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PBOT opts for new signal, crosswalks at notorious Multnomah/Garden Home intersection


Future design of SW Multnomah at Garden Home. View is looking northeast. (Graphic: PBOT)

A notoriously high-stress intersection in southwest Portland with a dubious crash history will get a $2.1 million update that will include new traffic signals, crosswalks, bike lanes and medians.

As we reported back in December, the Portland Bureau of Transportation had two options on the table at SW Multnomah and Garden Home: a roundabout or traffic signals. The intersection sees 17,000 drivers a day and had 33 reported crashes between 2006 and 2015 — including one that killed 77-year-old bicycle rider Andrzej Kurkowski PBOT’s aim for the project was to reduce crashes by improving sight lines, “address queuing issues” (which I assume means to reduce congestion), and create safer spaces for walking and biking.

Here’s another shot of the design:

Based on comments to our previous stories on this project (see in related posts below), readers were split between the roundabout and signal. Both options seemed to have advantages and drawbacks. PBOT asked for users feedback and received over 900 responses to an online survey. In the end, PBOT said the higher cost and longer construction time of the roundabout made the signal a better option.

Here’s how they explained their decision:

“While more members of the community supported the roundabout option, there were concerns about the design not creating a clear separation for people walking and biking. There was also overwhelming consensus for PBOT to build this important safety improvement in a timely manner. With a significant cost difference between the roundabout design and a traffic signal – estimates for a roundabout were approximately $6M versus $4M for a signalized intersection – the bureau determined the best course of action was to proceed with the traffic signal option as securing additional funding for the roundabout design could put the project on hold indefinitely.”

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(Existing conditions)

Also based on feedback, PBOT says they’ll maintain vehicle access to SW 69th Avenue and The Old Market Pub by moving the intersection slightly to the east.

While the project is designed and engineered, PBOT says they’ve already changed the speed limit signs on this section of SW Multnomah from 35 to 30 mph.

Southwest Portland resident Eric Wilhelm told us he’s happy for the immediate speed limit reductions, but it’s not enough. “Just changing the speed limit doesn’t bring the street up to standards for bike lane separation given vehicle speeds,” he said. And with construction of the new signal and bike lanes not scheduled to begin until 2021 (after what PBOT says will be a one year design phase), Wilhelm adds, “In the meantime, this intersection should be an all-way stop and that stretch of Multnomah should have a 25mph speed zone.”

Wilhelm (like many others in our community) is tired of waiting years for fixes to intersections that are well-known to pose imminent hazards for bicycle users. “It’s been nearly three years since Kurkowski was killed here, with no changes. The recent fatal hit-and-run on 45th just south of Multnomah is yet another instance of unrestricted cut-through traffic on incomplete streets which shouldn’t be posted for such high speeds or striped like highways,” he says. “We continue to prioritize moving cars over people or safety and this design is no exception. We need PBOT to take swift and bold actions to connect and complete the networks for people instead of maintaining redundant connectivity for high-speed, high-volume car traffic.”

Funding for this project will come from Washington County ($1 million) and City of Portland Transportation System Development Charges ($1.15 million). Construction is estimated to begin in summer 2021. Sign up for project updates and learn more on PBOT’s website.

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

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