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PBOT begins effort to transform NE 7th Ave into a “calm, local street”

Posted by on February 28th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

It was a big crowd.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland is in the planning stages of their Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project and they held the first open house last night.

When complete, the route will connect the forthcoming Sullivan’s Crossing bridge (cross I-84) to Dekum Street in Woodlawn with a low-stress street where people can feel walking and biking.

Billed as a “listening session,” the Bureau of Transportation was careful at last night’s jam-packed event to let residents know they haven’t made any concrete decisions about the designs or the alignment yet. As we reported earlier this month, PBOT has looked at both NE 7th and NE 9th and both streets are still technically on the table. The poster boards shown to attendees at the event were mostly about greenways in general. However, there were some design concepts shown and we learned a few new details about what’s in the works.

In addition to getting our first glimpse at what the future greenway could look like, we also began to see what a future debate about 7th or 9th might look like. Keep in mind that PBOT won’t put the route completely on either street. The two options — as presented last night in the graphic below — include a mix of 7th and 9th or what they’re calling, “NE 7th & Area Mitigation” where PBOT would focus mostly on 7th and heavily monitor adjacent streets to mitigate for any diverted traffic.

Two options on the table.

NE 7th & Area Mitigation

In a posterboard, PBOT claimed that after they finish this project NE 7th would, “Be transformed into a calm, local street.” That would be a major lift given that the average daily traffic volume between Broadway and Alberta averages about 5,000 drivers in the bottom half (to Fremont) and about 2,500 per day in the upper half. Those numbers, “far exceed” PBOT’s own guidelines for neighborhood greenways. They aim to create routes with an average of 1,000 drivers a day with 2,000 being the very upper limit. Not only are there a ton of cars being used, people are driving them way too fast. PBOT numbers shared last night revealed that a whopping 26 percent of all auto users on NE 7th between Broadway and Prescott were driving over the posted speed limit (25 mph).

One reason for the volume and speed of drivers on 7th is that it’s a cut-through for Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd a few blocks west. Another PBOT graphic shared last night revealed that only 14 percent of the people driving on 7th are considered “local traffic”. “Long distance neighborhood traffic” and “non-neighborhood traffic” made up 37 percent of the total.

As for what the design might look like, PBOT shared a before/after image of NE 7th north of Fremont. Today that 34-foot cross section includes two standard lanes and an on-street parking in one direction (northbound). The new cross-section would add parking to the west side of the street, remove the centerline, and add speed bumps and sharrows to calm things down. PBOT would also add “frequent and well-placed” diverters along 7th to “dramatically lower cut-through volumes.”

Yes we noticed that PBOT chose a “before” image that included an illegal and dangerous driver swerving around a bicycle rider.

Note the added on-street auto parking on the left side and removal of the centerline.

To calm residents who fear such changes to 7th will lead to chaos on other streets, PBOT is being proactive with promises about how they’ll handle that issue. They were eager to tell people they already have funding to update traffic signal equipment on MLK Blvd in order to improve driver flow and capacity on that arterial street. They would also look at operational and signal updates on NE 15th, the other major traffic street to the east.

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NE 9th and NE 7th

Design concept for NE 9th at Fremont where the route would go into Irving Park.

This is the option that seems much less feasible. In this scenario, PBOT would make the greenway on 9th and do some less robust traffic calming on 7th. Community volunteers working with Bike Loud PDX strongly oppose using 9th for a variety of reasons: It doesn’t connect as well with existing bikeways, it has much more elevation gain, and it would require either going up-and-over a big hill in Irving Park or going around the park altogether.

Ironically, PBOT showed a before/after image of the potential design of 9th just south Fremont were the route would essentially dead-end into the park. To get through the park a new path would have to be built and it would likely eat up a huge portion of the project’s $522,000 budget. This option would also not allow PBOT to spend as much on traffic calming for 7th, which they admit would lead to, “Volumes lower than today, but not enough to meet neighborhood greenway guidelines.”

Feedback

With the changes that are likely to come to NE 7th, there will undoubtedly be strong reactions from residents. But from my observation of post-it notes and conversations at the open house, a majority of people prefer 7th. Here are some of those comments:

It should be on 7th. Put lots of diverters!

7th is more direct, less hills, no park in the way.

9th has obvious attributes sought for a bikeway. Solve traffic problems on 7th some other way.

7th is better. Straight, safe route to school. Eyes on school street.

2-sided parking on 7th would be safer for pedestrians and improve livability.

People already use 7th as a N-S bikeway. Keeping it would promote more biking.

As for next steps, PBOT host a series of “community design discussions” in spring and then we’ll see the final proposed designs in June or July. Construction is scheduled to start in 2019. Stay tuned for more coverage and get on the project’s email list on PBOT’s website.

UPDATE, 3:20 pm: If you missed this event, PBOT has just released the official online open house.

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

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Tom
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Tom

If they are doubling the parking, can they please daylight the intersections. Not sure why we need parking 2 feet from the crosswalks, blocking the sitelines

Justin
Guest
Justin

Cue the bike-hating NIMBYs.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

Says to himself, “OK, early in the design, so don’t get too worked up …”

No one is expecting new parking supply along 7th. Instead of converting super-valuable street space to CAR STORAGE, why isn’t a two-way protected bike lane under consideration for the 8 – 9 feet of cross-section that will be freed up with this plan?

May be this is a misguided attempt at making the project more palatable to neighbors? Some kind of karma contribution to the car gods?
I understand there is a calming effect when the street is narrowed and crowded … but let’s accomplish that effect with bike infrastructure instead of car parking.

With the complete lack of tenacity to remove parking [the doctor can’t even feel them when PBOT coughs], this proposed parking ADDITION will likely not be reversed for a very long time.
And of course, the trend is away from free parking, so once this area is permitted/metered, the happy glow on the car parkers’ face dissipates and we have lost – true net loss – street space to more car storage.

