Anyone who’s ridden a bicycle on Highway 30/St. Helens Road between northwest Portland and the St. Johns Bridge understands why it has the moniker “Dirty 30”. With a major paving project in the pipeline, ODOT has a chance to change that bad reputation.
The narrow, unprotected bike lanes are almost always strewn with gravel and all manor of debris. But the “dirty” part is just the start. The road is full of car and truck drivers going 45-50 mph just a few feet (sometimes less!) away from your handlebars.
How do we make this better? Here’s our chance:
The Oregon Department of Transportation is working on a $8.5 million project that will repave 2.5 miles of Highway 30 from NW Kittridge to the St. Johns Bridge via Bridge Avenue (the road that connects to the bridge, which will also be paved). The project description says that in addition to new pavement, ODOT will upgrade ADA ramps to current standards, improve “access management” (driveways, turning movements), and “address drainage as needed.”
Advocates have gotten wind of the project and want to seize the opportunity to improve conditions.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because three years ago we saw a similar opportunity when ODOT repaved Hwy 30 from Bridge Avenue to NW McNamee Road. When that project was being designed, I personally met with ODOT staff and presented some ideas to significantly improve cycling conditions. Unfortunately they failed to embrace any of them and ended up only making a few very minor changes to the cycling environment.
We hope the outcome is different this time around. With a new main entrance to Forest Park coming to the Kittridge/Hwy 30 intersection and the potential of this road to be a pleasant, direct bike route from downtown Portland to St. Johns — this is an opportunity we should not pass up!
Thankfully, volunteers with BikeLoudPDX are already on the case. The project was on the agenda of their monthly meeting earlier this week where noted transportation advocate and lawyer Scott Kocher shared his ideas. He wants to see a reconfiguration of existing lane widths when the striping gets put back. More space could be added to the bike lanes if ODOT was will to narrow other lanes. Kocher also wants them to consider removing utility poles that currently constrain the bike lane in several spots. Drainage problems are also on his radar. There are a few spots that are notoriously flooded and present a hazard to bike riders. Another idea is to add new bike/walk signals to improve safety on Bridge Avenue.
Kocher and fellow advocate Ted Buehler will team up to host a bike ride tomorrow (Saturday, 2/23) at 9:30 am. The ride will be a hands-on exercise in activism where everyone will help observe, document, measure, and photograph existing conditions. The idea is to use this documentation to make formal requests to ODOT to address the deficiencies in the project.
Buehler and Kocher will be happy to know that they’ve got a lot of support. According to ODOT’s 2018-2021 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), they agency received numerous citizen comments in support of better cycling facilities on Highway 30. The comments below were all recorded by ODOT as part of the official STIP record:
This project should also incorporate improved, separated bike/ped facilities to provide safer and better non-automotive alternatives. Striped bike lanes on a road where vehicles travel at 45-50 mph is dangerous and will be deadly for a cyclist when a crash will inevitably occur. Existing bike/ped facilities are treacherous and extremely unsafe or unfriendly.
I am a regular user of Hwy 30 along this stretch both by bicycle and motor vehicle. This project is an important opportunity to improve conditions for bicycling along a key bicycle route in Northwest Portland. Specifically, I would like to see the following:
1. Stripe continuous, buffered bicycle lanes that meet state requirements for minimum width along the entire length of the project. This is essential!
2. Address hazards in the bike lanes such as storm drains and gravel from adjacent driveways. Design bike lanes to be self-cleaning if possible.
3. Stripe bike lanes on both sides of Bridge Avenue for its entire length.
4. Address hazardous motor vehicle merging across the bike lanes at the Bridge Avenue ramps.
5. Create improved bicycle connections at key access points such as Saint Helen’s Road, Saint John’s Bridge, Saltzman Road, and Germantown Road.
6. Look for ways to address speeding such as reduced lane widths.
I would like to see the bike lanes on this stretch of Hwy 30 made safer or at least more visible to drivers. By adding bollards, accentuating the striping/lane, or adding additional signage this could increase ridership and reduce traffic on Hwy 30.
