The Portland Bureau of Transportation will move forward with a pilot of a full median traffic diverter on Northeast Alameda at Fremont.
The move comes after months of back-and-forth with the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association after they voted against the idea back in March.
At issue is an effort to improve safety on Fremont, a neighborhood collector that has come under scrutiny by both neighborhood residents and PBOT for excessive driving speeds and crashes. Alameda rose to the top because it’s a major north-south bicycle greenway that has seen an increase in cars and cut-through traffic.
When PBOT proposed a full diverter at the intersection, some BWNA leaders and residents objected to it. They cited myriad reasons for their opposition and ultimately the BWNA board voted 7-4 against it. While some people thought the vote was binding, PBOT never saw it as such and continued to work toward a solution.
In April, the BWNA formed a sub-committee to come up with their own proposal. Leaders of that committee maintained that Alameda was wide enough for the car and bike traffic to co-exist and that, perhaps it shouldn’t be considered a greenway at all. PBOT wasn’t having it.
“Since [NE Alameda] functions as a neighborhood collector, the volume is higher than narrower local streets. This begs the question – Why was Alameda selected and is it the widest street identified as a Greenway?” a BWNA leader emailed to PBOT Neighborhood Greenways Program Coordinator Scott Cohen.
“Despite your consistent suggestions, NE Alameda does not function as a collector, it functions as a cut-through route for people avoiding the collectors,” Cohen replied. He also made it clear he was tired of all the process-related back-and-forth. “Slow Streets [Program] staff has been connecting with the neighborhood about this intersection since April 2021 on a solution and delaying is not an option,” he wrote.
For the past three months, Cohen and PBOT have worked with BWNA to create a different design proposal at Alameda and Fremont. But in the end, PBOT decided their proposal that the neighborhood voted against in March achieved more of the goals of the project.
According to the project website that launched today, PBOT plans to install plastic curbs and posts on the centerline of Fremont with cut-outs so bicycle riders can pass through. Car users will be prevented from turning left from Alameda to Fremont or vice versa.
PBOT says the design will reduce crashes, create a safer crossing, and reduce car use on the Alameda bicycle greenway. They will consider this a pilot installation and will monitor street usage at 15 locations for one year to decide if the new diverter should be made permanent. They expect the work to be done on the estimated $10,000 project sometime this summer or early fall.
UPDATE, 7:50 am on 7/20: This post initially said that PBOT and the BWNA neighborhood association agreed on the diverter in the end. That was inaccurate. BWNA did not support PBOT’s ultimate decision to move forward with the diverter. I’ve edited the story to reflect this and regret the error.
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Good job PBOT
Yes, Alameda is a bicycling and walking gem and I am so grateful that the project manager (Scott Cohen) seems to agree with that. I appreciate that he has gathered info, listened to road users but has also vision for what to prioritize on this project.
I get that this is how gov’t bureaucracies work, but still… 1.5 years (and thousands of dollars of salaries) to get $10k of Tuff curbs and posts installed?
Please just make a “diverter fixer” truck that drives around town adding and repairing these at the 100+ other intersections that need them.
I agree, EP. Matters of safety should not be up for a vote.
This is not how all government bureaucracies. Portland has just normalized this weird version of outreach where they give property owners an extreme amount of control over the public right-of-way when it comes to safety projects.
Like the bizzare, non-binding vote. Why is PBOT even engaging with that? PBOT just needs to have its executive team canned (along with most leadership at CoP) and get some folks from outside the Portland bubble to take charge.
It’s deeply bizarre. I was delighted when PBOT came to a GHFL Meeting with changes to SW Jefferson that will be removing some parking and pretty much told the NA that the design was finished and the project was moving forward. No negotiation needed.
Most of the executive team are just following orders from city council and the mayor*. Until Portland is willing to abandon its love affair with right-wing BAU democrats and elect anti-capitalist council members, transformational change is extremely unlikely.
