Splendid Cycles

The Street Trust declares victory as ODOT and PBOT compromise on 26th Avenue bike lanes

Posted by on May 3rd, 2018 at 4:18 pm

The bike lanes will become “shoulders” and the bike boxes will be removed.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

The 26th Avenue bike lane removal saga appears to have reached a conclusion. At least for the time being.

The Street Trust just announced that their shuttle diplomacy between the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation has yielded a compromise that will allow a striped space for biking (not a bike lane, technically) to remain. Also as part of the agreement, ODOT is forcing PBOT to remove the bike boxes that currently exist on 26th on both sides of Powell Blvd.

Here’s the salient excerpt from The Street Trust as posted on their blog:

“Under the new plan, the bike lanes ODOT had ordered PBOT to remove will be restored following the repaving of SE 26th. While the bike lane itself will technically be reclassified as a shoulder, the bike lane striping will preserve the three-foot wide area for bikes. The new plan will also prohibit right turns on red from SE 26th and provide a leading pedestrian interval to protect people walking and rolling from right turn crashes.

This new plan acknowledges that, even with the new signalized intersection at SE 28th Avenue, bicyclists will continue to use SE 26th and deserve safe facilities to do so. Unfortunately, the new plan will not maintain the existing bike boxes on SE 26th at Powell Boulevard. This aspect of the plan is disappointing, and we’re reviewing our next steps on how to address it going forward.”

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Protestors at the February rally.

The technical difference between a “shoulder” (as defined in ORS 801.480) and a “bicycle lane” (defined in ORS 801.155) is significant. Not only will the white stripe of paint be narrower (four-inches wide instead of six), the lane won’t have legal standing as dedicated space for bicycle users. A shoulder is for, “use by pedestrians, for the accommodation of stopped vehicles, for emergency use” and a bicycle lane is, “for use by persons riding bicycles except as otherwise specifically provided by law.”

And the bike box issue is significant too. The Street Trust specifically asked PBOT to maintain them. But since the compromise included removing the bike lane designation, there’s no way to design/maintain a bike box that’s connected to merely a “shoulder”.

The Street Trust calls this a “momentous victory for safe streets”. “Together, we made it clear that proposals to remove facilities that make Portland safer,” they write. “Can and will be met with remarkable grassroots opposition.”

According to a letter from PBOT Director Leah Treat to ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer, ODOT presented the advocacy group with three options and this is the option that, “appears to have the most consensus among stakeholders.” It’s not clear who these “stakeholders” were as ODOT made no official public notice of their letter to The Street Trust and the other options that were considered haven’t been made public either. (I’ve asked for a copy of the letter from ODOT to The Street Trust and will update this story after I receive it. UPDATE: See below)

From the text of that letter it also appears as though ODOT has granted PBOT additional time to analyze traffic on 26th in order to justify better bike facilities. “In that spirit,” Treat writes. “Within the next twelve months, PBOT will conduct a complete assessment and draft a proposal for improved bike facilities at SE 26th.”

There’s a lot of technical wonkery to this story that we haven’t reported. Thankfully, through this negotiation shepherded by The Street Trust, we know have more details in writing from ODOT. Below are the four key letters that shine new light on this issue.

March 12th, 2018: The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler to ODOT Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer:
Revised request to Review SE 26th requirement-2


April 13th, 2018: ODOT’s response to The Street Trust with an additional technical memo from an ODOT engineer:
26thStreetTrustResponse


April 18th, 2018: The Street Trust’s letter to PBOT Director Leah Treat:
SE 26th Bike Lanes - PBOT


May 1st, 2018: PBOT Director Treat to ODOTs Windsheimer:
Treat to Windsheimer RE- SE 26th Ave 2018-05-01

This saga began in 2015 when ODOT made the removal of the bike lanes on 26th a condition of their approval for a new traffic signal on 28th which PBOT needed to complete the Twenties Bikeway project. PBOT wanted bikeways on both streets all along, but for reasons that ODOT still hasn’t clarified (other than to say they feel biking on 26th is simply too dangerous), they demanded that the bike lanes be removed. ODOT’s inexplicable behavior around this issue led to widespread condemnation from the community. The Street Trust held a rally during a snowstorm back in February, and two weeks ago SE Uplift, the coalition that represents 20 neighborhoods associations came out in opposition to the bike lane removal.

