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Fence abruptly closes access to Willamette Park path at Nevada St

Posted by on January 8th, 2018 at 11:56 am

The Oregon Department of Transportation Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau (PP&R) has erected a fence across an entrance into Willamette Park. Jeff Mapes, an employee of nearby Oregon Public Broadcasting, encountered a crew putting the finishing touches on the fence this morning. “Very annoying,” he shared in a tweet this morning.

Based on a series of Twitter responses to Mapes, it appears PP&R has also been caught off guard by the new fence. “We did not close the path nor install the fence; it is an ODOT endeavor that is impacting access to our park,” the agency’s Public Information Officer Mark Ross wrote. The fence is just a few yards from a railroad crossing that’s under the jurisdiction of ODOT’s Rail Division. “It has been a usable crossing and was just now fenced off. Not a good look,” Parks commented on Twitter on this morning. “It is a complicated endeavor and a hassle for commuters and park visitors!” (Note: As you can read in updates below, Ross got his initial information from a Parks project manager and has since learned that Parks did indeed erect the fence.)

The path section in question is a carfree entrance into the park that’s right outside the OPB headquarters on Nevada Street (see map below), just one block east of SW Macadam Avenue. For years it was an unimproved and relatively sketchy crossing (I’ve used it several times to get to OPB studios) with big bumps and cracked pavement. It was repaved a few years ago in advance of the Portland Water Bureau’s Hannah Mason Pump Station project, which the City of Portland opened back in June. Another factor that has recently brought more attention to this crossing is PP&R’s Willamette Park redevelopment project.

The three entrances to the park. The fence has closed the middle entrance (Nevada St.).

In a statement provided via email a few minutes ago, PP&R Media Relations Manager Mark Ross said the fence was required by ODOT Rail. Ross says due to the impact it will have on park visitors, PP&R is, “working quickly to craft and put up signs to direct people to use the other park entrances, on SW Miles St. or SW Nebraska St.” The Nebraska St entrance is about 1/3 of a mile north and Miles is about one-tenth of a mile south.

Using those other entrances, Mapes said on Twitter this morning, “Means riding on Macadam or sidewalk for a ways. Both less safe than riding over tracks that are seldom used.”

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View of Nevada Street entrance into Willamette Park. The new fence is just on the other side of those trees.

Why did ODOT erect the fence was the fence installed? We’re still waiting to hear from them directly; but Ross said it’s because the current crossing doesn’t meet federal railroad crossing requirements.

This seems to be a case where the path and its users have gotten tangled up in miles of bureauratic red tape. In addition to PP&R and ODOT Rail, the Portland Water Bureau and the Trolley Consortium (a Metro-led group that must sign-off on any changes to the design of the crossing) all involved in the design, permitting and funding.

Ross says the fence could be up for several months. “We anticipate the permitting to take much of the winter and possibly into spring before we can begin the necessary improvements. Once we have permits and a legal Crossing Order, we will look to make the needed improvements. Note that a contractor and funding have not been secured yet for this work, so a definitive schedule is not known yet. We continue to work on that with the PWB [Portland Water Bureau].”

While we understand the bureaucratic, multi-jurisdictional complexity here, it’s very unfortunate that ODOT decided to erect a fence over a path and did so without warning and without a plan for detour signage for users. The fence, which is black and has no reflectors or signs giving prior warning that it exists, is also a safety hazard. Paul Souders shared on Twitter just now that, “I (almost literally) ran into this fence this morning.”

We’re in contact with ODOT’s communications person but have yet to receive a detailed response. We’ll update this story when we do.

UPDATE I: ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton says ODOT didn’t do it. Here’s his email:

Let me address ODOT’s role in this.

1) We strongly encouraged the City of Portland to put up a fence there after certain safety elements at that crossing had been removed.

2) ODOT did not put up that fence.

UPDATE II: Acccording to Pacific Fence Co., it was Portland Parks and Rec who ordered the installation of the fence. There seems to have been a miscommunication. We will get it ironed out ASAP.

