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City Club of Portland to ODOT: Status quo on Barbur is “unacceptable”

Posted by on October 1st, 2013 at 3:52 pm

“This crucial connection to Southwest Portland has been too dangerous for too long and delayed action will almost certainly result in more preventable collisions and injuries.”
— City Club of Portland

The City Club of Portland, a local civic institution founded in 1916, has added their voice to the growing chorus calling for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to fast-track a road diet on SW Barbur Blvd.

In a letter sent to Mayor Charlie Hales and the rest of City Council today, the chair of City Club’s Bicycle Transportation Advocacy Committee, Craig Beebe, calls on ODOT to “immediately study solutions on Barbur that could significantly improve safety for every road user.”

“This crucial connection to Southwest Portland has been too dangerous for too long,” reads the letter, “and delayed action will almost certainly result in more preventable collisions and injuries.”

Here’s another excerpt (emphasis mine):

“The City Club recognizes that the Barbur corridor presents challenges as a state‐owned facility and a busy commuter route, which requires a greater level of cooperation and study than a city‐owned arterial. But this is no excuse to delay studying and implementing safety improvements for many years.

Barbur Boulevard is especially dangerous and intimidating for people riding bikes or walking between SW Hamilton Street and Terwilliger Boulevard. Crossings are few and far between, sidewalks are nonexistent, bike lanes are narrow and dangerously disappear at two bridge crossings. Meanwhile, speed limits are among the highest non‐freeway limits in Portland. As a result, this is one of the cityʹs High Crash Corridors, with at least 10 fatalities in the last decade.

Without further study, it is premature to say what the best configuration will be on Barbur. Reducing motor vehicle lanes to accommodate safer bicycling and pedestrian facilities (a ʺroad dietʺ) might be the best solution. Other approaches that could work (such as a reversible lane) might emerge after further study. What is known now is that the status quo is unacceptable, as is waiting a decade or more for the completion of Metroʹs Southwest Corridor planning process, as ODOT has suggested.”

The City Club’s letter is right in tune with an action alert issued by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance a few hours ago. The BTA is calling on Portland City Council to attach a resolution to their vote on the SW Corridor Plan next week that would initiate a traffic study on Barbur Blvd. If the resolution passes, it would make the Barbur road diet proposal an official city priority, independent of the regional planning process.

Read the City Club’s letter here (PDF). And if you missed the update on our last story, Oregon Walks has also issued a letter of support (PDF).

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  • 9watts October 1, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Bold language – excellent!
    This is starting to smell like a conspiracy of well known stakeholders to shame ODOT into swallowing their Cold War rulebook and doing something sensible 🙂

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  • Alan Love October 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Holy Moly, Barbur has been a dangerous situation for years, but it seems like the tipping point has been reached and people are finally calling for action. The momentum is final building on this, and hopefully some sort of substantive change is actually underway. A BIG high five to the catalyzers of this; Friends of Barbur, BTA, BikePortland, and, unfortunately, the victims of recent collisions.

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  • Todd Boulanger October 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Wow!!! If the City Club keeps this up…young cyclists might actually know what the City Club is and does…vs. the more typical silver haired NPR demographic.

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  • JL October 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I started looking at the crash data on Barbur from Hamilton up to the Terwilliger intersection. There are quite a few crashes which is bad considering how few intersections there are.

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  • Adam October 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    One related question… is anyone aware if an engineering study or cost estimate has ever been done to see if it is feasible to either retro-fit the existing bridges with additional cantilevered bike/ ped space or more likely to re-utilize the existing raised walk by removing the retrofitted steel vehicle barriers from the original concrete barrier and instead adding a jersey barrier, cable barrier, etc. at the face of curb and narrowing the vehicle travel lanes very slightly, thus creating a protected bike lane? Even though it does nothing for the ped experience or lack of sidewalks it takes the whole traffic analysis out of the picture. Just a thought.

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    • gutterbunnybikes October 1, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Regardless of the intent, most likely any cantilevered support system for adding a bike lane would be required to support the same amount of weight as the rest of the bridge.

      That way should a motor vehicle like an 18 wheeler go off course and end up on the bike path, the weight could be supported without collapse. And odds are the existing bridge structure wouldn’t be able to do this without major renovation. And considering the age of the bridges, it’s quite possible to do so would require a new bridge.

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      • Terry D October 2, 2013 at 1:28 am

        Take a look at the span on the south side of the overpass of N Lombard over the Columbia slough near Kelly Point Park. Admittedly, this is a much newer span but the path was built for $113.60 a square foot not including engineering and overhead and opened a few yeras back. That path is certainly not rated for heavy weights and could be a model.

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  • dwainedibbly October 1, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    When Sam Adams became the head of the City Club, I have to admit that I really didn’t get it. Now I do. Thanks Sam!