Please consider physical separations, or bollards, for people on bikes. This area feels very dangerous due to car speeds, and some sort of physical separation would be appropriate if ODOT is serious about Vision Zero.
It’s important to remember that US30 is also a crucial bike connector for anyone riding from St Johns and other North Portland neighborhoods into downtown… Any project to repave and upgrade this section of US 30 needs to address these issues too, by physically separating bike lanes where needed, and incorporating bike access into ramp upgrades.
Please improve the bike lanes as well. Increase the size and add a buffer or physical protection.
It is really important to me to get better bike access over the Saint Johns Bridge and down Hwy 30. It would shave a mile off of my commute and has the potential to be a lovely ride.
… enhanced bike facilities should be included within project scope. US30 is only effective bike route between St Johns and downtown Portland, and a Forest Park entrance facility at the east end of this project would also benefit from access from St. Johns. The existing bike lanes (shoulder) are seriously deficient. Sufficient space and proper striping essential.
“We need state of the art bike lanes on the bridge and bridge avenue and through Linnton. We need Linnton to be a bike and walk safe community.”
Our family and many family households are on Springville Hill above bridge Ave. We have 6 children who ride the bus and also walk on Bridge Ave. There are many other children that walk this area and ride Trimet as well as the school bus in this area. This area is also traveled by large amounts of bike riders from North Portland to Sauvie Island. This area is very hazardous to pedestrians as well as bikers… Please help our neighborhood children with safety. Please help the hikers and bikers that come to this area to access forest Park and Sauvie.
This is a critically important biking route. It feels unsafe and stressful due to high motor vehicle speeds, narrow bike lanes separated from motor vehicles only by paint, and high levels of debris in bike lanes. Please consider physical separation of the bicycling lanes.
There needs to be a protected/separated bike path for this corridor. Jersey barriers or tall traffic pillars, or something more than a painted line between bikes and 50mph traffic. Also, better/more frequent sweeping is needed for the amount of debris along this route.
We live off of Harbor Blvd., which is a one lane road with no pedestrian walk ways that gets heavy commuter traffic between Hwy 30 and Germantown Rd. Our neighborhood is right next to Forest park yet has no safe pedestrian access to it. We have no pedestrian crossing across Bridge Ave to ridge trail, none across Germantown to Tolinda trail, and walking on Harbor is dangerous. Please incorporate safe pedestrian walkways, crossings and access from the neighborhoods of Linnton to Forest Park and St. Johns.
Please include improved pedestrian crosswalks with stop lights at Saltzman Rd and on Bridge Ave. at Springville Rd. I appreciate what is proposed but without improved pedestrian crossings with stop lights the improvements do little good if people using them to catch the bus/crossing the street are unable to do so safely. There are children who catch PPS school busses and Trimet busses to high schools on Hwy 30. They need to be able to cross Hwy 30 and Bridge Ave. safely!
This project is scheduled to be constructed next year. Will ODOT listen and make changes that significantly improve the cycling and walking environment? We’ll see.
For now, get involved with the effort to help ODOT see the light. And stay tuned.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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Close both shoulders and use the space to establish a physically separated MUP on the east side.
I was going to say- has anyone proposed a 2-way path? I think there are cases to be made for either side of the street but some physical separation could be added between cars & other users
As a cyclist I really dislike 2-way paths, too much sloppiness among cyclist riding across the whole thing, or just feeling like they can weave all over the place and given the speed you can ride at on 30 it could get awkward. In the case of the 2 way separated path in St. Johns near Pier Park it just fills with crap from the road and other debris. That area was honestly much better with no separation. 30, while a total mess at least has a super wide shoulder for most of it. Maybe a shoulder that is a little wider and more aggressive rumble strips… I hate riding 30, but I feel safer on 30 than most surface streets in Portland.
If they do make a 2-way path, it needs to be 12+ feet wide and be designed with signalized road crossings so bikes/peds can safely cross between the path and park access points, NW industrial, and businesses along the river.
Narrow paths with no safe entrance/exit points won’t improve the situation much.
The other issue I have with two way paths is the mention of speed; hwy 30 is great for training rides because it’s straight and fast. A two way path would creative conflicts between trail users going mach 1, people commuting, and people walking.
