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ODOT will shrink bike lanes on North Rosa Parks Way

Posted by on June 18th, 2019 at 11:40 am

Looking eastbound on North Rosa Parks Way where it crossing I-5.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

10 months after the City of Portland widened the bike lanes on North Rosa Parks Way (where it crossing Interstate 5) the Oregon Department of Transportation wants to narrow them.

Note the lane width changes looking westbound across N Missouri/I-5 on-ramp intersection.

A few days ago I noticed the outside buffer stripe of the new bike lane and one of the other lanes had been ground off by work crews. A new, preliminary line has been laid down. Once fully re-striped, the bike lane will be 1.5 feet narrower. The width of the old bike lane (not counting buffer stripe) was 6.5 feet. The new one will be just five feet wide.

“There was a miscommunication between ODOT and PBOT.”
— Don Hamilton, ODOT

What’s going on here?

When PBOT crews striped the Rosa Parks Way project, they continued the lane widths on the section that goes over I-5. This is noteworthy because ODOT and PBOT have different ideas about how wide lanes should be. And ODOT has jurisdiction to all streets and intersections that cross interstates and interstate access ramps. Several weeks ago I heard a rumor from a source at the City of Portland that ODOT was no on board with PBOT’s striping.

As you might guess, PBOT is much more comfortable striping wider bike lanes and narrower general purpose lanes that ODOT is. Broadly speaking, ODOT prefers wider lanes for drivers and narrower lanes for bicycle users — especially around freeways.

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According to ODOT’s Highway Design Manual (Pedestrian and Bicycle Chapter), the standard width for bike lanes is 6 feet and the minimum is 4. If the bike lane is next to a curb, as is the case on this section of Rosa Parks, an additional foot is required.

Asked for comment, ODOT Region 1 Public Information Officer Don Hamilton said: “When PBOT did their paving and restripe last summer there was a miscommunication between ODOT and PBOT, resulting in lane widths that could not be approved by ODOT for a freeway interchange being installed. PBOT is now changing the lane widths to ODOT standards.”

Hamilton confirmed with me today that ODOT will reduce the bike lane width to five feet and will maintain the two-foot buffer. By comparison, PBOT had striped a 6.5-foot bike lane with a two foot buffer (which was even narrower than the 7-foot wide lane with 3-foot buffer that initially proposed).

PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s Chief of Staff Marshall Runkel told me he’s aware of the situation (it came up at the recent PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting). “It’s a tough situation,” he shared via email today, “[we’re] working on a systemic fix.”

This isn’t be the first time the city and state have disagreed about a bike lane. Recall the SE 26th Avenue Bike Lane Saga that culminated last year. In that case, ODOT felt the bike lane was unsafe and wanted to remove it entirely in exchange for granting PBOT the right to create a bikeway and safer crossing of SE Powell two blocks over.

UPDATE, 3:24 pm: Asked for a rationale to re-stripe this section of the street, ODOT’s Hamilton said: “This is not some bureaucratic exercise done to annoy bicyclists. We follow ODOT standards set for freeways that will make the road safer for people who choose to drive. And let’s remember that the result is an improvement from a 5-foot bike lane less than a year ago to a 5-foot bike lane with a 2-foot buffer.”

— 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 welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Carter
Guest
Carter

I’m still bitter about the 26th Ave bike lanes and have quickly begun to understand why people dislike ODOT.

B. Carfree
Subscriber
B. Carfree

PBoT should grow a pair and simply tell ODOnT that they are going to reduce the number of travel lanes instead of making the bike lane too narrow to function. Since induced demand has been shown to work in both directions (adding lanes creates congestion, removing lanes reduces it), this can be touted as a congestion relief project.

Always throwing bikes under the bus, even when the bus is stuck in traffic, is a terrible way to do transportation.

dirk mcgee
Guest
dirk mcgee

The interesting thing is that the lane approaching and leaving the structure over I-5 will still have 10′ vehicle lanes and 6-7′ bike lanes… This new striping won’t do much for drivers for the one block section over I-5 …

JJJ
Guest
JJJ

Do the elected officials agree that this is a good use of tax dollars?