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

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44 Comments
  • rick May 3, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    What does a super victory look like?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 3, 2018 at 11:52 pm

      That means you only get punched in the head two times rather than three. Ask me what a super duper victory looks like.

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  • Pete May 3, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Any difference in Oregon law with taking the lane when a shoulder is present versus a bike lane?

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  • Buzz May 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Since the ‘shoulder’ will no longer be classified as a bike lane, ORS 814.420, Failure to Use Bike Lane or Path, will no longer apply and cyclists will be free to take the lane, which I will gladly do, seeing as the ‘shoulder’ is full of manhole covers, utility cuts and other dangerous conditions.

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    • Justin May 4, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      I live right there, this is the way to do it. Maybe I will put up a sign to educate the cyclists to get out of the shoulder.

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      • Beth H May 7, 2018 at 1:42 pm

        It’s the right way to do it if you can keep up with the car speeds. Taking the lane is a terrifying option for elderly, youth and others who cannot maintain those speeds and would prefer not to get wedged off the road by aggressive motorists.
        Vehicular Cycling is an idea that no longer makes sense in our increasingly car-dense landscape. This won’t serve everyone equally well.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty May 7, 2018 at 1:48 pm

          This is true. Removal of the bike lanes will render this already sub-optimal route unrideable for many. The problem with shoulders half-solution is it creates deliberate ambiguity and plausible deniability for the agencies involved, the opposite of what we would want from a safety perspective.

          Bike lanes are by far the most preferable solution, and shoulders the least. There are other, less bad (but still bad) solutions that would be safer than shoulders, but would not serve the population you identified.

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        • Spiffy May 7, 2018 at 3:06 pm

          it’s the right way to do it even if you can’t keep up with car speeds…

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  • JJJ May 3, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    If you get hit by a car while riding in a shoulder, then what? Since shoulders are not for vehicle operation, are you at fault?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 3, 2018 at 7:41 pm

      Depends on many factors of course… but overall, I’d say a bicycle operator is at far greater legal exposure riding in a shoulder than a bike lane.

      But one good thing, as someone mentioned already, is that you’ll now have more legal right to “take the lane” (if that is an option for you) since no bike lane exists.

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    • Eric Ivy May 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      nothing even matters, the driver will say they didn’t see you

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  • B. Carfree May 3, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Given a choice between a door-zone four-foot bike lane that then becomes a three-foot thing at the intersection with a “bikey box” or a simple shoulder stripe, I’ll take the latter every time. I don’t ride in door zones, so marking one as a bike lane just adds to the anger of the folks in cars, since they do not understand that our traffic engineers can and do approve bike lanes that have inherent hazards that make them unusable and void our mandatory use law. I do hope PBoT elects to do everything in that third option they picked by placing the sharrow markings (and bikes may use full lane signs). Amazingly, those things really do help calm motorists down, ime.

    However, this whole fiasco is caused by the fact that PBoT and ODOT have prioritized parking and motorist throughput over cyclist safety. Remove the parking and then full width bike lanes free of door-zone hazards can be placed. Get rid of the left turn lanes and the bike lanes can maintain their full width at the intersections. Yes, this will come at the cost of adding time to trips made by motor vehicle, but that is likely necessary if we are ever going to get meaningful numbers of people out of cars. Once again, the priorities of PBoT and ODOT come through loud and clear, and they’re not the ones that our elected officials like to tout.

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    • Buzz May 3, 2018 at 10:49 pm

      Trouble is, motorists won’t know the difference, and nobody’s educating them about it,either.

