ODOT project would add bike lanes on key stretch of N Lombard

Posted by on March 4th, 2019 at 2:07 pm

The Oregon Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on a project that will add bike lanes to North Lombard between Newman and Wilbur avenues.

This 1.2 mile section of Lombard currently has five lanes, four of them are general purpose vehicle lanes and one of them is used for on-street auto parking. ODOT’s $10 million Lombard Multimodal Safety Project would repave the street and reconfigure the roadway space to include two, seven-foot-wide bicycle-only lanes, two through vehicle lanes (one each direction), and a center turn lane.

Here’s more from ODOT’s website (which inaccurately states the project will reduce travel lanes):

“This project will improve safety along US30 Bypass/Lombard, which is currently ranked as the 11th highest crash corridor in the City of Portland based on the frequency of both fatal and serious, near-fatal crashes for all types of road users. The project’s elements include adding a median with turning lane, bike lanes, and updated pedestrian crossings… The project also includes many pedestrian improvements throughout the corridor such as new crossings, audible pedestrian signals and ADA ramps.”

N Lombard looking westbound at Chataqua.

In addition to changes on Lombard, this project will also impact crossings of important bicycle routes on N Wabash (a neighborhood greenway), N Chataqua (connects to Charles Jordan Community Center), and N Woolsey (Columbia Park).

The current width of this section of Lombard is about 50-feet. The existing cross section devotes all that space to drivers of cars and trucks. The proposed cross-section would have 24-feet for through drivers and a 12-foot center turn lane.

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Two years ago ODOT completed a very similar project on Lombard from Portsmouth to Wall. Those bike lanes don’t get much use because they are unprotected and adjacent to drivers going 25-35 mph. And people still park their cars and delivery trucks in them with impunity.

ODOT installed bike lanes further west on Lombard in 2017.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The final design of this project is still undecided. It would be great to see ODOT consider a wider bike lane protected by a curb or some sort of delineator. If this were a city-owned road, we’d probably see 10-foot wide driving lanes which would lead to lower driving speeds, a safer street overall, and provide more space for bicycling. However, ODOT is unlikely to consider such an option since this is a freight route and ORS 366.215 makes any “reduction in carrying capacity” difficult for them to justify (but it couldn’t hurt to ask!).

ODOT will host an open house for this project next Wednesday, March 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the New Columbia Community Education Center (4605 N Trenton St). You can bet some business owners and residents will be upset about any loss of “their” parking spaces. If you want to encourage ODOT to provide safe access for bicycles on this crucial neighborhood street that provides access to many key destinations, please make sure ODOT hears from you at the open house or via email to Community Affairs Representative Ellen Sweeney at Ellen.SWEENEY@odot.state.or.us.

Once design is finalized, construction is scheduled for 2021-2022.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

33 Comments
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    encephalopath March 4, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Interstate to MLK with this same treatment on Lombard next, please.

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    maxD March 4, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    I support this project because the lane reduction for motor vehicles is much safer to drive on and for crossing as a ped, on a bike or in a car. I think the bike lanes will be moderately useful, but only if they actually connect to something. Isn’t there a plan to extend the bike lanes up to St John? If not, there should be. I hope they consider diversion to help prevent Willamette from getting worse- it is already used a high speed shortcut alternative to Lombard.

    One quibble. Jonathan writes :”If this were a city-owned road, we’d probably see 10-foot wide driving lanes which would lead to lower driving speeds, a safer street overall”. Please, remember this is North Portland-we are talking about! PBOT is currently planning to WIDEN the driving lanes on N Greeley to 12′ and 13′ and the median speeds are already over 55 mph on a street posted at 45!!! That some unjustified PBOT hype to say they are with concerned, or build, facilities in North Portland that emphasize safety over speed. Wante another example? Look at the bike lane on Skidmore that abruptly terminate at Michigan instead of continuing on across Vancouver, Williams and MLK. Instead of continuing those bike lanes, people on bikes have to hope for best when crossing these busy arterials, especially MLK with ht dangerous “double-threat condition that is explicitly against PBOT policy (except in N/NE Portland)

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    Gregg March 4, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Yes! This is so desperately needed!

