Note: This story is just a heads-up at something that is changing next to a popular bike route. I am not “against the business” or casting aspersions at their decisions. Thank you. – Jonathan.
At Portland City Council this week, a business owner be formally granted ownership of what is currently public right-of-way as part of an expansion and development of their lot on the southwest corner of Northeast Marine Drive and 33rd Avenue.
Those of you who ride bikes in the area will recognize the location as the spot where the Marine Drive bike path begins to head eastward toward Mt. Hood. This move comes as the business owner plans significant changes on the site could have impacts on the bicycling environment.
The owner of the four acre parcel, WPC Marine, LLC wants to add services to its existing Herc Rentals business. According to city land use filings, changes coming to the lot include a new vehicle washing station and a diesel and gas refueling station. 15-22 new parking spaces will also be added (some developments to this lot have already been made). The reason this came to City Council is because the business owner wants the City of Portland to “vacate” an existing public right-of-way that bisects the property. Turns out that city plans at one time included a slip lane to be built through the property between Marine Drive and 33rd. That lane was never built, but with these changes, the business owner wants to make it official and has asked the city for a street vacation — a process wherein the city gives up its rights to public right-of-way.
As part of giving this business owner permission to make requested changes, the City of Portland will require them to close the northern driveway entrance off Marine Drive and to have only one driveway entering the site. That driveway will be only about 80 feet from the entrance to the bike path. Given that this business is adding new uses and services at this location, it’s possible bicycle riders could experience more motor vehicle traffic on this frontage road that connects to the path. In city filings, PBOT said since Herc Rentals focuses primarily on business-to-business sales, “few clients will visit the site, and the parking area is primarily expected to serve employees and a small number of potential clients visiting the site for informational purposes.” However, since the company rents trucks and other equipment that will arrive on trucks, PBOT also notes that, “It will have a much higher share of large freight vehicles loading and unloading on-site.”
Here’s more from PBOT’s traffic impact analysis:
PBOT’s review results in closures of existing driveways at NE Marine and NE 33rd Drives, and reconfiguring of the site’s main driveway entrance at NE 33rd Drive. These required physical improvements to the vehicle circulation on and off the site will improve safety for drivers as well as bicyclists and pedestrians who use the public trail east of the site.
I’m still unclear how directing all traffic to and from the business to the southern driveway off the same NE 33rd Ave frontage road used by the bicycle riders to access the path makes it safer. As you can see in the drawing below (lower right of image), large trucks are shown using the same short section of road that bicycle riders will be on to access the path.
Another interesting aspect of this project is that the new footprint of Herc Rentals will be solidly over the existing eastment for a future extension of the bike path. 40-Mile Loop plans call for the path to continue west of its current termination at 33rd Avenue. As you can see in the plan drawings, the gold line shows a 30-foot wide bike path easement on the southern edge of the property right underneath where the business owner plans to store trucks, trailers and other equipment. “This alignment will maintain the intent of having a trail connection while also minimizing potential conflicts between future trail users and the industrial and commercial services of the property,” the city states.
So, in exchange for extinguishing rights to the old slip lane right-of-way, the City of Portland has reaffirmed that when the time comes to build this new section of path, WPC Marine will be required to grant public access to the property. “The public shall have the right to use the Easement Area as a public recreational trail,” reads the trail easement agreement. “The City may permit the public to access the trail for recreational and transportation purposes, including, without limitation, walking, running, cycling, and skating.”