A project that would significantly change NE Multnomah Blvd through the Lloyd District from auto-centric thoroughfare to livable-city poster child has progressed since we told you about it back in December.
“Who knows, in a couple years from now, this could be one of coolest streets in Portland.”
— Tom Miller, Director of PBOT
If you recall, the discussion about making NE Multnomah the main east-west route for bicycling arose after a lengthy public process focused on NE Holladay ended back in October without a clear path forward.
For the past several months, the Lloyd Transportation Management Association (LTMA) has been meeting with property owners along the corridor to get buy-in on the road diet plan. According to LTMA Executive Director Rick Williams, everyone has been “very receptive” to the idea and he’s “cautiously optimistic” they’ll have enough support to bring a recommendation to their board next month.
The Bureau of Transportation echoed Williams’ optimism about the project. I learned more about the project in a phone call with PBOT Director Tom Miller, project manager Ellen Vanderslice, and City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield today.
Burchfield says his team is “very optimistic” and is “getting a lot of support” to change Multnomah from five motor vehicle lanes down to three motor vehicle lanes. The reconfiguration would give PBOT the room to create “world-class bikeways” in each direction along with other features that would “activate the space.” The project would focus on Multnomah from NE 16th to NE 1st/Wheeler near the Rose Quarter.
In addition to a major new bikeway, some of the re-allocated space would go to on-street auto parking and “parklets” — tiny parks or patios that sit in a parking space. PBOT says parklets and bikeways would help create a “lively streetscape” on Multnomah.
Key to these discussions — and a reason major property owners are on board — is a sense that Multnomah is currently dead. With five auto lanes, substandard bike lanes, and little to no retail or residential activity, it lacks the vibrancy today’s developers crave.
Speaking of developers, just a few days ago, news broke that a massive new, $250 million residential development with 750 housing units is planned on the block between NE 7th and 8th. (To put that in perspective, PBOT’s Miller says there were 852 housing unit permits issued across the entire city in all of 2011.)
Miller says the managers of that development, Langley Investment Properties, are supportive of the road diet plan and they’ve been “actively involved with the discussions” thus far. Miller says that for a large residential development to succeed, there must be activity and vitality on the street.
At this point, the LTMA and their stakeholder group is expected to put together a recommendation and forward it to the LTMA Board for their April meeting. If the board votes in support of the recommendation, PBOT will then begin an official public process to present design ideas and resolve more detailed design issues with a pilot project to begin this summer.
So, what happens to Holladay, a street that was the focus of months of meetings, has a design and funding ready to go, and ultimately had support of all but one stakeholder?
Vanderslice points out that the funding set aside for Holladay would be switched over to Multnomah. She also says, “We haven’t completely given up on Holladay in the long run.” And Miller adds, “From my point of view, Holladay is a good project, but the momentum is on Multnomah. I can easily imagine a day when we come back and implement [the plan on] Holladay.”
Miller is clearly excited about the potential of Multnomah to re-energize the Lloyd District. “Who knows, in a couple years from now, this could be one of coolest streets in Portland.”