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    • Matt F October 1, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      I still don’t get it (other than he needed a job). The City Club is really reactive…Barbur has been an issue for years now…likewise regarding their study on biking last year. They only seem to join in the fray when it’s safe to do so and an issue has hit a critical mass. What’s next are they going to declare there is a homeless problem in portland?

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      • Terry D October 2, 2013 at 1:29 am

        He had no part in the biking study. It stared before he was hired

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        • Todd Boulanger October 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

          …and private institutions or organizations can always choose to “hold” the findings of privately financed studies until “more” information or analysis is completed too.

          The key point…It is good that their new leadership, along with staff and board decided that the methods and findings were important and supported their institutional mission and vision of their members…vs. past initiatives that might have been more “traditional” and less active transportation friendly/ supportive.

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    • Craig Beebe October 2, 2013 at 10:11 am

      Thanks for your comment–as chair of the City Club’s Bicycle Transportation Advocacy Committee, and a member of the research committee whose report the Club adopted, I should note that our research and advocacy efforts are entirely volunteer-driven. As another commenter notes, our research study began well before Sam joined the City Club staff, and he was not involved in it at all. When the Club’s membership voted overwhelmingly to adopt our report, it was their voice that gave the vote significance. As our volunteer advocacy committee works to further recommendations from the report, Sam is not directly involved.

      I appreciate your enthusiasm–and there are many reasons Sam has been a great choice for City Club–but the volunteer-driven nature of City Club’s research and advocacy is one reason we can provide a unique voice to issues like bicycling in Portland.

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      • matt f October 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

        You really are going out of your way to stress that your club’s advocacy is volunteer driven. Why?

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  • Frank Selker October 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I like what the City Club said on this, but they are fickle (e.g. just a couple of years ago a committee member said “Bikes have too much clout in city hall,” and more recently spoke for licensing bikes). So while I like this statement, they are not representative and who knows what they’ll next say is “unacceptable.”

    So I’d rather point to and lean on the BTA as having expertise and representing cyclists.

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    • wsbob October 1, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      “…but they are fickle (e.g. just a couple of years ago a committee member said “Bikes have too much clout in city hall,” and more recently spoke for licensing bikes). …” selker

      According to you: “…a committee member said “Bikes have too much clout in city hall,” and more recently spoke for licensing bikes). …” , equals ‘fickle’ ?

      That’s very petty griping. Sounds as though people on a committee under your leadership had apparently better not rely on you to support freedom of expression unless views expressed are consistent with yours.

      I haven’t yet read the entire City Club Bicycle Transportation Advocacy Committee letter to City Council, but I’m hoping it’s as incisive and supportive of positive change for active transportation on Barbur Blvd, as is the excerpt bikeportland’s editor-publisher has included above, in this story.

      Building political will for the kind of change to a state highway, that people envision for Barbur Blvd, can be helped by established, high profile, groups such as the City Club. As to how representative the club’s membership is, or isn’t, I think I would want to look at some other information in addition to yours about that, before I conclude that “…they are not representative…”.

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      • Kristen October 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

        It’s fickle in that they’ve gone back and forth between being pro-bicycle transportation and anti-bicycle transportation. They haven’t held one position and been consistent; ergo, fickle.

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        • wsbob October 4, 2013 at 1:05 pm

          At the moment, mostly recalling from memory, whether or not the club has an official ‘bikes as transportation’ position…which I don’t know, I couldn’t say for the sure whether the city has vacillated on that general issue. If there’s some information out there dating to a point where the club was officially anti-bikes as transportation, that may worth reviewing.

          Particularly of late, the club seems to be strongly supportive of bikes as transportation. Bikeportland’s readers may find it worthwhile to refresh their memory about a bikeportland story from May of this year. Here’s the link:

          Note that just two of twelve members of the committee the story reports about in part, submitted a minority report diverging from the findings of the rest of the committee.

          Also, maybe review a slightly later bikeportland story on the report the club assembled, and subsequently submitted to a membership vote, “…254 to 31 in favor of the report…”.

          Here’s a link to the club’s Bicycle Transportation Advocacy Committee page, with links to the earlier report at the bottom of the page:

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  • Hillsons October 2, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Maybe ODOT is starting to realize this isn’t going to just go away.

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  • Frank Selker October 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    You misunderstand, wsbob. He wasn’t on a committee with me at all. But I doubt that changes the way you feel.

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    • wsbob October 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      “You misunderstand, wsbob. He wasn’t on a committee with me at all. …” Frank Selker

      Frank…what you wrote in your earlier comment was:

      “…a couple of years ago a committee member said “Bikes have too much clout in city hall, …”. The implication there, is that if one person on a committee expresses a viewpoint that’s different from or at odds with a different point of view preferred by others, they’re fickle. Also, that you disapprove of such a point of view being expressed.

      To me, that suggests your support of freedom of expression may be weak, whether it relates to people on committees you’re heading up, or not.

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