SW Multnomah/Garden Home project is an opportunity for a better bikeway

Roundabout concept.(Design by PBOT)

*Two concepts under consideration by PBOT

(UPDATE, 12/20: PBOT has just released new designs and the online survey. Check it out here.)

Big changes are coming to a crash-prone intersection in Southwest Portland thanks to a $2.1 million project co-sponsored by the transportation departments of Portland and Washington County.

The two agencies will split costs to update the intersection of SW Multnomah Boulevard, Garden Home Road and 69th Avenue. The goal of the project is to reduce crashes, improve sight distance, reduce vehicle delays and improve bicycling and walking conditions.

As you can see in the images, this is a non-standard intersection with tricky curves and turning movements that can be unpredictable because there are no median islands or diverters. A high volume of drivers (about 17,000 cars and trucks enter the intersection daily), lack of a signal, and at-grade parking lots owned by adjacent property owners add to the stress and potential for collisions.

In the ten years between 2006 to 2015 PBOT has recorded 33 crashes at this intersection. One of them was fatal, five of them included a bicycle rider and nearly half involved turning motor vehicles.

“I could save us all a bunch of money and just put up some stop signs.”.
— Eric Wilhelm, local resident

After an initial study into possible fixes, PBOT has come up with two concepts: a roundabout and a complete realignment that would include a traffic signal. Now they’re entering a public outreach phase where they hope to learn more from road users before adopting a final design.

BikePortland reader and SW Portland transportation activist Eric Wilhelm has been following this project closely. He’s eager to make this intersection better because he says it provides a direct and flat connection to about one-third of the area’s bikeway network. But from what he’s learned and seen so far, Eric is unimpressed with the approach. In an email today, Eric wrote that he’s concerned too much of the planning has focused on driving ease and access. “What really troubled me from the start,” he wrote, “is that PBOT seems to be focusing the outreach on how each of the two concepts will affect drivers… The two designs are both flawed by this car-centric approach.”


*Naomi Fast (@_the_clearing) made this video of the intersection a few days ago.

Eric says at least one person at a recent neighborhood meeting complained about how possible turning restrictions would force them to drive out of their way to get home.

Project Open House

PBOT will host an open house for this project on January 17th. See the BikePortland Calendar for details.

In terms of which of the two designs he feels would work best, Eric says having a signal would make crossing easier. He worries that the roundabout wouldn’t do enough to slow drivers down — especially those headed westbound. The roundabout also looks like it might not have any dedicated space for cycling (for what it’s worth, the signal concept has only unprotected bike lanes shown at this point).

“I could save us all a bunch of money and just put up some stop signs,” Eric shared in jest.

With an entrance to the Fanno Creek Trail just a half-mile away, if we get this intersection right it could create a much-needed link in the sparse southwest Portland bike network.

To help get more people engaged, Eric is leaded the Westside Wet Wonk Ride tomorrow (12/20) at 5:30. Meet at Bar 3 (4444 SW Multnomah) if you’d like to join.

And save the date of January 17th on your calendar. That’s when PBOT will host an official open house for this project. It will be from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Garden Home Rec Center (7475 SW Oleson Rd). We’ll need lots of voices to help make this project as good as possible for cycling. Stay tuned for the online survey and if you live in the area watch for PBOT coming to the neighborhood and make sure to bend their ear with your thoughts and feedback.

Check out the official project page to sign up for updates and learn more.

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

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