The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced Thursday they will break ground on a project to improve bus and bike access on Southwest Jefferson street in the Goose Hollow area. The project is part of PBOT’s Central City in Motion plan and was first expected to begin last year.
In a statement yesterday, the city said the project will “relieve a major pinch point in the transit system” and “improve transit speed and reliability for five TriMet bus lines (6, 45, 55, 58, 68) by adding a new bus-and-turn (BAT) lane on the south side of SW Jefferson Street between SW 16th and 18th avenues. A new protected bike lane will also be added as part of the project to improve safety for people bicycling.” In addition to changes to the bus and bike lanes, PBOT will build a new concrete bus island on the southeast corner of Jefferson and 17th.
“This is an investment in making transit faster and more reliable for people who live and work in Goose Hollow,” and “will benefit people riding the bus, driving, biking, and businesses overall,” said PBOT Interim Director Tara Wasiak. Other benefits of the project laid out by Wasiak include fewer backups for drivers looking to get onto Highway 26 and a safer bike lane. “All modes of travel will have improved access to businesses in the area,” she said.
With this project, PBOT will not only get to tick another CCIM project off their list, they’ll also be able to fix what Mayor Ted Wheeler felt was a big mistake when they restriped this same section of road in 2018. At a city council meeting in July of that year, Wheeler (and his late colleague Commissioner Nick Fish) piped up to make several pointed complaints about the current configuration. Fish said PBOT “over-engineered” the street and Wheeler added that the new striping had, “made the biking situation worse.” “I’m not convinced we made it better. We made it worse and I’m curious what problem it was we were trying to solve here,” Wheeler said.
Fish and Wheeler had reasonable point. The current configuration between 16th and 18th goes from bike lane, to (sharrowed) mixing zone, and then to a center-running green bike lane in the span of just two blocks. The new plan will make the cycling experience much more consistent with a continuous, curbside bike lane protected from other lanes with plastic delineator wands. And instead of a bike box at 18th, the new design will maintain the bike lane at the curb and push back the stop line for drivers who want to turn right onto 18th. Drivers will also have a more legible environment to operate in, and should find using Jefferson to go west and get onto Highway 26 to be easier and less congested.
What’s really good to see in this project is what appears to be a dramatic reduction in on-street car parking. PBOT will remove two blocks of parallel parking spaces (about 20 by my count) on the north side of Jefferson to make room for the bike lane. And on the south side of the street, it looks like the total number of available car parking spaces will be reduced from 23 spaces to 11.
Construction is anticipated to begin May 8th, and should last about two months. This is just the first phase of PBOT’s CCIM project on SW Jefferson. They plan to make changes to bus and bike lanes from 16th east to Naito Parkway in future phases.