Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

50s Bikeway project delayed

Posted by on August 6th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

A Sunday ride-9

They’ll have to wait a bit longer
for a quality bike route.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation has announced a delay in the construction of the long-awaited 50s Bikeway Project. The $1.5 million, federally-funded project that will create an important north-south bikeway along 52nd and 53rd Avenues between southeast and northeast Portland, was originally slated to begin construction this summer. However, according to PBOT Project Manager Rich Newlands, the City received bids to complete the work that were “significantly above the project’s construction contract estimate.” This unforeseen situation means construction won’t begin until February 2014.

The new “anticipated” date of construction comes a full three and-a-half years after the project got off the ground in September 2010 and 29 months after City Council unanimously approved the project back in 2011.

“I regret this disappointing news and appreciate your patience.”
— Rich Newlands, PBOT project manager

Newlands emailed the project’s citizen advisory committee with the bad news yesterday, saying that the high bids were due to a tight construction market:

“The project went out to bid in June, with the bid opening on July 9. Unfortunately the two bids received were significantly above the project’s construction contract estimate. The low number of bidders and the high bids received strongly indicates that the construction market has recently reached saturation. Instead of further reducing the scope of the project, we have decided to re-bid the project in November. This means construction is now anticipated to begin in Febrauary of 2014, with completion more dependent on when the weather conditions allow for the striping work in later Spring…

… I regret this disappointing news and appreciate your patience.”

A source at PBOT confirms that high construction bids are to blame for the delay. “We didn’t like the bid we got,” our source said, while assuring us that there are not technical issues with the project.

Once completed the 50s Bikeway will fill a 4.3 mile gap in the bike network with a mix of bike lanes, bike boulevards and crossing treatments at eight major arterials along the route. The project is within a half-mile of 20,000 Portland residents and 12 schools. Learn more in our archives or on the City’s official project page.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Anne Hawley August 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    “Instead of further reducing the scope of the project, we have decided to re-bid the project…”

    Good choice, in my view.

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    • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm


      But why not take a page from how the City approaches sidewalk repair. If homeowners prefer to do the work themselves they are given the ‘Sidewalk Repair Manual’ – an excellent document that details how to go about the work yourself. I think this is an under-appreciated model for much infrastructure work around this town.


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      • Anne Hawley August 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

        Wow, cool resource! Kind of wish I’d known about this before I paid a contractor a European vacation to fix part of my sidewalk.

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  • davemess August 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Man that stinks! Was looking forward to that this summer. This is my route to/from work everyday, and while I don’t find it bad at all, would be nice in a few spots to have a bike lane.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu August 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    But why not take a page from how the City approaches sidewalk repair. If homeowners prefer to do the work themselves they are given the ‘Sidewalk Repair Manual’ – an excellent document that details how to go about the work yourself. I think this is an under-appreciated model for much infrastructure work around this town.
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    This seems unrealistic. No homeowner is going to pony up for a $1.5MM roadway project.

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    • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm


      you missed my point (and the point of the sidewalk repair manual). The main reason we think of this as costing $1.5 million is because the city does it, pays overhead, borrows money, pays interest, etc. If you and I got out our shovels and paint brushes I bet we could probably accomplish a lot of the same work for pennies. No one is being asked to contribute money. If this were tried the idea would be to do it–or much of it–ourselves.
      But there’s no need to be absolutist about it. It was just a suggestion that we look at this kind of a project/bid through the lens of greater direct public involvement. Who knows what we might learn? Perhaps you’d even get greater buy-in from the neighborhoods if neighbors are the ones doing most of the work.

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      • Todd Hudson August 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm

        Bike lanes and sharrows made with paintbrushes and cans of Miller paint – somehow, I don’t think this will work….

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        • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 4:09 pm

          Poke fun all you want. The point of the article is that the standard approach isn’t working. And if we want to talk about types and costs of paint, plenty of the expensive applied-by-PBOT thermoplastic hasn’t worked too well either.

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      • Spiffy August 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm

        has anybody ever tried to form a group of volunteers for this sort of thing? it would help offset manpower costs for projects if they just need a few people to move materials or hold signs to direct traffic…

        if they had come to my house I would have given them $10 towards the cost of the bike lane that will run by my house near SE 52nd…

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        • 9watts August 7, 2013 at 10:38 am

          …or maybe City Repair could bid the job, coordinate the volunteers, work with Peter Koonce & Co.?

