New diverter on NW Vaughn will prohibit driver turns and improve greenway

Intersection of NW Vaughn and 24th looking east toward the Fremont Bridge.

In defense of a bike-friendly street and with a goal to stop drivers from cutting through a dense residential neighborhood, the City of Portland plans to construct a median island in the middle of an intersection in northwest.

The median will be installed on NW Vaughn and 24th. It’s a key crossing of the north-south, NW 24th Avenue neighborhood greenway route and the project was first identified through PBOT’s NW In Motion plan (see below).

A mailer sent to nearby homes by PBOT at the end of April said, “The project will improve safety and reduce cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets in the Northwest District, creating a safer, more comfortable connection. The project will make it easier for people on foot and bike to cross NW Vaughn.” Another stated goal of the project is to lower the amount of drivers who cut-through onto the greenway and to make it easier and safer for bikers and walkers to cross Vaughn.

(Source: PBOT)

As you can see in the plan drawing above, for drivers going north on 24th toward Vaughn, only right turns will be allowed. And from Vaughn, only right turns onto 24th will be permitted. Folks coming off I-5 who want to get to destinations like the shops on NW Thurman or Forest Park won’t be able to turn left at 24th. Instead they’ll need to go a block further west to a signalized intersection at 25th.

The project will add to already completed additions of speed bumps and five recently improved crossings on 24th from Flanders to Vaughn.

As per usual, PBOT will build the new median and crossing with temporary materials, then monitor traffic changes for six months before installing permanent materials. Construction is expected to begin in July 2023.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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dw
dw
1 year ago

Ha! I remember riding through here a few weeks ago and thinking “a diverter would be nice here”. Almost as if my PBOT prayers have been answered. Do you know if the diverter will be made out of those concrete planters or if it will just be plastic wands? I really like when they do quick-build projects with movable concrete instead of plastic.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago

I think I can already hear Allan Classen whining about drivers’ rights being taken away without their consent. Read all about it in the next issue of Northwest Examiner.

But I say: Sorry, Allan. We can’t keep doing the same old thing if we hope to meet greenhouse-gas reduction goals.

Damien
Damien
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Soooooooooooooo true.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

To meet our greenhouse-gas reduction goals we also need to move away from piecemeal temporary “experiments”* to radical system-wide change. I am definitely not holding my breath.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
1 year ago

As someone who has crossed Vaughn at 24th many, many times, I think PBOT’s statement that “the project will make it easier for people on foot and bike to cross NW Vaughn” may not be accurate.

Most of the traffic there is either going west (either off the bridge or turning left on 23rd onto Vaughn) or east on Vaughn, with traffic controlled by the lights at 25th and 23rd. I can’t think of a single instance where a vehicle turning onto 24th from Vaughn or turning onto Vaughn in either direction from 24th presented a danger to me when trying to cross there. It was always the traffic at speed on Vaughn that concerned me.

I realize this plan calls for median strips to be placed on Vaugh. Perhaps that will create a very safe crossing, but I question the wisdom of encouraging people to cross at an unsignalled crosswalk when there are signalled crosswalks one block away in either direction. Given the speeds on Vaughn at that point, in my opinion (and based upon my experiences) it will still be much safer for pedestrians to walk another block to the signaled crosswalks at 23rd and Vaughn.

p.s. does PBOT have any traffic count data for north-south 24th pre- and post USPS move? My sense is there is less traffic now on 24th but it would have been interesting to have real data to see if traffic was significantly reduced after the post office closed.
p.p.s. Did PBOT even consider a manually operated flashing beacon pedestrian crossing- like these pictured on a less busy street in Ballard- so traffic on Vaughn would have to stop at 24th, so as to truly provide a safer crossing?

IMG_1051.jpeg
HJ
HJ
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

I agree. The problem I always had here was the poor sight line to see oncoming traffic. Especially combined with the speed. I’ve frankly always felt that they should encourage people to use the signals instead. Although this will help some because I have had challenges a handful of times juggling ROW with turning vehicles.
That said I do think this could be a major improvement. The turns in this area can lead to some problematic driver behavior. Lots of people who seem to not know where they’re going making sketchy last minute moves. If this cuts down on that it would be helpful.
My only concern is the further concentration of traffic on Vaughn which already has some pretty major backup issues at this spot. I guess we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep an open mind to it for now.

Babygorilla
Babygorilla
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Frequent user here too (the broken glass I’m been regularly walking over just up from the old Groundwerks’ space is real bummer). More street furniture might put drivers on better alert for crossings, but this seems like another instance of the city not providing any legal protection for people on bikes to cross, instead banking on confusion from street furniture / advisory signs to get people in cars to “wave” them through. I imagine it will become permanent as your observations about traffic patterns ring true (traffic for 23rd commercial district that doesn’t use the dedicated turn light at the end of the off ramp uses 23rd Place while 25th and 26th get the bulk of neighborhood / Wallace Park / Forest Park traffic). Rare to see an auto try lefts from 24th onto Vaugh at least from my observations using the area during commute times.

I really wish I understood the economics of street signaling and government funding of research in this area. It seems like advancements in lighting hardware and networking hardware / software should allow for reasonable cost installations of less than full traffic signals at locations like these.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
1 year ago

Are they going to make a dedicated left turn signal on westbound Vaugn at 25th? The main reason I have taken that left onto 24th when driving is to avoid the stack up at 25th. At times only one car is able to turn left onto 25th and that’s when the light is turning red and the opposing traffic has stopped. Also note that I have rarely seen a cyclist on 24th, but if I did, I would fully expect them to take the lane on this low traffic back street.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago
Reply to  TakeTheLane

Just turn left at 23rd Place or 26th Ave instead if you don’t want to turn at 25th Ave. It’s easy.

Not sure what you are implying by “take the lane.” It’s a neighborhood greenway, with sharrows, so of course bikes will take the lane. That’s the whole point of the diverter, to reduce traffic volumes so you can take the lane without too many drivers breathing down your neck or passing you. If 24th Ave had bike lanes, there would be no need for the diverter.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

Sorry to confuse you. I suppose it has been a while since I have driven or ridden on 24th there. There were no sharrows on 24th then. I was only implying that as a driver off the main thoroughfare, I would expect to get “stuck” behind a cyclist (or perhaps a car trying to parallel park), and have the opportunity to practice patience and courtesy. I find most drivers are patient and courteous with me when I bike. They keep a comfortable distance behind me and wave me through stop signs at 4 way stops. Of course as a cyclist, I try not to obstruct traffic or run a stop sign out of turn.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

You make a great point. While cutting off left turns from Vaughn onto 24th, people will still be able to turn left on 23rd place, right on Thurman, and left to continue on 24th, rather than going all the way to 25th and backtracking to 24th.

ean
ean
1 year ago

hopefully it will be something drivers cant just go around. theres a lot of traffic calming in this (my) neighborhood but cars still drive through illegally.