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PBOT changing Outer Division plans amid parking and freight access concerns

Posted by on November 7th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

PBOT slide showing five years of crashes on SE Division between 122nd and 126th.

“Outer SE Division is really a mess.”

“Across the board we have overall support. But we’re also hearing, ‘Wow, losing on-street parking will be a big deal for our business,’ and, ‘How’s freight going to work?'”
— Liz Mahon, PBOT

That’s how Portland Bureau of Transportation Project Manager Liz Mahon introduced this project at a joint meeting of the City’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees last month. And she’s right. That slide above showing data from five years of crashes between SE 122nd and 126th is just one piece of evidence in the case against Division.

That’s why the City of Portland’s Outer Division Multimodal Safety Project is such a big deal. In addition to this being arguably the most dangerous road in Portland, the project is something of a test for the Bureau of Transportation. Can they match vision zero rhetoric with real, on-the-ground, infrastructure? Can they prove to east Portlanders that their pleas for safety are being heard? Can they do it on a faster-than-usual timeline? And most importantly, can they respond to concerns from businesses without overly compromising the outcomes of the project?

So far things have gone well. Following a high-profile kickoff meeting back in February, PBOT took the unprecedented step of declaring an official city emergency to reduce the speed limit on Division. Now they’re working through a plan that will include dozens of “enhanced crossings,” speed cameras, new and improved sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and a raised center median.

Space for that center median and protected bikeway has to come from somewhere. And that’s where things are getting sticky.

PBOT slide showing median examples.

PBOT design in Jade District. Note the center median (yellow outline) and u-turn radius.

“National surveys show that medians reduce accidents but also may hurt auto-reliant businesses. Division is lined with auto-reliant businesses.”
— Division Midway Alliance

PBOT’s initial plan was to use the space currently used to park cars on the street. While this project has broad support from many in the adjacent community who’ve been clamoring for safety improvements for years, business owners have voiced concerns about the loss of on-street parking and impacts to freight delivery.

“Across the board we have overall support,” Mahon said at the advisory committee meeting last month, “But we’re also hearing, ‘Wow, losing on-street parking will be a big deal for our business,’ and, ‘How’s freight going to work?'”

Now Mahon and PBOT are revising the plans to see where they can, “Create opportunities for on-street parking to come back” while making freight truck access work better.

PBOT has heard directly from the Division Midway Alliance, a nonprofit that represents business owners between 117th to 148th avenues. The DMA feels that the median and parking removal will hurt local businesses. “National surveys show that medians reduce accidents but also may hurt auto-reliant businesses. Division is lined with auto-reliant businesses,” says a notice posted on the DMA website today. Here’s more from that posting:


At a meeting late last month, business owners, some who said they felt left out, “steamrolled” in the words of one, of the planning process, told PBOT and other officials their concerns and views, including:

– Medians will cut their business because potential customers, diverted by the medians, will not bother to turn in;
– Delivery trucks will have difficulty making turns or finding alternate routes;
– Drivers will seek other routes, too, pushing traffic on to already overtaxed surface and neighborhood streets;
– Wouldn’t more police enforcement – ALONE – of speed limits and jaywalking reduce accidents?
– And why not fix the roadway, add streetlights and fill in the sidewalks first and NOW?

It’s worth noting that PBOT has been up front from Day One about how this project would impact the street. The official project website has this list of “tradeoffs” that are required to make Division safe:

– Safety improvements may require removing parking on both sides of the street. Instead of parking cars on Division Street, people may need to park cars on side streets or private property.
– People may need to use a different driveway when driving to or from a location directly on Division Street.
– People driving may need to turn off or onto Division at different locations, because a center median will help people turn at the safest spots.
– PBOT will work through these tradeoffs with the community through 2017.

Reached for comment today, PBOT confirmed that business owners in the Jade District are also worried about parking loss. “We believe we can accommodate some on-street parking with separated bike lanes,” PBOT’s Dylan Rivera said via email today. “And we are working with business owners on design options.”

PBOT slide shown at October meeting of PBOT Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Rivera said the larger challenge is the freight access issue. Namely, how truck operators can still service businesses without a center turn lane to stop in, and with a curbside lane that will be reserved for bicycling and separated from other lanes with vertical plastic wands (side streets aren’t big enough for large trucks, and residents don’t want them there even if they did).

To make this work, Rivera says PBOT is, “Exploring tools that will provide a protected bike lane while not precluding freight.” The solution could mean a raised — yet mountable — barrier to protect the bike lane which they say would keep cars out but still allow trucks to use the bike lane. Since they’d be in the path of bicycle riders, PBOT might restrict loading and unloading to “certain low-traffic hours of the day.” That idea was quickly questioned by committee member Doug Klotz. “I think it’d be better if trucks stopped in the right hand auto lane,” he said. “That seems to be what vision zero would call for.”