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  • John Liu
    John Liu August 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    The project involves rebuilding several arterial crossings with diverters, curb changes, signal coordination, bike boxes, probably bike x-ing sensors; restriping and narrowing miles of traffic lanes, with sharrows, speed bumps, green lanes; traffic calming instrastructure on adjacent streets; etc.

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    • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Excellent. Thanks for those specifics. Nothing there that looks impossible. I know how to run a backhoe; I think we can count on Mr Koonce to help with the signal coordination, and I’m sure the City would supply the hardware. 🙂

      But I hear you. Some projects are complex and involve equipment and/or skills that folks along the route might not possess. Fine. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t approach these projects in a fashion that allowed broader participation. Divide up the tasks that regular folk could do, and coordinate free labor, skills, insights along the route. I’m sure there were naysayers when someone proposed the manual for homeowners to fix their sidewalks, too.

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      • Lorelei August 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

        Count me in. As someone that has considered taking a can of white paint to add stop lines to intersections (because apparently the trees are hiding all the stop signs), I just love the idea of the community taking these repairs into their own hands.

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        • Paikikala August 12, 2013 at 8:57 am

          Did you ever call in those blocked stop signs to 823-SAFE? (or let the property owner know they’re responsible to keep the sign visible?)

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  • gutterbunnybikes August 6, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    That wouldn’t be illegal every way shape and form for any job with government (local or federal) funding. There are very specific laws for government contract work with required pay scales for the work on the projects.

    Lets not even talk about the hundreds of possible liability issues.

    Besides, it’s hard enough to wrestle schedules and deadlines with professional contractors with professional crews. I don’t even want to imagine what it would it be like trying to organize a project like this one with volunteers.

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  • gutterbunnybikes August 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    sorry that first sentence should be read “would be illegal” not “wouldn’t”

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  • William August 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    I think 9watts is on to something. Tonight is National Night Out, and scores of blocks are closed tonight (and throughout the week) for close to nothing. If we can close a street for a block party, we could just as easily close it for a work party, maybe supervised by a city employee or contractor. Sure the complicated work might have to be done by contractors, but there’s no reason that regular citizens couldn’t do some of the work. Maybe this doesn’t all make sense – at least not with current laws and current ways of doing street work – but maybe what we need is to reconsider how we approach these projects. I know I’d love to help out.

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    • 9watts August 7, 2013 at 10:23 am

      If as some of you are pointing out it is IMPOSSIBLE to imagine broader lay participation in something like improving bike accommodations on a given street–folks with shovels and paint brushes coordinated by someone from PBOT–then that suggests to me we need to revamp the rules that preclude this.

      But I’m not so sure it is IMPOSSIBLE. I continue to be amazed and impressed by how knowledgeable, interested, engaged folks who comment on bikeportland are about our favorite topics. I see no reason to think that residents along routes of proposed bike boulevards wouldn’t be comparably competent, willing, engaged if the order of the day were to improve the livability, bikability, beauty of the street in front of their houses. And let’s not discount the possibility that by inviting direct physical participation the outcome couldn’t be markedly better than if PBOT did it themselves or hired a firm to do it. Have you seen City Repair’s intersection treatments? Nothing wrong with a little color and sweat equity.

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  • kittens August 7, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Tried to click on the links to the final design from the PBOT project page and get a message saying the link is dead

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    • Terry D August 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      I have a copy of the 95% engineering specifications on my hard-drive if you want a copy. Terry@COPINGwithBikes.org

      This is not that complicated of a project. A few miles of striping, traffic calming, one new HAWK light at Burnside and 53rd and a few diverters…nothing PBOT can not do on its own.

      I know…federal regulations probably require an open bidding process…hence the delay upon delay…

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      • Paikikala August 12, 2013 at 8:59 am

        And many blocks of parking removal. Try doing that without authority.

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  • Barbara August 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    The SW Vermont (between 30th and 37th) sidewalk infill and bikelane project had the same fate this summer. They only got two bids, both over the estimate and postponed to the fall. That after this project was originally planned for last summer and then delayed. It’s a crucial missing link in SW and an important piece of safe routes to school, link to Southwest Community Center and bike commuter connection alike.

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