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New options on the table for Foster streetscape plan

Posted by on December 19th, 2012 at 11:56 am

Detail of a newly proposed cross section.

Please welcome our new contributing writer, Tyler Pell. This is his first report.

The fourth Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting for the Foster Streetscape Plan was held last week, with new proposals presented to the SAC as well as a redevelopment project known as the “Green Link.”

The “Foster freeway” as it’s locally known, has been due for safety improvements for many years. As we recently reported, a new streetscape plan is being drawn up and $3.25 million in safety improvements has already been obtained via federal grants and other funding sources. The City Council will adopt a new plan for Foster sometime in the next year, but the specific road design will depend on how the the stakeholder advisory committee is steered in the coming months (among the many proposals on the table is the Foster Road Bikeway plan).

Last week’s meeting featured new cross section alternatives for all three of the plan’s segments, which includes the Central Segment (SE 52nd to SE 72nd), the West Segment (SE 72nd to SE 80th), and the East Segment (SE 84th to the Couplet). As explained by PBOT: Each cross section “conveys a broad level modal tradeoff, as design features within the cross section are either introduced, removed, moved, expanded, or reduced.” In other words, we can’t make the street any wider than it is, and increased accommodations to one mode may have to come at the the expense of another mode.

Below are details from proposals discussed at the last SAC meeting.

There were two new proposals put forth for the West Segment (SE 52nd to SE 72nd).

Here is the existing cross section:

And a new Option 6 would have a six-foot bikeway on the existing sidewalk.

Option 7 would have traditional, six-foot, non-buffered bike lanes.

These two options don’t favor bikes as much as options 4 and 5 do, both of which call for a cycle track (we shared those designs last month). Also worth noting in these new options are the ten-foot lanes. City buses are 10.5 feet from mirror to mirror, which could make the 6 foot non-buffered bike lane feel that much smaller when buses are near. A possible future streetcar line will likely also need 11 foot travel lanes, if plans for that move forward. All this is not to mention the political strain of using 10-foot vehicle lanes. Sources tell us TriMet has been pushing back on 10-foot lanes whenever PBOT considers them.

As for the Central Segment (SE 72nd to SE 80th), a new option presented that would have standard, five-foot bike lanes:

The East Segment (SE 84th to the Couplet) had one new option presented. Below is what it looks like today…

And the new option would have a six-foot bike lane eastbound and a six-foot, raised bikeway westbound:

PBOT staff also proposed a “Green Link” concept, which got mixed reviews from the SAC. The new proposal would create something of a commercial district bounded by Laurelwood Park on SE 63rd, and the Firland Parkway on SE 72nd. The use of more distinct street light and different trees would establish a a more defined “Foster district”. Cost concerns were voiced, particularly whether it would be funded by the City, through grants, or by business owners. But those questions weren’t addressed, as these plans are too far out to discuss funding.

City staff had much to report in last night’s meeting, including pending installation of safety beacons due to hit Foster soon. The first of the four safety beacons, which are being installed in a separate project from the Foster redesign, will be installed next Tuesday.

Also discussed was a potential $2.5 million grant PBOT has applied for to install a transit island on 50th and Foster to help slow traffic and ease transit use at the busy intersection.

Having biked on Foster to the SAC meeting last night around 5:30 p.m., I can say all of these proposals are a huge improvement to the current adrenaline-inducing conditions. Given its diagonal orientation and the lack of connectivity on side streets, the prospect of improving access for bicycles on Foster is a big deal. But even beyond bikes, this planning process could make Foster a much nicer place to live, work, and visit in general. Stay tuned (another place to follow updates on this project is FosterUnited.org.)

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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Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)spare_wheeljddavemessCora Potter Recent comment authors
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davemess
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davemess

I’m not really understanding this statement: “These two options don’t favor bikes as much as options 4 and 5 do, both of which call for a cycle track (we shared those designs last month”

Option 6 does have a cycletrack. And we can debate all day and night about whether cycletracks or regular old bike lanes “favor bikes” more.

Personally (and I was at the meeting). I think the idea of a cycletrack on Foster is a bad idea. It’s a street with a ton of cross streets at weird angles, and these proposals are now looking to “shield” cyclists from the road by making the invisible behind parked cars AND trees. Not to mention the burgeoning sidewalk seating of a few of the newer restaurants, and the fact that no separation from pedestrians guarantees conflicts. I think cycletracks have their place, but I don’t think Foster is one of those. I also don’t think cycletracks on foster (esp. if the road is left with 4 travel lanes) are going to encourage more people to ride on Foster). Families and the “interested but concerned” groups are still going to avoid Foster.

All in all though, I feel really good about things moving forward!

jd
Guest
jd

Thanks for continuing to cover this, and thanks to everyone working hard on it! The new option (“6”) looks great. I also have my doubts about cycletracks in general. I’ve been run over in a right hook crash, and playing peekaboo behind parked cars seems like it increases the risk of those frequently fatal crashes.

Spiffy
Guest

if a bus is 10.5′ then lanes should be no smaller than 12.5′ in order to accommodate them… seems that a 10′ lane on a bus route forces the bus driver to do something illegal (drive in both lanes at the same time)… we already let them get away with many illegal maneuvers so we shouldn’t force more on them in a new design…

Spiffy
Guest

they need to get past the idea of four automobile travel lanes… if they want a vibrant and attractive street for businesses to flourish on then they need to get rid of two of the motor-vehicle lanes and give them up to bikes…

Ben
Guest
Ben

No option that leaves Foster at 4 lanes is acceptable from a pedestrian safety standpoint. So long as the street remains built like a freeway, drivers will continue to treat it like one. For me, lane reduction is the primary concern for both ped and bike safety.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Nice door zone in Option 7 eastbound, especially when you get a 10.5′ bus encroaching into the bike lane from the other side. Moving the bikeway to alongside the sidewalk is going to be the only option, unless they want to give up parking or a traffic lane.

