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A ride into the future with east Portland’s biking action committee

Posted by on June 29th, 2016 at 9:37 am

Walter Lersch and Elizabeth Quiroz on NE Weidler. A curb-protected bike lane couplet will arrive there next year.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland’s vast east side has huge potential for biking, and many millions of dollars in biking improvements are poised to drop on its streets.

It’s also gearing up for what could be a regional-destination bike recreation park in the form of Gateway Green.

But the little cadre of folks who’ve scored those victories are looking for new blood to set the area’s next goals. The East Portland Action Plan bike committee invited me to join them on a tour Tuesday night of some of the most promising biking projects about to happen on the east side.

The EPAP Bike Subcommittee met Tuesday outside the Muchas Gracias in Gateway.

“I know there’s riders out in east Portland, and we need people participating,” said Jim Chasse, an east Portlander for decades who started advocating for bike lanes before he started biking for transportation, simply because he heard that transportation improvements were possible and he was happy to get any improvements in his neighborhood at all. He’s since become a passionate daily rider. “It’s all coming together and it’s going to come together fast.”

Chasse said the 100s, 130s and 150s Neighborhood Greenways are all funded and may all be in construction simultaneously in the next two years. That’s in addition to the Market-Mill-Main-Millmain (or 4M) Neighborhood Greenway running east and west, which was just funded with local money as part of the city gas tax. Then there’s outer Powell Boulevard and outer Division Street — the first due for bike-lane improvements under a state project and the latter supposed to get better bike lanes as part of a TriMet express bus line project.

On Tuesday we rode a bit of another planned neighborhood greenway, the Tillamook-Holladay-Oregon-Pacific. It already includes some speed bumps and sharrows but isn’t yet upgraded to modern greenway status.

To me, the most exciting bit of this greenway plan is the newest to be added to it: a possible connection to NE Tillamook Street beneath I-205, replacing the Halsey’s awful I-205 overpass as the best way to get to the Gateway neighborhood from the west. The stretch in question, EPAP Bike members explained, could extend east from the Tillamook greenway that currently dead-ends at 92nd Avenue, then dip just below I-205 onto Oregon Department of Transportation land and loop around this hillside:

…which would let it plug right into the I-205 Multi-Use Path, immediately north of Gateway Transit Center.

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Here’s a rough map of how the connection could work, with the I-205 path marked in purple and the new neighborhood greenway route in orange:

“When we get the access to 205, this is a regional center,” said Chasse, referring to the city’s plan for Gateway. The neighborhood is now served by three MAX lines and its vast parking lots are all zoned to become Lloyd District-style skyscrapers if only a developer would show interest. For the moment, the future skyscraper site was hosting this group of friends’ skateboard jump:

We also swung briefly by the East Portland Neighborhood Office to appreciate what Chasse described, with both humor and honesty, as some of the best bike parking in east Portland:

Next we headed up to the Halsey-Weidler couplet, which is slated to get protected bike lanes through east Portland’s only sidewalk-facing commercial district. It, too, has a long way to go, though you can see how development might happen gradually:

“It was difficult to bike in east Portland, said Linda Robinson, chair of the Gateway Green park plan and an EPAP Bike committee member. “But that’s changing. It’s getting ready to change.”

Chasse said he’s hoping to curtail his work on EPAP Bike this year to focus on home improvement projects, a new long-distance relationship and more. With so much money about to land in the area he thinks it’s an ideal time for new people to get involved and ride the momentum forward.

“We’re kind of in between right now,” he said. “We’ve got all the funding. We’ve got all our ducks lined up. … We need to know what to do next.”

Timo Forsberg of the Portland Bureau of Transportation compares bikeway routes with Linda Robinson of Gateway Green.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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31 Comments
  • Bob K June 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Lots of good stuff in the pipeline. I just rode the Tillamook greenway last weekend and faced the crossing at Halsey. It would be fantastic to have an underground crossing.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Every single collector road in East Portland has room for protected cycleways. There are even great ways to design cycleways with driveways for businesses. I’d also wager that all of the parking lanes on the collectors could be converted to cycling and walking facilities with zero impact. Look at all the excess parking on 122nd, 162nd, Glisan, and Division. PBOT should tackle this incredibly low-hanging fruit instead of greenways that put cyclists out of sight, out of mind. If people are going to cycle more, they need safe access to businesses and jobs, none of which are on the greenways.

