ODOT will close I-5 off-ramp onto Broadway, add other safety features

i-5lead

Detail of plans to close an I-5 “slip ramp”
that dumps onto Broadway.

An open house event tomorrow night (11/19) will be your chance to see what the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has planned to improve safety on Broadway where it passes over Interstate 5.

Changes to the notorious section of Broadway near Wheeler and Flint were a focus of the city’s N/NE Quadrant planning process back in 2012 and they were included as “near-term solutions” within a larger, $400 million ODOT project to widen I-5 through the Rose Quarter.

With that large-scale proposal years away from fruition (if it ever happens at all), local neighborhood activists pressed ODOT to do something more immediate to remedy the many traffic safety issues in the area of the Broadway-Weidler couplet just west of I-5. We’ve been highlighting safety issues at this location for over seven years – ever since the Portland Water Bureau prohibited its fleet vehicles from making right turns onto Wheeler due to right-hook concerns.

Back in 2012, Betsy Reese, former owner of the Paramount Apartments that are bordered by Flint and Wheeler, successfully lobbied ODOT to address some of the issues. Tomorrow’s open house will be a chance to see the results of that advocacy and ask ODOT staffers questions about the project before it enters the final design stage (late 2015) and — if funding materializes — construction (summer 2016).

Here are the elements of the I-5 Southbound Off-Ramp at North Broadway Project (which is, by the way, a joint effort from PBOT and ODOT):

  • Realign the right turn lane – referred to as a “slip lane” – located at the I-5 southbound off-ramp (Exit 302 A) at N. Broadway (an element of the N/NE Quadrant Plan).
  • Install a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon at the existing crosswalk at the streetcar platform on N. Broadway between N. Ross Ave and N. Wheeler Ave.
  • Replace the traffic signal at the intersection of N. Broadway, I-5 off- ramp and N. Vancouver Avenue with a standard signal.
  • Extend the curb on the southeast corner of the intersection of N. Broadway and N. Wheeler Ave.
  • Reconnect the sidewalk due to the ramp realignment on the north side of N. Broadway from the I-5 off-ramp to N. Flint Ave.
  • Install ADA accessible curb ramps at the intersection of N. Broadway and N. Vancouver Avenue and at other locations within the project area.

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For clarity, ODOT has produced this graphic of the proposed changes:

i-5map

Click to enlarge

The realignment of that “slip lane” is a big deal because it should make bicycling on Broadway much safer. Currently, people use that off-ramp and often roll the stop sign right onto Broadway. That behavior creates a potential for collisions not just at the off-ramp, but also at North Flint, a very busy biking street just a few yards to the west.

The image below shows the slip ramp and N Flint (looking toward the west). Notice how the angle of the slip ramp entices people to roll right onto Broadway without coming to a full stop.

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-3

Here’s a view looking southwest from the Flint overpass of I-5:

i-5slippic

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The other elements of these near term fixes are also important to the overall goal of making the Broadway/Weidler/I-5 area a more pleasant place to be — especially that much-needed curb extension at the southeast corner of Broadway/Wheeler (the Leftbank building).

If you have experiences with this area and feedback to share with project managers, contact Dee Hidalgo with ODOT community affairs via email at Dee.Hidalgo@odot.state.or.us.

Also don’t forget to stop by the open house event tomorrow (11/19). It’s from 5-7:00 pm at the Leftbank Annex, 2nd Floor (101 N Weidler).

For more info, visit the project website.

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Jason Markantes
Jason Markantes
8 years ago

Man, this could be awesome. On the rare occasion I have to drive to work I get so witness all the current non-ideal behaviors the current configuration allows by all modes- peds, bikes, and cars. The pedestrian beacon will be welcomed, I see maybe a 25% compliance when I cross there. Watched a driver get pulled over this morning for not stopping right away there, made want to do a little river dance.

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
8 years ago

More than once in the past, advocates have built up huge heads of public pressure steam over this intersection, each time spurred by a series of injury collisions between bikes and motor vehicles. But hanging in there long-term for the kind of major re-engineering that this project represents can be a long dull slog. We cannot let our support wane now that we have come this far with ODOT and PBOT.

Rian Windsheimer of ODOT told me that if advocates are not happy with it, they won’t feel very motivated to do it.

We need to show them that bicycle safety advocates support this project. That is primarily who has called for it.

