PBOT bans eastbound drivers at tricky 57th and Sandy intersection

Drivers can no longer (legally) do what that Subaru is doing.

This week the City of Portland made a change to a complex, 5-way intersection by prohibiting drivers from going eastbound on NE Alameda at 56th.

As we reported in April 2021, the move comes as part of a larger effort to speed up bus service on TriMet lines 12 and 71. By removing the traffic signal phase from the Alameda leg of the intersection, the Portland Bureau of Transportation can now give more “green time” to NE Sandy and 57th.

“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,” was how PBOT Planner Zef Wagner explained the change at a presentation to the Bicycle Advisory Committee last year.

While this is being done under the umbrella of the Rose Lane Project as a way to improve bus service, the change also has an impact on bicycle traffic. NE Alameda is a popular greenway route and fewer cars at this intersection will make it less stressful. I use this route a lot and the signal phases never seem to accomodate me very well. Now that PBOT doesn’t need a signal phase for drivers on Alameda, they can program it exclusively for bike users, which should make things work better.

An added bonus is that the change will result in fewer drivers using Alameda as a cut-through route. PBOT noted in a statement Friday afternoon that the Alameda Neighborhood Greenway, “currently has too much cut-through traffic for a safe route to school.”

PBOT has used temporary materials on this project and they will study changes in traffic volume. In six months, they’ll analyze the data and consider other strategies to mitigate traffic issues if necessary. This is supposedly already on the ground. If you’ve experienced it already, let us know how it’s going.

More information on the project here.

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SE 34th
SE 34th
12 days ago

Now do Seven Corners!

Petr
Petr
12 days ago

Oh hey, I was there just the other day, and noticed the change! Overall, I thought it was quite good. The main problem I noticed is that drivers still get through, because drivers approaching Alameda from 56th can’t see the sign prohibiting entry for motor vehicles. Same thing for vehicles exiting the parking lot for the German American Society. It’s an easy fix, and I hope PBOT adds “no left turn” signs at both locations.

EP
EP
12 days ago

Is there any improvement for bike traffic headed westbound to this intersection? It always seems strange that I have to veer up onto the sidewalk, potentially against oncoming traffic swerving off sandy, to push the bike crossing button. It would be nice if they closed off that block of alameda to eastbound traffic and made it bike only.

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Chris I
Chris I
11 days ago
Reply to  EP

It would be really nice if they curbed out both approaches of Alameda at this intersection, making it so only bikes can go west or east on Alameda. The signal would then just have a Sandy phase, a 57th phase, and a bike/all walk phase. This would greatly reduce congestion and solve the awkward approach for cyclist going westbound.

Zachary
Zachary
11 days ago
Reply to  EP

Couldn’t agree more. I can’t believe PBOT continues to leave that little block of Alameda open. It serves no vehicular purpose—people leaving Sandy to the south can turn right at 58th at a much more reasonable speed—and invites bike/vehicle head on interactions. I’ve reached out to PBOT about it and there seems to be no inclination to make the change but they won’t explain why not. Curious if anyone has a sense of why they wouldn’t (Snarky hypothesis welcome too!)?

EP
EP
11 days ago
Reply to  Zachary

I just reached out to PBOT about the eastside of the intersection and included my concerns and this diagram. Agreed that I can’t really find much use for this piece of street next to the tiny triangle block above. Seems like it would be better served as a plaza, or add a diverter and allow bikes to go east & west, but cars are right turn only, which they have to be since the concrete curbs were added to the middle of Sandy. It seems like there are less and less reasons to keep this open to cars!

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Steve
Steve
12 days ago

This will result in a lot more traffic on NE Siskiyou between 54th and 57th however, which is quite poor.

While the Vicariate Church has been closed thru the pandemic (and subsequently moved), if any other congregation were to move in, then this new traffic pattern will be a disaster in the neighborhood for drivers to get east and south.

Camden
Camden
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve

I see what you mean but I don’t believe that many cars were using the now removed crossing(haven’t seen in a while) and so was just taking up light cycle time for nothing. I think the improved light cycle will help with the traffic on 57th north of sandy including crossing Siskiyou so this should be a net positive.

But only time will tell!

bjorn
bjorn
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve

I don’t think we should even consider trading a significant safety improvement to improve traffic flow for a few hours on a sunday morning. Things were always a bit of a traffic jam during those times before the pandemic and so I am not particularly concerned if it might be slightly worse in the future. Restricting or charging for parking on Sundays in the area might help discourage so many people from driving to the neighborhood at a peak time.