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    PDXCyclist March 4, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Considering that the lane widths are 10 or 11ft wide now, I’m confused why ODOT is making them 12ft each with a 12 foot center lane. Even the suburbs default to 11ft lanes now. 11ft each means the bike lane could have a real buffer (and future room for protection)

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      Gary B March 5, 2019 at 7:22 am

      Something to do with wide loads on a freight route, maybe?

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        PDXCyclist March 5, 2019 at 7:23 am

        That’s generally their reasoning but considering the lanes are 11 or 10ft here now it doesn’t seem like that applies? As in, why do they need 12ft lanes in the future if they’re managing with 10ft lanes?

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          Let's Active March 5, 2019 at 7:37 am

          Well, I think it’s because there are two lanes now, so wider loads can “cross” over into the other lane or straddle the other lane. With just one lane, there won’t be that buffer in the air, so the desire to have a wider single lane.

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            PDXCyclist March 5, 2019 at 9:22 am

            Interesting. I’ve never gone on Lombard. Is it pretty straight/without curves? Semi trailers are almost 9ft wide. Seems like they can still straddle the center lane if they come across a curve, no? I just think if ODOT really wanted to, they could come up with something better than 12ft lanes.

            I might be mistaken, but I think the turn lane on Beaverton Hillsdale Highway is 10ft wide. At least, it feels really narrow when I’m sitting in a car waiting to turn. That’s also a freight route I imagine (but PBOT designed the lane widths there not ODOT).

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              Let's Active March 5, 2019 at 9:30 am

              It’s pretty straight, then jogs to the north as you get to the west end of the corridor. Jonathan has linked to the project page in the story, which has a corridor graphic.

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          AB March 5, 2019 at 1:00 pm

          They should keep the 10′ widths for the travel lanes but make the turning lane 12′ so a big truck can easily wait to turn left. The remaining 4′ should be distributed to the buffer zones for the bike lanes.

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      paikiala March 5, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      When roads are reconfigured the current standard is applied, not what’s been used to ‘make do’.

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    Roland Klasen March 4, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I don’t see the wisdom in adding bike lanes to major, heavy auto traffic roads like Lombard and Rosa Parks. There are plenty of bike boulevards on quiet neighborhood streets in the area that are probably faster since they have fewer stops and are much more enjoyable to ride on.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 4, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      I disagree Roland. think we do need excellent bike lanes on these neighborhood streets like Lombard and Rosa Parks (and Hawthorne and Alberta and Mississippi for that matter).

      Backstreets are boring and they don’t allow me direct access to the places I need to go. I completely resent the idea that just because I’m on my bicycle I should not have the same access options as someone driving a car. For heaven’s sake.. these are neighborhoods! People on foot and bike should be the top priority and people who drive should stay on the freeways and big arterials as much as possible.

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        David Hampsten March 4, 2019 at 5:00 pm

        But Jonathan, that not what you are getting. According to the street cross-sections you are publishing, all you are getting is national-standard 6 foot lanes with minimal 1 foot buffers, on a street that ought to have, at a minimum, 6 foot lanes with 3-foot buffers and candlesticks.

        By increasing the car/truck travel lanes to 12 feet (plus for the turn lane), you will get faster vehicle speeds, an unwanted consequence of this failed design.

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        John March 6, 2019 at 8:33 pm

        With its current two lanes, Lombard serves as an excellent arterial to move lots of cars from this deep pocket of neighborhoods toward the highway. This is a place where cars can get on with it, reasonably so, instead of cutting through neighborhoods. How will auto users get through if we reduce Lombard’s capacity? These kinds of roads need to exist somewhere, and Lombard works really well as it is.

        As evidenced by the unfortunate death on Killingsworth last week, some thoroughfare roads aren’t safe for mixed use. It’s best not to ride on them.

        West of Fiske, where there are bike lanes and only one car lane each way, Lombard is still an unsafe place to ride due to the heavy congestion and speeds, and unsafe to cross as well. I take the neighborhood and hop over to the main when I need to.

        We have already transformed the parallel Willamette and Rosa Parks Blvd into a road that is awkward to both bike and drive.

        By mixing a heavy-use thoroughfare with bike lanes, we sacrifice a much-needed service for the city, especially when there are parallel accommodations nearby, while carving out space that is dangerous for bikes.