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  • Jordan Norris June 29, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I am so excited for all these projects coming to my neighborhood. It is going to make it even a better place to live!

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    • Lester Burnham June 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Shhhh! Keep it quiet…we don’t want the hipsters coming out here!

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  • David Hampsten June 29, 2016 at 10:48 am

    There is at least $70 million in new transportation projects slated for East Portland over the next 2-3 years. About half of that is for Powell Blvd from 116th to beyond 136th. There are about 20 miles of funded greenways, several miles of funded sidewalks, and at least $8 million set aside for 122nd. And Trimet is expanding service and funding in East Portland. If you want to influence the design of already funded projects, rather than bitch about the lack of funding elsewhere, now is the time to get involved with East Portland bike projects.

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  • rick June 29, 2016 at 10:51 am

    NE Tillamook Street doesn’t appear to have public right-of-way to connect to ODOT’s property of I-205 according to Portlandmaps. Will a pedestrian bridge be built over NE 102nd Ave?

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    • rick June 29, 2016 at 10:52 am

      I meant to speak of NE Tillamook Street adajcent to NE 102nd Ave.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm

        Good questions, not sure yet though I doubt a bridge is in the cards. I’m hoping to get into this in more detail in a future post.

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    • Beeblebrox June 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      No, but there is potential to use the Union Pacific Bridge from NE Fremont St east of 102nd to connect to Gateway Green in the future. Parks and PBOT are discussing it with UP and ODOT. Keep your fingers crossed!

      Long term, maybe there could be a bridge from Gateway Green across I-84 to NE Weidler St. Looks like a straight shot across.

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  • Chris I June 29, 2016 at 10:55 am

    I rode the Halsey overpass this morning. Someone had scrawled “Gateway to Hell” on the west end, pointing towards the bridge. I don’t disagree with the sentiment…

    That said, it would be nice to have better connections to the east, here. Trying to get to Gateway green from Halsey just east of 205 would require going south to Gateway, and navigating through the transit center, then back north, or going west over the Halsey bridge and then back east via the underpass. A pedestrian bridge connecting to Weidler on the east side would create a continuous connection for the Tillamook greenway.

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    • Bart June 29, 2016 at 11:17 am

      Gateway to hell? Seriously? More like gateway to affordable housing.

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      • Champs June 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

        To be fair, the eastbound direction of that overpass *is* in the hit parade with some wonderful company on SW Barbur, NE Columbia, N Greeley…

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      • Chris I June 29, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        I don’t think it was commentary on the housing east of the awful bridge. For pedestrians, walking that bridge west to east is a daunting experience. The narrow sidewalk is shared with cyclists, and you are barraged with the noise of the cars on all sides, with the cars just adjacent to you on the bridge often exceeding 50mph as they tear down that hill.

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        • Bart June 29, 2016 at 1:11 pm

          In that case, here here, agreement all around. I’ve ridden it many times and it still scares me to ride against westbound traffic, with absolutely zero barrier between you and the drop that will leave you smack dab in the middle of said traffic.

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  • Champs June 29, 2016 at 11:51 am

    For all its well-known faults, I’d rather ride on the Halsey overpass as-is than take a lengthy, isolated, and circuitous highway underpass through the bowels of the city.

    It’s a four lane street divided by Jersey barriers. Surely there is a way to allocate more space for people. Eliminate one direction, make it a 2-3 lane street, or if you absolutely must, build an underpass… for motor vehicles.

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    • paikiala June 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      the 2013 AM westbound peak was 1200+ cars per hour, but the PM peaks are under 1,000. Seems like they only need one lane in each direction for cars.

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      • Chris I June 29, 2016 at 1:01 pm

        It most definitely should only be one lane in each direction. The Jersey barrier could be moved south to create a protected bike/walking space, without having to pour any new concrete. Then the outside westbound lane could be converted into a buffered or even protected bike lane. The signal at 92nd would need to be two lanes westbound to prevent backups, but there is plenty of ROW for that once you are off the bridge. Is this something PBOT is even looking at?

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        • Beeblebrox June 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm

          This is identified as a bikeway in the TSP, and should be doable. You could go to two lanes westbound and one lane eastbound, move the jersey barriers, and add bike lanes.

