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Neighborhood, advocates raise concern about Naito’s new gap

Posted by on July 25th, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Naito Parkway from Broadway Bridge-1.jpg

These buffered bike lanes south of the Broadway Bridge don’t cut the mustard. Advocates want physical protection to keep up with best — and safest — practices.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It took PBOT nine (nine!) years to close the first “Naito Gap” — a section of Naito Parkway’s bike lane that unceremoniously disappeared near the Steel Bridge.

Gap shown in red.

Now neighborhood groups and transportation activists are raising concerns about another gap. With Better Naito the ever-improving bikeways south of the Steel Bridge and a future project that will bring protected bike lanes between NW 9th and 21st (north of the bridge), a key 0.6 mile stretch of the street will be left behind with nothing more than door-zone bike lanes.

The gap in question begins just north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks north of the Steel Bridge, past the McCormick Condominium complex, under the Broadway Bridge and into the edge of the Pearl District at 9th Avenue (see graphic).

PBOT improved the existing bike lanes at this location during a repaving project one year ago. They widened the lanes and added a painted buffer between moving motor vehicle traffic and the bikeway. But compared to the physically protected bike lanes south and north of this location, neighborhood groups are worried that this gap won’t be low-stress enough to capitalize on surrounding development and demand.

The target of their advocacy is the City’s Transportation System Development Charge list. TSDCs, fees paid by developers to accomodate the travel demand impacts of their new buildings, are a coveted source of infrastructure funds (especially during development booms like we’re having now). PBOT manages a list of projects that are eligible for TSDC funds. The list is currently being updated and the newly proposed set of projects is scheduled for a public hearing in front of City Council on September 13th (rescheduled from July 26th).

“It doesn’t seem appropriate to maintain a lower-quality facility on this isolated section between 9th Avenue and Steel Bridge for the next 20 years [the life of the TSDC list], if the section south of Steel Bridge already has protected bicycle lanes, and the section north of 9th Avenue will eventually have protected bicycle lanes.”

— Reza Farhoodi, Pearl District Neighborhood Association

Last month northwest Portland resident and member of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association Reza Farhoodi sent a letter (also signed by the Northwest District Association
 and Old Town Chinatown Community Association) to PBOT Commissioner Dan Saltzman urging him to make sure the TSDC project list includes protected bike lanes throughout the entire length of Naito Parkway from NW 21st Avenue into downtown Portland. “This upgrade would help enhance multimodal transportation safety and access for residents within our communities,” Farhoodi wrote. “Including the residents of several existing and planned affordable housing developments along Naito Parkway and in the North Pearl District.”

The current buffered bike lanes in this section, “are incompatible with our collective vision of the street in the near future,” he added.

In an interview with BikePortland, Farhoodi said Naito is a key route that needs a consistently safe bikeway. “It’s the fastest and most direct route between downtown and Northwest Portland, where there are currently thousands of residences and jobs, and will only be growing in the near future.” He added that it’s “well-suited” for protected bikeways because it has relatively few intersections and driveways north of the Steel Bridge.

“It doesn’t seem appropriate to maintain a lower-quality facility on this isolated section between 9th Avenue and Steel Bridge for the next 20 years [the life of the TSDC list], if the section south of Steel Bridge already has protected bicycle lanes, and the section north of 9th Avenue will eventually have protected bicycle lanes.”

Dubbed the “McCormick Gap” this piece of Naito does have some engineering complications that are likely giving PBOT cold feet. There’s a landscaped median for much of the stretch in front of the McCormick Condomimiums that leaves just 25-feet of space between curbs in each direction. Demand for the on-street parking spaces is high and modifying or removing the center median would push the cost of the project way up. And with a fire bureau that demands at least 20-25 feet of width, a physically protected bikeway becomes even more difficult to pull off.

With these constraints, Farhoodi says he and other neighborhood advocates haven’t settled on a specific solution. “We’re just making the case that this section of Naito needs higher-quality bike lanes sometime in the foreseeable future, and that it needs to be eligible for SDC funding.”