While I would have ideally liked much more than this, it is nevertheless a huge safety improvement for one of our most dangerous and complicated intersections in Portland.

Please come to the open house tomorrow night or contact ODOT or PBOT staff if you have issues with the design so they can be ironed out now and won’t delay or derail the project.

If you support these changes, please, stand up and be counted. If you can’t do it in person at the open house, email Dee.Hidalgo@odot.state.or.us.

Over the years, many people and organizations, including many bikeportland.org readers, have sent in written support or attended meetings calling for engineering changes at Broadway/Flint/Wheeler. Here we are. It has made a difference. Thank you.

hat
hat
8 years ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

Thanks a lot for your help making this place safer.

Brandon Van Buskirk
Brandon Van Buskirk
8 years ago

These Hawk signals do not work the way they are intended. The signal does not highlight to drivers that they are obligated to stop.

Reza
Reza
8 years ago

Source?

paikiala
paikiala
8 years ago

Red always means stop. Solid red means stay stopped. Flashing red means stop, then go if safe to do so.

Spiffy
Spiffy
8 years ago

you’re thinking of the Rapid Flash Beacons that only flash yellow… HAWK signals give a red light to cross traffic just like a normal traffic signal…

paikiala
paikiala
8 years ago

Current name also changed to Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, PHB.

Adam H.
Adam H.
8 years ago

Ugh, why not just close the ramp altogether? Put a few Jersey barriers at the slip ramp and at Broadway, remove some signs, and be all done. Much cheaper that way.

Patrick Barber
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam H.

Exactly, why replace one slip ramp with another? let everyone come to that signaled intersection. And let all angles be right!

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
8 years ago
Reply to  Patrick Barber

I think ODOT is concerned about stopped traffic backing up onto the freeway (more than it does now). I’m OK with that choice, as this project is far better than existing conditions.

Paul Cone
Paul Cone
8 years ago
Reply to  nuovorecord

Yes, especially during Blazer games and such, the traffic can be horrendous there.

Joseph E
Joseph E
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam H.

Or at least just have the right turn lane next to the other 2 lanes. It doesn’t need to turn at all. It would be much safer to have only 1 intersection with Broadway, not 2.

kittens
kittens
8 years ago
Reply to  Joseph E

…because the offramp only has space for 2 lanes, so you can’t do that. But agree they should just widen the ramp one lane. I am not a traffic engineer but isn’t it usually safer to have cars intersect a street at a right angle? The new ramp-let will put drivers in a stopped position where they must look left at an uncomfortable angle.

Chris I
Chris I
8 years ago
Reply to  kittens

It would be cheaper to just widen the existing intersection to add a right turn lane. Close the slip ramp, and add a right turn lane. Simple. Cheap. Safer.

paikiala
paikiala
8 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

That solution means the pedestrians have a longer crossing north-south since you would have to relocate the NW corner to the west. You also create a right turn on red with pedestrian conflict at a heavy right turn location. The high angle slip lane is safer for pedestrians, and can still require the off-ramp to stop and yield to them.

Joseph E
Joseph E
8 years ago
Reply to  paikiala

OK, how about we put 12′ of space between the new right turn lane and the 2 existing lanes so pedestrians will have a shorter crossing distance, but keep it at a 90 degree angle with Broadway, and have a Stop sign (prior to turning right)? I just don’t see how it is safer to have a slip lane at a 45 degree angle with Broadway, instead of a 90 degree angle intersection.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Reply to  Adam H.

OMG seriously. That’s the obvious REAL solution. The slip ramp queues at most, maybe 4-6 cars? Getting rid of that bloody thing and increasing safety dramatically while NOT spending money to reroute and rebuild ANOTHER slip lane seems to make a LOT more sense. Just close the bloody lane… :-/ grumble grumble.

Reza
Reza
8 years ago

I am in general agreement with these changes. I think the hybrid beacon at Ross is a great addition and hope that there will be some sort of stop control at the relocated slip ramp onto Broadway; ideally it would be a traffic signal with “no turn on red” restrictions.

Also, possible redevelopment opportunity at the site of the vacated ramp?

Michael Miller
Michael Miller
8 years ago
Reply to  Reza

The ODOT project site states that the relocated right-turn slip lane will be signalized. (I agree, however, with others’ comments above that this ought to be relocated to a right-turn lane with the other two ramp lanes, not a separate slip lane.)