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    • Kyle Banerjee May 4, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      B. Carfree
      However, this whole fiasco is caused by the fact that PBoT and ODOT have prioritized parking and motorist throughput over cyclist safety

      Why wouldn’t they do that? One thing that seems clear enough is that the general expectation here is that most riders go out only in good weather for short distances which is why cyclists have no need to travel at anything other than a slow relaxed pace — which implies motorized transport for moderate distances or any kind of weather.

      The reality of cycling here is practically identical whether there is a bike lane, shoulder, or no stripe, and alternatives are available close by for those uncomfortable riding it. If the goal is to get more people cycling, seems like it might be worth shifting focus beyond a few especially well served areas.

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  • Go By Bike
    Go By Bike May 3, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Looks like a victory to me! In my experience with ODOT they do not give an inch, it is part of their culture of entitlement. Do do not even want to acknowledge that people outside of their office building care about these things. Here, they are at least giving 4 inches of white paint and I am glad the Street Trust is claiming a victory.

    It is really crazy to me that the way our bureaucracies function (or don’t function) is through writing letters to each other. Such a waste of time to have to write a letter whenever ODOT does something everyone knows is stupid. It is time for the stupid to leave ODOT.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 12:26 am

      26th is not even their freakin’ street. ODOT’s not giving up anything. The big winners are short-haul truckers running freight from Brooklyn Yards to Powell. The losers are pretty much everyone else.

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  • Scott Kocher May 3, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    “there’s no way to design/maintain a bike box that’s connected to merely a ‘shoulder’”. Why? I believe where there is an LPI and “no right on red“ a “bike box” or similar advance stop line/box is a huge safety improvement. Recent tragic example: A person was killed crossing SW Barnes in the marked signalized crosswalk with an LPI in front of St Vincent. The driver was turning right and looking left for a gap in traffic. The LPI deprived the people walking of the opportunity to make eye contact with the person driving. Subsequent efforts to gain compliance with a “no right on red” sign added there have included targeted police enforcement but to little effect. A “wait here” box or “bike” box that moves the stop line back from the intersection is essential for “no right on red” compliance and the safety of peds.

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    • rick May 4, 2018 at 6:36 am

      When did that person die on on SW Barnes Road? I remember a two women were walking in the crosswalk with the legal right-of-way and one of them was killed by a person driving a car in a crash. Washington County had the disrespect to remove a crosswalk there in 2016.

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      • Scott Kocher May 4, 2018 at 9:58 am

        Here are more details–about the SW Barnes crash where a person driving killed a person walking, and about LPI’s–that should be highly cautionary for removing the bike boxes at SE 26th and Powell:

        The SW Barnes crash date was 1.22.2015. It was at the St Vincent exit not SW Monterey Pl as misreported by the Oregonian. Two people together were crossing north to south in the crosswalk on the west side of the intersection. At the time it was a marked crosswalk across Barnes with an LPI. A person turning right out of St Vincent apparently was looking left (where, as is typical, the “relevant” motor vehicles are coming from) and hit the people in the crosswalk. They were crossing on the LPI.

        An LPIs (leading pedestrian inverval) like the one planned for 26th and Powell gives peds a few (typically four) seconds head start before turning drivers get green. LPIs put peds in a “more visible” location–maybe clear of the lane where drivers are turning or maybe smack in the middle of that lane–for drivers turning on a green light. There is a “safe systems” basis for the idea of an LPI, since drivers can’t be counted on to do their duty and look for pedestrians waiting on the curb for the ped signal. Apparently some research says LPIs are safer, although I have not flyspecked that to see if the conclusions are overdrawn, as was done with, say, the “Zegeer study” that agencies used for decades to justify not providing marked crosswalks, or 85th percentile speed which was similarly used to justify not reducing speeds. At worst, LPIs deprive peds and drivers the opportunity to make eye contact, and put peds–particularly elders and others who may cross more slowly–smack in the path of turning drivers at a moment when they’ve had time to accelerate to significant speed turning across the crosswalk. Put bluntly, an LPI is a half-assed alternative to giving people walking a full dedicated signal phase that doesn’t give drivers any opportunity to hit them.

