The Earl Blumenauer Bridge is now open as a link from Portland’s Central Eastside to the Lloyd District via NE 7th Ave, much to the delight of people who walk, bike and roll in the central city. But there’s room for improvement on the streets surrounding the bridge if it’s to become a cohesive, easily accessible part of the active transportation network.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has started work this week on two projects south of the new bridge that will add bike facilities to adjacent streets with the goal of making it more seamless to access the bridge via 7th Ave. This work will include changes to NE Couch as part of a Rose Lane project as well as a new bike connection on SE/NE 7th Ave to make it easier to cross Sandy at SE Stark, which is necessary in order to reach the bridge.
Learn more about both projects below…
NE Couch Street Rose Lane
PBOT will provide a bus-and-turn (BAT) lane on NE Couch Street between NE 12th and 6th avenues. The BAT lane will improve transit speed and reliability for bus riders on lines 12, 19, and 20.
In addition, PBOT will improve the bicycle connection to the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge by extending the bike lane from 6th to 7th avenues. People biking will also be allowed to use BAT lane between NE 12th and 7th avenues.
The project also includes traffic signal controller upgrades to better coordinate between approximately 30 traffic signals on NE Couch Street, E Burnside Street, NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, and NE Grand Avenue.
This project also includes a general travel lane reallocation and one block of parking removal. The right travel lane will be reallocated between NE 6th and 12th avenues for the bus-and-turn lane. People driving will still be able to use the lane to make right turns at driveways and at intersections and to access on-street parking. Parking along the north side of NE Couch Street between NE 6th and 7th avenues will be removed.
These changes to Couch are very significant. As you can see in our lead image, the current conditions require bicycle riders to share the lane with car users. While it’s downhill and there’s often little speed differential, the experience is not welcoming to less confident riders. This project will extend the bike lane (which currently only goes east to 6th) by one block to connect to the new bridge. Also note how PBOT explicitly says bike riders can use the “Bus Only” lane.
Also worth noting is that this red Bus/Bike lane on Couch will connect to existing Rose Lanes on the MLK/Grand couplet.
NE/SE 7th Avenue Neighborhood Greenway Project
This Central City in Motion project will create a new, half-mile long north/south bike connection on NE/SE 7th Avenue between SE Washington Street and the new Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. In addition, PBOT will install a new westbound bike lane on the north side of SE Washington Street.
Construction consists of speed bumps to calm vehicle traffic speeds and reflective wands at select intersections will discourage cut-through traffic.
Visibility and crossing safety will be improved by removing parking near intersections. In addition, parking will be removed on the north side of SE Washington between SE Sandy and 8th Avenue.
The project will result in improved safety for people walking and bicycling and a stronger connection between the Central Eastside and Lloyd neighborhoods.
If it’s unpleasant to bike to and from the new Blumenauer Bridge, people won’t be as inclined to use it, so it’s good PBOT is working to make it more accessible. Construction on these projects is expected to last through August – stay tuned for an update when the projects are complete.
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