Another issue that came up at the October Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting is how u-turning drivers might encroach on biking space at corners. PBOT says they’re aware of that issue and will plan on using special markings to warn users of the hazard. Some committee members recommended that PBOT prohibit u-turns by large trucks and instead require them to circle the block. Others questioned why PBOT would design a project with danger spots built in: “I don’t want you to introduce untested facilities with obvious conflict points as part of a safety improvement,” said Elliot Akwai-Scott.

To learn more about this project and see PBOT’s latest plans, attend the open house this Thursday (11/9) from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at Portland Community College Hall Annex (2305 SE 82nd Ave).

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

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  • SD November 7, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    National surveys?

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  • Mike November 7, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Re: Freight access, how about some “rolled curbs” at a appropriate points, not unlike what was detailed in that article about OMSI’s proposed development, that would allow areas for freight to service businesses? Can sidewalks be widened enough for that to be possible?

    I know it’s not ideal, and this thought is absolutely not intended to pit people who walk versus people who bike here, but as long as there’s enough space it seems easier for a pedestrian moving at a lower pace, to get around a parked truck, then for a bike to have to potentially merge into a car lane (or up onto a sidewalk) at a considerably faster speed.

    To me that’s not unlike when someone is parked in their driveway but their car is sticking out onto the sidewalk. I have to slightly deviate my path, and it’s momentarily annoying, but it’s not life-threatening in the same way that it could be for a person on a bike encountering a truck parked in a bike lane.

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    • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      All the sidewalks that exist along Division from 82nd to 176th are 7-feet wide, from the curb to the property line, often with telephone poles and signs in the middle of them. Sections of sidewalk are still missing between I-205 and 148th, even though they were funded 5 years ago. Obviously outer Division doesn’t even meet basic city code.

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      • Mike November 7, 2017 at 2:34 pm

        Thanks. Hrm. Then it would have to be a mountable multi-use path (merging all the space for bikes and pedestrians together) for my idea to even have a chance… and with those telephone poles and signs unhelpfully planted in the middle. Blah.

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        • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

          If its any help, for most of Division the right-of-way between property lines is 90 feet, so with 7-foot sidewalks, the curb-to-curb distance is 76 feet +/-. If PBOT narrowed the car travel lanes like they do here in Greensboro to 10 feet, including a 10-foot turning lane, that would allow up to 40 feet total of bike/ped/parking, or 20 feet on each side with the sidewalks included, or 13 feet without the sidewalks. There’s a lot you can do in that space.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty November 7, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Freight is PBOT’s kryptonite.

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    • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      As is East Portland. Back when Leah Treat was hired by the city, a previous PBOT director commented that most previous PBOT directors were fired for a lack of progress in East Portland than for any other reason.

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      • B. Carfree November 7, 2017 at 6:01 pm

        Whoever suggested trapping cyclists in a curb “protected” lane and then having freight trucks use it for parking should be fired, along with each and every person at PBoT who either approved it or was present and didn’t object to it.

        That sort of proposal demonstrates the kind of mindset that has caused Portland’s stagnation in cycling even as more and more people are crunched financially by housing costs, which should have them giving the cheapest form of transportation a whirl in droves. PBoT will “check the box” (“protected” bike lane) and then make it dysfunctional because it’s not really important and we know all too many cycling advocates will accept the crumbs and fight against anyone who raises their voice for better builds.

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    • John Lascurettes November 7, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      PBOT is freight’s punk.

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      • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        But PBOT is apparently becoming more mild and conservative as it ages, getting away from a pro-bicycle stance and getting more friendly with car drivers. I wonder, does PBOT regret all those piercings and tattoos of its younger days?

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    • Dan A November 8, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      Street corner parking is PBOT’s heroin.

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  • Mike Sanders November 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I’m wondering about that reference to “national surveys.” Which one(s) are they referring to, and who put them together and funded them? Sounds like that argument over road diets they’re having in Long Beach, CA. Long Beach put one on a major street, and there was such an outcry over it that the road diet was removed on the argument that road diets created traffic jams that people (supposedly) didn’t want. Now there are efforts going on to put the bike lanes back in. The argument reminds me of the “Portland creep” argument over the SW Max project.