Oliver
Oliver
8 years ago

I disagree with the proposal to close the slip lane. I think this is a solution looking for a problem that no longer exists.

Cars entering Broadway from the slip road are naturally looking left to avoid collisions with traffic coming from the left side. I understand how this was a problem with cars coming from the slip road and making a right hand turn on to N.Wheeler, the collision data backs this up.

But, cars can no longer make the right hand turn onto N. Wheeler and thus that problem should have been eliminated.

Lots of noise is made about stop sign stings (and I myself have been vocal and critical about the policy which seems to target bicycle riders disproportionately) but by all means cite the dickens out of the motorists disobeying the tcd on the ramp at N. Broadwayand people on bikes @ Flint at Broadway. (and please PPB start citing drivers who cannot keep their vehicles in their lane!)

If cars are not encroaching on the bicycle lane (one of my biggest bugaboos) and cyclists are not encroaching on the vehicle lane (very unlikely if the tcd at N. Flint and Broadway is being adhered to) then there should be no issues.

What does the accident data look like since N. Wheeler has been closed to car traffic?

Edwards
Edwards
8 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

I disagree, that is still a dangerous curve for bike riders as it is off camber, narrow and since it is downhill puts the bike rider in a very unprotected higher speed situation where braking because of a car pulling out would become treacherous.
I ride that section of Broadway everyday at 5pm and I see close calls almost every time.

The problem still exists because all of the wrong “traffic designs” are still in place, it is the exact opposite of “traffic calming” rules, which should be in place there.
Drivers have a 3 lane, down hill open road after coming through a congested stretch of Broadway between MLK and Williams where they are enticed to “lead foot it” to the bridge. Then there is the “slip lane” from I-5 funneling high speed traffic onto Broadway with no “slow down or traffic calming” rules in effect.

I think they should remove a “slip lane” altogether and add a right turn lane that is no turn on Red.

hat
hat
8 years ago

I applaud ODOT (and PBOT) for this decision. This is not something I can say often, but well done.

I see the next small step (which will also have little effect on traffic) as restriping the northernmost lane on Bway Westbound starting at Williams. It makes little sense to have four lanes for autos here since traffic rarely backs up on the downhill stretch toward the bridge. This lane can act as a bus stop and separated bike lane. And what a change in safety this would make.

Jason Markantes
Jason Markantes
8 years ago
Reply to  hat

Restriping would be pretty awesome. When I drive, that northern lane isn’t really needed until past Flint. Even then, it ends in a few blocks at a right turn, so it really only functions as a right turn lane.

Michael Miller
Michael Miller
8 years ago

Jonathan, you should add a clarification to your post that this project does not yet have funding identified for construction – only through the design phase (per the ODOT project site). So construction in summer 2016 is not a given.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
8 years ago

It appears that ODOT is just moving the slip lane over a bit to the east. Will it be governed by a signal or a stop sign at Broadway? Regardless, unless there is a “NO Right on Red” with a signal, not much will be gained. The ped signal at the crosswalk to the Ross Streetcar stop is long overdue, and should proceed on an ASAP basis.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth

Wait a second…

…so based on this article, you mean drivers don’t stop at all stop signs? I just thought cyclists did that. 😮 Gasp!

Anyway, aside from my obviously (I hope) smart alec remark, this seems like a good idea, albeit an expensive one versus just closing the stupid slip lane. I’m not sure how having that slip lane truly helps. I’ve stood and watched the cluster of cars and it doesn’t even queue that many cars. Considering the volume on the interstate it would effectively cause zero impact overall if the slip lane was just removed and nothing rebuilt. That’d save a whole chunk of money AND dramatically improve the safety.

Buzz
Buzz
8 years ago

I avoid this whole area like the plague whenever I’m either biking or driving and will probably continue to do so even after these changes are made; however I do walk in this area frequently, and as a pedestrian these changes will be most welcome.

Schrauf
Schrauf
8 years ago

Some improvement, but I never worry much about the slip ramp when in the bike lane on that part of Broadway. I can see it on approach well in advance, and adjust speed as necessary based on stupid behavior I observe.

By far the danger area is people in cars quickly turning right on Flint and failing to yield. Bikes are going faster due to the hill, the angle of view for people in cars is horrible (when using mirrors or turning head) due to the curve, and a higher than average proportion of people who live or work down Flint seem to drive like fools to begin with (based solely on years of observation).