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          • David Hampsten July 2, 2016 at 1:27 am

            This was posted for the earlier Burnside article:

            lop July 1, 2016 at 9:04 am

            Here is a list of some upcoming paving projects to push the city to repaint with bike lanes when they’re done.

            https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/578239

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          • David Hampsten July 2, 2016 at 1:29 am

            … it seems that from the list of repaving projects, #6 was Halsey from 92nd to Weidler for $2.5 million, basically the bridge itself. You might advocate to shift those barriers as part of this project.

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  • Alan 1.0 June 29, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    More biggerer props if the “new blood…” part doesn’t include “…in the street.”

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  • gretchin June 29, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you, EPAP! I will always remember this is one of the first things Charlie Hales tried to cut when he took office.

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    • rick June 29, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      When? As mayor or as a city commissioner?

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      • gretchin June 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        In his first mayoral budget proposal. Fortunately after outcry, EPAP retained funding, but I remember it as a real slap in the face to East Portland after he was elected.

        “The City of Portland Office of Management & Finance has proposed a $0 budget for the EPAP”: http://eastportlandactionplan.org/sites/default/files/2013.03.27%20Draft%20EPAP%20Notes.pdf

        AND he cut the funding for a sidewalk on SE 136th, which EPAP also saved. Rep. Shemia Fagan found funding for a sidewalk on one side of the street from the state legislature.

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  • Timo Forsberg June 29, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks Michael for the great report and thanks to my friends at the EPAPbike subcommittee for the great work you’re doing improving conditions for biking in East Portland!
    For anyone else who’s interested in finding out more about current and future bikeways east of i-205, come along on the “Greenways of East Portland” ride on Tuesday, July 19, 5:45 – 8 pm:
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1051449664945004/

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  • Mike Sanders June 29, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    The I-205 bridge on Halsey was built originally to replace a wooden bridge formerly at that spot, which went in a straight line uphill from 92 Av. to the Gateway Center entrance at 100 Av. The present bridge was built higher in the air with those curves at the east end to provide clearance for traffic on the freeway (and the I-205 trail as well). A tunnel connecting the I-205 trail under the highway to 92 Av. and Rocky Butte would make perfect sense. That ped/bike overpass at Mall 205 a short distance to the south needs to be looked at, too. Built when the freeway first opened, it’s too narrow, has no lighting on it, and it really needs to be enclosed to prevent folks from throwing stuff onto the freeway below. Plus, the railings are too low. And it’s too high in the air for my liking. Scary.

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    • Champs July 1, 2016 at 8:58 am

      However vertiginous, a separated lane in the open sounds far less scary to my person than a long, isolated underpass.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate June 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    They really screwed up that new ramp at the west end of the Halsey overpass sidewalk. You have to swing out to wide to get onto 92nd northbound. Plus the new gas station has really added to the congestion and danger around there.

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  • Fitzy June 30, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    East Portland is so deserves more resources like this. Yay.
    I just start a new job in downtown Portland so am biking in from the east side of Gresham. Today I just took Burnside in till 70th and got on the Davis bikeway. Burnside was surprisingly nice. Only a couple spot bugged me: 1) the lack of a bike lane in the area between 181st and 197th.2) By 82nd wasn’t so great.
    Last week I took springwater and I won’t do that again. The 205 bike path was OK but then getting from 205/Division St jct to the Clinton St bikeway was sketchy. Maps show it connecting through from 92nd but it doesn’t – it dead ends.

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    • Alex Reedin July 1, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Yeah, there is really no direct, comfortable, fast way to bike from the I-205/Springwater junction to downtown. I choose between direct-ish and comfortable but slow and bumpy (neighborhood streets to the Center bikeway from 79th to 65th, then 65th to Woodward/Clinton greenway) and non-direct, comfortable, and fast but long (Springwater). The Foster Rd bike lanes will add another option but still not the trifecta (it’ll be very direct, uncomfortable but not just downright terrifying like today, and fast).

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    • David Hampsten July 2, 2016 at 1:40 am

      As a more pleasant alternative, you might try taking Yamhill from 197th to 176th, then south to Main, then Millmain, Mill to 130th, then north to Market to the 205 trail (the 4M), 1 block south, then Mill to the Lincoln/Harrison route over Mt Tabor.

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