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  • Doug Hecker November 7, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Just because you dream of a sort of “utopia for cyclists” doesn’t mean everyone does. But at the same time, East Portland doesn’t do well being told what to do from people who otherwise could give a “ish” about us. Division needs more over paid cops doing policing. I also wonder how much the city is collecting off of those newly added speed cameras? Truth be told, I think the LED lights they installed to save money don’t do enough to brighten up the area as the old yellow lights did. Thus people really need to stand out with bright colors and lights, much like the rest of the people who use Division already do.

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    • Huey Lewis November 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      It doesn’t need to be a “utopia for cyclists”, not that there’s something wrong with that. It just needs to not be terrifying and life risking to ride and walk out here. I live in the one-teens a little south of Division and walking and biking out here suuuuuuuck.

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  • Zach November 7, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Does Outer Division really need that many car lanes? Why can’t two lanes and a turning lane suffice, like inner Division?

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    • Doug Hecker November 7, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      The housing crisis has caused people to move to the out realm where services aren’t as good as they are in the inner city. So driving for many folks is a way of life because it simply isn’t feasible. I doubt there are large number of people biking in from Gresham, happy valley, or troutdale.

      But also, Inner Division probably sucks for many. Lived there for 3.5 years and all I saw were cars and a lack of cyclists. Whatever dream the city had for Division has failed unless it was to have a street meant to be a “block party” the majority of the day.

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    • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      Car lanes: Outer Division gets about 38,000-48,000 vehicles per day versus about 10,000-16,000 for inner Division. Inner Division has parallel streets for cars if traffic gets too bad, while outer Division only has outer Powell running parallel to it, an even more congested federal highway (US 26). People who live in East Portland (& Gresham) really have no choice but to use major arterial roads for even local trips, as the residential streets generally don’t connect. This street network design was “best practices” in urban design from the 50s & 60s – basically all traffic is forced onto major streets, keeping residential areas calm and quiet, with usually a school and/or park in the center of each superblock. Multnomah County was in the process of implementing connecting sidewalks in the centers for bikes and pedestrians when the city forcibly annexed the area between 1986 and 1992, when all local bike/ped connectivity work ground to a sudden halt. 25 years later…

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  • Bald One November 7, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Time to re-define what “freight” requires. I expect most of the delivery trucks that feel like they need to park out in the street are food service and beverage delivery trucks. I think bigger industrial consumers of freight have on-site parking / loading facilities for larger trucks to make deliveries off the street. Business that require “freight” deliveries that do not have an adequately sized off-street parking / loading area for a larger truck are convenience marts and restaurants. You know, the beer truck that is parked in the center turn lane or in the bike lane when the driver is loading up his hand truck with cases of bottles. The beverage/food distribution industry are really the bad guys in this discussion. Why won’t anyone stand-up to the soda/beer distributors and require them to downsize their fleets to properly serve the needs of the city? What we have seen in this economy of scale is the evolution and up-sizing of commercial distribution fleet truck sizes over 20 years, and the consolidation of corporate distribution interests. City needs to push back on these fleet operators and make them get some smaller trucks that can fit into a regular parking spot – vans, sprinters, etc. It’s the SysCo, Budweiser, and Coca-Cola corporations that are driving our internal city traffic decisions because they refuse to use smaller trucks. City ought to make these distributors obtain a special license and pay an extra fee to operate a super-sized local delivery truck. Yes, it might mean a couple of extra trips back to the warehouse to complete a delivery run, but this seems like a problem that can be solved with some data analytics and more diffused distributor hub points.

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    • SD November 7, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      This is so true. Has anyone in city leadership ever discussed this?

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      • SD November 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm

        Actually, I would be happy if the Street Trust ever brought this into the realm of public discussion.

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    • Chris I November 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      Full-length articulated trucks should not be accommodated anywhere in the city, outside of industrial areas. These vehicles are incompatible with safe human movement, and efficient traffic flow.

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      • Bald One November 8, 2017 at 9:14 am

        Right, when you hear city and state employees use the very vague term, “freight”, as a catch-all excuse for doing nothing for safety improvements, this is a cop-out. Freight has many different, very specific, manifestations in Portland – many different types of uses, business, commercial activity, and types of vehicles. No one from government should use the term “freight” without clarifying what specific trucks and types of businesses they are protecting. They also need to tease apart the actions of professional, paid lobbyists who paint all use of trucks with the same brush.

        Many small, local business need access to delivery trucks, but do these need to be 53′ semi trailers? But, what really bothers me, are city government wonks using the term freight to protect the international container shipping hubs that have over-run our city, based on the never-ending needs of the UPRR railroad. Stinky, old, un-safe, aggressively driven diesel rigs hauling containers from all over the world down Portland city streets, trying to trans-load across disconnected rail lines – all hauling non-local freight.