UPDATE III: Here’s the latest statement we’ve received from Portland Parks (and it was forwarded from ODOT’s Don Hamilton as well so he is in agreement with it (emphasis mine):

“Construction barricades had been installed at this park entrance since last autumn (in the neighborhood of September/October 2017), and the entrance closure has been noted on our website since that time. The closure is due to infrastructure improvements yet to be completed, part of the Portland Water Bureau’s work regarding the new Hannah Mason Pump Station. Those construction barriers were repeatedly being moved, and so the ODOT Railroad Authority strongly encouraged either a temporary fence to be installed, or for the City to immediately close/remove the path. In the interest of safety and expediency, Portland Parks & Recreation had a contractor install the temporary fence today (Monday, January 8) to comply. Noting the impact the fence has to park visitors, PP&R is working quickly to craft and put up signs to direct people to use the other park entrances, on SW Miles St. or SW Nebraska St.”

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

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bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Who put up the fence?, Gremlins? Did I miss something or is everyone involved denying it.

Scott Mizée
Guest

Thanks for the timely reporting, Jonathan. Could you please clarify your update. I know what you mean, but it looks like you are saying Portland marks says they (Portland parks) put up the fence.

Thanks!

“UPDATE: ODOT says they didn’t install the fence. Portland Parks says they did. We’ll get it sorted ASAP.”

rick
Guest
rick

If only that trolley was a trail.

oliver
Guest
oliver

“The Trolley Consortium (a Metro-led group that must sign-off on any changes to the design of the crossing)”

Does the crossing design include a chain link barrier to the path? If not, then then the fence should come down until it has been signed off, not the other way around.

axoplasm
Subscriber

I nearly ran into this fence (at speed!) this morning, coming eastbound from Nevada St. I was so used to the new sidewalk-to-path connection here that it had become part of my regular route. I wasn’t expecting a fricking FENCE.

It can easily be ridden or walked around. It’s practically a middle finger to the notion of efficient bike/ped travel. Jeff’s picture accurately captures the lunacy.

The distance to alternative crossings (of Macadam) is not huge but suggesting “Miles St.” is hilarious. That’s actually the bottom of Taylor’s Ferry. No one’s first choice. Nevada St. has a snazzy new light with reasonable signals and low traffic, an excellent crossing of Macadam for commuters heading downhill on Virginia or Corbett.

rick
Guest
rick

Fencegates have become so common in the metro area.

Lance Lindahl
Guest
Lance Lindahl

Let’s all take a moment to let the incompetence of Portland Parks & Recreation soak in here. They tried to pin the blame on ODOT when ODOT owns zero land in this area. Yes, they do have some regulatory authority over the rail line, but they do not own it. That would fall on TriMet which is the owner of record. What is their take on all of this and why haven’t they commented?

Grant
Guest
Grant

The next train scheduled to run on those tracks is “late spring 2018.” I’m glad this imminent public safety threat was eliminated.

http://wst.oregontrolley.com/wst-schedule-fares/

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Platinum!

X
Guest
X

. . .and in level 17, fences pop up on your commute route!

Scott Mizée
Guest

Many, many gremlins. 😉

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Or they could wait until the fence was actually needed, and useful?

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Did they truly install just that single panel worth of fence?

I can’t imagine being the fence guy for that project… “So, just to triple-check, you want the fence to go perpendicular to the path? Like, blocking it? Are you sure?”

One
Guest

The same Jeff Mapes that wrote the influential Pedaling Revolution. I love that guy.

https://www.google.com/search?ei=ketTWsCVN-uUjwTJ6q_YCg&q=pedaling+revolution&oq=pedaling+revolution&gs_l=mobile-gws-serp.1.0.0i20i265k1j0j0i22i30k1.27592.36575.0.38602.44.41.2.0.0.0.974.14715.0j2j18j7j5j0j6.38.0..2..0…1.1.64.mobile-gws-serp..26.18.6952.3..35i39k1j0i131k1j0i67k1j0i20i264k1j0i20i264i265k1.217.9B90FauXAY8

benschon
Guest
benschon

It would be nice to hear a commitment from Parks to keeping this public entrance to the park open, once infrastructure improvements are complete.

