Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 5th, 2017 at 12:19 pm
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
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)