Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

What’s going on with the North Rosa Parks Way project?

Posted by on June 21st, 2018 at 4:28 pm

With a staggered rollout of key project features, the results of the Rosa Parks project have been a mixed bag thus far.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

“We’re definitely learning some lessons.”
— Scott Cohen, PBOT project manager

It’s been six weeks since the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) began grinding off pavement and laying down new lane striping as part of the North Rosa Parks Way project. Yet despite weeks of dry weather and no major controversy or pushback (at least that we’ve been able to confirm), the project is still not closed to being finished. Meanwhile, people who ride on the two-mile stretch between Martin Luther King Jr and Willamette boulevards are frustrated by incomplete striping and many people park their cars illegally in the new bike lanes.

At the end of May, PBOT posted an update that acknowledged the major elements of the project that remain: they haven’t even began on the sections from Delaware to Interstate and Williams to MLK; none of the promised, plastic delineator posts have been installed; no permanent “No Parking” signage has been added despite a major change in parking availability; many bits of pavement markings are incomplete; and a median island crossing at Villard has yet to be started on.

But here we are, nearly one month later, and there’s been little to no progress on those issues.

I realize there are many variables to street projects and I prefer to not chime in on a project until it’s 100 percent complete. But something feels odd about this one. Things are half-way done, as if crews just up-and-left for something else. Or worse, PBOT has hit a roadblock due to angry neighbors or some other bureaucratic hurdle. Also, the inconsistent striping exists without any caution or work-zone signs and people continue to park illegally in the newly marked bike lanes instead of the “floating” parking spots. Meanwhile, vulnerable road users are thrown into the mix and forced to adjust and survive.

Hoping to learn the latest, I jumped on a call today with PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen and Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera. Here’s what I asked and what I learned:

➤ What’s the status of the median crossing at Villard?
The design isn’t finalized yet. Cohen plans to attend the Arbor Lodge neighborhood meeting tonight to give them one last chance to provide feedback. One of the proposed designs would limit turning option for cars users. “All diversion is controversial,” Cohen shared today. “And there’s definitely been some outspoken residents about which design should move forward.” Cohen has the insane Lincoln/Harrison neighborhood meeting seared into his memory and doesn’t want a repeat. “I want the neighborhood association to be looped in.” To help calm hearts and minds, Cohen has sent a letter to everyone who lives on Villard near Rosa Parks, “To make sure everyone feels included.” After tonight’s meeting Cohen said PBOT will be ready to move forward on the final design and construction of the median.

➤ Why are two huge sections of the street still untouched?
With some sections already repaved and restriped, it’s awkward for everyone to have two sections with the old configuration. Cohen says the reason for this is because these sections have newer pavement and the usual machine PBOT uses to grind off striping damages the surface. He doesn’t want to leave bumps (think of the bumps left on Broadway downhill toward Hoyt), so they decided to contract with a private company that uses a water-based method of striping removal. That work has been scheduled and Cohen said it should be done, “In weeks or months.”

➤ Where are the plastic delineator posts you promised us?
Cohen said nearby residents told PBOT they were worried rows of white, plastic wands would make Rosa Parks feel less like a neighborhood and more like a highway. The location of this project (in a neighborhood) is much different than the typical downtown or commercial contexts where PBOT usually installs plastic wands. “Generally, the protected bike lane is wanted,” Cohen explained today, “But the neighbors we heard from want something besides what we typically do [plastic wands].” Because of this feedback, PBOT sought and received additional funding to use something else as the protective material in the buffer zones. Cohen didn’t tell me what exactly it would be because they’re still getting feedback. There are some locations where PBOT is moving ahead with plastic posts ASAP: Where there’s new floating parking spots, they plan to install posts with parking signage on them. Those should be installed very soon.

Advertisement

➤ Why is some of the striping still not finished?
I didn’t get a clear answer for this from either Cohen or Rivera. Cohen said the City’s two striping crews (one for the east side and one for the west side) are very busy this time of year. Rivera added that, “Striping work is in high demand, they [crews] have a million demands on their time and they’re trying to address as much of that as possible.” Rivera added that even though the striping is different from block-to-block, riders should just follow what’s there.

Southwest corner of Albina intersection where PBOT wants to install a floating bus island; but not before TriMet signs off on it.