*Portland’s right-wing mayors hold far more power than many understand.
I agree with the overall point of your comment, but I just want to suggest that this was probably not anybody’s full time job dealing with this. Public comment and back and forths probably aren’t taking that much actually salaried time.
I could be wrong but I just don’t see it. Everyone working on this project was also doing other stuff.
I am glad to see this, hopefully it will also lead to additional hardened diverters along alameda as there is way too much cut through traffic at this point. I am not sure that a flex wand diverter will be effective but it appears they plan to put the monitoring in place to understand how many cars are pulled off alameda by this treatment.
Big round of applause for Scott Cohen. I feel embarrassed for the BWNA “leader”, mercifully left anonymous, for penning such a specious and selfish letter.
This is great and all, but how are they going to actually slow down Fremont traffic?
Also, I thought an initial problem it was supposed to address was NB car traffic at 41st+Fremont that can’t go left, and that instead uses Bryce-to-Alameda as a bypass to go WB on Fremont. I don’t see how this prevents that.
Yes, EEE, great points. How does this intersection fit in with the larger fix for Fremont? That issue for NB traffic at 41st/Fremont is just going to push auto drivers to an alternative side street to Alameda. It’s going to cause increased traffic and conflicts on those other streets.
It will be interesting to see if traffic increases on side streets, which are less accommodating than Alameda. If it does, hopefully traffic diversion can be added to stop it more quickly.
What do you think would be a solution for Bryce??
What I find bizarre is how anybody would want to object to this. If pbot wanted to do something to the roads in my neighborhood to keep traffic out I would be embracing it wholeheartedly, even if I didn’t ride a bike. This is the best thing that can happen to a neighborhood when it comes to traffic.
Not to mention, as others have alluded, the NA should have little to no say in this.
I thought the same about diverters in my own (former) neighborhood, but the NA responded spectacularly poorly and antagonistically. People are really married to their own convenience and shriek when it’s threatened. Some in that NA even invited folks to testify that the convenience of picking up their kids at a certain daycare was worth more than said kids’ safety regarding a nearby diverter that would’ve significantly reduced traffic around that daycare.
One NA member in particular made it clear that their opposition to projects like this isn’t really based in anything other than the desire to have power over the process. Nothing to do with the merits of a project, one way or another.
It isn’t rational. And I cringe now to see some of those same names involved in other political projects around Portland, like opposing charter reform. I initially thought Eudaly’s NA code reform was a bad idea (and it certainly was, politically), but quickly discovered my NA was the perfect poster child for her arguments.
I’ve noticed that it is the people who live one or two streets over from the street that is being diverted. They enjoy the convenience of driving on their neighbors street, and they are afraid traffic will increase on their street. They don’t realize that this petty fighting erodes their overall ability to keep speeding cars out of their neighborhood. Not to mention that abandoning your neighbors one street over to speeding cut-through traffic is a jerk move.
I guess this is great news, something is better than nothing, but these wands will most likely be history in a timely fashion, like most wand solutions are. I use this intersection many times a week; sometimes several times a day. I was really hoping to see that they were going to address helping the sightlines east of Alameda, perhaps by making curb parking illegal in those 2 spots on Fremont closest to Alameda.
I love this outcome AND I hope PBOT is walking away with some lessons learned about how it communicates its role in advancing transportation safety over neighborhood or personal concerns about convenience.
As a nearby resident, it appears that the real challenge of this intersection is as much due to the cars clipping along east-west on Fremont as it is due to the cars cutting through on Alameda. If the goal is to make cutting through along Alameda less appealing, the diverters make some sense. However, it would make the actual intersection safer–especially for walkers and bikers crossing Freemont–if there was simply a 4-way stop sign. Of course, this begs the question of whether or not the current code allows for stop signs on Fremont, since the only one along the entire stretch is at Mississippi.
Of course, now that I read the PBOT project page, I see that the stop sign question is addressed there in detail.