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

Dangers from a train that never runs… This whole rail line is a total joke. It should be converted to a MUP to connect Portland with Lake Oswego immediately.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Painting it black is an awesome way for someone to get hurt riding into it at night.

In totally unrelated news that has nothing to do with the new fence home depot has some great deals on tools: https://thd.co/2AGWf9d

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

I’d be tempted to see what some tools could do to that fence. 😉

Spiffy
Subscriber

nice to see PPR getting into the cyclecross spirit… we should get some pics of people putting their bikes over it…

Tim
Guest
Tim

The only thing “safety elements” lacking seem to be the white stop lines, Maybe the SW Carolina st crossing going into the Willamette Sailing club should be close also…..

Tim
Guest
Tim

closed

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Jeez, who runs PP&R anyway? Makes you think they don’t care for bikes.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Now I’m trying to imagine any roadway that is considered critical to people in cars being arbitrarily blocked without warning or public discussion. Just drop some black jersey barriers across some freeway onramp and be done with it. I daresay such a notion would never make it out of any bureaucratic meeting intact, and yet it is standard operating procedure with respect to what little bike infrastructure that exists.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

So, where is the gofundme for boltcutters?

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

Are they saying that this crossing must have gates, lights and bells under federal regulations, and nobody can use it until they’re installed and working? And why did they use black fencing instead of orange fencing? Hoo-boy. And no, they can’t turn it into a MUP because the tracks were rebuilt over the winter and the trolley will reopen this spring. The NIMBY’s who have the river views along Hwy. 43 say that any attempt to turn the corridor into a MUP would be nothing more than a bookmark for a MAX or streetcar line behind their backyards, which they claim requires a region wide election first. So, thanks to the new fence, you’ll have to follow the narrow sudewalk on Hwy. 43 very probably until the mess gets sorted out. By the way, the news that Tri-Met now maintains the trolley line will be news to a lot of people…not all of them ped/bike friendly.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

Too bad there is not real transit on this rail line that would warrant caution in crossing the tracks. Its a valuable public asset. Maybe someday.

John Peterson
Guest
John Peterson

Boltcutters

Jack G.
Guest
Jack G.

It’s funny, since PBOTs bike map for SW Portland clearly shows that as a suggested bike route.

I think there should be a contest for funniest sign that gets put up on the fence.

I’m thinking something like “Portland Parks and Rec welcomes you to Willamette Park.”

q
Guest
q

The fence didn’t go up today. I have photos of it from when it went up Friday.

q
Guest
q

This is brilliant. Obviously, nobody will do anything other than go around the fence, but Parks wants people to use the entrances to the north or south, so if people took Parks’ advice, the quickest way to the other entrances is to walk ALONG the tracks. So instead of walking or riding five feet across the tracks, people would be walking or riding for hundreds of yards along the tracks. And Parks thinks that’s more safe? Actually reality is irrelevant for Parks.

q
Guest
q

KATU reported on this today. Ironically, in reporting about the path being blocked, they parked directly on top of the sidewalk, with their cables strewn across it, from 3 PM until just a few minutes ago, with their headlights on aimed right into the eyes of people entering the path from Macadam–3 hours total. Earlier today, they tried to drive up the path, then backed out blindly.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

So if I’m following this correctly, ODOT, PPR and TriMet basically all have a shared and equal responsibility for this oh-so-Portlandia SNAFU??? LOL!!! Never would have expected it…

Evan
Guest
Evan

This is baffling. Is there really just one panel of fence?

Also, how in the world did someone at Parks think that a black single-panel fence across a path was acceptable in any circumstance?