➤ Where’s the bus island that’s supposed to be installed on southwest corner of Albina intersection?
PBOT has striped this location and created the space for a future island, but as you can see in the photo, bus operators still pull all the way over into the bike lane to service the stop on the corner. Cohen says the island hasn’t been installed yet because they’re still, “Working with TriMet on how best to move forward.” In the meantime, PBOT plans to test modular platforms (which he described are like “big LEGOs”) at two locations in the similarly designed bike lanes of SE Morrison. Cohen says they’ll analyze how those work and see if it’d make sense to use them on Rosa Parks. PBOT hasn’t done many floating bus islands, so they seem hesitant to pour expensive concrete before knowing for sure how bus operators and riders will use it.

This flyer is all over the street but many people still can’t figure it out.

➤ What are you doing to encourage better parking compliance?
People are slowly getting better at parking away from the curb and out of the new bike lanes, but illegal parking is still common. Cohen would have liked the new parking signage and posts to all be installed simultaneously with the new striping; but that didn’t happen. He’s aware that people are still not parking their cars correctly and says he’s been in touch with Portland Parks to do more education with Peninsula Park visitors. PBOT plans to put up more of the 8.5 x 11-inch flyers that explain how to park and they have also called Parking Enforcement out to do extra patrols. “I think when the delineators [posts] come with parking signs on them, that will alleviate the issue.” The new signs are in the Maintenance Operations work order queue but Cohen wasn’t able to give us exact timeline.

➤ Is the delayed roll-out of this project normal?
The short answer is No. Cohen admitted he’s learning lessons on-the-fly. Why? This project started as a repaving project and PBOT seized the opportunity to reconfigure the street and add the protected bike lane. It’s not a full-fledged capital project that would have set-aside engineering and planning funds, so it’s not being rolled-out with the usual budget or oversight. “This is a new endeavor for us to have new striping and signage over such a long corridor at once… it’s the first time we’ve done something of this magnitude that’s not a capital project… We bit off a big bite which is not typically what we do with a ‘missing links’ project [referring to a pot of money PBOT typically uses to fix small bikeway gaps] and we’re definitely learning some lessons,” Cohen explained. “Would I have preferred that everything [the parking signage and protective material] lined up right on top of the striping changes? Yes. But it didn’t play out that way.”

Rivera further added that what makes the Rosa Parks project different (and challenging) for PBOT is that it’s a “Very significant, big, safety improvement to the way the street is being used, and it’s being done in a very nimble way.” He also said parking-protected bike lanes are “relatively uncommon” for PBOT, especially in a residential neighborhood context. “There are only a couple other examples and they’re downtown or close-in. But here we are in a neighborhood in front of people’s homes on a key corridor miles from downtown, and we’re providing a really significant safety and comfort improvement for the bike facility without having to turn it into a 10-year, $6 million endeavor like a greenway project or something on that scale.”

In the end, Cohen (who lives in the neighborhood) and Rivera say they’re working as quickly as they can and the benefits will be worth the wait. “I understand peoples’ frustration. I would just let people know we are working on many levels as quickly as possible… hopefully next time we can do another safety project like this, the rollout will be smoother after this learning experience.”

Cohen will attend the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association meeting tonight to give an update on the project. Meeting details here.

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

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

54
Leave a Reply

avatar
16 Comment threads
38 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
24 Comment authors
Bald OneMatt MeskillThe eBike StoreqChris I Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Mick O
Guest
Mick O

“PBOT sought and received additional funding to use something else as the protective material in the buffer zones. Cohen didn’t tell me what exactly it would be because they’re still getting feedback.”

Sought and received additional funding….

Before doing a study, before finalizing a plan, before sending out a fancy PDF! Without having to wait for the next cycle of road work! Without even knowing exactly what they would be spending it on! PBOT sought and received additional funding!

What a beautiful world I’ve woken up into! What a brave new reality! Please oh please let this be precedent. Never let them forget this moment.

jonno
Guest
jonno

The in-pavement sensors at Vancouver and Rosa Parks don’t seem to be working either, or the light cycles are all messed up. The wait is forever and it doesn’t matter which way I’m coming from or whether I’m in a car or on a bike. Frustrating.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

We’ve stopped riding that section of Rosa Parks, taking Delaware up to Dekum or so before heading over to Willamette. I don’t expect to come back even when it is finished: too many troublesome intersections.

