New protected bikeway on SW 4th set to break ground this coming spring

PBOT rendering of new protected bike lane on SW 4th between Jefferson and Madison in front of City Hall (on the left).

By the end of 2025 Portland could have a protected bikeway couplet through the heart of downtown. At a meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Association this morning, a Portland Bureau of Transportation staffer presented an update on the Southwest Broadway and SW 4th Avenue projects and shared the latest on when we can expect to see major changes in these key north-south streets.

PBOT Capital Project Manager Gabe Graff started his presentation by getting DNA members up to speed on SW Broadway (it was the first time he was in front of the group since the Broadway bike lane scandal happened back in September). I noticed how he carefully described what the kerfluffle was about. “We installed a parking-protected bike lane… And our data shows that that’s working pretty well,” Graff said. “But we have had we have heard some concerns from some specific stakeholders — and particularly our director and Commissioner were concerned that the design that was was not working very well.”

Graff then said PBOT plans to break ground on three new valet loading platforms on Broadway in January. As BikePortland reported in September, the new platforms will be located in front of the Vance, Heathman, and Benson hotels. He also said PBOT wants to get rid of the existing, white plastic flexi-posts that define the cycling space today and replace them with concrete medians, curbs, and planters. The idea would be make the corridor safer for walkers (who could wait on concrete medians to cross), and more “aesthetically pleasing” while upgrading the existing temporary materials to something more permanent. 

Note the image on the right where green outlines future concrete medians on SW Broadway.

The new platforms will likely be installed by spring 2024. These additional upgrades to SW Broadway are being scoped but Graff didn’t offer a timeline for when we can expect to see them on the ground.

It’s great to hear PBOT wants to make Broadway better for bicycling, because it needs to catch up to its much larger sister project three blocks over on SW 4th.

PBOT will spend nearly $17 million* on a reconstruction of a 1.25-mile section of SW 4th Ave between SW Caruthers (just south of I-405) and W Burnside. The project is the northbound couplet to SW Broadway and was identified as a top priority in the Central City in Motion plan adopted by City Council in 2018. (*Funding comes from a mix of sources including the Fixing Our Streets program, PBOT maintenance funds, transportation system development charges, and contributions from Prosper Portland and TriMet).

For some reason, I haven’t covered the project since 2020. That might be because it has been delayed several times. Last time I checked, it was supposed to break ground in December 2021 and be done by 2022. The pandemic and higher-than-expected contractor bids due to inflation pushed the timeline back. Now PBOT says they hope to start construction spring of next year (2024) and finish in mid-2025.

The project itself is really exciting. Since this is a major capital project and not a quick-and-cheap project like SW Broadway, we’ll see quality, concrete separation instead of “paint and posts.” Since PBOT plans a full rebuild, we’ll see what they choose to do with a clean slate. The design is complete and we got a taste of what it’ll likely in a video PBOT shared in 2021.

As you can see in that video, this will be a dramatic change to SW 4th. Below are more slides from this morning’s presentation followed by the main project elements (via PBOT):

  • Repave SW Fourth Avenue from Lincoln to W Burnside streets
  • Safer crosswalks and curb ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from Lincoln to W Burnside streets
  • A protected bike lane along the westside of SW Fourth Avenue from Caruthers to W Burnside streets.
  • A business access and transit (BAT) lane between Sheridan and Mill streets. BAT lanes give priority to buses and people turning into driveways or cross streets.
  • A bus stop platform at SW Fourth Avenue and Hall Street
  • A new traffic signal at SW Fourth Avenue and College Street
  • Updated streetlights between Sheridan and W Burnside streets
  • Improve existing traffic signals at the intersections of SW Hall, Taylor, Sheridan, Caruthers, Lincoln, Montgomery, Market, Clay, Jefferson, and W Burnside streets
  • If budget allows, improve additional existing traffic signals at the intersections of SW Alder, Harvey Milk, and Pine streets

Graff said because the contractor bid came in higher than expected, they’re still currently negotiating the scope and how best to “value engineer” the project. The result of that process will likely be a decision to put off some planned signal upgrades at SW Harvey Milk, Oak, and Pine (none of which should impact bicycling safety or flow).

Stay tuned for updates as this project gets off the ground!

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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Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
4 months ago

Music to my ears.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago

Great… PBOT is going to spoil the last good N/S riding route through downtown. You really can’t beat the center lane.

Daniel Reimer
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Except during traffic time. Trying to get from PSU to Hawthorne on 4th was always annoying since it would back up right before Madison St, and I refuse to sit in car traffic on a bike. Combined with the signal timing downtown, you could never go as fast down 4th anyways without hitting reds.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

During heavy traffic (4-5pm) going west on Jefferson I was able to outpace cars pretty easily from 2nd to 13th because of the bike lane (with just a bit of hard work keeping on the lights going up to Park).