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Nothing that a pair of agile hands with a bolt cutter can’t fix.

This is the kind of thing which makes me wonder, if indeed, government ISNT the solution… 🙁

John Ginsburg
Guest
John Ginsburg

The water bureau pump project took YEARS to complete. It is amazing to think that this crossing couldn’t have been considered in the overall picture of the park work instead of an afterthought. The parks department could have purchased fewer “wire baskets of rocks” (bizarre decorations) at the entrances in case funding was an issue.

Doug Klotz
Subscriber

Every agency involved has CYA’s. So now that the legal aspects are covered, everyone can ride around the one panel of fence and continue to use the crossing. I can imagine there are some safety volunteers in Portland who can help make it more visible so no-one crashes into it.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

So NOW the federal government cares about bicycle commuters? I would love to know the nature of the “improvements” that simply MUST be completed before this entrance path can be safely used.

q
Guest
q

I hate to even mention it, but a few days ago, there was a worker measuring the width of the new bike path (not the ramp to the fence, but the actual main path) about 50 yards south of the ramp. Another fence? I try not to think about it.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

A couple things:

1. Does a prescriptive easement come into play here? Seems that allowing this entrance to be used for a long period of time might trigger something like this.

2. Given that they’ve erected something that only really blocks the paved trail, yet allows most people to easily walk and ride around it, this might be seen as an ADA violation. It pretty much denies access only to people in wheelchairs. It could be argued that in practice, it’s targeting them.

Bret
Guest
Bret

Money is more readily available for CYA lawsuit prevention than for useful infrastructure

q
Guest
q

The fence is gone now. I just talked to a Parks employee who was gathering up the chain link. He said someone cut all the bolts last night and took it down. He was sent by supervisors to weld it back up, but isn’t going to yet, as chances are it would just be cut away. So right now, the posts and cones are there but no fence.

When I saw him, I was thrilled to see the the fence gone, thinking FINALLY there’s some common sense being shown, and maybe all the government entities realized they should just keep the trolley from running until this is solved. But no, the answer was someone else took the fence down, and Parks sent someone down to strengthen it.

In Parks’ defense, I think their idea may have been to do a token fence to satisfy ODOT, knowing people could easily walk around it. But they used a dangerous black fence, they wouldn’t address this whole thing for months, wouldn’t tell the public what was going on, and for some reason nobody is stopping the trolley. So here we are.

q
Guest
q

Now the City has sent someone down to look at the fence, but instead of parking and looking, they drove their car around the bollards and over the curb onto the sidewalk and Greenway Trail, and drove a couple hundred yards around the trail loop, in the process forcing a guy walking his dog and a bike off the trail, then left without bothering to get out of his car and walk a few yards to actually see the fence area other than through his windshield! It seemed clear he never saw the bike swerve around him. He saw the guy with the dog but didn’t even bother moving his car by a foot or two so the guy could stay on the path.

Scott Mizée
Guest

So, what’s the latest on this? Any updates for us, q?

q
Guest
q

Nothing new, really, since I wrote (on the other article about this) that someone had made several chalk marks several days ago–“x”s every several feet down the middle of the ramp, and tick marks every 3′ or so at the edge of the asphalt on both sides of the ramp, and on the edge of the trail at the bottom of the ramp.

There are still several cones and a couple “sidewalk closed” signs that move around. There’s no way anyone would know that this has anything to do with crossing the tracks. The only thing the signs accomplish is to block the better part of the sidewalk to Macadam, so people have to walk or bike around it in the adjacent street and gravel. The black posts from the infamous fence are still there, the center one marked by cones so people don’t run into it.

Parks and sometimes Water Bureau trucks still regularly park in the “no parking” zone in front of the pump station, sometimes on the sidewalk there, and sometimes with their headlights left on and their doors swung open over the sidewalk, so people riding or walking on the trail, and people driving to the picnic shelter parking lot, can’t see one another and have to maneuver around the trucks into one another’s paths.