A cycle track on SE Powell? ODOT wants your feedback

Riding conditions on SE Powell: We
can do much better.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Next summer, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will begin construction on a $5.5 million project to rebuild SE Powell Blvd between SE 111th and 174th. The plans call for a host of changes, including a new widened shoulder for bicycle access. How exactly that shoulder is used, and what type of bike facility ends up on it, will be one of the main topics up for discussion at an open house this Wednesday.

ODOT’s Outer Powell Safety Improvements Project has been in the planning stages for several years. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) wrapped up a ‘Conceptual Design Plan’ over the summer and now ODOT (who has jurisdiction over the road because it’s State Highway 26) is zeroing in on the details. Among the improvements planned are new pavement, two crossing treatments to make it safer to cross on foot, new sidewalks, and more. ODOT says they also plan to conduct a speed study to consider a reduction in the posted speed limit.

According to ODOT, this section of Powell has eight intersections that are among the top 10% of high-crash locations in the entire region.

In their announcement of the upcoming open house, ODOT specifically says they are seeking community input on two “key aspects” of the project design: where to locate two new crosswalks with Rapid Flash Beacons; and how to “modify and better delineate the road shoulder and roadway striping to reduce conflicts between vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.”

Currently, this stretch of Powell has some standard-width bike lanes which drop and then start-up again intermittently. PBOT’s plans call for an “enhanced bicycle facility” that would consist of a six-foot wide bike lane and a two-foot buffer for a total width of eight feet. This much space leaves open the possibility of not just a painted bike lane, but something more substantial — like a physically separated cycle track that could even be on a separate grade from auto traffic.

In their conceptual design plan, PBOT specifically noted that, “special attention [on SE Powell Blvd] needs to be given to… Facilities that separate the bicycle travel lane from the motor vehicle lane with striping or a physical barrier.”

Potential cross-section of SE Powell according to PBOT Conceptual Design Plan.

We recently saw how a lack of public input on an ODOT project on NE Sandy Blvd resulted in inadequate bike access. This seems like a golden opportunity to inform ODOT about what’s possible and to vastly improve bike access on Powell.

Stay tuned, and consider stopping by the open house Wednesday night:

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