Edward
Guest
Edward

people will die.

David
Guest
David

At last month’s joint PAC/BAC meeting this overpass came up as a counter point to ODOT proposed lane widths on Division where some restriping is set to happen around the section at I-205. In that area ODOT will also be striping narrower bike lanes and providing more space to cars even though it will not match the surrounding corridor. The same type of thing is also set to happen at Dvision-Powell.

Allowing ODOT to have authority on these small stretches of road makes no sense when it creates a more dangerous environment for vulnerable road users and does not match the surrounding corridor. There needs to be a better mechanism for PBOT to override ODOT in these situations.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

The blather from ODOT about conformity to standards notwithstanding, why are they doing this? What purpose does this serve? In what way is the current configuration not functioning in a way that they would like? What problem does narrowing the bike lane solve?

Here’s a problem I would like them to solve. At evening rush hour when traffic backs up on the freeway onramp, it also backs up the left turn lane onto the onramp. Motorists traveling east on Rosa Park get impatient and go around the turn lane backup by driving in the bike lane to go around left turning cars.

Maybe ODOT can do something about this actual and real problem.

Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell
Guest
Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell

Why? What purpose is there in making this change other than to spend more money in order to match the out of date Highway Design Manual (last updated in 2012) in a location where wider lanes will make zero difference for vehicle traffic at any time of day? Seems like ODOT is throwing a fit and simply trying to make a point on what they “control.” Senseless…

kate
Guest
kate

i was biking this stretch last night (after the wonderful sunset/moonrise ride) and thought “huh, are they tightening the bike lanes here?” ugh.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

ODOT: The I5 Rose Quarter Project is about reconnecting community and place making.

Also ODOT: We need to make Rosa Parks Way over and around I5 more dangerous.

Aaron Brown
Guest

imagine ODOT looking at that extra foot or two in each direction, already painted by PBOT, and part of a miles long new investment in a seperated bike lane, and thinking “yeah, y’all are gonna have to repave it, it doesn’t meet our standards, sorry, nothing we can do about it, them’s the rules.”

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

ODOT WTF !?

Tom
Guest
Tom

The change serves no purpose. It’s purely ODOT being meanspirited.

SafeStreetsNow
Guest
SafeStreetsNow

Someone with the resources needs to launch a coordinated campaign directed at the governor to get these folks out of leadership at ODOT. It’s unbelievable how little they care about road safety. Our most dangerous roads in Portland for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are ODOT-controlled. This needs to end!

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

One step forward, two steps back.

Glenn II
Guest
Glenn II

Like are they _trying_ to be the bad guy in the story? On either side of the freeway it’s Bedford Falls but on the bridge it’s Pottersville, type of thing?

miss_me_with_that
Guest
miss_me_with_that

“There was a miscommunication.” So why is the project manager not accountable? What a waste of public dollars. Well at least there will still be a two foot buffer. Sheesh.

q
Guest
q

Think of this the next time ODOT says they don’t have money to fix some actual problem.

onegearsneer
Guest
onegearsneer

ODOT narrowing a bike lane is nothing compared to their jurisdiction over the insanely dangerous NE Sandy/Killingsworth intersection to 205 bike path that they could care less about. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve almost been run over in the crosswalk (and/or screamed at that bikes don’t below in the crosswalk), including a hit/run into my front wheel last week, during my commutes through that busy connector yet they’re hands off with any improvement for bike or pedestrian safety. So par for the course…

Charley
Guest
Charley

ODOT is an embarrassment. What a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Is there no more pressing concern than spending this time and money to neuter this relatively generous bike lane?