If you’d like to share your feedback on this project, email PBOT TSDC project manager Anne Hill at anne.hill@portlandoregon.gov and PBOT Commissioner Dan Saltzman at dan@portlandoregon.gov.

In other Naito news, PBOT has striped a new two-way bikeway on the east side of the street from Davis to the Steel Bridge. The last piece is a new bike-only signal at Davis that we expect to be activated shortly. Stay tuned for a full report once it’s turned on.

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

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49 Comments
  • 9watts July 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    What would Copenhagen do?

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Adam
      Adam July 25, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Remove the parking? McCormick’s already has a surface lot.

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  • jake July 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I’m curious if the fire bureau would be more amenable to something like a small curb (which a firetruck could presumably easily get over) or bollards (which could possibly accommodate the equipment necessary for something like ladder operations). While that obviously wouldn’t be top class vertical protection, it might be a good compromise that lets the city improve upon paint while still keeping the fire bureau happy.

    Of course, I don’t work for PFB or PBOT, so I don’t know all the details of the issue. Presumably something like this has come up before in their conversations.

    We have a lot of narrow roads in Portland and this conflict is always going to be there, so it feels like we need to reconcile this pain point in a broader way that avoids it becoming an issue every occurrence. Outside of that, none of the other elements of this stretch seem (to me) like they would be prohibitive to protected bike lanes.

    Having ridden it a number of times, I would really like to see protected infrastructure here, so I hope the neighborhood is successful in this push.

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  • Jeff Beyer July 25, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    “It’s the fastest and most direct route between downtown and Northwest Portland…”

    Unless a freight train decides to park itself on the tracks (as they often do).

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  • rick July 25, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I believe the most horrible Naito gap is the old Harbor Drive (highway) gap. The split from Barbur Blvd at Naito and then riding a bike on Naito past Lair Hill. I’m excited that PBOT will repave Naito from the 405 overpass and then north to around the Hawthorne Bridge, but what about the rat race to the Ross Island Bridge? I prefer the easy downhill grade there compared to the traffic lights on Barbur to 4th.

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  • bikeninja July 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Much of the hope to improve automobile traffic centers around the technological fix of driverless cars that would optimize people carried and minimize parking. Seems like to meet the requirements of all the stakeholders on this last Nato Gap we should also utilize upcoming technology. To achieve protected bike lanes we could rely on overhead drones with powerful lasers that would instantly vaporize any automobile that crossed in to the bike lane. Firetrucks would have special beacons that allow them to cross without being targeted. Gaps in coverage could be programed in wear ever cyclist need to turn. To park, drivers would need a special parking permit with RFID that allowed them to cross the bike lane below a given speed, to fast and FIZZZZ. Cyclists are well aware the danger that befalls them if they cross the line in to fast moving traffic, I think it would do motorists some good if they could have the same sense of danger if they stray in to the bike lane. This seems like a tricky problem that only technology can solve, we can offset the cost with advertising on the drones.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • pdxhobbitmom July 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      This solves everything! Bikeninja for mayor!

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    • granpa July 25, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Posted at 2:42 PM. Ninja must work nights, because no responsible employee would spend their time during the work day writing fantasy

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  • Jeff July 25, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Do they pass muster though?

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  • Kate July 25, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I’m just going to continue fantasizing about a baby bike lane (often referred to as a bike gutter round here), or expanded sidewalk on Naito south of the Hawthorne Bridge to connect to the MUP that picks up at Harrison linking down to Tilikum. I kinda hate having to ride the sidewalk on Naito between Lincoln and where the Waterfront Path picks up, it’s the only sidewalk I ever ride in this City.

    What kills me is that there is no cross traffic on the east side of Naito so it could totally be a wider MUP, but the existence of utility poles/boxes and mature trees mean that they will never widen it to use the extra ROW. SAD!

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    • Geoff Grummon-Beale July 25, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      I totally agree. I used to ride that sidewalk daily on my commute and hated it. Also the intersection of Naito and Clay (where you enter Waterfront Park) is extremely dangerous. There are 3 lanes of traffic occupied by drivers in freeway driving mode and it is rare that they are looking for bikes or peds in the crosswalk. I witnessed several car/bike crashes there caused by drivers looking left while turning right.