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        JBone March 8, 2019 at 12:05 pm

        I respectfully disagree; I enjoy backstreets. Less pollution, more chill, ideally less auto traffic, etc. And as a resident, I appreciate the occasional cyclist as an aesthetic novelty and as practical crime prevention. Your opinion holds a notion of entitlement and doesn’t recognize the reality that cars aren’t going away anytime soon (until there is a complete shift to dedicated bus lanes and even then, many will still choose to drive for other reasons) and that in order to get to freeways, cars must use other roadways. And the north Portland peninsula only has one (relatively inconvenient) major arterial (Columbia) so autos don’t have much reasonable choice.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 8, 2019 at 12:24 pm

          I enjoy backstreets too JBone. It’s not either/or to me. We need both backstreets and main streets to be safe and accessible for bicycle users.

          I didn’t say anything about “cars going away.” I just don’t think we should encourage driving as much as we do now. It is absurd to me that all the major streets are dominated by drivers in their cars. That is not acceptable IMO.

          And yes I’m entitled. I believe I’m entitled to all the same levels of safety and access when I’m cycling in my neighborhood as I get when I’m driving (yes I own two cars, and often play the role of daddy taxi getting my kids to the three school they go to, all in north portland, including Roosevelt, so I spend a lot of time on Lombard/Willamette in a car).

          People are abusing their driving privileges because they can. If we change our streets and policies and our politics, we will end driving abuse and everyone will be healthier and happier for it. Thanks for listening.

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      Todd Boulanger March 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm

      Bicyclists want to bike to many of the same places they like to drive to too…and this includes arterials. Only having bikeways on minor streets often creates a slower route for advanced cyclists …especially when intersection crossings of major arterials are not improved or very responsive (or prompt) to bike signal detection calls.

      Plus there are as many as “20+ benefits” for adding bike lanes to arterials that have noting to do with cyclists…in this case the car the traffic is moved further away from sidewalks (pedestrians) and transit riders waiting for buses…nice especially in wet weather when heavy goods vehicles / trucks pass by soaking those back behind the curb.

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      Johnny Bye Carter March 5, 2019 at 11:04 am

      There are 7 lights on that stretch. You probably won’t have to stop at all 7.

      The suggested Google bike route has 7 stop signs. You will legally have to stop more on the bike route. The bike route is also about 50% longer. And that’s assuming you can stay on the route because it’s not a marked bike route.

      The 2nd suggested Google route (which is about a quarter mile longer than the 1st suggestion) only has 3 stop signs. And although it does go on a bike route at points it’s almost half on Willamette which also has high speed motor vehicle traffic. And the end of that route is a couple blocks of unimproved road with large potholes.

      If you were running errands and wanted to go to any of the large number of businesses in that area then you’d probably want to go along Lombard.

      I’ve biked that section of Lombard plenty of times to go to the bank, get a burrito, go to the pharmacy, and grab a snack at Green Zebra.

      I’m OK taking the lane alone or with adult friends since there’s another lane for people to pass, but if I had my kid then we’d be on the sidewalk rather than the lane or a side route. It needs better bike access.

      It’s easier to find the place you’re going when you’re on the same street as that place. Even when I try to take side streets to a business on a busy street I’ll often end up a street or two off and have to ride on the main street for a couple blocks anyway.

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    Todd Boulanger March 4, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    This is s good first step (hopefully with some further tweaks)…another Mid Century out of date (safety deficient) arterial undergoing a low cost revamp.

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    Gary B March 5, 2019 at 7:28 am

    I was just driving on this stretch over the weekend, and I thought to myself how it really would function better as 2+1 lanes. There are a lot of cars making left turns on the many neighborhood streets, and it creates quite the mess of back-ups and weavers. Even without the bike lanes, this seems like an improvement. Hopefully ODOT will come around to a more robust bike facility, too.

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      Todd Boulanger March 5, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Gary – you hit the nail on the head. As a transportation professional, I have been so shocked that the City & State have held on to such out dated facility layouts 10 (and 20) years longer than ideal (we in the biz knew better back in the late 90s)…especially when they operate so much better for safety and accessibility as a 2+1. The true test is: an arterial roadway operationally “fails” when it sucks to drive + walk + park + bike along it. Hawthorne is the prime poster child for this issue – it is not a “Great Street”, yet.