q
Guest
q

ODOT gets all technical on this one–forcing money to be wasted to actually make something less safe so that it conforms to a manual.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying for years to get ODOT to fix a dangerous crossing I use regularly on an ODOT Highway. Recently, I started asking ODOT whether the crossing is even legal (it’s the only way on and off the traffic island’s sidewalk from that direction, and it has new curb cuts, but it’s mid-block and has no striping or signage). Finally, ODOT acknowledged that it doesn’t even know whether it’s legal or not. Actually, it’s obviously illegal, but ODOT doesn’t seem willing to admit that it created a crosswalk that leads to an island, but you can’t continue across to the other curb legally because there’s no marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Maybe ODOT would have time and money to fix things like that, or a thousand more important safety upgrades, if it weren’t wasting resources narrowing new bike lanes.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

I’d love to lead a group ride of ODOT officials on a tour of my favourite portland bike lanes on biketown bikes. Maybe then they’d see the light.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

“…that will make the road safer for people who choose to drive.”

As a statement of intent by ODOT, that’s pretty damned revealing.

Another Engineer
Subscriber
Another Engineer

Standards differences like the lane width difference between the ODOT and PBOT standards are what make it easy for ambitious projects to run into barriers. It’s insanely frustrating to watch these differences drive a wedge between ODOT and PBOT because the result is a failure for the taxpayers of Oregon. Salem isn’t progressive enough to keep up with the pace of change please keep pressure on ODOT to explain why they cannot make a lane width exception to reduce to 10 or 11 foot lanes (when trucks are present) per NACTO guidance inside of UGBs. Without a standards change there won’t be progress, this is the time to pick this battle before larger regional projects begin like Division BRT ect.

https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/street-design-elements/lane-width/

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

It would help to also know when the current and future lanes width are for this section’s other lanes…to see how “deficient” or “out of compliance” the MV lanes were. Typically DoTs set lane width “minimums” so if the MV lanes were below ODoTs minimums for urban arterials then they may have a point (as per their lawyers). It would also be helpful if ODoT (or PBoT) had any data as to speed, volumes and crashes to compare how much worse (or better) this interim striping was compared to the past etc.

I agree with the earlier comment that the real solution may have been a road diet…as fewer lanes would allow ODoT to have much more “comfy” lane width. Perhaps even excessive!

Al
Guest
Al

ODOT values statement:

Integrity: We are accountable and transparent with public funds and hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards.

Safety: We share ownership and responsibility for ensuring safety in all that we do.

Equity: We embrace diversity and foster a culture of inclusion.

Excellence: We use our skills and expertise to continuously strive to be more efficient, effective and innovation.

Unity: We work together as One ODOT to provide better solutions and ensure alignment in our work.

The agency failed to delivery on every single value. I should point out that they are failing in excellence just by the statement alone. You tripped right out of the gate on that one ODOT.

Scott Mizée
Guest
Scott Mizée

This is AB-SO-LUTE-LY ridiculous!
I am shocked. I shouldn’t be, but I am. With the information presented here there is NO COMMON SENSE at all in this situation.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

I think we’ve all seen some roads where a contractor’s truck spilled a bucket of paint and it stayed like that until the paint wore off. I hear it also happens with plungers sometimes.

Jonathan Hinkle
Guest
Jonathan Hinkle

“And let’s remember that the result is an improvement from a 5-foot bike lane less than a year ago to a 5-foot bike lane with a 2-foot buffer.”

How beyond insulting. If your boss gives you a $5,000 raise and then within the year drops your pay by $3,000, absolutely no one ever is going to be soothed by choosing to re-frame that as “a $2000 raise”.

Austin
Guest
Austin

Others have already pointed this piece out…

“[we are removing safety from vulnerable road users so that we] make the road safer for people who choose to drive.”

…let’s keep pointing it out. It’s incredible.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

David
Allowing ODOT to have authority on these small stretches of road makes no sense when it creates a more dangerous environment for vulnerable road users and does not match the surrounding corridor. There needs to be a better mechanism for PBOT to override ODOT in these situations.

You seem confused. ODOT has control of freeway overpasses and freeway interchanges by state law. Are you suggesting the legislature force local jurisdictions to take over the operation and maintenance of such features, along with the liabilities?

