: (my emphasis follows)

    Streetcar project puts pole on Broadway Bridge path – UPDATED
    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.”


    the executive director of PSI, Rick Gustafson, said he agrees that the pole’s placement is “unfortunate” … but that there were no other feasible — or affordable — options.

    I know I let my paranoia run wild but is it a coincidence that the non-profit and the profit driven contractor have the same last name?

    Accusations of corruption and collusion aside:
    If the site for Pole 533+41 as originally drawn in the plans was determined to be faulty/bad/weak by the installers why did the design team engineers not catch this? I think more fine paying contributors to the “Move Pole 533+41” fund have been found!

    They want to play bureaucracy – fine lets play bureaucracy. They didn’t follow the rules: indite all parties with every charge that will stick and fine them at the maximum.

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    • Chris Smith January 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Julie is Rick’s daughter, no secret there. Both are employees of Shiels Obletz Johnsen. PSI (the non-profit) contracts with SOJ for a number of services, including the executive director role and community outreach services, which are provided ably by Julie and Kay Dannen. PSI itself has no employees, only contractors (part of how we stay lean). Don’t see how any of that has any bearing on the pole location.

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      • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm

        Thank you for clearing that bit of irrationality up.

        My current question centers around why installers, who are in theory less knowledgeable than engineers, saw a problem that the design team did not?
        This design team should have included the same sort of engineers that knew their heads from a hole in the ground and were smarter than the installers.

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      • Sigma January 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm

        Rick is a principal at SOJ. He’s executive director at PSI. SOJ gets just about every streetcar contract of any consequence. Coincidence? How many hundreds of thousands was the contract SOJ got to “facilitate” the Lake Oswego NEPA process? Was it at least under a million?

        Chris, you are too smart to say with a straight face that this arrangement doesn’t stink to high heaven.

        This is where the term “streetcar mafia” comes from. And it is proving true-they get whatever they want, consequences be damned.

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  • JOe January 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    This pole also has no cowling around the base yet. What is the plan with this? Add an even wider cowling that will make the pinch point even worse?

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  • Geoff January 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    2 divergent thoughts on this:

    It’s unfortunate that bicycle and pedestrian space is considered to be available for the taking for street furniture in a way that auto lanes are not. If the city is serious about increasing bicycle trips then they should be widening bike routes on bridges, not making them narrower.

    Change orders are a common and necessary part of every construction project. The design process will never fully account for every possible issue and condition that can arise during construction, particularly in renovations. Initiating a public review for each change order would mean that projects would drag on for years and cost a lot more.

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    • Paul Johnson January 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      It’s unfortunate that bicycle and pedestrian space is considered interchangeable when it would be better for all involved for pedestrians to have their own separate space.

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      • Geoff January 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm

        Good point.

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    • q`Tzal January 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Change orders are a common and necessary part of every construction project.


      The design process will never fully account for every possible issue and condition that can arise during construction, particularly in renovations

      This wasn’t a condition that arose during construction but that existed before construction. The original planned location for Pole 533+41 was not suitable.
      The design process should have caught that.

      Initiating a public review for each change order would mean that projects would drag on for years and cost a lot more.

      How about public review for changes that occur outside a certain scope of the original design parameters?
      If you move something structural by a certain distance or percentage of its size an automatic review is triggered?

      At a certain point we have to also consider that cost saved initially will be lost and compounded later.
      Whether cost savings come through sub-standard building practices or through NEW hazards that lead to costly legal payouts money is lost.
      Invest a small amount up front to avoid large expenditures later.

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      • Geoff January 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm

        Although the information is vague, from the article it sounds like some kind of change was made in the field. Otherwise I agree with all your comments.

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  • John Irish January 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    “For a couple-hundred thousand dollars you could do it [move it somewhere else]… ”

    Seems like 200k to move a pole is an obscene amount of money.

    Really? it costs that much? I think I found a problem with wasteful government spending.

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    • Alan 1.0 January 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      We have no idea where Gustafson pulled that number from. Consider it Monopoly money.

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  • Andrew N January 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Chris and Rob: For mitigation may I suggest jumpstarting the planning/design process for the NE 7th Ave bike/ped bridge over I84 that PBOT/BTA/Lloyd TMA have been talking about for years.

    The streetcar tracks on MLK and Grand have made those streets much more dangerous for bicyclists (not to mention precluding a future cycle track) and the new 12th Ave Overcrossing treatment is unlikely to cater to many riders, or potential riders, in the “interested but concerned” demographic. Let’s at least *try* to live up to our platinum-bike-city rep.

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    • Reza January 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Agreed, having a 12 block crossing gap for north-south bicycle traffic between the Esplanade and 12th in what is supposed to be our “Central City” is ludicrous. Add to that there is no easy access off the Esplanade between the Steel Bridge and Morrison Bridge ramps (the Burnside stairs don’t count). I personally never take the Morrison ramp and use Salmon instead to access CEID.