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      • Kyle Banerjee July 26, 2017 at 8:24 am

        I ride through this area as part of my commute — none of the area before “Better Naito” is any good. The reality of this section is your safest bet is riding in the middle of traffic rather than to the side. If you need to continue further, the bollards closing Naito to create the “Better” space are too close presenting a nuisance to cyclists who actually ride on Naito.

        Another area that can use improvement is the Steel Bridge crossing. You can either slowly move with peds, dogs, and everyone else on the down below, take the ped path above which is typically empty but a nuisance for peds and cyclists alike when they meet, or take the deck with the cars which generally works, though you can get stuck in traffic after crossing.

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        • Dan A July 31, 2017 at 7:19 am

          I’m a pretty fast rider, and when I cross the top of the Steel bridge I take the sidewalk. Cars typically go by me at twice my speed on the way up. I can’t imagine taking the lane there and not inciting road rage behind me.

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    • Beeblebrox July 25, 2017 at 11:57 pm

      You’re in luck, that project is already funded through the local gas tax, aka Fixing Our Streets.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

      • Kate July 26, 2017 at 10:16 am

        Wait, which project? Can you clarify?

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        • Beeblebrox July 26, 2017 at 11:05 pm

          A bike path along the east side of Naito from Harrison to Jefferson. It will happen along with repaving of Naito, because it triggers the bike bill. Eventually will tie in with Better Naito.

          Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Mike G
    Mike G July 25, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    I agree with Rick. The Naito corridor is a major conduit through the city. The southbound to Barbur needs a serious look. It’s hard to negotiate safely, but one of few connections to SW out of downtown.

    I ride the Steel to Broadway stretch many times a week, and still have scars on my face from a motorcycling rear-ending in the bike lane near the Steel Bridge several years ago, strong evidence that this area takes careful heads-up, defensive riding. Further incomplete bike lane striping invites less experienced urban riders to proceed north where the path abruptly striping ends at NW 9th, becoming more perilous for someone not comfortable with pavement survival.

    North of that point you are on your own to negotiate auto and semi-truck traffic, truck loading, potential door jamming, old poorly angled RR crossings, and uneven terrain.

    Even at that, it beats Hwy 30 to St. John’s bridge or beyond.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • MaxD July 26, 2017 at 11:01 am

      PP&R is currently designing an entrance and Visitor Center to Forest Park that will be located near the intersection of Kittridge and Hwy 30. Taking Naito/Front to Kittridge is the natural (maybe only?) possible safe and comfortable route for people to access this Visitor Center on bike or on foot. PBOT should get out in front of this and create a safe route for people on bikes or on foot between Broadway Bridge and Hwy 30.

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  • Tom Hardy July 25, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    As nice as the wider semi isolated Better Naito is south of the Steel bridge, the last I heard it is still only temporary. by the time weather turns at the end of September, Motor traffic will be back to full steam with endless cars from fresh California transplants that know nothing about Better Naito, let alone bike lanes north or south of the Steel bridge.
    Sorry about the long sentence because I am on a rant!!!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu July 25, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I don’t see removing 0.6 miles of parking that is in high demand. I can see moving the parking to where the bike lane is and moving the bike lane next to the sidewalk (parking-protected bike lane). I can also see placing bollards or a curb to separate the parking and the sidewalk-adjacent bike lane.

    However, I don’t consider this to be a high priority project. That is already a rideable bike lane as-is. Many other streets in the city are in much greater need of better bike facilities – or indeed of any bike facilities. I think the incremental benefit of a dollar spent making this rideable bike lane better will be much lower than the incremental benefit of a dollar spent on those other streets.

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    • peejay July 26, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      High demand? People use parking spaces if they’re free. If they were priced at their true value (and part of that value is the lost opportunity to construct safe, protected bike lanes), I bet the demand falls away.

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    • maccoinnich July 26, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      Is your logic that once there’s a painted bike lane there should never be any further improvements?

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      • Beeblebrox July 26, 2017 at 11:07 pm

        When there are so many way busier and wider streets with either no bike lanes or substandard bike lanes, it’s hard to see this as a high priority. If the opportunity comes up to improve it, sure. But not really worth focusing on.

