After hundreds of comments, dueling online petitions, and a now-legendary open house that devolved into a “mob scene” takeover, the City of Portland has emerged with a new approach to the Lincoln-Harrison Neighborhood Greenway Enhancement Project.
They have altered their initial plans and — in an effort to assuage naysayers of certain elements of the old plan — have redoubled their efforts to effectively communicate the need for the project in general.
To answer critics who question the need for improving bike access while making auto access less convenient, the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) brought out key facts and policy statements we wish they’d be more aggressive with more often. Dusting off a provocative graphic, they said if we don’t shift more people to non-driving modes Portland will need 23 Powell Boulevards criss-crossing every neighborhood in the city to handle traffic by 2025. They also published the statement: “Investments in bicycle transportation provide the city’s best return on investment in personal mobility.”
And then they used this common sense and reasonable — yet very powerful — justification: “For a range of reasons, Portland has decided it would be better to design for and encourage more walking, biking, and transit use than to build enough roadway capacity to ease increased driving. Climate change, congestion, individual health, community health, and environmental health are a few of these reasons.”
Let’s quickly revisit how we got here:
Lincoln-Harrison is one of Portland’s original “bike boulevards” (now called neighborhood greenways) and the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is taking a hard look at it due to the increase in the number of people who drive on it — too many of whom drive at unsafe speeds. As they recently did with Southeast Clinton, PBOT went to their neighborhood greenway toolkit and announced a series of changes last October aimed at making the street safer. The plan included speed bumps, safer crossings, and median traffic diverters aimed at limited access to certain blocks at certain intersections.
It’s those diverters that attracted the most negative reaction from some local residents. A diverter planned for Lincoln at 50th would have completely prevented people from turning onto Lincoln. After pushback, PBOT has now decided on a new diverter design that allows right turns onto Lincoln from 50th. A “low-cost” diverter median will be installed this spring on an interim basis so PBOT can begin to collect traffic data.
On a related front, people also expressed concerns that if too many drivers were diverted off Lincoln, other streets would fill up. PBOT says the new interim diverter will give them the data they need to assess impacts and consider traffic calming measures on other streets if necessary. The City will also move forward with eight new speed bumps on SE Hawthorne between 50th and 60th to address concerns that drivers will simply cut-through on that street instead.
The entire new plan has been released in what I think is a first for PBOT: a slick “story map” that significantly ups their communication game. And so far the response to the new plan from the Bike Loud PDX email list is positive and cautiously optimistic.
The project is now full-steam-ahead with diverters at Lincoln and 50th due to be installed this spring and the rest of the project — which includes diverters at SE 26th and 30th — slated for construction this summer. The project should be all wrapped up with new signage and striping by late fall of this year.
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