        Let’s ban big trucks from locations that can be served by smaller ones, and stop using “freight” as an excuse for inaction.

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        • Buzz November 8, 2017 at 2:58 pm

          very well said!

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          • Bald One November 8, 2017 at 4:52 pm

            I think PBOT could simply put up signs that banned 5-axle trucks from many roads in Portland as one simple solution. This would allow continued “freight” designation of many of the roads, but restrict the largest of trucks from city streets where they don’t belong like 11th/12th, 7th, Division, etc.

            Beverage and food distribution will continue to be an issue, but along the lines of banning 5-axle trucks, it would create more jobs by forcing business into smaller, and more distributed warehouse/distribution centers. We can reject the idea of the super-sizing of the “freight” network, and instead promote the “smart” sizing of this network for “smart” cities like puddletown. Bring your load of shingles or plywood or beer bottles or fresh lettuce to a bunch of neighborhood distribution centers, split the loads down to smaller trucks, vans, etc, and deliver to the mom-and pop shops, and the smaller businesses and restaurants. This would be a job creator. How about Bicycle Freight – we’re going to need some extra wide bike lanes to accommodate those high-box, long-tail, wide-turning bike freight rigs.

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    • Gary B November 8, 2017 at 11:50 am

      And considering those beer distributors, at least, have a government-protected and mandated monopoly, they can’t even whine about the cost of buying a new fleet. I like it.

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  • SD November 7, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Ok. I’ll ask the question.

    How much auto-reliant business is worth one “accident?”
    How about 4 pedestrian injuries with one fatality over 5 years?

    I know this is a problematic question without a much deeper analysis of PBOT’s crash data as well as the effect of proposed changes, but it is no more problematic than the statement made by the division midway alliance.

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    • Doug Hecker November 7, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      Depends on what you are comparing it to. But for outer Division, the problem is lack of policing speeds and jay walkers alike. Not sure how mommy people in this group actually use this stretch of road but I highly doubt any extra crosswalks would stop the amount of people who jump out into the steet on a daily basis. At least two of those deaths were at night and the people were not in crosswalks. People often call this “victim blaming” where as I think a better term is common sense. Better policing and people using their brains would help vision zero without big daddy Saltzman waving his wand around where it isn’t needed.

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      • SD November 7, 2017 at 10:35 pm

        I’ll put you down for at least 2 lives.

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      • Chris I November 8, 2017 at 9:34 am

        Many sections of outer Division has stretches where there is no marked crossing for upwards of 3/4 of a mile. If you were standing at the north side of Division at 105th and needed to cross to the south side, would you walk 3/4 of a mile out of your way (15 minutes of walking) to cross at 112th, or just wait for a gap in traffic and cross the street?

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      • Gary B November 8, 2017 at 11:53 am

        It sounds like you’re in favor of reducing speeds to protect lives. Designing the road to reduce speeds (reduced lanes, more crosswalks, narrower lanes) is much cheaper than police enforcement. You should get on board, it’s common sense.

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  • bikeninja November 7, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    They used to have Alleys for this freight thing. Commercial districts have been designed with rear access for delivery since the middle ages. Who had the bright idea to do away with them and have delivery trucks park in the turn lane in the first place.

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    • SD November 7, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      There is a ton of off street parking and space in the images shown. It’s pretty clear that those buildings and businesses have adapted to the stroads. There is still room for them to adapt to stroad changes. It will only become more difficult to tame the stroad as more businesses are built on Division.

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      • John Lascurettes November 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm


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        • Zach November 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm
          • John Lascurettes November 7, 2017 at 4:32 pm


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          • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 4:49 pm

            Excellent video. I agree, stroads are bad and shouldn’t have ever been built (we have way too many here in Greensboro), but the video falls short on explaining how to covert a stroad into a street, as opposed to a road. Given the lack of other parallel options for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit, outer Division must operate as a street; it’s far too urban and densely populated to be a road.

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          • Concordia Cyclist November 9, 2017 at 9:03 am

            “The futon of transportation investments.”

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    • Chris I November 7, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      Median delivery can’t be legal, right? It seems incredibly dangerous.

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      • rick November 7, 2017 at 7:42 pm

        The police allows median car dealer parking on the sludge that is SW Canyon Road.

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  • rick November 7, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Dont back down.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 7, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Why is it necessary to accomodate U turns by large trucks?

    Delivery trucks can go around the block.

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    • David Hampsten November 7, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      Blocks? In East Portland? Where?

