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ODOT hosts open house for inner Powell Blvd project tonight

Posted by on April 5th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

ODOT’s current plans.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is in the final design phases of a project that aims to make it safer to bike and walk on and across SE Powell Blvd beteeen 20th and 34th Avenue. They’re hosting an open house tonight (4/5) to answer questions, hear feedback, and share more information about the project.

This section of Powell is important for several reasons. The intersection with 26th is where two serious bicycle crashes — and one major protest — happened in 2015. It’s also the location of a very busy crossing due to the presence of Cleveland High School on the northeast corner. ODOT has also come under scrutinty for their decision to force the City of Portland to remove the existing bike lane on 26th as a condition of them adding a new signal and crossing at 28th (which ODOT says is a safer place to cross). Adding to the mix is the news that Target will build a new store at 30th and Powell (in the place of an old bowling alley).

With those and other issues there’s a buzz about tonight’s open house. I got a call today from Cleveland High School parent very concerned that the new Target store will make it less safe for students to walk between the school and its sports fields at SE 31st.

Here are the basics about what ODOT wants to do:

— Three enhanced pedestrian signals (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons, “RRFBs”) will be installed on Powell Blvd. at SE 24th, 31st and 34th to alert drivers of pedestrians crossing.
— Safer crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians will include high visibility striping and center islands.
— A new wider pedestrian waiting area on the southeast corner of 26th Avenue and Powell Boulevard near Cleveland High School to provide more space for students waiting to cross Powell Boulevard.
— A new truck apron on the southeast corner of 26th Avenue and Powell Boulevard to increase safety by allowing large vehicles to turn without entering the pedestrian zone or encroaching on vehicle lanes.
— New signals at intersections (SE 21st, 26th, 33rd) with enhanced safety features, including bigger and more visible signals and poles, as well as countdown and audible countdown pedestrian signals.
— Tree removals and trimming to increase visibility.
— Improved street lighting.
— Enforcement lights for public safety (not photo radar).
— Increased visibility of bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
— Sidewalk ADA ramp improvements and repair of some sidewalks.
— Improved signage and more visible street names

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Powell protest ride-48.jpg

Inner Powell Blvd has been the scene of protests in recent years due to its lack of safety for people not inside cars.>
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This section of Powell is a major highway (US 26) that gets between 34,000 and 38,000 cars and trucks on it every day. ODOT is trying to address neighborhood safety and livability concerns while servicing all those motor vehicle trips.

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has no jurisdiction over Powell (yet), but they have a stake in the crossing of 28th because of their 20s Bikeway project. In a bit of a coup, PBOT got ODOT to rebuild the 28th intersection and install a new traffic signal. Signalizing a highway isn’t something ODOT does lightly and it needed approval from the state traffic engineer. ODOT made it happen, but the deal hinged on PBOT agreeing to remove the existing bike lane on 26th. ODOT feels the bike lane on 26th is inherently unsafe and that it just complicates the intersection.

Although PBOT agreed to that deal, the City has yet to remove the bike lane. They still have a year to analyze the traffic and report back to ODOT whether the bike lane should stay or go. Asked last week about the bike lane, an ODOT spokesperson told us, “ODOT’s agreement with the PBOT requires the city to remove the bike lanes by the end of the year unless PBOT can demonstrate that the conditions have changed significantly to merit review of retaking the bike lanes along SE 26th Avenue.” PBOT will likely have to show that people still ride in the 26th Ave. bike lane even with the presence of the new crossing at 28th.

ODOT plans to start construction of this project this winter. Consider attending tonight’s open house to learn more and/or to share your feedback with ODOT staff.

ODOT Powell Blvd Safety Project Open House
5:00 to 7:00 pm, Wednesday, April 5.
Catholic Charities’ Café (2740 S.E. Powell Blvd)

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

This sites’ been mum on the Off Road Cycling Master Plan meetings. Any reason why? I’ll be sure to comment on Powell Blvd. Its a terrible urban freeway.

JL
Guest
JL

How about zero tolerance to help towards vision zero? No more cushion for speeding drivers would be a big start.

I like what Arizona is trying.
http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2016/12/13/why-going-10-over-the-speed-limit-is-now-going-to.html

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

For all the whining I’ve done about prioritizing infrastructure where it’s already fine, this is an area that could use some attention.

I used to live out here. This area of Powell needs improvements for peds and bikes alike. The suggested changes improve the ped situation.

Riding on Powell is not for the faint of heart. 26th never bugged me, and I personally think that taking out the bike lane could make it a bit safer. The problem with narrow lanes is that both riders and drivers get the idea that cyclists should be scrunched up at the side of the road which creates less safe visibility/handling/passing, particularly for less confident riders.

Josh G
Guest
Josh G

I’ve seen many ped.s (mostly non-adult) crossing Powell at 28th using the existing island. Now that the island is way beefed up and left off of Powell to 28th is eliminated, it has to be a better situation, but I hope ped.s use signal or go to 26th. I’m not telling anyone what to do, just hoping.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Note that ODOT is proposing to REMOVE trees, ostensibly to improve visibility. I questioned that at the previous meeting last year. I still don’t understand how removal of trees improves safety if the pedestrians are crossing at RRFBs and signalized intersections. Removal of trees simply increases the freeway syndrome for speeding motorists. The proposed removal of trees is simply bizarre as it serves no useful function. I suspect it is based on someone remembering a presentation about improving sight lines at some conference.

