A plan to update 122nd Ave in east Portland has taken a big step forward. After almost a year of collecting feedback, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has released the 122nd Ave draft project plan. It includes our first look at concepts for a roundabout and other significant changes that could finally tame this street.
122nd Ave is one of the most dangerous corridors in Portland for people walking, biking or taking transit. PBOT readily admits there are major safety concerns on the street: in the draft plan, they state “the wide roadway has inadequate infrastructure and its large intersections are among the most dangerous in the city. Significant changes are needed to save lives and reduce life-altering injuries.”
Right now, 122nd is on PBOT’s High Crash Network, and is generally unpleasant to walk or bike on. PBOT’s goal is that 122nd Ave would not only be a safe place for people walking and biking, but also that it would become a “civic corridor,” which the city defines as a street that is “attractive and safe for pedestrians while continuing to play a major role in the City’s transportation system.”
PBOT identified four recommendation categories in the plan:
● Safety, which will involve “redesigning 122nd to achieve safe driving speeds, safe intersections and better separation between users” and include projects such as implementing more street lighting and pedestrian and bike crossing and improve speed management
● Multimodal and Access Enhancements to “improve the areas where people walk, roll, bike and wait for transit” with projects like protected bike lanes, access management and increased Biketown stations
● Transit Performance and Experience to “ensure buses operate on time even during congested periods” with bus stop and access improvements and transit priority treatments to allow buses to move through car traffic
● Develop 122nd Avenue as a Civic Corridor to “exemplify the benefits of green infrastructure and minimize urban heat island effects, while also being enjoyable places to live, work, and gather” by widening sidewalks, increasing tree canopy coverage and studying the potential for a bus rapid transit service on 122nd Ave
As we reported back in March, tree canopy coverage was a particularly important issue to survey respondents. Shade from trees is essential in pavement-heavy areas like the 122nd Avenue corridor. During last year’s heat wave, some parts of east Portland recorded temperatures of up to 124°F.
For the sake of this plan, PBOT has split the long corridor into three parts. Within the northernmost segment, which stretches from Marine Drive to San Rafael Street, PBOT has unveiled plans to make major changes near the Sandy Boulevard (Hwy 30) intersection.
Currently, there are two free-flowing slip lanes from 122nd south of Sandy that provide access to NE 121st. PBOT suggests closing off those lanes to create T-intersections. The concept shown in the draft plan also calls for new sidewalks and marked crossings.
Below is the current view of this intersection and PBOT’s conceptual design:
Another notable recommendation is in the southern segment of 122nd, where PBOT wants to reduce the space available to drivers.
We outlined PBOT’s potential design options for this southern stretch in a recent article, but the draft plan brings something new to the table: a roundabout at the intersection of 122nd and SE Harold made possible by a reduction in driving lanes.
“We are looking at a more significant change to the streets,” PBOT planner Bryan Poole said in a June 14 Bicycle Advisory Committee presentation. “Because the volumes are lower, we’re proposing doing a road diet here: reducing the number of vehicle lanes from five to three, providing space to really improve bike facilities and also adding trees along the corridor, which is something we heard a lot about.”
Here’s how it would look compared to current conditions:
PBOT’s design drawing shows how drivers would face a much more narrow roadway than they do now, which would dramatically reduce speeds and improve safety for everyone. Median islands and extended corners would slow drivers down as they enter the roundabout. The bike lanes are shown as being raised to sidewalk level and would cross adjacent to pedestrian crossings.
Roundabouts on major streets are extremely rare in Portland. Sharing this concept shows PBOT is willing to take bold steps to change how our streets are used and who will feel safe using them.
A list of “future plans” includes converting TriMet Line 73 to bus rapid transit (BRT) and establishing standards that would require raised and protected bike lanes for future developments.
The next step is for PBOT to find more money to implement these recommendations. You can help create urgency for that by sharing your feedback via the 122nd Ave Plan online survey. Find the full plan and learn more about the plan on PBOT’s website.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org