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    jake March 5, 2019 at 9:27 am

    I live right along this stretch and would definitely appreciate an alternative to Willamette. Accessing businesses on Lombard along here is always a pain too, this will provide a much better option.

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    Johnny Bye Carter March 5, 2019 at 11:13 am

    That first Street View photo (N Lombard looking westbound at Chataqua) is a good reminder of how ODOT thinks about making roads easier for drivers to zone out.

    That Right Lane Ends sign used to be a Left Lane Ends sign. At some point they thought it was too confusing to drivers to have the left lane end when most of the signs say that the right lane ends. So in order to make it more standard (“safe”) they changed the sign. They also changed the visual (non-worded) sign that’s after it.

    Nothing has changed with the way people are required to navigate the merge, they just thought that motorists would be less confused and therefore safer if the sign stated that the other lane was ending.

    It’s still the left lane that technically ends, because that’s where the center lane begins and you have to veer right.

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    zoshia March 5, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    They need to drop the speed limit from 35 to 25 starting at the cut heading into St. Johns. So many people speed right though past fred meyer and into st johns. That intersection by fred meyer is where a large number people have been hit crossing the street.

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    truthseeker March 6, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Bad idea – bike on Killingsworth and leave Lombard to cars and commercial trucks

    We can’t turn the entire city into a bike park – or only the idle rich will be allowed to live here

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    George March 7, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    -Will the road surface be repaved first? (This really needs to be done)
    -All parking will be eliminated? Bad idea!
    -Auto traffic will be reduced to one lane each direction? At rush hour, there hardly enough lanes now, particularly when the buses are running.
    -I am all for encouraging bicyclists. However, anything that restricts traffic flow and creates additional bottlenecks, is bad for the businesses on Lombard and in St. Johns..

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    damon March 8, 2019 at 8:38 am

    So, when is Wilammette going to have complete bike lanes? Why are we piece-mealing Lombard when one section of Wilammete remains unfinished?????

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    damon March 8, 2019 at 8:41 am

    sorry “N. Willamette” should be finished first. Make the pipe connections so the systems can function.

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    JBone March 8, 2019 at 11:49 am

    What the priorities are here? And what about lack of analysis of ripple effects and unintended consequences? The north Portland peninsula area has three finite arterial roads going East-West: Columbia, Lombard, and Willamette. It seems any plan should holistically consider these as part of one system. What I see happening is their designs occurring in isolation without consideration to the effect they will have on each other.
    I live in this area and Willamette is getting more crowded by the month, making it increasingly dangerous for all road/sidewalk users as cars leaving the North-South neighborhood streets have virtually no safe way to enter Willamette during peak use hours. Limiting auto traffic on Lombard will just move more cars onto Willamette which, among other things, will delay the 44 bus. I do like the idea of a dedicated turn lane on Lombard to decrease the hostile weaving currently happening, but it seems if the goal is get people out of autos, dedicated bus lanes on Lombard would have much more impact than a redundant bike lane. Willamette and Willis run mostly parallel to Lombard and with a little due diligence, a cyclist should be able to reasonably approach any business on Lombard. Obviously, in an ideal world, bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes would be on every major arterial, but given the reality of our mostly finite existing road system, shouldn’t we pursue pragmatic, reasonable solutions to our transportation problems? I enjoy access-friendly cycling very much (want), but the function of getting from point to point safely and in harmony with other user types seems more of a priority (need). The conflation of wants and needs seems to be a primary source of much of the modern world’s problems. And the naiveté of basic human nature.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 8, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      You identify some very true things about how complicated this is JBone. Thank you.

      I think we need to make it very clear to everyone that the priority is safe and efficient mobility for all. In order to provide that, the best thing we can do is limit driving access and promote the use of transit and bicycling. Simply because most people drive is not a good reason to perpetuate that situation. At some point we must begin to change that paradigm. The world is heating up and people NOT in cars are dying at crisis levels. The answer is to severely curtail driving access in our cities.

      And please understand, I am not going to vouch for ODOT’s road designs — even if they include a bike lane. What they’ve done on other sections of Lombard with the new bike east of Portsmouth, is pretty bad. Yes it’s a bike lane, but it’s very stressful to ride on because they are too afraid to slow drivers down, discourage the amount of driving people are able to do, and built physical protection for the bike lane.

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    Lou May 22, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Lol that’s my van

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