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      • John Liu November 8, 2017 at 12:56 pm

        Going westbound on Division, can turn on 82nd then around the block to come back eastbound. Going eastbound on Division, can cross 205 then turn on 96th and come around the block. Delivery trucks usually have a route and it can be mapped out to avoid making U turns. Big trucks making U turns is not desirable.

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  • Kittens November 8, 2017 at 1:45 am

    I’d like to ask the Division Midway Alliance what the financial impacts are of having a business located on a deadly traffic sewer?

    Sure you got your precious 10k cars a day and your dumb on-street parking but you also have some of the most depressing and under performing real estate in the city.

    Sorry, you may have poured your heart into a small business and want desperately for it to work, but you are not a traffic engineer or a planner or a pedestrian. Who anointed every mom-and-pop king and made us bow to the lowest common denominator? This goes for power players ones too.

    Not all voices should be equal. PBOT bends over backwards and pretzels until the very thing they are fighting for becomes so diluted it ends up nothing more than rebranding and talking points.

    Leadership is not taking a poll and going with the winner. It’s about doing the right thing for the community as a whole.

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    • Buzz November 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      also well said!

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  • Michael Williams November 8, 2017 at 5:47 am

    I always lean toward keeping parking when it is a choice between people DYING and a free place to store cars. Freight is a bit stickier but that can be shifted in time (restrictions on deliveries during peak times) or space and can have its own facilities created which are much smaller than free parking on entire block faces.

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    • rick November 8, 2017 at 7:31 am

      sarcastic ?

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  • Jim Chasse November 8, 2017 at 6:59 am

    This safety project is but a portion of the improvements planned for Division. The Division High Capacity Transit project is the next step following the safety project and will change the face of Division even further. The #4 (Division) bus line is the second most used transit line in the city following 82nd Ave. You have to consider both projects when debating Division’s future.
    Crossing improvements have been funded for years, but a fatality seems to sharpen the focus of PBOT to initiate improvements.
    The Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB’s) crossings that have been installed in just the last few years have been prone to destruction by vehicle impacts and have taken weeks, or even months to repair to working order. Is this a design/engineering flaw? Do they really work? Are they as effective as a Pedestrian Hybrid (HAWK) signal? What has PBOT learned from the constant repair of these signalized crossings? Moving pedestrians back and forth across Division to access transit and the business districts is paramount to the success of the neighborhoods, as our business districts line this High Crash Corridor. This project is not only about safety, but accessibility also.
    As a cyclist, transit rider, pedestrian and driver of Division St. it is imperative good decisions are made to improve accessibility for all modes, yet increase overall safety. Speed reduction alone has made this facility a little more sane for all modes IMO.
    Cycling on Division is for the “Strong and Fearless” riders only. What is desperately needed in East Portland is the build out of the “Low Stress” bike facilities that have been funded for years, but continue to be delayed. This would be a huge step towards meeting the city’s 25% mode share goal for bike trips. Stay tuned and attend the open houses for these projects.
    This is my “hood”, and I want it done right the first time!

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    • Eric Leifsdad November 9, 2017 at 8:05 am

      If expensive, fragile things are getting damaged by cars, we should put some cheap, tough things around them to take the abuse. We need more barriers and boulders in and along streets to keep these driverless cars in check.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

        I thought you were going to argue for wearing helmets.

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  • Bjorn November 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    If the city places a curb between the bike lane and the motor vehicle lane how do they propose to clean the debris from the bike lane that is going to quickly build up there? I am concerned about if such a curb will make it more difficult/dangerous for me to avoid debris in the bike lane.

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    • David Hampsten November 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      PBOT apparently already owns such a narrow street sweeper, as ODOT learned when they proposed a similar bike lane for Powell.

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      • Bald One November 8, 2017 at 5:05 pm

        I would really like to learn more about this sweeper – does it really exist, and if so, how often does it get used? I’ve never seen it in use – and rare evidence of it.

        I was rather frustrated to find the newly placed bollards on N. Greeley to create a new bike buffer were put down over several hundred yards, but the city had not even bothered to remove the huge quantity of leaf debris in the bike lane before setting them up. First time I tried to use the new buffered bike lane, I was forced to instead ride out in the car lane, since the bike lane was covered, and the it was no longer possible to ride at the edge of the bike lane due to the new bollards.

        City has a real maintenance issue and problem with keeping their new infra clean and swept. I guess it’s easy to design it and put it up once, but the hard part (and the part that they fail miserably at) is keeping the infra maintained. Silos…

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        • mark November 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

          I’ve also never seen any evidence that this sweeper is used. I shudder to think what the lanes will be like after massive application of gravel for winter conditions.

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