Nick Falbo
Guest
Nick Falbo

PBOT is busy analyzing the impacts of both a lane reduction and parking reduction on Foster. Once we know the likely impacts, there will be a hard discussion about the benefits and costs of various proposals.

Most people on the Advisory Committee are happy with the idea of a 3-lane conversion, assuming it doesn’t wreck traffic completely. The primary fear of causing congestion is with added travel delay and concern over traffic diversion through residential streets.

The representative from the Lents neighborhood is very unconvinced that Foster will work with fewer than four lanes. We’ll see how he responds to the results of the traffic analysis.

Cora Potter
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Cora Potter

Yay option 6 for the West segment! It really does cram everything in that everyone wants in an elegant way. One thing that will need to be addressed is ensuring that we get those curb extensions in at every intersection in the commercial nodes, at a minimum. That will work wonders in decreasing the crossing distances and making pedestrians visible before they enter the roadway. For conflicts with cafe seating – there’s always the new Street seats program, or in some situations the businesses could choose to shift the cycle track into the parking zone (as a grade separated facility) and give up the parking spots in front of their business in exchange. Personally, I think the street seats is a more flexible plan because it can be folded up when the seasonal bike traffic fades away.

Allan
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Allan

I think the cycletrack could work if it is continued through minor intersections – as in those cross streets would have a speed bump at the ends. something like cully seems like it doesn’t go far enough

RachelM
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RachelM

I love Option 6 for the West segment. I am an “interested but concerned” biker who lives with a regular bike commuter. Neither of us would ride Foster if the bike lanes are non-buffered and the street remains four lanes. I would feel safe enough with this configuration that I could see myself becoming a much more regular biker – perhaps even commuting more often as it would be a much more direct route than I currently use. (This would mean one less driver on Foster on those days, as well.)

Terry D
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Terry D

Whatever configuration is decided upon it should only have three lanes (two travel and one for turns) and the travel lane should be at least 11 foot wide to accommodate buses and a possible future streetcar. Also, I live on a street with “pro-tem parking” that flips during the commutes…and it is AWFUL and leads to accidents all the time. This should be avoided at all costs….

Either a nicely constructed cycletrack or a protected bike lane would work, and I personally would use either one, but it is important to get a design that can be easily upgraded in the future without major redesign if higher capacity transit does manage to come that far out east, plus buses HATE 10 foot lanes….and to be perfectly honest as a driver I do as well. I will not drive on Hawthorne unless absolutely needed because the lanes are too narrow for me to be comfortable…narrow lanes may work to slow traffic down, but we should avoid this for Foster.

davemess
Guest
davemess

If you look at other big arterials with bike lanes, people still ride on sidewalks.
Cycle tracks are the way to get people off sidewalks and into the street, where they are safer.

But when the cycled track pretty much is the sidewalk you’re not really getting them off the sidewalk? And it seems like the city has abandoned a PSU like cycle track (where the track is at street level with a buffer from parked cars) due to the cost of moving the curb.
That is why I asked the question at the SAC meeting about the cycle track being a lower grade. (I know it was a little premature).

I guess that’s my underlying issue, that this cycle track (at least how it is laid out in these figures) is essentially just putting bikes on the sidewalk.
(Sorry for the proliferation of too many posts, I’ll try to keep it under control).

todd
Guest
todd

I like the option of moving the cycle track onto the side walk – and I apologize if I to pedestrians – but in my experience the pedestrian use of Foster is low enough to facilitate a side-by-side with appropriate warning signs. It doesn’t solve the problem of traffic calming, but would make riding on foster much nice and use what is already there!

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

why no two way cycle track option?

they are very common in europe and even our neighbor to the north is doing them:

http://spacingvancouver.ca/2011/07/25/vancouvers-hornby-and-dunsmuir-separated-bike-lanes/

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

“As for the Central Segment (SE 72nd to SE 80th), a new option presented that would have standard, five-foot bike lanes”

But above it says the Central Segment is SE 52nd to 72nd. Typo?

jd
Guest
jd

PDC is asking people to share their priorities for improving Foster: http://www.pdc.us/our-work/urban-renewal-areas/lents/current-projects/flip/flip-forum.aspx

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

jd
PDC is asking people to share their priorities for improving Foster: http://www.pdc.us/our-work/urban-renewal-areas/lents/current-projects/flip/flip-forum.aspx
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Please keep in mind that this prioritization exercise is for the entire Foster Corridor between 50th and 122nd and involves much more than the streetscape. It is also supposed to address ongoing economic development – including industrial development not just mom & pop shops, parks, storm water/ flood storage infrastructure and habitat connectivity, as well as other EcoDistrict scale projects like district energy etc. It is about the investment priorities of 4 bureaus (PDC, BES, Parks, and PBOT)

The theoretical money is not just about the money budgeted for the streetscape, but for all investments made between 50th and 122nd over the next 5 years (which there is much additional money for, depending on the project).

So, if you do go to the survey, please don’t skew the results by being mono-centric about your priorities. Please try to be holistic and supportive of the entire corridor.

jd
Guest
jd

I found the link on the Oregonian web site. No one “warned” them not to skew things in favor of raising the speed limit and taking out the sidewalks. Everyone is allowed to have their own priorities — that is the point of the survey, and I posted the link here because I like the priorities of BikePortland readers. If you have a curb extension blog you like to follow (curb extensions — yuck! do you even ride a bike?), I encourage you to post the link there as well.