4th the limiting factor will be the lights as it’s downhill. Not sure what they’re timed at right now.

Now let’s hope that they don’t decide to rip it back out again on a whim.

BrickLearns
BrickLearns
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Eh not so sure about that, used to bike this every day and it was not a low stress route. You had to mix riding pretty fast with also watching out for inattentive drivers.

Pkjb
Pkjb
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

This is part is my regular, daily commute. I welcome the addition of the bike lane, and have eagerly been awaiting its installation for four years. 4th Ave is not fun in heavily congested conditions. I’m not happy about the left hand side bike lane alignment, as it adds delay to the connection to the Hawthorne bridge. But it will be vast improvement over existing conditions.

maccoinnich
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I am willing to cycle on 4th as-is, but it’s not a low stress route. I can’t wait for this to finally get built.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Do all y’all think 2nd was improved by the protected bike lanes?

Pkjb
Pkjb
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

When there isn’t any traffic, as there often isn’t on 2nd, the bike lane is superfluous. But if it was full of cars jockeying to get across the river during rush hour, the bike lane would be useful.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

That design is garbage and often filled with it. 4th has a different feel than 2nd tbh.

maccoinnich
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I do, although I recognize that there are a number of issues with 2nd that shouldn’t be a problem at 4th (i.e. 2nd was built on the cheap with no real protection; only exists on a small part of the street; has poor pavement quality; etc).

blumdrew
4 months ago

I like this project well enough, but I think it’s strange to describe Broadway/4th as a couplet. Sure, they are if you squint but they are also pretty far apart and have a different one way couplet running between them. It’s a bit awkward to navigate on couplets that are 3 blocks apart, I can’t imagine anyone would design a road network for cars that way.

All of that to say, I really wish the transit mall was better oriented towards cycling. Having through running car lanes + street parking and just a marginal lane here and there really is a shame. 5th in particular is flatter and more direct than Broadway from the Hawthorne Bridge to PSU (at least to the Vanport Building where I store my bike). It’s about 15% longer with 15% more climbing.

All in all, I think this project is great – but mostly because it creates a natural one-way couplet with 5th, not Broadway (which I think pairs more naturally with Park). Can’t wait to ride it once it gets built out! I hate riding on 4th these days, and it’s a crying shame it’s been delayed so long

dw
dw
4 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Didn’t the transit mall historically have limited through-access for cars? If I remember from reading the history, businesses complained so when they rebuilt it for the green/orange lines they added a through-running car lane.

If I was the dictator of Portland for a day I’d make 5th, 6th, Yamhill, and Morrison all car-free. It’s ridiculous how often I see cars lined up for blocks on Morrison, but then Washington and Taylor just a block in either direction are entirely un-congested. Not to mention how many people just… park directly on the MAX tracks.

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Back in the olden days, the Bus Mall didn’t permit through traffic for a short section in the middle of downtown. The rebuild opened up a single continuous lane for non-transit vehicles.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

I have say that it rather sucked when it was transit only both from a pedestrian and a cycling standpoint. It still does (the buses are oppressive), but at least I can (legally) ride on it.

5th has been devoid of interesting businesses ever since the transit mall was built, even (and especially) when it was pedestrian only.

BrickLearns
BrickLearns
4 months ago

This is great, I used to bike down Barbur every morning and the Caruthers crossing and merge/lane change you have to do on a bike was always pretty stressful.

X
X
4 months ago
Reply to  BrickLearns

You’re right about the merge, that bit of 4th Avenue could use some help. Below PSU it’s hard for me to understand why we are putting so much money into a street which is already rideable and has a curb protected option a few blocks away.

There is a bias toward building out bike infrastructure downtown, where speeds are limited to 12 mph by traffic control, while some roads like NE Cornfoot lack any bike features at all and the preferred speed seems to be about 45.

It’s not just a few bikey travelers who would use Cornfoot. There are hundreds (thousands?) of people punching the clock at the airport and at nearby businesses who could use an alternative to driving or a transit service that is slow, inefficient, and shuts down at 12:30 am.

curly
curly
4 months ago

JM, the video states the project will be funded by FOS.
$17 million for 1.25 miles? That’s significant money. About $5 million more than the Division Safety Project which covered about 6 miles.
I keep considering the work from home (WFH) situation and why we continue to invest in this type of infrastructure in the Central City, the most transit/pedestrian friendly part of the city. Individual neighborhoods need so much attention, especially since telecommuting seems to have driven the central city workforce out of the central city. And without workers going downtown I think the conversation needs to directed more towards funding projects already promised in the EPIM, SWIM plans. Let’s let the CCIM plan rest until everyone is ready to go back to the office, or adjust the CCIM timeline to adjust for the lack of folks in the central city. The central city accounts for only about 4% of the city’s population yet eats up a significant amount of PBOT’s funding.

