Promised over a decade ago, Portland embarks on NW Flanders Bikeway project

PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen at the kickoff planning meeting September 20th.
(Photos: Reza Farhoodi)

Making good on a promise made over a decade ago, the City of Portland has finally started planning a new bikeway on NW Flanders between Waterfront Park and 24th. And at a meeting late last month, Portlanders got their first chance to see it.

The origin of the project goes back to the 2005 Burnside/Couch Transportation and Urban Design Plan. As the legend goes, bike advocates cut a deal with the Bureau of Transportation: Couch was originally designated as the major east-west bikeway through this part of town; but PBOT wanted it to be the couplet with Burnside, so the agreement was to switch the bikeway a few blocks north to Flanders.

The plan was adopted. The couplet was never completed and the Flanders bikeway was all but forgotten.

Here’s a graphic of the bikeway from the Bicycle Improvements chapter of the Burnside/Couch Transportation and Urban Design Plan:

(City of Portland)

Now, with the construction of the Flanders Crossing bridge over I-405 imminent, the city is finally making good on their promise. According to PBOT, they have $2.4 million to spend thanks to System Development Charges. The goal is to create a “low-stress bikeway” that will encourage more people to ride bikes and to, “Provide people of all ages and abilities a safe, comfortable place to bike in the Central City.”

PBOT has already built around 80 miles of neighborhood greenways, but those are in residential areas. The Flanders bikeway would be a different animal since it would have a more dense and urban context.

Pearl District Neighborhood Association member and safe streets advocate Reza Farhoodi was at the project’s kickoff meeting last month. He said he was “impressed” with the initial proposals — especially in Old Town and the Pearl. Farhoodi shared an image of PBOT’s project map that lists existing auto traffic volumes and traffic diverters proposed along the route. The map (below) shows that PBOT wants to implement significant measures to reduce the number of people who drive on Flanders.


The map shown at the meeting.

PBOT’s greenway design mandate (as adopted by City Council with the 2015 Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report) is to get the number of people driving cars to about 1,000 per day. As you can see on the map, the average daily traffic (ADT) on Flanders today is way above that. To discourage driving on Flanders they’ve proposed alternating one-way sections and two full driving closures: one at the North Park Blocks and one just east of 17th.

“The full closure at Park Blocks would be a wonderful placemaking opportunity at the intersection of the Green Loop.”
— Reza Farhoodi, Pearl District Neighborhood Association

“The full closure at Park Blocks would be a wonderful placemaking opportunity at the intersection of the Green Loop,” Farhoodi shared with us via email. “And I think the alternating one-ways is a potential solution for designing future neighborhood greenways in Central City and Northwest where there is a lot of pedestrian activity and high-density development.”

One sticking point that remains is the crossing of Naito just south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at the Steel Bridge. PBOT has spent years negotiating with UPRR to make a crossing at this location and now they have a design and the funding to make it happen. But PBOT Project Manager Scott Cohen made it clear at the meeting last month that UPRR is still not satisfied and there are interim plans to jog the route to NW Davis to get across Naito until a final plan for a crossing at Flanders can be ironed out.

If the Flanders Bikeway is built (construction estimated for fall/winter 2019), Farhoodi says having to use Davis to cross Naito, “Would certainly be sub-optimal.” “I consider the crossing to be the key component into making this a regional bike facility, and it would be absurd to spend millions elsewhere upgrading Flanders without completing this critical connection.”

We’ll be watching that part of the project closely. Expect more public outreach in the coming weeks and months. PBOT expects to have a final design completed by next spring.

Correction, 10/9: This post originally said that the West Burnside/Couch couplet was built. That was a mistake. The couplet was never built (it was on the east side, however).

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

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