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  • doug B July 25, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Thank you to everybody that is pushing for better bicycle infrastructure here! I also agree that we NEED better options on the south end.

    A little off topic but what I’ve been trying to figure out with the changes to Naito is how to access the Steel bridge when heading south. What is everybody else doing?

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    • Tom Hardy July 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Driving or riding south are 2 different routes to get across the Steel bridge from the west end. Riding, you need to cut across the street north of the railroad tracks, go under the bridge and cross on the MUP on the lower level. Driving, you need to go past the Steel bridge, and the Burnside turn right past the fire station and go to 2nd, turn right again on Everett and take the ramp onto the bridge. It all takes a little forethought.

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  • mran1984 July 25, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    I ride this every work day. It absolutely sucks now. Unskilled, distracted, phone holding, “lost”, people on bikes that should have stayed in the city that they left because they had already made that place unlivable. Somebody is going to get hit head on by someone that should be on the proper side of the road. Copenhagen does not have hills, so you would not have to convince the lazy types to ride by making it appear effortless. Quit pretending to ride folks. This is not better and most of you have not been here long enough to know what better is. Oh, the California migration will continue by car no matter how much you wish while making transportation a complete joke.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • bikeninja July 26, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Can anyone translate this for me?

      Recommended Thumb up 4

      • Beeblebrox July 26, 2017 at 11:10 pm

        Nope. Doesn’t make any sense.

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      • Dan A July 31, 2017 at 7:25 am

        Hey kids get off my lawn!

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  • Lester Burnham July 26, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Naito, Clinton, Naito, Clinton, Naito, Clinton. If only other parts of the city got this much attention.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Kyle Banerjee July 26, 2017 at 8:41 am

      The reason all the focus is on these streets is that they’re the only ones that exist. If only the bike infrastructure was better in these two places, we’d be to 25% cycling share in no time…

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Adam
      Adam July 26, 2017 at 9:17 am

      If only the city didn’t spend three years on Naito and one year on a couple of diverters on Clinton, we could have moved on by now. These things should not be taking this long to implement. And since Better Naito will for the third time, be removed this September, prepare to have this discussion all over again next year!

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      • Zach July 26, 2017 at 9:34 am

        The irony of calling it Better Naito, then taking it away. Back to Worse Naito 🙁

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      • Kyle Banerjee July 27, 2017 at 6:33 am

        This iteration is better than in years past. But I’ll still be glad to see it go. With Better Naito, compliance with signals is bad — I see a wide variety of dangerous behavior every day.

        For all the hoopla, not that many people ride Better Naito, and the waterfront is empty enough when the fairs aren’t around that people who don’t like traffic can ride that. It will be safer for them too because they don’t have to deal with crosswalks with peds and cyclists to collide with when they ignore the signals.

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  • Ken S July 26, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I’m still waiting for any improvement over NW Front and hwy 30 between Kittridge and St Johns. Always strewn with glass and rocks, traffic moves at 15-20mph over the posted limit, no bike lane or buffer.
    How much does the city really need two lanes, each way, though these areas?

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Beeblebrox July 26, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      That road doesn’t belong to the City. It’s a state highway and belongs to ODOT.

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      • Dan A July 31, 2017 at 7:27 am

        Stock response: Why does it suck? Because it belongs to ODOT.

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  • Chris July 26, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I’m happy to see some thoughts/comments the stretch of Naito from Babur to the Hawthorne Bridge. When I saw the headline, I thought – “oh, maybe it’s my Naito gap,” but no such luck. There are three gaps on this stretch that could be addressed: 1)the turn off Barbur to Naito; 2) where Kelly merges with Naito; and 3) and from Lincoln where the bike lane disappears to past the Hawthorne Bridge (the idea that you’re supposed to ride the sidewalk on that stretch is crazy – I take the lane, it’s downhill, you have easily the speed of traffic. It’s also funny that Better Naito totally turns its back on anyone entering from the south…