I’d be in favor of a road/path profile like the new Selwood bridge, but with the path/bike lane on the same grade, above the road, high enough so road debris can’t get sprayed into the bike path, including barriers to prevent vehicle incursion into the bike path, and entrance/exits from path to road grade that allow smooth transitions without stopping, i.e. not the sharp, 90 degree curb cut turns that city/state engineers keep giving us.
Shoulders are safety features for people driving cars.
Anybody know if design has started yet?
It looks like ODOT has already spent $1.65 million on engineering, so I’d say it’s about 60% designed (if not more than that.)
Wait. Wait. This will make it easier for cars and trucks. Aren’t we opposed to everything that improves things for cars and trucks?
Why yes we are. Even 1 foot of additional capacity means INDUCED DEMAND!
You need to set up a sit-down meeting with the project designers and engineers, and have a calm, well-behaved discussion of what ODOT intends to do. Everyone at that meeting needs to be well-prepared to speak, reading all reports ahead of time. It will be a day-time weekday meeting that not everyone will be able to attend. If ODOT is not willing respond to a meeting request, then ask PBOT or Multnomah County to set it up.
Good luck! Turning the “Dirty 30” into an asset for the city (and state).
I would hope that there is at least one “trucking industry” representative which would embrace safer bike and pedestrian facilities for this corridor would make their operators safer and less stressed while they pass through this congested section.
Any idea if such an alliance can or has been made? This may be the only way to really get then attention of ODOT. And instead of the “zero sum” game approach during the design phase.
Yes, we did get trucking buy-in for the improvements on outer Powell Blvd a couple years ago while it was being redesigned, which helped a lot. Corky Collier of the Columbia Corridor Association has good contacts in the trucking industry – he would be worth contacting to find local representatives for US 30. I believe a similarly good plan exists for Lombard in North Portland.
Hopefully there will be a representative of the trucking industry there. Mention skirts for Trucks and trailers. My older sister was an independent long haul trucker in the 70’s and 80’s. She saved much more than the cost in insurance because she had them on her rig. Over 2 million miles essentially accident free. There was one cyclist and 1 motor cyclist that started to go around when she was in the middle of a right hand turn and neither was injured after hitting the side skirt. 3 cars sustained minor damage when hitting the skirts on ice and not going under the semi.
Your lead photo is infuriating!
Is that in front of the car repair business? Every time I ride past there I think that a good local policy would require homes/businesses to keep the bike lanes in front clear of gravel/debris/etc. Especially if you choose to use gravel for your driveway, parking lot, etc. We have to maintain sidewalks we don’t own, why not bike lanes in this instance?
30 gets full of crap in the winter.
Please make them add a crosswalk signal to get from the northbound bike lane to get over to Bridge Avenue so I don’t have to merge with 50+ traffic
When I commuted from SJ to NW Industrial, on my return home at night, i learned to hit the crosswalk button at NW Front (signal just before the turn lane) and keep pedaling.It takes about 30-45 seconds to cycle the signal to stop traffic for the crosswalk, which by that time I am able to safely cross the two stopped at the crosswalk lanes to the center turn lane.
As others have mentioned, some type of control for outbound cyclists crossing at Saltzman and Bridge would be welcomed.
Also, while it may be beyond the reach ODOT, I find the gravel kicked up by vehicles entering the highway from sections of unpaved access to be particularly hazardous. It is easy for a front wheel to washout when hitting a dune of gravel and your lead photo is from the worst spot. Requiring property owners to pave their access points is likely the fix, but I doubt that can happen legally. Perhaps some of the 8.5 million can purchase a few brooms, or better yet, design a robotic sweeper.
The iRobot Roomba Strada Jet 5000 robot street sweeper. Collects broken glass, gravel, road salt, broken flora, and road kill. Oregon version has a special attachment for collecting cans and bottles for recycling. North Carolina version has built in programming to dump the collected debris into the nearest freshwater stream.
I really do wish everyone luck in getting this project to be different than pretty much every other project that ODOnT has touched. However, this feels very much like reading about a person who is about to enter into his/her eighth marriage and thinks it will be different this time.
