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PBOT wants to create plan for Sandy Boulevard as ‘multimodal’ corridor

Posted by on July 15th, 2020 at 2:52 pm

Close your eyes and imagine this with protected bike lanes, bus rapid transit, wide sidewalks and beautiful plazas.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Few streets in Portland have as much potential as Sandy Boulevard. From the Central Eastside to the Parkrose neighborhood, this rare diagonal street cuts through our dense grid and offers quick cross-town trips and direct access to myriad destinations.

One of Sandy’s many hazards.

Designated as a “civic corridor” in Portland’s Comprehensive Plan and expected to see major growth in housing and jobs in future years, Sandy’s outdated design is currently not up to the task.

Sandy’s traffic lanes only safely accommodate people traveling inside metal-framed boxes with large motorized engines. That’s one reason why, like many other driving-centric arterials in Portland, Sandy has a deadly and dangerous legacy and is currently designated as a High Crash Corridor. That’s also why it was named the “Worst Street Ever” in a 2012 short film.

Despite its risks, many bike riders are devoted to it because it offers speed and convenience unmatched by neighborhood greenways.

Unlike other arterials, Sandy is owned by the City of Portland and not the State of Oregon. That means instead of sitting around and begging the Oregon Department of Transportation for updates, we can take action to make Sandy work for the road users of the future: people on bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, and all manner of personal mobility devices.

And that’s exactly what the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) wants to do.

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“The plan will… take a multimodal lens that also considers potential for bicycle facilities along the corridor.”

At their meeting this morning, Portland City Council approved a $300,000 grant application submitted by PBOT to ODOT and the Oregon Department Land Conservation and Development. The grant would allow PBOT to move forward with the creation of a “transportation growth management” (TGM) plan for Sandy Blvd.

The project hasn’t been made public yet, but PBOT has shared an outline with BikePortland.

The working title is Sandy Boulevard Civic Corridor Plan.

If the grant comes through, PBOT planners would create a foundation for future capital projects to transition Sandy away from its, “largely auto-oriented” design (their words, not mine), “widely spaced pedestrian crossings,” and “sidewalk corridor that is disrupted in many locations at large, skewed intersections” and toward a street that will, “accommodate various modes of travel and other uses of the right-of-way.”

Here’s more about the project from PBOT (emphasis mine):

“There is no accommodation for bicycle travel along Sandy Blvd and very few transit priority treatments for the frequent Line 12 bus. Overall, Sandy Blvd is one of the streets in the City of Portland that faces the most conflicting demands for various uses, given that it classified as a “Major” street for every mode (pedestrian, bicycle, transit, freight, traffic, and emergency response) and also has a Civic Main Street classification (suggesting need for curb zone access) in our Transportation System Plan. Sandy Blvd is also a High Crash Network Street, and while some segments have received modest safety upgrades over the years, fatal and serious injury crashes are still a significant issue along the corridor.

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… This [plan] will provide direction for future public capital projects along the roadway as well as for private developments that occur along the corridor. The plan will include development and evaluation of multiple alternative design concepts for the corridor with a full investigation of benefits trade-offs for different modes of travel as well as for safety, equity, access, and other criteria. The plan will build on our experience with recent and upcoming transit-related efforts like Enhanced Transit Corridors, the Rose Lane Project, and the Streetcar Study, but will take a multimodal lens that also considers potential for bicycle facilities along the corridor while also ensuring adequate provisions for freight, emergency response, and traffic needs.”

PBOT also notes that the plan will develop concepts to improve walking condition with, “place-making opportunities at the triangular skewed intersections that often occur where the normal street grid meets the diagonal street.”

If the grant comes through, work would begin in fall 2021 and would last about two years.

That’s a long time to wait for a street with so much potential; but at least PBOT is moving forward. Who knows, maybe some outside factor will create urgency to get this work done sooner.

— 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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Todd Boulanger
Guest

Wow…I learned something new today…that Sandy is a PBoT facility…it just looks sooo ODoT in its layout and operational priorities. Glad to know PBoT is planning to add some ‘civilness’ to this “civic corridor”.

So once its done, we can all sing…”Ding Dong the Witch is Dead…” another Mid Century 4 Lane deficient highway arterial has been humanized and made safer!

Gregg
Guest

OMG. This would be an absolute game changer for the city.

Hey PBOT, I know that you read these comments. PLEASE take the best parts of what you learned from Foster (Which was a huge improvement, but could have been monumental) and apply said knowledge here, on Sandy. Please use the best parts of Rosa Parks (I love Rosa Parks now) and apply it here.

I HOPE this really does happen and happen fast. I believe in you PBOT. Go!

Chris Smith
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Chris Smith

Sandy only got its “Major City Bikeway” designation last year, due in part to some great advocacy by BikeLoud!

Ricky Bruce
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Ricky Bruce

Don’t get mad, but I would love to see a *return* of streetcars to Sandy Blvd

Doug
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Doug

I’ve always applauded anyone I saw riding a bike on Sandy. Takes pure guts. Guts that my wild self doesn’t and won’t exhibit on that stretch. I thought Sandy was going to get the Chloe Lane treatment? These lanes really need to come up with a bike facility in mind.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’ve always thought Sandy’s bark was much worse than its bite, and I’ve found riding on it is always less unpleasant than I expect. That said, I’ve always thought Sandy (and Foster) were prime candidates for upgrading, and I’m glad the time has finally come.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

I love plans as much as the next person, but I hope someone at PBOT and/or Parks has got their eye on the full block that used to be Sandy Blvd. between 12th & 13th, Burnside & Couch. Get the parked cars/trucks off and make it a beautiful public square, especially for those filling up the dozen new apartments buildings nearby. All that new construction must be filling the SDC coffers for public space.

Jason Ford
Guest
Jason Ford

I rode for two months in New Zealand with no close calls. When I flew into pdx, I unpacked my bike and rode downtown on Sandy. I nearly got hit three times. I thought the city would soon make it safer. That was 1986.

ken woodside
Guest
ken woodside

I’m a fairly fearless rider, but after being doored on Sandy biking home from work I now take Ankeny. It takes me a little out of my way, but I no longer feel safe riding that close to parked cars.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

Now is the time to do it. With working from home as the new normal we won’t need wide automobile streets like this anymore. Covid put the first stake in to the heart of happy motoring, lets human scale this iconic road running diagonally through the heart of Portland and finish the job.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

JM: You said “If the grant comes through, work would begin in fall 2021 and would last about two years.” I want to make sure I understand correctly. The grant is for money to develop the plan. So in the fall of 2023 we’d have a plan, only, right? We have no idea how long the actual build-out will take (assuming it is approved to go froward and funded).

I ask because your next sentence (that’s a long time to wait) implies to me that we know how long we’re going to be wating for actual changes.

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

This has been brought up by many but consider making Sandy transit and bike only. You don’t need a diagonal vehicular corridor when you have a grid. The irregular intersections are already problematic for sight lines and signal timing. You can maintain existing business access with right-in/right-out lanes where needed. It could be a great multi-modal street. Market Street in SF is the blueprint (obviously different density and scale).

raktajino
Guest
raktajino

I learned from a Friends of Trees talk that Sandy was originally conceived as a sedate, European-style, tree-lined, multi-modal boulevard. And then the car *really* took off and those plans were scrapped. You can see the traces of this plan in Kerns and Hollywood, or wherever the older buildings are a little further back from the street.