Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Detours and work zones coming to N Willamette Blvd for up to four months

Posted by on May 20th, 2016 at 9:11 pm

N Willamette Blvd bike lanes-8

Southbound on Willamette will get protective plastic wands separating this bike lane with the standard lane. In the other direction riders will be routed up onto the sidewalk — a popular place for running and walking.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Starting this Monday (5/23), traffic patterns on North Willamette Boulevard will change dramatically for up to four months.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is replacing a viaduct that spans across the bluffs between North Chase and Fowler which requires them to close the entire northern lane. During the closure, all northbound auto, truck and bus traffic will be detoured up to Lombard. Willamette will remain open for bicycle riders in both directions — but northbound bike traffic will be routed up onto the sidewalk.

Here are the details from PBOT:

(Graphic: PBOT)

The northwestbound lane of N Willamette Boulevard will be closed to motor vehicle traffic, all hours, all days, from N Bryant Street to N Fowler Avenue. Northwestbound bike traffic will be detoured to the adjacent sidewalk, which will be shared with people walking.

The southeastbound lane of N Willamette Boulevard will remain open, though the lane will be shifted to the left in the work zone. The southeastbound bike lane will remain open, providing a 5-foot wide lane separated from people driving by plastic wands.


Northwestbound motor vehicle traffic, including bus traffic will be detoured around the area. Northwestbound motor vehicles in the area should go north on N Greeeley Ave, then west on N Lombard St, to south on N Portsmouth Ave and back to N Willamette Blvd.

With any luck PBOT will leave the plastic wands in the ground after the project! Willamette Blvd is a key part of the north Portland bike network and it’s in dire need of a redesign to improve bicycle access.

Back to the project at hand: To have Willamette in work-zone mode all summer long is a real bummer (although getting a new viaduct is great news!). It’ll be interesting to see how the northbound sidewalk-sharing arrangement works. This sidewalk on Willamette is a very popular place for running and walking and putting bike traffic up on it could be a recipe for disaster. Everyone will have to use the utmost caution.

If you ride or walk or run on Willamette, please keep us posted on how the detours and work zone is impacting you.

For more information, visit the project website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Tom Hardy May 20, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    It will be interesting on how the bridge pedal works out with about 15,000 bikes in a skinny lane for a few hours.

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    • Doug Rosser May 21, 2016 at 7:59 am

      I bet they close that section to auto traffic entirely.

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  • ethan May 21, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Will the viaduct have protected bike lanes?

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  • Doug Rosser May 21, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Think of it this way, we cyclists will have months of revenge on the joggers who insist on jogging in the bike lane on Willamette! (JOKING)

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) May 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Heh. The lane is usually in terrible condition – gravel and some glass, so it’s more suitable to runners.

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  • Al Dente May 21, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Routed vs Detour, does either one give cyclist the right of way while using a sidewalk at intersections?

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    • Eric Leifsdad May 21, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Northwest-bound electric bikes will also be breaking the law if they follow this routing.

      Bikes would still have the right-of-way in crosswalks *iff* they enter at a “walking pace” when other vehicles are present. I’m not sure on the rules if you fire a warning flare across the intersection first or carefully extend your hi-viz jousting lance into the roadway ahead of you.

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  • still riding after all that May 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    “separated from people driving by plastic wands”

    Those so-called wands are dangerous. They make it difficult or impossible to pass a slower rider or move left slightly to avoid road debris or the drainage grates that take up a large portion of the bike lane. Plus, they offer no actual protection from a driver who isn’t paying attention or consciously decides to move to the right to hit or annoy cyclists.

    “With any luck PBOT will leave the plastic wands in the ground after the project”

    Sorry, Jonathan, but you’re way off the mark here. Those wands should never, ever be used anywhere. I nearly got killed on that stretch of road a few years ago when the rider in front of me suddenly veered right to avoid some “wands” and I hit them – at about 24 mph – because I had no way of seeing them while I was behind that rider.

    Somebody please get those PBOT ***word deleted by moderator*** to stop this nonsense before one of us ends up dead or crippled thanks to their unsafe “safety” plan.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate May 22, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Agreed…the wands just get broken off and end up wasting our money.

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    • Spiffy May 23, 2016 at 8:15 am

      just as we want drivers to, you need to watch where you’re going…

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    • Bald One May 23, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I agree with you on the wands. Some of the current painted buffers along some stretches of this road are pretty nice – give you an extra 1-2 feet of painted buffer (by using the double white line for the bike lane paint) that allows you to get around the storm drains and debris, and also to pass other cyclists. This street in particular needs room for cyclists to pass other cyclists since the auto traffic can be constant on this very long, unbroken stretch, and the bike lane is literally in the gutter. Priority needs to be to get this buffered lane painted all the way for the whole stretch of road, especially as it gets closer to Rosa Parks, and also out North of UP.

      The most unsafe portion of this road is the few block section North of Portsmouth just south of the Ida St bridge over the RR gap. This section has a couple of dog-leg bends that wind right turn around a 150 degree bend (two going North, near Mckenna and Macrum streets; two going South, at Carey and Westanna) – these bends are highly dangerous. The painted bike lane is just a few feet wide, and it compresses to go around these oblique angle bends in the road, not to mention the storm drains that are right on the bend creating a type of super pinch point in the bike lane. I don’t have to remind any of you how most drivers will cut a right corner like this and encroach into the bike lane. You see cars do it all the time when the bike lane is empty, and even sometimes when the bike lane is occupied, drivers will still cut this corner and nearly take out the cyclists. Most drivers do not slow and do not allow extra room on these very dangerous spots. These bike lanes are narrow here, also. Not to mention the bike lanes completely disappear after you get North of Ida St, but traffic is still routed at 35 mph along this residential street. Fixing these 4 corner pinches need to be a high priority on this bike artery.

