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PBOT: Eastbound driving ban could improve ‘complex’ NE Alameda/57th intersection


A rider waits at the bike signal on Alameda at 57th and Sandy (looking west). The drivers on the left would no longer be present in that location once the changes take effect.

As part of their ongoing Rose Lane Project, the City of Portland wants to improve the speed and service of the 12 and 71 TriMet bus lines on Sandy Boulevard. One of the ways they plan to do that is to prohibit driving on a one-block stretch of NE Alameda Street.

If you’ve ever ridden across the intersection of NE 57th/Sandy/Alameda you know how awkward, stressful, and time-consuming it can be. The three streets come together in an asterisk star pattern that creates five unconventional intersections. The fact that 57th and Alameda are important streets in the bike network (the former having a bike lane, the latter being a neighborhood greenway), adds to the challenges of getting everything through safe and efficiently.

At a meeting the Bicycle Advisory Committee earlier this month, Portland Bureau of Transportation staff said one way they hope to make things simpler is to simply remove auto users from the equation at one of the intersections.

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PBOT slide

“This complex, five-leg intersection causes delay for everyone and helps facilitate cut-through traffic into the neighborhoods,” said April Bertelsen, a Rose Lane project manager. “We are proposing to remove the Alameda Street signal leg for motor vehicle traffic, and that would enable us to change the signal phasing and timing and give more green time to Sandy and 57th, which would reduce the delay for transit.”

“This complex, five-leg intersection causes delay for everyone.”
— April Bertelsen, PBOT

The plan is to place a semi-diverter on Alameda at 56th, one block prior to 57th. Drivers would be able to go westbound on Alameda from 57th/Sandy, but the diverter would (hopefully) prevent them from driving eastbound. Bicycle users would be able to ride in both directions.

The goal is to reduce the amount of drivers on Alameda so PBOT engineers can re-allocate signal phase timing toward other intersections.

Here’s how PBOT planner Zef Wagner explained it at the meeting: “Right now 57th gets a [signal] phase, Sandy gets a phase, the west leg of Alameda gets a vehicle and bike phase, and the east leg of Alameda gets a bike-only phase. So that’s a lot of phases.” Wagner explained that the change would allow PBOT to make the Alameda signal phase just for bike users.

Bertelsen added that since the diverter would require people to change their driving routes, some residents of the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association have expressed concerns. People who live on adjacent streets (like Stanton, Wistaria, 56th and 54th) also worry that the change will increase the volume of drivers on their streets.

To mitigate these concerns, PBOT will consider this change a pilot and will monitor traffic behaviors. If it goes well, the change would be permanent.

This is just one of 18 currently funded or in-progress Rose Lane projects. Learn more by checking the presentation PBOT shared at the April 13th meeting.

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