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Expect traffic impacts on SW Barbur as ODOT begins bridge rehab project

Posted by on June 2nd, 2014 at 12:52 pm

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) began construction today on a project that will rehabilitate two bridges on SW Barbur Blvd — a key bicycle route that offers people a straight and relatively flat connection from southwest to downtown Portland. Lane closures began this morning and the work is expected to last five months.

This is the same project that spurred a grassroots movement for improved bicycle access on Barbur back in January 2013. Despite Barbur’s abysmal safety record and a strong case made for putting the major road on a “diet,” ODOT and Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick have been reluctant to move the idea forward.

On the brighter side, as we reported back in March, Novick has directed PBOT to work with ODOT on a traffic study during this construction closure. Their aim will be to observe how traffic responds and then determine the impact of a potential, future, and permanent lane reconfiguration.

ODOT says this week is just prep work with crews preparing the bridge decks for major work that begins next Monday (June 9). Even so, some lane closures have already begun. Below is a description of how the project will impact Barbur Blvd users in the coming months, followed by some bike-specific information:

  • Monday, June 2, the start of the first week of preparatory work, will see single lane closures, both northbound and southbound, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • On Monday June 9, the full lane closures start. Traffic will be restricted to one lane in each direction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and continue until the project is complete in the fall. Only one bridge will see lane closures at a time.
  • The closures will be on Barbur Boulevard between the Capitol Highway exit on the north end and Brier Place on the south end. The result will likely be more daytime congestion on Barbur Boulevard in this area.
  • It is necessary for the contractor to close the southbound-only lanes of Barbur Boulevard for two weekends in June between Capitol Highway and Terwilliger Boulevard. The closures are expected to be the weekends of June 13-15 and June 27-29. The closures will be from Friday at 9 p.m. until Monday at 5 a.m.
  • Southbound traffic on Barbur will be detoured on to Capitol Highway and Bertha Boulevard, then back to Barbur. Access to Parkhill Drive during the detour will be from Terwilliger.
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ODOT also shared some biking-specific warnings:

Bicyclists to Share Wider Travel Lane with Motorists

During daytime construction on each bridge, bicyclists will share a wider lane (14 feet versus the current 12-foot lane) with motor vehicles. In the evening and on weekends, the contractor will open a separated lane through the construction zone for bicyclists, whenever feasible.

On weekday evenings, the construction zone will be open for cyclists from approximately 4:30 pm to 6 a.m. unless night work is needed. Lighting will be provided to illuminate the work zone.

It’s also worth noting that ODOT will institute a reduced speed limit of 35 mph (it is currently 45) for the duration of the project.

As for how the project will change Barbur, in addition to re-inforcing and updating the bridge structures, ODOT will re-pave the decks of both bridges, install a “bicycle/pedestrian safety railing” on both bridges, and more. However, none of the planned work will have a significant positive impact on bicycle riders. Despite pleas for some type of improved bicycle access, ODOT has maintained that new bike lanes or other major changes are beyond the scope of this project.

The agency has already made one bicycle-specific change related to the bridges: They installed flashing “Bikes on Bridge roadway” signs back in March.

For more information on the project, see the official website or contact ODOT’s Susan Hanson at susan.c.hanson@odot.state.or.us.

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  • rolling scapegoat June 2, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Dear people in cars,

    Please don’t blame me for the traffic and please don’t try any evasive maneuvers in hopes of getting ahead.

    Thank you… We’re in this one together.

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  • GlowBoy June 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    During the nicer half of the year, my preferred route home from Beaverton is Hall-Oleson-Multnomah-Barbur.

    But given that the last two are now both ripped up most of the rest of the year, I’ll be sticking to Beaverton-Hillsdale and the Capitol ramp down to Barbur just north of the project area.

    Looking forward to when both projects are done: Multnomah will be far better for cyclists. And contrary to the opinion of some, so will Barbur. I’d like to see a road diet as much as anyone, but at least having a realistic option to ride the sidepaths on the Vermont and Newbury bridges will be an enormous improvement over being forced into high speed traffic lanes.

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  • 9watts June 2, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    “ODOT has maintained that new bike lanes or other major changes are beyond the scope of this project.”

    Of course they have. Gotta do the expensive treatment for those adults in cars. Then, when folks suggested we consider tacking on some bikey accommodations, we realized we already spent all the money making it easier for the adults who all drive cars. Too bad.

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  • Spiffy June 3, 2014 at 7:52 am

    since the study showed that closing both lanes would only result in a 4 minute delay I really doubt this project will have much impact on traffic… hopefully we get slower vehicles for the duration of the project, and no crashes…

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  • Spiffy June 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

    anybody know the history on Newbury Street? I can’t find it anywhere like I can Vermont Street, which looks like it would continue to the bridge, and maybe was a ravine trail long ago… I can find no street to correspond with the Newbury Street bridge… looks like maybe the Marquam Trail could have let there at one point…

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  • Steve B June 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Looking forward to the results.

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  • Drew June 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    When are they going to put a bike path from Johnson Rd. to Childs on Stafford Rd. northbound ? Oh boy lookout for dump trucks.

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  • Mitch Gold June 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Perhaps a more sensitive sensor can be added for this update. Those with carbon frames do not trigger the flashing “bikes on bridge” sign.

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