What began as a straightforward repaving project is now one of Portland’s best protected lanes. In the past two weeks, the Bureau of Transportation has finished restriping North Rosa Parks way between Willamette Blvd. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. This means it’s now possible to bike (or scoot!) in a wide curbside lane that has some form of separation from drivers on 3.5 linear miles of this important east-west neighborhood street.
“I think it’s going to look great. These [curbs] will look better and will protect the bike lane more than plastic wands.”
— Scott Cohen, PBOT
Back in June we shared concerns that this project was languishing as three sections remained untouched and some of the promised elements had not been installed. With the striping complete, we talked to PBOT yesterday to learn more about what’s left to come. We asked specifically about three things: the sections still not physically protected (paint doesn’t count, even if it’s buffered); promised bus islands at the Albina intersection; and the latest on the N Villard median and enhanced crossing.
PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen had mixed news about the bus island. As reported earlier today, the good news is that the City plans to test a promising modular platform product at Albina and several other locations citywide. The bad news is that it won’t be on the ground until spring of 2019. Until then, this protected lane will be vulnerable to bus operators who drive into the lane to service curbside stops. Once the new platforms are installed, bus drivers will stop in the standard travel lane (in the roadway) and people using the curbside lane will be able to continue through without stopping behind a bus (unless passengers are present of course).
As for Villard, PBOT has decided to pull back on earlier plans to create a full median that would have limited some turning movements by drivers on this very popular cut-through street. A partial median that will come with a newly painted crosswalk and make it safer for everyone to cross is in the process of being designed and its installation is imminent. Asked why the more robust option won’t be built, Cohen said PBOT has plans for other median diverters in the neighborhood (a full diverter has already been installed on Greeley at Willamette) and they, “Need to look at how neighborhood traffic patters will work holistically.” In other words, PBOT’s approach is to go light on diversion until they see what impact other changes might make to driving patterns. If cut-throughs at Villard remain an issue, “It’s really easy to come back later and fill it in,” Cohen said.
And I’ve saved the best news for last: PBOT is going to add concrete curbs as a protective measure.
According to Cohen, they heard from residents that the white, plastic, delineator wands don’t jibe with their vision for making Rosa Parks look and feel like a neighborhood street. Local neighborhood associations asked PBOT to go back to the drawing board and find additional funding for a different type of protective material. Cohen said they found the money and the new plan is to install concrete traffic separators. The curbs will be the same design as the ones used on North Lombard in St. Johns that we reported about earlier this month (in photo above).
“I think it’s going to look great,” Cohen said. “These [curbs] will look better and will protect the bike lane more than plastic wands.”
Asked if the entire project will have some form of physical protection, Cohen said yes. Except for intersections, driveways, a small section near a parking cut-out in front of Arbor Lodge Coffee, and the I-5 overpass (which is managed by ODOT), Cohen promised that the entire length of the lane would be protected by either plastic wands or concrete curbs. Overall, he estimated Rosa Parks will be about 70/30 curbs/wands once the project is fully complete. And that’s the only rub with this news. Because the curbs are still new to PBOT, they aren’t stocked by the maintenance crews and the work will have to be contracted out, leading to a delay. Cohen says they’ll install the curbs in spring of next year.
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