Christopher of Portland
Guest
Christopher of Portland

I’ve seen cars parked on top of bike symbols, in front of No Parking signs, and in bike lanes far too narrow to appear to be a parking strip. It takes a lot more than possibly soggy and sun bleached 8.5×11 printouts to get people to not do it. It still happens on old bike lanes. It doesn’t help that the buffers resemble the narrow bike lanes on some of the roads around here.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

“they have also called Parking Enforcement out to do extra patrols”

You mean that division run by the dude who used to handle Traffic enforcement? Sure, I’ll wait.

… Doot do doo-de-dooo. Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. Your call IS important to us…

Liane D
Guest
Liane D

I was waiting for the bus at the corner of Rosa Parks and Alvina this morning. In 10 minutes, I lost count of how many cars moved into the green ‘bike lane’ for a right turn (there used to be a right turn lane there) and then counted at least 3 cars that turned right from the car lane but didn’t notice the bikes coming up on the right side in the bike lane (classic right hook scenarios). I’m concerned that removal of that right turn lane there may do more harm then good…at least I knew which cars were planning to turn right even if they weren’t signaling.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Something needs to be done quickly in the westbound block before I-5 to keep drivers out of the bike lane. Plastic delineators, new mystery solution or whatever. Afternoon auto traffic squeezing or taking over the bike lane at the freeway makes for a very uncomfortable ride.

David Hampsten
Guest

Have a little patience. This is a new experience for PBOT, saving money by doing new lines just after repaving a street, rather than waiting several years afterwards at great cost. Some of the delay is probably caused by hot weather – the plastic stuff doesn’t stick as well when temperatures rise above 80 degrees.

Matt Meskill
Subscriber
Matt Meskill

Is it me or is this just one huge embarrassing cluster?

q
Guest
q

PBOT seems erratic in its follow-through. In my own neighborhood, PBOT sent out flyers a week ago announcing the start of a total street repaving for a full block. A day later, it had made several hundred feet of sawcuts in preparation of pavement removal for the full block. A couple days later, after repaving only a few feet–maybe 20% of the project, the crew said they were done and left. The project manager confirmed to me the project has been abandoned, with no explanation. So PBOT torpedoed a project in mid-stream without notice to anyone.

As with the Rosa Parks project, the scheduling and decision making seems bizarre.

The eBike Store
Guest

This project is an accident waiting to happen.

When people park illegally against the curb (in the bike lane), others come and park legally – which blocks the illegally parked folks from being able to leave. This leads the illegally parked folks to become angry and volatile.

Parking in the bike lanes. Folks are confused. The confusion causes drivers to act unpredictably. It is a matter of time – in my opinion a short amount of time – until someone is injured or killed due to the confusion.

What can be done now?

1. Paint the curbs red! It will clearly indicate to drivers that parking is not allowed and it will enable the city to being ticketing folks who park in the bike lanes.

2. Put temporary hay bales in the buffer zone between the parking or driving areas and the bike lanes so folks know that the bike lanes are for bikes.

The difficulty of how the Rosa Parks bike lane project is being rolled out is that it further demonstrates that cyclists do not have physical or legal space on Portland’s roads.

Rivelo
Guest

I don’t know if it qualifies as “push-back,” but there was a lot of grumbling on Nextdoor regarding the changes. Of course, there is always a lot of grumbling on Nextdoor, so who knows?

https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=83487013&comment=180809736

Blake
Guest
Blake

“nearby residents told PBOT they were worried rows of white, plastic wands would make Rosa Parks feel less like a neighborhood and more like a highway”

That’s not the fault of the white wands, it’s the fault of a road that is wide enough to be a highway that people drive on like it IS a highway. Why do we even bother to listen to people’s input when it is so ridiculous? When new safety projects are introduced, it should be a default that it is done unless it can be demonstrated that it doesn’t address the intended problem. No more of this whining NIMBY “it will change the feel of my neighborhood” nonsense.

RH
Guest
RH

Portland seems to be so amateur with everything lately. We are no longer a large town and need professionals that can handle complex tasks and goals

Matthew in PDX
Guest
Matthew in PDX

About a year ago, I stopped riding along Rosa Parks in favor of North Ainsworth, a decision I have not regretted. Nothing I’ve read about this project has tempted me to revisit that decision. N Ainsworth has a lot less motor vehicle traffic, fewer traffic signals and almost no road debris, I am not sure why it hasn’t been designated as a neighborhood greenway, but it might as well be.

The eBike Store
Guest

The white wands are being installed today!