“It’s a celebration!” beamed a helpful person at the check-in desk as I walked into the big open house for the Central City in Motion plan last night at UO’s White Stag Building. “We have cookies and temporary tattoos!” It was indeed an upbeat vibe as PBOT presented projects to the public for the first time since the plan passed City Council in November.
Beyond the cookies and tattoos, I was glad to see PBOT not only shared info about current and upcoming projects, but also used the event to promote Biketown, TriMet Hop passes, and electric scooters (Bolt was giving away free helmets). If we want to move the needle, it’s not enough to just build infrastructure, we have to use every tool we have to pry peoples’ hands off their steering wheels.
Inside the room where the posterboards hang, there were important details and conversations shared about upcoming projects on NW Everett, Flanders and Burnside (I’ll get to those later), but Naito Parkway stole the show. Or should I say, Better Naito Forever stole the show.
Believe it or not, Better Naito Forever the official project name for PBOT’s plans to finally create protected space for bicycle users on Naito. The name alludes to the history of this project that began as a two-week trial organized by Better Block PDX in 2015. Temporary tattoos for a permanent project. Get it?
Cheekiness aside, the most exciting part of the open house (to me at least) was the 4 minute, 27 second visualization of Better Naito Forever. Created by project consultants David Evans and Associates, Inc., the video offers a realistic flyover of the City’s plans to reconfigure the eastern (northbound) side of Naito Parkway. According to the David Evans & Associates rep, the images show the 30% design stage, which means what we see is by no means final; but it’s also far beyond a conceptual rendering.
Starting at SW Main, we first zoom northbound and see the bi-directional bikeway alongside the other lane. A six-inch concrete curb separates bicycle and car users. Unlike the current design, PBOT plans at this stage show no vertical delineation beyond this curb for most of the bikeway. Thankfully, metal bollards are shown at intersections.
At crossings of streets like Taylor and Yamhill we see large sections of green-colored pavement. There will also be small concrete islands for people to wait to cross Naito after they’ve crossed over the bike lanes. The islands also serve as foundations for bike-only signals and push-buttons to trigger “Walk” signs. These crossings will be a vast safety improvement not only because they’ll shorten the crossing distance and clarify movements, they’ll also encourage drivers to slow down as the road narrows.
We can also see the sidewalk planned for the western edge of Waterfront Park. A project consultant said a few trees will need to be removed in order to make room for the sidewalk. Construction on Better Naito Forever is scheduled to begin toward the end of 2020 and PBOT confirmed last night that the existing version of (temporary) Better Naito will stay in place until then.
Keep in mind that Better Naito Forever is running about 18 months or so behind a related project that aims to create a major new bikeway on the southern portion of Naito. I was told last night that the SW Naito Project is set to break ground this October. Once it’s complete, PBOT plans to create a temporary connection between SW Jefferson that goes under the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct and connects at Better Naito at the Salmon Street fountain.
Gwen Shaw, a Better Block PDX volunteer who served as project manager for Better Naito before PBOT took over the reins and is now an engineer at Toole Design, shared with me after the open house that, “Jefferson and Naito will be a game-changer and is something that would have been nearly impossible to tackle with interim solutions.” Shaw, who prefers the name “Perma-Naito”, said she likes what she sees from PBOT so far, but she’d like to see a bit more vertical separation and more done to make sure drivers don’t use the facility. “There’s still quite a bit going on [at intersections] that will need to be well designed to avoid confusion,” she said.
If all goes according to plan we’ll have a high-quality protected bikeway for 1.5 miles of Naito Parkway from SW Lincoln Street to the Steel Bridge (and beyond!) by summer 2021.
Stay tuned for more coverage of other projects shown at last night’s open house.
CORRECTIONS: The original version of this article said Bird was the scooter company at the open house. That was incorrect. It was Bolt Mobility. Also, I referenced David Evans & Associates Inc as “DKS”. That was a mistake. I regret the errors.
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