        After the SW Barnes crash, Washington County first tried a “no right on red” sign as shown in this May 2016 street view https://goo.gl/maps/NDv1pdjTm822 to prevent the same right turn fatality. They had motorcycle cops stopping (more “educating” than ticketing) the constant flow of drivers who overlooked or disobeyed the “no right on red” sign. Eventually (as you note, rick) WaCo closed the crosswalk as shown here https://goo.gl/maps/YCfYsMJcsPq. That’s really dumb because now people have exposure crossing three sides of the intersection instead of one. They still have to cross in front of the high volume of drivers exiting St Vincent who are looking left for a gap in traffic, and still have to cross Barnes, which WaCo operates as a five-lane, high-speed stroad. The far better solution, in addition to taming Barnes, would be a box that says “keep clear” with an advance stop line — or a bike box — that would prevent rights on red exiting St Vincent, plus ped signal timing that doesn’t put peds in the path of moving vehicles (which, again, an LPI can do).

        Bottom line, isn’t the setup for the death on Barnes exactly why at 26th and Powell we need:
        (1) to keep the “bike boxes” (or a “keep clear” box or advance stop lines–style them however you want);
        (2) “no right on red”; and
        (3) a ped-safe signal phase?

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    • Gerik May 4, 2018 at 8:50 am

      You’re right, Scott. And I think we can get an advance stop bar here to fill the role of a bike box.

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    • B May 4, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      This is an interesting question, and is likely a judgement call on the part of the Engineer.

      The MUTCD interim approval [https://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interim_approval/ia18/ia18.pdf] includes that a bike lane “should” be provided in advance of the bike box. In the MUTCD, a “should” statement is a non-binding recommendation. A “shall” statement, on the other hand, must be met.

      However, since the current plan would provide a shoulder that functions as a bike lane on the approach to the bike box, it seems a bike box would meet the spirit of the approval.

      As you mention, a bike box or an advance stop bar both encourage compliance with “no right turn on red” restrictions.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 12:11 am

    Sorry, TST. This is not what victory looks like.

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    • John Lascurettes May 4, 2018 at 10:15 am

      Indeed. How is redesigning the lane a shoulder, effectively still removing the bike lane from a legal standpoint but adding to the ambiguity to drivers where riders should be, an improvement? It would just be better to remove the line and add sharrows or nothing at all. I suppose studded tires will remove the lines before long anyway.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Here’s a thought… can I park on the shoulder?

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    • Spiffy May 7, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      if you have a scooter… but they’ll probably leave the “no parking this block” signs to discourage motor vehicle storage there…

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  • Tom D May 4, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Thank you Jonathan. I appreciate your continuing excellent coverage of this issue.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Does anyone know, from a legal perspective, how a leading pedestrian interval will work for cyclists in this context?

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    • B May 4, 2018 at 5:54 pm

      My understanding is that people on bikes would have to use the crosswalk during the Pedestrian Walk Indicator. It’d be a little bit clunky, because you would need to position yourself in the crosswalk somehow, and would need to enter “at a walking pace.”

      However. My opinion is that some of the recent PBOT designs on the 20s bikeway may have led to confusion on this issue, because they specifically direct bikes to use the pedestrian indicators (instead of motor vehicle or bike-specific intersection control devices) when the design is clearly expecting the bikes to remain outside the crosswalk.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 6:11 pm

        So… would they pull alongside a waiting car and enter the crosswalk from the street, or would they first mount the sidewalk and enter from there (potentially causing conflict with pedestrians)? Will waiting vehicles be far enough to the left that cyclists have room to pull up beside them on the roadway (i.e. will the “shoulder” extend all the way to the intersection, and will drivers for some reason not drive on it)? If so, what happens to cyclists arriving at the intersection proper at the same time the leading interval becomes a regular signal (permitting a vehicle right turn)? (And if not, how will merging work? There will be no green paint to alert drivers they are crossing a bike lane as they prepare to turn right, because they are, after all, simply pulling over onto the shoulder.)