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    • Beeblebrox July 26, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      There’s a path from Lincoln to Harrison, and it will be extended to the Hawthorne Bridge as part of an upcoming paving project.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Scott Kocher July 27, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Naito has unique value as a multi-use route because
    (a) the east edge has no intersecting streets (e.g., Better Naito);
    (b) it provides access to the river, all the key bridges, the north edge of the City and downtown;
    (c) the waterfront path south of the Steel Bridge is oversubscribed to the point that Parks has disinvited “fast” bikes, and north of the the Steel Bridge it is too narrow and windy for bikes or anyone other than sightseers; and
    (d) it’s not a reliable option for vehicles due to the freight trains.
    Yet, key stretches north of the Steel Bridge are posted at 35 and 40 (!) mph, and have no no infrastructure, and other stretches are a mismatched patchwork of compromises.

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  • ohhey July 29, 2017 at 7:57 am

    i ride from Naito/Yamhill down Front all the way to Siltronic
    the little section y’all are being so precious about rides like a Cadillac compared
    to the remainder of Front.
    Kittridge is an unspeakable arse hole–i cannot believe cyclists trust motorists to respect them on that thing–wayyyy too narrow, wayyy too many trucks.
    the intersection at Yeon/St Helens/ Hwy 30 is also quite tragic. lots of remnants of vehicle collisions most of the time. oh look, a piece of fender!

    leave the existing bikelanes alone–and make improvements BEYOND 9th Ave.
    i swear, i do not get why the city views 9th as some sort of barrier, and beyond is Mad Max.
    every year Front gets worse and worse, the motorists become more aggressive and entitled.
    i have been shoved into the sidewalk by Bus 16 and speeding 4x4s so many times, i have lost count. and these drivers all had the left lane to go around me wide open. they CHOOSE to shove me into the sidewalk.

    i wish someone could explain to me why, i as a commuter minding my own business, hugging the gutter all the way, not providing any real impediment to these people, why do they still feel the need to waste their productive time and energy going out of their way to put my life in danger?

    i will continue to ride Front like a dumbass, i will continue to gamble and hope my rolls of the dice to not get tore up by an 18 wheeler.

    what a time to be alive!!
    at least there is always that adrenaline rush to “look forward to” every day.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Dan A July 31, 2017 at 7:34 am

      Have you considered going another way? There are lots of stretches of road that would make my commute faster, but I’ve edited them out over the years to improve the odds for my survival.

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  • soren July 29, 2017 at 10:05 am

    I see the BP comments section transition to Vehicular Cycling Portland is in full swing. An angry minority, upset about multi-bike-cultural change, can poison online fora and — even — help delay change by creating a false impression about the prevalence of their point of view.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 29, 2017 at 11:06 am

      “Angry minority”?

      I consider myself often in that category Soren. Please respect other perspectives. And that goes for everyone. Thanks.

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      • Adam
        Adam July 29, 2017 at 3:14 pm

        Hard to respect other’s perspectives when they’re constantly telling me that I’m riding my bike wrong.

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      • soren July 30, 2017 at 1:07 pm

        online comments sections tend to select for extreme perspective because few people comment. for example the guardian audited their comments and found that less than 1% of readers comment and that 20% of comments were made by 0.0037% of readers. thus it is no surprise that those who are particularly passionate about “something” tend to dominate conversation and even work together to repress or mock other points of view. imo, this dynamic has taken hold of the bike portland comments section.

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        • 9watts July 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm

          “those who are particularly passionate about ‘something’ tend to dominate conversation”
          Yes. I think this is true, and probably not entirely surprising.

          “and even work together to repress or mock other points of view.”

          This is sleight of hand in my view.
          Your framing skips over the fact that some people posting here are in the habit of making outlandish claims, do not exhibit a willingness to learn from others, or refuse to support their assertions when pressed. To sustain a meaningful conversation it is important to maintain some kind of standards, and part of that involves occasional peer-to-peer policing. Or at least that is how I see it.

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          • soren July 31, 2017 at 1:27 pm

            we are agreeing, i think. some of the more frequent commentators have actually admitted that they are “trolling”. i post less these days because i’m not interested in feeding trolls…

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