Steve
Steve
12 days ago
Reply to  bjorn

That’s my point. This change will push more traffic onto smaller residential streets, which makes it LESS safe.

bjorn
bjorn
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Cut through traffic going all the way from North of Fremont on Alameda is a huge problem throughout the week, hopefully this will be one of many pieces to eliminate that problem. If there is an issue with too many cars at a specific time like Sundays I’d suggest dealing with it by installing diverters on nearby streets that need to reduce motor vehicle traffic, or pricing nearby parking, not eliminating a 7 day a week safety improvement. We need to push drivers back onto the arteries, Alameda is a greenway, not an artery.

Chris I
Chris I
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve

less safe for a few hours one day of the week on side streets vs. less safe on Alameda 24/7 is a trade-off most people would support, I think.

And your assumption relies on another congregation moving into this space, which seems unlikely. Churches have been closing down all over Portland in recent years. There is no indication that this trend will reverse.

My hope is they sell the property, and someone tears it down to put in a multi-use development. Given the slope of the site, it could have tuck-under parking access and commercial spaces on the Sandy-facing side, and a great ground-level courtyard on the Alameda side with 8-10 stories of residential above.

It would be great to reactivate the pedestrian space on this section of Sandy. Having a giant retaining wall for 2 blocks really makes this section feel like a freeway.

Nick
Nick
12 days ago

I live by the 72nd version of this on Sandy and as a driver/walker/biker it’s a nightmare on all fronts. I’m hoping the 70’s greenway improvements will make it better but that’s still years out.

The gentle curves lead people to come off of sandy at highway like speeds right into many neighborhood roads. Wide intersections encourage the street racing issues, we’ve experienced recently. The speed-limit is supposedly 30 MPH on sandy but I’m regularly passed by people going 40+.

I’d love to see some traffic calming all along Sandy so bike and bus traffic can get to use the nice efficient route through NE, instead of having to go straight east/south.

bjorn
bjorn
12 days ago
Reply to  Nick

Unfortunately a lot of the improvements that were a part of the 72nd avenue project proposal have been cut for costs because they delayed the project so much that inflation has eaten into the budget. Should have been built a couple years ago but now probably still a couple years away and not nearly as good as initially proposed.

Orvill Stevens
Orvill Stevens
12 days ago

Absolutely one of the worst PBOT “improvements” of late. You do know cars use that street. Now they are going to use side streets and uncontrolled intersections to get onto Sandy or NE 57th putting more bikes and cars at risk of crashes.

To celebrate this shows complete ignorance of bike and vehicle safety

But the PBOT no longer promotes Vision Zero. Deaths are ok

Matt
Matt
11 days ago
Reply to  Orvill Stevens

cars use that street

Point of order: Cars don’t do anything per se; but people who choose to drive cars choose to drive them in the manner of their choosing.

Chris Wold
Chris Wold
11 days ago

This project may speed up bus services, as intended, but I agree with others that this change will force more traffic onto side streets, most likely NE 47th, which has a light to get onto Sandy. But NE 47th already sees too much traffic. In fact, it has many of the same issues as NE 7th: narrow street, traffic islands, poor sight lines, and lots of car, bike, and pedestrian use. The other option is NE 54th, also with a light at Sandy, but which runs by an elementary school. From a cyclist’s perspective, the project will likely have little impact. The picture caption “Bike riders won’t have to worry about that oncoming car any longer” is misleading as cyclists already have a dedicated bike signal that allows them to travel across the intersection without any cars. This project also saw a new stop sign where three branches of Wistaria Drive intersect with Alameda and 51st. That is a nice change, although putting the stop sign closer to Alameda would have been much better. With the current location, cars must stop well before actually getting to the intersection. Overall, this project is not well thought out.

Rory Shortell
Rory Shortell
9 days ago
Reply to  Chris Wold

Sending people down super skinny residential 56th Ave, instead of the extremely wide commercial intersection of Alameda that was literally built for people in the neighborhood to get out of there, is about the worst thought out thing ever. All to accommodate a few bikes, that really shouldn’t be having any problems to begin with. If you live on 56th, please get ready to sue the city, because that’s literally the ONLY way through for a lot of people in that neighborhood. The other options for cars are going to be AT LEAST 1000Xs more dangerous.