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PBOT says major updates to deadly Division Street will be done by next summer

PBOT plans for Division between 130th and 131st. Note blue center median, black dots for bike lane bollards, and u-turn radius marks.

PBOT rendering of new design.

After years of preventable death and destruction and countless hours of advocacy and planning, the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced this week that the completion of the Outer Division Multimodal Safety Project is imminent. PBOT says construction has begun and will continue through summer 2022. The project will reconfigure lanes and add safety measures on 4.6 miles of Division Street between 82nd and 174th (city limits).

The project will maintain two through general purpose lanes in each direction and will widen and add intermittent protection to the existing bike lane by removing space for on-street parking. The new bike lane will be curbside (except for intersections) and will be protected by a combination of paint, buffer space, plastic bollards, and/or parked cars (initial plans included no on-street parking, but PBOT added back some parking in response to public feedback). The most prominent feature of the project will be the planted and raised center median islands that will be installed to control driver movements.

When combined with the Division Transit Project (which TriMet says is at 70% completion and is due to open in Fall 2022) and an Oregon Department of Transportation project at the I-205 interchange, we might finally tame traffic on one of the most notorious arterials in the region. PBOT data shows that 1,000 people are involved in crashes annually within the project boundary. “If you lined up all the cars that have been crashed on Division [in this section] in the past five years, they’d stretch from Portland City Hall to downtown Gresham… That’s almost three people every day whose lives are changed as a result of this dangerous street,” states a PBOT document from 2016.

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When this project first materialized in 2016, it was billed as a demonstration of PBOT’s commitment to Vision Zero. PBOT was under extreme pressure from the community to improve safety that year due to a spate of deaths and injuries on Division. In December 2016, road safety activist group Bike Loud PDX held an event on Division near SE 86th where people stood in the busy street and placed hay bales in the lanes to force drivers to slow down. Two months later, PBOT responded with an apology and a plan to do something about it.

We last checked in on this project in 2018 and reported the changes would be on the ground by the end of 2019. The years of delay likely came due to a necessity for coordination with TriMet and their major Division Transit Project.

Yesterday PBOT shared a new video (above) about the project and said it would be done by summer 2022.

PBOT’s video doesn’t show expected bike lane encroachment.

In addition to protected bike lanes and raised center medians, the project will include: major signal upgrades, sidewalks, street lighting, and more.

As you can see in the video, the new medians will require drivers to make a lot more u-turns to access destinations. During design of this project, the turning radius of drivers was flagged as a concern. This is because u-turns will lead to some drivers — especially those with large trucks and SUVs — to encroach into the bike lane. PBOT staff has been aware of the concern for a long time. In 2017 PBOT said they’d use special pavement markings to warn people of the turning hazard. This u-turn encroachment is clearly shown in official plan drawings, but is not shown in the video above (see GIF).

Stay tuned for updates as the project moves forward. See the official project page to learn more.

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