Planning effort seeks a ‘Re-Imagined’ North Lombard Street

Lombard Ave-1
Residents have resorted to homemade signs
to make people slow down on Lombard.
Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Lombard Street in north and northeast Portland is one of those classic urban arterials that splits up neighborhoods and is entirely unwelcoming to anything but people in cars. Now a citizen-led planning effort, “Lombard Re-Imagined” is working to change that.

Lombard Re-Imagined is the work of Swift Planning Group, a team made up of six graduate students from Portland State University’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program. They’ve partnered up with the Kenton, Arbor Lodge, and Piedmont neighborhood associations to, “develop a vision for Lombard, focusing on how it can become a more walkable place with a unique identity that better serves the needs and wants of its neighbors.”

“There’s enough right-of-way for a mix of parking, bike lanes, and a buffer, for example.”
— Rebecca Hamilton, Swift Planning Group

Specifically, this project is focusing on a two-mile stretch of Lombard between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and N. Chataqua Blvd (map). Swift started the outreach process in February and they’ve been busy meeting with neighborhoods and garnering feedback on what it’s like to live, work and own a business on Lombard. They’ve also just released a community survey about the street that had nearly 800 responses. Below are some of the key findings:

Here’s how folks answered the question: What would you like to see in the future on Lombard Street?

If you’re not familiar with it, Lombard is four standard vehicle lanes (no shoulder or bike lanes) and prone to high speeds. It’s also a designated freight route and a major east-west U.S. Highway route. While that fact has deterred ambitions of livable streets activists in the past, there might be more possible on Lombard than you think. According to a statement by Swift Planning Group, they’ve talked with ODOT and were, “pleasantly surprised.” “Many things assumed impossible (due to the over-dimensional freight corridor designation) like curb bump-outs, median islands, or even changes to the lane configurations are possible if done correctly,” they say, “There’s enough right-of-way for a mix of parking, bike lanes, and a buffer, for example.”

Here’s how the street looks near N. Albina:

I recently emailed a few questions to Swift’s Public Outreach Coordinator Rebecca Hamilton to learn more:

How have neighborhood residents responded to the idea of transforming Lombard?

“The response has been astonishing. We’ve had incredible turnout for our Walk-Alongs and coffee talks, and nearly 800 people have taken the online survey — totally above and beyond expectations. People have written in extremely detailed and thoughtful suggestions. The Piedmont Neighborhood Association sent over a stack of documents from a visioning workshop they held about the street several years ago. People care about their quality of life and issues with this street have been on the minds of North Portlanders for years. They want something better for their neighborhood.”

Has bicycling come up much in discussions of Lombard’s future?

“Yes it has. Although the public outreach indicates that people’s top concerns are with improving the safety and ambiance of the pedestrian experience and developing a stronger business district, we received quite a few requests for bicycle accommodations. It’s understandable since Lombard is one of the only direct routes through North Portland that will get you over I-5.

We also received feedback that expressly requested no bikes on Lombard, citing serious safety issues with vehicle speed, volume, and preserving the function of the street as an east-west thoroughfare.”

What other projects has Swift Planning Group been involved with?

“Swift Planning Group was formed for the specific purpose of working on Lombard Re-Imagined. This is our capstone project for the MURP degree program at PSU, so it will be our first and last project together. Unless this project goes so well that someone decides that they’d like to pay us all to keep working on this effort full time, in which case of course we will start a firm together and open up an office on Lombard next to King Burrito [a famous Mexican food joint].”

How can people get involved (even if they don’t live in the corridor)?

“We’re holding an Open House to present some of these ideas on May 7th, 5:30-8pm at the Kenton Masonic Lodge (8130 N Denver Ave) where we’ll be asking for feedback on several concepts that we’ve put together based on the public outreach. There are some big ones that we’ll be presenting, including several different ideas for street configurations, ped/bike crossings for I-5, safer on-street parking, and improved pedestrian crossings.

We’d love to see a strong turnout at the Open House so that we can talk to people in-person about starting a “Friends of Lombard” group dedicated to long-term stewardship of the street. Change is possible but it will require some organized, committed action on part of the community. It’s time to get that ball rolling and we want to hear from you — we’ll have cookies!”

Stay tuned for more on this exciting planning process. For more info on the May 7th open house, see the Facebook event page.

NOTE, 5/3 at 1:08 pm: I’ve changed the opening sentence of this story after several people said they found it offensive. I originally wrote, “If you haven’t heard much about Portland’s Lombard Street, that’s probably because it’s not a place people tend to hang out.” I was only trying to make a point from a transportation design perspective and meant no harm to folks who live on and around Lombard.

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