I regularly see motorists blow the red light, especially westbound.

Show up and tell ODOT their “safety” project is deficient. The speed zone should be changed; red light cameras should be installed; the speed zone should be aggressively enforced.

rick
Guest
rick

ODOT plans to remove shrubs and trees, right? Very lame, if so.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Eleven bullet points, all more expensive and ultimately less effective than lowering the speed limit by 5-10 mph. Well, tree removal might be almost as cheap, but when you consider continued maintenance, probably not.

Unless “Improved Signage” can be interpreted as speed limit signs with low numbers printed on them, this plan is missing the most obvious – by far, and I was about to say by a mile, but instead I’ll say “by 5-10 miles an hour” – solution.

Evan
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Evan

What happened with the sign ODOT’s supposed to take down in this area of Powell? The one where a bill was introduced in Salem for the removal of just that one sign.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

It’s not a serious effort until they institute a school speed zone by Cleveland.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Thank you, Jonathan, for reporting on this!

Aaron K
Guest
Aaron K

My son attends Cleveland HS and bikes to school, crossing Powell at 26th. Occasionally I will drive him or bike with. What a nightmare this section of Powell is for walking along, biking down, driving along, or just crossing. Changes need to be made, but I wouldn’t trust ODOT to prioritize livability or safety for students or residents, unless vigorously prodded to do so. The biggest concern I have is oversize freight traffic arriving in the morning at the same time as the students and attempting to make a left onto 26th from westbound Powell right in front of the school. Is this the only way they can enter the rail yard? I see it happen every time I’m there. It’s so impractical and unsafe, it’s almost comical.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

The rail yards should be moved to the average between the Canby airport and Canby and the SE property should be redeveloped into a neighborhood. Canby is on the main RR line, it is near the Fwy and with the airport their it is already a transportation hub. That inner SE needs more housing is obvious.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

F’n autocorrect! acreage

Carrie
Subscriber

I can’t decide if I should write a blog post about this or post a comment, but I’ll go with comment for now.

I attended the ODOT open house as well as the PBOT Safe Routes to School/Fixing Our Streets open house for the Cleveland Cluster on Tuesday evening (with my kids). Why? I’ve got kids who attend Sellwood Middle and Cleveland High and ride bikes or bus/walk to get there and I am around Cleveland High/Powell Blvd regularly as part of my commute and as part of school activities.

The PBOT rep I spoke with on Tuesday was firm (almost militant) in his assertion that they are going to fight ODOT tooth and nail to keep the bike lane on 26th. He was at the ODOT open house to make that position clear as well. PBOT does NOT want that street wider for car traffic and want the bike lane there both for bike traffic that they feel is not going to decrease as well as simply a buffer for the residents and the school. We have a great advocate in this organization and need to support them in any way we can to keep this buffer.

Personally I think most of what ODOT is proposing is great. Yes I think simply lowering the speed limit should be in the mix and voiced that as my greatest concern. I also think BRT should have a dedicated lane. However I believe the additional infrastructure will inherently slow cars down in this section of town. I was concerned that by upgrading the 21st Ave crossing at Powell they were going to ruin it (this, plus the Lafayette St bridge, is a MAJOR N-S connection for those of us who live West of the railroad tracks). I’m pleased that they are proposing dedicated left turn signals off of Powell as well as having N and S 21st St crossings now take turns. And they’re going to bring the signal timing up to code at that intersection.

Finally, Target. Whew. On one hand I’d be so happy to have a Target I can easily and quickly ride my bike to. On the other hand there is So Much pedestrian traffic through there from 8am-6pm every weekday and I know most Target customers are not going to arrive by bike or foot. I’m very concerned about conflict and I’m also concerned that both the PBOT and ODOT folks I spoke with last night were not at all up to speed on the details of where the garage entrance is located relative to the track and the foot traffic and the significant, dangerous impacts of this location.

Side note: I’ve ridden parts of the new 20s bikeway in SE now over the past few days and I do like it. I do NOT like the routing on 28th because of the hill at Powell and the hill at Clinton. But I love the infrastructure. And of course you really notice the new infrastructure once you get south of Gladstone and you’re back to 2′ wide door-zone bike lanes and then the cars driving in the bike lane on 26th/Bybee (as much as all the bike lane protection gets knocked down, it would be awesome to have the south/west bound bike lane near the Eastmoreland golf course be physically protected!).

Doug Klotz
Subscriber

I talked to a ODOT Roadway Designer at the open house. He was promoting all the tree removal, for sight distance issues. I suggested they lower the speed to less than 35. He said “Why?” I asked if the speed was lower, wouldn’t the required sight distance be less, and not as many trees would have to be taken out? He agreed to that point, but didn’t say they’re considering lower speeds.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Cities should never have a speed greater than 30.

eawrist
Guest
eawrist

What happened to the crossing and bike infrastructure at 28th?