I just can’t believe I have to write this in 2018, with the policy directives already in place for the City, esp. PBOT. We need to deter [parking and] driving, plain and simple.

maxD
Guest
maxD

If they select 9th, Irving Park would need substantial work to avoid creating a lot of conflicts- it is not merely adding a path. The path would skirt a playground and ball fields that currently have very little to prevent people moving freely across the park east-west. Adding a significant path would suggest a big redesign that re-works much of the park’s circulation and probably include some planting/low fences to control and limit access across the new path.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I love the idea of 7th- with the improvement in place through the Lloyd district and forthcoming Sullivan’s crossing bridge, it seems like the natural choice. 7th already has a signal at Fremont creating a safe crossing for people on bikes. Additionally, it is closer to the many destinations on MLK. I hope PBOT will consider extending the bike lanes on Skidmore from N Michigan to NE 7th to provide a straight, safe way to cross the busy streets and access the commercial districts and bike facilitites

Ted Buehler
Guest

Folks, if you were unable to attend the Open House but still want toPBOT to hear your opinions, you can:

1) View the Open House materials here:
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/674874

2) Submit your comments to Project Manager Nick Falbo at nick.falbo@portlandoregon.gov

(All linked to at the project home page at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/75668 )

Thanks for covering this, Jonathan,

Ted Buehler
Boise Neighborhood resident.

J.E.
Guest
J.E.

Adding back parking to narrow the street is a terrible idea.

It works well if you’re trying to traffic calm a non-greenway. But if you look at the narrow greenways in the city, such as SE 16th through Ladd’s Addition, or the eastern portion of the Clinton-Woodward greenway, narrowing the roadway greatly reduces comfort and ease of use. Either cars still try and squeeze around you with only inches to spare (as is the case on eastern Clinton), or the cyclist has to pull over to let the car pass (as is the case on 16th; while the driver could be the one to pull over, since bikes are smaller and more nimble it’s usually just easier for us to pull over). Especially on 16th, I cycle slower than usual because cars pulling out from driveways/side streets have to take up most of the roadway when turning, which could cause a head-on collision if I’m traveling fast.

The 1000-2000 vpd metric is ideal for wider greenways (like the western portion of Clinton between 12th-CChavez), but for a street so narrow two cars would struggle to pass each other, even 1000 vpd is undesirable, especially on uphill stretches where bikes are traveling much slower than the vehicular traffic stuck behind them. If PBOT is serious about moving forward with this significantly-narrowed vision of 7th, they’d better be ready to put diversion up every 1/8-1/4 mile.

joan
Subscriber

Does anyone know when the MLK signal timing project will happen? I feel like I’ve been hearing about it for at least two years, though I suppose I could be thinking of different projects.

Champs
Guest
Champs

The “cut-through for Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd a few blocks west” is actually just one block away. Eliot blocks are long and the streets are wide. Every street between Russell and Fremont desperately needs speed bumps, but that’s a different story.

“[O]nly 14 percent of the people driving on 7th are considered ‘local traffic'” surprising absolutely nobody who even occasionally rides there. A lingering shadow is practically guaranteed almost any day and time you take it northbound (uphill) as if they have no other route.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

LOL, I’ll believe it when I see it, and the end product actually has to be usable and safe for cyclists.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I don’t think radical changes to 7th street itself are necessary. Several diverters and several stop signs, strategically placed, would make it unwelcoming for cut through traffic. Then speed bumps and signage. This works for Ankeny and Clinton.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

just some good new pavement would help, like at 7th and Tillamook

Bdog
Guest
Bdog

9th avenue makes no sense. 7th already has traffic lights at 3 very busy intersections (Fremont, Prescott & Alberta). Plus, the city acknowledges drivers are inappropriately using 7th as a cut-through, despite running past 2 parks and a school. Seems like a perfect place for a road diet to me.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

For people who still doubt the potential for a separated cycle track on 7th, Seattle’s Linden Ave provides yet another example of how well it works (perhaps even better if 7th were converted to a one-way). While Portland stagnates and considers mediocre infrastructure upgrades in coordination with adding parking, other cities are installing infrastructure that has been gold standard for decades.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3fqq3LIbb8

x
Guest
x

Since there is a congestion problem for northbound evening motor vehicle traffic in North and Northeast Portland (on Interstate, Gibbs, I-5, Williams, MLK, NE 7th, and so on to the East) we could apply a realpolitik solution and split NE 7th into a northbound auto lane and an adjoining two-way cycle track, buffered by cars parked in the strip between. Signals could timed to keep the flows separate at major intersections and a few points in between, such as Tillamook.

Don’t get me wrong–this sounds appalling but my ideas were slightly modified by the video linked by eawriste above.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3fqq3LIbb8

For those who want anything but that, my preferred option: A parking-free NE 7th with those g-d little single-tree bubble not-roundabout thingies replaced by diverters that allow people on bikes to pass but no other through traffic. The street would be *unstriped* but have local delivery parking spots, street furniture and planters near the margins, basketball goals and similar play structures every block or so. Parts of the surface could be porous, with a reasonably straight continuous line of pavement through the middle for wheeled vehicles. Existing driveways would be marked with differing pavement or pavers so that people are aware of potential conflicts. On-street car parking would be relegated to the side streets off the greenway.

It’s a pretty clear choice. I live on NE 8th and I could deal with either one, and I’d be happy to let the people who actually live on the street make the decision. What I don’t want is a bunch of confusing half-measures meant to accommodate every use but ultimately pleasing nobody. I’m tired of the splotches and stripes of paint applied somewhat at random, mainly serving to show where car tires are actually traveling.