“The builders of the McLoughlin ‘super highway’ envisioned a kind of freedom no one in Oregon had experienced before. Today, we envision another kind of freedom—the freedom to navigate your neighborhood on foot, get to work on the train or bus, or ride your bike to school without worrying about getting where you are going safely.”
Believe it or not, that was written by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It’s an excerpt from the just-released draft version of their McLoughlin Boulevard Investments Strategy (you might recall our report on this back in March). It’s a joint effort between ODOT and Clackamas County to stop the bleeding on a 4.5 mile stretch of McLoughlin Boulevard (aka Highway 99E) between Milwaukie and Oregon City.
Despite being built as a highway solely for driving cars and trucks, McLoughlin serves as a main street for several cities and it’s the most important commercial corridor between I-205 and the Willamette River. And as you’d expect, it has a very sad history of crashes. In the past five years, seven people have been killed in crashes on this stretch of the road — all of them were either walking or using a wheelchair when hit. From 2016 to 2020 there were 53 crashes involving people walking and biking.
This investment strategy is the result of a year of outreach and planning work from dozens of county and state officials and advisors. And unlike other general road plans I’ve seen over the years, this one focused specifically on how to make bicycling and walking safer. The work done by this group will ensure that projects in this corridor compete better for grants and state funding in the future.
The most important part of the strategy report are the specific project recommendations. These projects can now slide right into the upcoming Statewide Transportation Improvement Program because they’ve been vetted by the public and the project team.
63 projects have been identified in the report. For each one, ODOT has assigned a very general cost estimate and feasibility score, along with a prioritization label.
Some of the projects recommended as “key investments” include: restriping the entire corridor 11-foot wide general travel lanes, to provide extra space to separate the bicycle travel lanes; add vertical separation materials inside the buffer to calm traffic and provide a greater sense of safety; reduce speed limit to 35 mph; add a landscaped median to help manage speeds; remove right-turn lanes at intersections and stripe continuous bike lanes all the way to the intersection; re-install storm drain grates at street level to reduce bumps for bicyclists; a bike-only signal at Jennings Road where the Trolley Trail crosses the highway, and so on.
It’s a solid list and it’s comforting to see ODOT and Clackamas County come together to make safe cycling more of a priority. McLoughlin Blvd was built for car drivers and it hasn’t changed much in the last century. It’s woefully outdated and doesn’t reflect the needs of many people. This plan offers us a path out of the darkness.