Bicycle users will have to endure stressful and dangerous conditions on North Greeley Avenue for another year because the City’s plans for a physically protected bike lane have been delayed.
Back in February we reported that the Bureau of Transportation planned to update this stretch of Greeley between Going and Interstate by adding a 10-foot wide, bi-directional path separated from motor vehicle traffic by a two-foot wide concrete barrier (see proposed cross-section below). The barrier is needed because a recent PBOT speed analysis showed the 25,000 motor vehicles on the road every day are driven at freeway speeds — about 56-59 miles per hour on average.
Greeley makes an important connection between downtown and north Portland neighborhoods from Arbor Lodge to St. Johns.
Today there’s nothing more than an unprotected, painted bike lane in both directions. To make matters worse, the southbound bike lane crosses over an on-ramp to I-5 with nothing to slow people down. In February 2016 a man was hit at this location and told us his, “Now, just the thought of riding to work makes my heart pound… If I’m not actively doing something that occupies my immediate attention, my thoughts drift back to that morning: realizing in that moment that the car is not going to slow down, careening off the windshield, screaming ‘no, no, no’ as I hit the pavement, my bike crumpled beside me.”
Classified in the 2030 Bike Plan as a “major city bikeway,” Portland’s bike coordinator Roger Geller said in Februar he was confident the new protected bikeway would be in place by this summer at the latest. The project is fully funded and the plan was to tie it into an existing repaving project. In an email on May 30th, Geller told a BikePortland reader that it would be built “this summer… likely around August.”
Unfortunately that won’t happen. The buffered bike lanes in the northern section between Going and Killingsworth (past Adidas headquarters) will still happen this summer, but the much-anticipated, concrete-barrier protected section between Interstate and Going has been delayed.
Asked to explain the delay, PBOT Communications Director John Brady said it has to do with state contracting laws. “We’re limited by state law about how much construction work we can do in house,” he explained. “Our projects staff decided that doing both the paving project and the bikeway project in-house could possibly give the impression that we were exceeding the [legal] limit of $125,000. So they decided to contract the Going to Interstate portion out and the contracting process adds time and pushed the project out until next year.”
Brady is referring to an Oregon Revised Statute 279C.305, “Least-cost policy for public improvements.” That law, which was amended with the passage of House Bill 3203 this legislative session, states that,
“If the contracting agency [PBOT] intends to use the contracting agency’s own equipment or personnel to perform construction work on a public improvement, and the estimated value of the construction work that the contracting agency intends to perform with the contracting agency’s own equipment or personnel exceeds $200,000, the contracting agency shall file with the commissioner not later than 180 days before construction begins on the public improvement an analysis that shows that the contracting agency’s decision conforms to the policy stated in subsection (1) of this section.”
Subsection 1 of the law says that the contracting agency, “shall make every effort to construct public improvements at the least cost to the contracting agency.”
This is an unfortunate turn of events for a project that we needed yesterday. I’m still not clear why PBOT didn’t see this coming before they decided to delay the project. I’ve followed-up with Brady to find out and haven’t heard back yet. I’ll update this post when I know more.
Bottom line is we don’t have safe bicycle access on Greeley. And we won’t have it until next year.