        If there is not “bike lane” to the right of vehicles, will drivers know to expect bikes there? With a bike lane, drivers are obligated to yield to cyclists and not hook them; if there is no bike lane, cyclists may be obligated to yield to turning vehicles, since cyclists can only advance “if safe”. In this situation, if there is a conflict, who has the right-of-way?

        So many questions. Could someone from TST explain how they expect the crossing of Powell to work?

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  • bikeninja May 4, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Street Trust, ” we had to destroy the village to save it!”

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    • Gerik May 4, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      It seems to me that The Street Trust stepped in publicly and behind the scenes and successfully preserved space for people to ride bikes. What do you think was destroyed here and who caused that damage?

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 12:33 pm

        For one thing, if there’s another cyclist injured at the Powell crossing, ODOT and therefore PBOT will respond with “bikes belong on 28th!” rather than actually addressing the issue.

        For another, the bike boxes at Powell are a huge improvement in safety and convenience, and they will be removed. Even assuming something functionally equivalent is installed, cyclists pulling ahead of vehicles to ensure they are visible will no longer be sanctioned, which will make some reluctant to do it, and may lead drivers to exhibit hostility towards any that do. That will reduce safety and increase conflict.

        And finally, it is a huge symbolic loss — if the only way PBOT can retain existing bike infrastructure is to pretend it’s not bike infrastructure, what does that say about our commitment to non-motorized transportation?

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      • bikeninja May 4, 2018 at 4:09 pm

        Yes, nothing was literally destroyed, but this phrase from the Vietnam War has come to mean sacrificing the plebs ( villagers,cyclists, etc.) to further a real or imagined goal of the generals.

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  • Catie May 4, 2018 at 10:40 am

    ODOT Staff 1: “This is the restriping plan for 26th Ave”
    ODOT Staff 2: “They want to keep their bike lane”
    ODOT Staff 1: “Let them call it a bike lane if they want. Sell it as a compromise”
    ODOT Staff 2: “But we are still taking away the bike lane?”
    ODOT Staff 1: “Ovbiously”

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    • bikeninja May 4, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Odot Staffer 3: ” Let them eat cake”

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  • Josh Gold May 4, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Are we fighting over a line of paint while other cities are putting in protected bike lines and separated bike lanes?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 4, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      I think PBOT needs to build us a great facility on 21st — that would get most people where they are going as well as 26th does (arguably better), without the hills and inconvenience of 28th. Repave and stripe bike lanes south of Powell to Gladstone, with some physical protection where 21st/22nd turns and becomes Gladstone, and apply greenway treatments between Powell and Clinton.

      If done right, no one will want to use 26th, unless they are going to Dots or the Clinton Theater.

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      • Bald One May 7, 2018 at 1:09 pm

        Most people – except many of the children wanting to ride to high school and middle school. I want an improved 21st, also, but still am not happy about this situation. Needs to be “in addition to” an improved 26th.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 4, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    hmmm….

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  • Justin May 4, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    I live fronting to 26th right there. The bike lanes are already too narrow and unsafe, cars routinely swerve out of lane to accommodate cyclists. This will make this area less safe.

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  • Jim Lee May 4, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Did not “The Street Trust” used to be “Bicycle Transportation Alliance?”

    Not very trusty nor very bikey any more!

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  • Beth H May 7, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    This is a Pyrrhic victory at best. I see nothing about this compromise that makes bicycle travel safer at that intersection; nor do I see anything planned to greatly improve N-S bikeways nearby.
    If I take the lane I will arouse the ire of motorists for whom I cannot possibly pedal fast enough.
    If I ride the shoulder and get smacked, it will not be the motorist’s fault because the shoulder is a legally designed gray area that helps municipalities avoid some costly lawsuits.
    So what was “won” here, exactly? And for whom? (I think it’s worth asking what political capital The Street Trust feels they gained in exchange for accepting this outcome.)

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