Hope is a good thing, but at some point we need to stop working with our abusers and remove them from the equation. ODOT is unreformable from top to bottom and at every branch.
Trust me when I say “it could be worse.” ODOT is an intelligent liberal progressive organization compared to NCDOT, who in response to any roadway that has increasing pedestrian deaths, simply adds more lanes and adds barriers to keep people from attempting to cross the road. The state DOTs of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia own and maintain all rural roads and all urban collector and arterial streets in each of their states. NCDOT has more roadway mileage than any other US state, including California and Texas. They also have a current highway fund surplus of $2.3 Billion just in state funding, so naturally they are building lots more freeways, bypasses, and multi-lane arterial city streets as expressways. Did I mention we have one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the country? Or that Waze keeps rating our cities as among the best and easiest places to drive? Boy, do I wish I had your state DOT.
That reminds me of a kid book I read at the library way back in the booming 60s. Everything was getting more and more paved over until everyone just lived in Winnebagos (not yet a thing when I read the book). The entire country was pavement. All I can remember is that at the end, a single flower burst through the asphalt and Everyone “We have to change our ways”. This was when cars sometimes had six one-barrel carbureators and essentially no emmission control, no seat belts, and gas wars saw 27 cent gas at the pumps.
seeing that puddle pic makes me feel sooooooo good about deciding never to ride 30 again.
what a shithole
A substantial protected bicycle path from Portland to Sauvie would be one of the best, most used, recreational cycling routes in the United States. Throw in some upgrades to St. John’s Bridge and it would be phenomenal.
Except, 30 prepares one for the lunatics on Sauvie. The frustrated farmer type and the idiot in a Prius are just as dangerous out there.
Safe access to the SJ Bridge is needed also. Crossing 2 high speed lanes to access the center turn lane onto Bridge Ave is a game of nerves for only the most confident.Other option is crossing at NW Front signal, riding against traffic, hopscotching across the median divider and onto the sidewalk or riding the ramp. There has to be a safer way.
With Matt Garrett leaving ODOT, this might be the perfect time to push for road safety and active transportation plans in earnest.
We can affect change by having many voices making it clear to ODOT and the State of Oregon that the previous legacy of our roads has been death, injury, and limited access to tax paying, voting residents or Oregon and we’re tired of it.
Use every argument possible to sway the decision makers.
Use hard data. If they won’t listen to data, use emotional arguments like it being their duty to protect the safety of residents from traffic violence.
If they don’t respond to reason or compassion, play on greed/want for revenue – the outdoor industry is $412 BILLION, with a capitol B. Why would you turn down that revenue stream?!
If They won’t respond to reason, compassion, or even greed, get them with fear – a new generation ages into voting and running for office, we get in, we fire the jerks out of their unelected positions and affect change by a total overhaul of the system.
“That’s a nice govt job you got there; it’d be a shame if something were to happen to it…”
Thank you Jonathan for this article and also to all those who proposed measures to increase safety and accessibility for cyclists.
Thirty years ago I lived on Sauvie Island and worked at PSU. Infrequent Trimet service to the island existed but no bicycle racks on the front of buses were installed. I must have been mad, riding to the city and back several times a week. Most dangerous were the logs and heavy loads swinging from trucks that nearly hit me several times, and the speeding drivers. The gods and goddesses of cycling must have felt like smiling upon this rider.
I’m usually a bit on the lukewarm side where separated infrastructure is concerned, but if there was ever a place for it it’s 30. 30 is absolutely terrifying to ride. If the semis blowing by inches away at 50+ weren’t enough the gravel piles should be.
There needs to be some kind of physical separation. Even bollards would be an improvement. Jersey barriers would make the most sense. It’d be a good hard divider and allow them to get away with a smaller available space for users. I’d honestly be ecstatic to have a few inches less space to ride if it meant having a concrete barrier between me and the vehicles. Granted, more is better, but I’m realistic and will take what I can get.
I’d even be totally fine with the 2 way MUP idea above. Hit and miss usually, but here it’d be a massive welcome improvement. I’ll happily slow down a bit to share the path to have a safe route.