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  • RH January 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve ridden this bridge numerous times since the pole was installed and barely noticed it. If the streetcar helps get more cars off the road, I’m willing to give up a few inches. It’s not like it’s the entire length of the bridge. I’d rather see the $200K go towards Sunday Parkways. Let’s not make a molehill into a mountain.

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    • Joe Rowe January 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      Your skills and my skills could give up another foot. We both want people out of cars and into street cars. In surveys it’s clear that poles and other dangers like this keep people off bikes. We can have both: great streetcars and great bike routes.

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  • Spiffy January 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    this pole doesn’t obstruct the lane at all, so ride in the lane on the road… problem solved…

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    • sorebore January 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Good idea. I am tired of hearing about this pole! haha.

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  • Joe Rowe January 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    The contractor has a lot of money and full time staff to re-frame this their way.

    Here is one more of many possible fixes.

    More detailed photos of the bracket in the PDF.

    The PDF has updated photos and how to attend the Feb 1st street car meeting.

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    • 9watts January 28, 2012 at 8:26 am

      nice images, Joe. Thanks. I especially liked our friend on the UC Davis police force taking matters into his hands.

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  • dwainedibbly January 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    If someone crashes because of this pole, gets hurt, and there is a civil suit, and I am on that jury, I will make sure that it costs Portland Streetcar more than $200,000. They have admitted that they are aware of a hazard, yet they intentionally created it and refuse to fix it even though they have been made aware of it in a public forum. This is just asking for punitive damages.

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  • Paul Budrow January 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    OH MY GOD!!!!! What to do?????? This is like a holocaust for bikes. I’m moving back to _______.

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  • Joe January 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    So we’re talking about 8 inches? I agree with the BTA director’s comment that we shouldn’t put a pole in the middle of a multi-use path, but this isn’t in the middle, it’s on the side. Roads get narrowed all the time for bike lanes – this just doesn’t seem like a big deal.

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    • Alan 1.0 January 28, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Try this: Tape together some cardboard boxes to make two neat stacks, each about six feet high. Set them standing up with just enough weight in the bottom to hold them in place, so if you bump them they’ll move before anyone gets hurt. Find a buddy and try riding through the gap between them. Start with the gap set to 5ft-6in. Ride through side by side the same direction, opposite directions, both on bikes, both on foot, and one each bike/ped. Then narrow the gap down to 4ft-10in and try it again. Bonus points if one of you is a larger person, and if a bike is a long bike or bakfiet, has ‘cruiser’ bars, a trailer or full double panniers.

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    • Joe Rowe January 28, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      I agree, to some people it is not a big deal. To others this is a significant safety risk that will stay for the next 40 years, or until the bridge is overhauled. If people feel this is a valid risk worth correcting just read the PDF and act by calling or sending a short email. Takes only 90 seconds.
      PDF tiny url above.

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  • Brad January 28, 2012 at 7:46 am

    By putting a price tag on moving the road block, and by admitting that it was a choice, Gustafson as opened up Portland Streetcar to full liability should someone hit it or worse, hit it and fall into the car lane. Portland Streetcar’s insurance company just needs to be alerted to this news piece and thread and they will issue a an advisory that will force the agency to fix it or their rates will go up. It’s really that easy.

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  • Carter January 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    While we are complaining about poles, I’d like to complain about the pole just north of OMSI on the eastbank bike path. Say you are riding south, approaching OMSI where the path goes to the right to go around the building. Right there there is a ramp on the left and a light stuck a few feet from it making a nasty little squeeze.

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    • Ted Buehler January 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Carter — they may not move this post, but they will mark it with standard obstacle markings.

      Take a photo of the post and send this email to

      This pole is on the East Bank Esplanade between OMSI and the Hawthorn Bridge. It sticks out a few feet into the path making a nasty little squeeze. Can you install obstacle markings, specifically:
      * Obstacle markers on the post itself (MUTCD OM3-L, OM3-R).
      * A white stripe guiding traffic around the obstacle, offset 1′ from the obstacle itself (MUTCD Figure 9C-8).
      Thanks, Carter

      See details at

      Ted Buehler

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      • Carter January 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm

        OK, I got a picture from Google Maps and sent the e-mail. I think I know what they are going to say: you have to slow down there for pedestrians anyway, so regard the post as a traffic-calming device. I would reply that the presence of pedestrians itself causes, or should cause riders to slow down. If they are not there, I don’t like risking a collision with a pole.
        Carter Kennedy

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  • Joe Rowe January 31, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Update: The contractor refused to put the pole on their next meeting agenda. More of the same contempt for public process.

    The agenda for this meeting has already been established but you and your friends are more than welcome to attend our next CAC meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 3:30 – 5:00pm in the Pettygrove Room at City Hall . There is an opportunity at the beginning of the meeting for public testimony in which each individual testifying is limited to 3 minutes.

    Kay Dannen
    Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc.
    1140 SW 11th Avenue, Suite 500|Portland, OR 97205
    Phone 503-478-6404

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