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Advocates, residents see Highway 30 paving project as chance for safer bicycling

Posted by on February 22nd, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Highway 30 has potential to be a direct route from downtown Portland to St. Johns. Unfortunately its bike access is abysmal.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

These young riders are headed toward the popular NW Saltzman Road in Forest Park, which is just south of St. Johns Bridge in the middle of ODOT’s project area.

Bike lane conditions just north of Kittridge just after a storm.

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:

Clinton Doxsee:

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.

Geoff Grummon-Beale:

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.

Caitlin Clark:

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.

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Yashar Vasef:

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.

Carl Alviani:

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.

Scott Cohen:

Please improve the bike lanes as well. Increase the size and add a buffer or physical protection.

Chris Jones:

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.

Gary Becker:

… 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.

Sarah Taylor:

“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.”

Tim Briare:

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.

Cassie Capone:

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.

Kenath Sponsel:

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.

Tim Lundholm:

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.

Caitlin Harris:

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.

From ODOT STIP.

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 jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Chris I
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Chris I

Close both shoulders and use the space to establish a physically separated MUP on the east side.

John
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John

Anybody know if design has started yet?

J_R
Guest
J_R

Wait. Wait. This will make it easier for cars and trucks. Aren’t we opposed to everything that improves things for cars and trucks?

David Hampsten
Guest

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.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

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.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Your lead photo is infuriating!

Ally
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Ally

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

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

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.

B. Carfree
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B. Carfree

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.

BASKET
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BASKET

seeing that puddle pic makes me feel sooooooo good about deciding never to ride 30 again.
what a shithole

SD
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SD

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.

joe adamski
Guest
joe adamski

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.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

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…”

Alon K.
Guest

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.

HJ
Guest
HJ

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.