Should a collision occur on the re-striped ODOT facilities, ODOT will bear the majority of the liability for choosing their minimum standards.

soren
Guest
soren

I see that mostly well-off and white experienced cyclists are very upset about a small stretch of 7 foot buffered bike lane. Meanwhile the 100s Neighborhood Greenway was funded in 2012 and has yet to be built.

Priorities!

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

ODOT doing their best to waste their overbloated budget.Great job guys!

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

Dan
Or bikers could grow a conscience and follow traffic rules like we pedestrians do. One of ya’ll almost ran over my grandkid this morning even though you clearly saw him coming and did not bother to look back. The anger is real, and will boil over one day. Those of us who abide by the laws will not stay quiet for long.

So Dan you really must truly understand how scary it is to be so close to a vehicle that is moving much faster than you and cause significant damage to a person, all while you are just doing as you’re supposed to. I am so very sorry that a person threatened the physical safety of your family, but I would hope that could help you advocate that hundreds of others should not be exposed to far greater physical danger daily. Wider bike lanes are also a HUGE buffer to those on foot.

MARK SMITH
Guest
MARK SMITH

Dan
I am sick of bikers running red lights and not stopping at stop signs almost running over pedestrians. Ya’ll have been coddled too long.Recommended 1

I am sick of car drivers killing and maiming children, women and men. You have been coddled too long!

(I wish)

MARK SMITH
Guest
MARK SMITH

Christopher of Portland
Why bother with the 100s greenway when we could be helping the homeless, preventing heart disease, or stopping all war and genocide?Recommended 6

What’s the homeless budget now?

Jim Labbe
Subscriber
Jim Labbe

Thanks for covering this Jonathan

What’s the best way to talk action on this? Is it a matter of pressuring ODOT to change its standards?

A rationale that says more space for bikes makes makes things less safe for cars is truly absurd. My experience as a driver and a cyclists is the opposite is true. Isn’t there research to shows that bike and pedestrian infrastructure actually makes roads safer for drivers as well as cyclists and pedestrians?

It seems ridiculous to have to make the argument, as if pedestrians and cyclists are traffic calming features, but if the rationale basis of ODOT’s screwed up standards is a priority on driver safety, is it possible to make the case for wider bike lanes on those grounds?

I’d love to know who at ODOT we direct comments too.

Jim

MTW
Guest
MTW

“Hello, Kitty June 20, 2019 at 9:08 am
If you [look] at ODOT’s budget, you’ll find that if you don’t drive, you’re not paying for freeways.”

I’m not sure that’s true. I pulled ODOTs budget and it looks like 23% of the revenues come from the Federal Government (from a cursory review the remaining balance coming from state sources do appear legit and more or less tied to users; mostly gas taxes and motor vehicle registration fees.)

But that 23% coming from the federal government is dirty. The gas tax hasn’t increased since 1993 (!) and as a result we’ve had a deficit in the Highway Trust Fund for years. That deficit gap is bridged with transfers from the general fund, suggesting all of us are (driver or not) are paying for Oregon freeways.

AnnaG
Guest
AnnaG

Just rode this new ‘improved” bikeway yesterday, sunny Sunday afternoon, should have been perfect conditions, ie no problems with rush hour traffic, visibility issues with rain/dark/fog etc. BUT I has several problems with drivers straying into the bike lane especially on the curves where there is no protected parking, speaking of which this feature almost got me killed. Just passed the intersection of Rosa Parkes and Denver eastbound, there’s a driveway into a coffee place in between 2 parked cars (of course they were 2 huge SUVs that one cannot see over), a woman driving another huge SUV who had passed me just seconds ago at the intersection, started to make a turn into this driveway and almost creamed me, her reaction of course was just a sheepish shrug. Anyone know who at PDOT to report this fail to ? I’m thinking the elimination of the parking spot closest to the intersection would solve the problem, at this location at least. I would also like to recommend wands at all curves, flimsy as they are, most drivers may not want to risk their paint jobs if they hit them. Any suggestions or ideas ?
Thanks