      The main stretch of Willamette Blvd could really use some preferential sweeping and maintenance throughout the year – why can’t PBOT make getting these bike lanes swept and clean a regular priority?

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      • MaxD May 23, 2016 at 10:11 am

        YES! Those pinch points are super scary, and what is up withthe 35 mph speed limit with almost zero traffic control! This is a residential street that provides a valuable link for people walking. jogging and biking but PBOT is maintaining it as a super-speedy cut-through alternative to Lombard. Get cars off Willamette and slow down Lombard and maybe Lombard will become more livable/walkable.

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  • Panda May 22, 2016 at 8:22 am

    This would be great opportunity to convert Willamette to one-way, one lane and on-street parking nw-bound. The se- bound side along the bluff would become a 2- way bike lane and a curb tight ped lane. This configuration would extend from Rosa Parks to UP. This could become the upper route of the NP Greenway, avoiding Swan Island ( they have not come up with a good route across the island yet).

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    • Angel May 22, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Nobody ever uses the on-street car parking on Willamette. Remove the on-street car parking and put in a promenade next to the bluffs. It would be amazing and it seems like it would be a win-win for everyone

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      • Angel May 22, 2016 at 10:48 pm

        or what lenny said!

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    • MaxD May 23, 2016 at 11:22 am

      I really like the idea of the NP greenway taking over the SE-bound lane of Willamette. Until the Cement road can be negotiated, the City should proceed with a trail along the bluff. This would provide great connections tothe neighborhoods, avoid the convoluted and dangrous proposed route across Swan Island and postpone the expensive, elevate section below UP.

      The route would connect to the esplanade under the Steel Bridge and continue along the top of the bank to the Broadway bridgehead. Between the Broadway Bridge and Tillamook, the NP Greenway would occupy the southbound lane of Interstate Ave with all motor vehicles using the Larrabee Viaduct. At Tillamook, the route would go down the south side of Tillamook to River Road, then possible follow the 405 alignment (or whatever could be negotiated until the Cement Road becomes accessible) back to the south/west side of Greeley. A MUP would be developed between the tracks and Greeley that could extend UNDER the Going Street Bridge, below Adidas, at the toe of the bluff, gradually climbing to meet Willamette near Ainsworth. At Rosa Parks, Willamette become one-way for motor vehicles north/west bound, and the lane along the bluff becomes an MUP. At UP, the MUP would ideally continue along on the same side of the street. At VanHouten, it would descend to the river and continue on to Cathedral Park!

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson May 22, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    By removing on-street parking between Rosa Parks and U of P on the north/east side of Willamette Blvd, we would have enough public ROW to accommodate a bi-directional multi-use path along the bluff side AND a basic bikelane on the upland side. See Swan Island Trails Action Plan 2004 by Alta at PBOT.
    That parking is used by a few of the homeowners, many of which also have on-street parking on side streets. Time to put that ROW to better use.
    Image being able to bike, walk or run between U of P and adidas without a single cross street! vs. the two dozen that intersect the sidewalk on the upland side. The only downside a few pissed off homeowners. So What!

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    • Angel May 22, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      If I were a homeowner, I’d be thrilled for the awesome MUP. It’s not like they use their on-street car parking, and their expensive houses could get even pricier. Everybody wins

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    • TJ May 23, 2016 at 7:10 am

      One: What about the rest of Willamette and folks commuting via bike out of UP, STJ, CP, and Portsmouth? The dropped bike land after Ida is absurd.

      Second: I would rather we advocate for

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    • Lester Burnham May 23, 2016 at 7:25 am

      Hey Lenny, different street here but how do we get some improvement on Skidmore between Interstate and MLK? There is a street that could stand to lose the on-street parking, get some bike lanes, and maybe some traffic calming of some sort.

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      • MaxD May 23, 2016 at 10:23 am

        Lester, I strongly second that suggestion! Skidmore already provides a straight connection between 7th and Interstate with traffic control at all of the arterials. The Going route west of MLK is so convoluted it is unusable and it has zero traffic controls at MLK, Williams, Vancouver or Mississippi. This is a great time to start writing letters to Leah Treat because one of the proposed things PBOT wants to spend new gas tax money on is a HAWK signal at MLK. This is not nearly as good as the existing (free) signal at Skidmore and it does nothing to address the crossings at Williams, Vancouver or Mississippi plus the route remains an indecipherable pile of spaghetti on a map. PBOT should get rid of parking on Skidmore from MLK to Michigan and complete the buffered bike lanes (add sharrows from MLK to 7th).

        Skidmore would create a super easy and safe bike route connecting Concord, Michigan Vacouver/Williams, 7th and Going; completing the network and providing a massive boost to the usefulness of the individual routes. It would also provide a simple, safe connection between the commercial districts of Killingsworth, Interstate, Mississippi, Williams and Alberta. This is such a winner, it pains me that is hasn’t been in place for the last 5 years (and it will get harder to put in once the low-parking apartments are complete)> Now is the time for PBOT to make some firm commitments to transforming our bike streets into a bike network by creating simple, safe connections like Skidmore!

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    • Gary B May 23, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      “That parking is used by a few of the homeowners, many of which also have on-street parking on side streets. ”

      Correction: “all” of which have on-street parking on side streets. It just isn’t the closest parking space to their house.

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