David McEachern
David McEachern
4 months ago
Reply to  curly

Exactly. PBOT just seems so myopically focused on downtown Portland. While there have been a few nice additions to the east side, Portland desperately needs more thought and focus on other areas, like east Portland, for instance, which is quite frankly, scary af to bike around.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago

Don’t forget SW. Everyone thinks that since SW isn’t poor, it has plenty of cycling infra. But it doesn’t.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
4 months ago
Reply to  curly

Generally during periods of severe budget cuts, PBOT usually does far more infrastructure projects and far less planning and maintenance, to preserve employment and reduce the need for layoffs. My guess is that PBOT and the powers that be downtown know full well that after the new council is elected, there will be far less appetite (and money) to do downtown projects, that projects in North/NE (District 2) and EP (District 1) will be given much higher priority politically.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  David Hampsten

That’s such a total guess, David. East Portland is awash in projects right now, some of which have not been supported by residents. It’s not clear who east Portlanders will send to council. Remember, this area went for Gonzalez over Hardesty last election.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
4 months ago

Lisa, the previous elections are all irrelevant, as no one is really competing with anyone else – all candidates need to be district residents and the district voters will pick the top 3, no matter how many or how few votes are actually made. EP traditionally has a lower participation rate than other parts of the city, but again this doesn’t matter. So far there are at least 8 candidates, but candidates still have until August of next year to file, though if they want city funds they’ll have to file earlier than then.

The biggest EP project is actually an ODOT one, to rebuild outer Powell, not by PBOT, a project which is heavily supported by residents. Division is nearly complete. What else is actually being built? Raising Foster above the floodplain never got funded yet (it’s in the EPIM), but most of the rest of the EPIM projects are done already.

Given that Districts 1 and 2 have the overwhelming majority of BIPOC residents in the city, plus half the city council seats, I have no doubt they’ll split their 50% of all PBOT discretionary funding (including their $35 million in new gas taxes) between them, leaving maybe 25% for downtown and 12.5% each for the remainder of Districts 3 and 4.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
4 months ago

East Portland is awash in projects right now, some of which have not been supported by residents.

I think it would be an interesting future set of stories by y’all if someone put together a review of all the new bike infrastructure district by district, including controversies, removals, and so on, during the previous 12 months. Broadway is in District 4; NE 33rd in District 2; and so on. The good, the bad, and the homeless camps. Y’all could even discuss the gaps, particularly in SW. Sort of a primer for all the new candidates, why bicycling in Portland sucks (or not).

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Good idea!

curly
curly
4 months ago

Lisa,
East Portland is awash in projects the last few years, however, many have been started, but not finished. Division being one of those projects and we’ve waited almost 30 years for those improvements Given that east Portland has a population almost 4 times that of the west side and all but 3 of the top 30 High Crash Intersections in the city https://www.portland.gov/transportation/vision-zero/high-crash-network-streets-and-intersections wouldn’t it seem logical east Portland would receive a significant amount of funding?
82nd Ave. is also a high $ project that is funded by ODOT as is Powell Blvd. That PBOT is doing the planning for 82nd Ave., I don’t expect that it will be received any better than Division has been by most of the community and the outcome will be debated for years.
My hope is after the elections we will have at least have a seat at the table.
The EPIM plan (a five year implementation strategy) had only 20% of the projects completed ten years after council approved it. That it took until 2019 until SWIM was approved by city council was a failure of west Portland advocates. It should have been completed before the CCIM was completed (phase 1). Count on seeing more funding for the central city before anything gets done in east Portland, or west Portland as projects are 5-10 years delayed after being funded by PBOT.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago

Great! Broadway is a useful, lower-stress way to go from North to South through Downtown. There hasn’t been anything like it for South to North travel. When I need to go North, I have to go all the way to the Waterfront, or play stop sign roulette on Park.

4th has five lanes for cars already. There’s plenty of space for a great bike facility.

Steve C
Steve C
4 months ago

Interesting that their own rendering show cars backed up into the crosswalk waiting to cross Caruthers. Switching from a right side to a left side bike lane is always unnerving, despite the hopeful dashed green bike crossing. I don’t trust drivers to honor the light staggering/separation.

And how does the right turn onto Madison for the Hawthorn bridge work?

Fred
Fred
4 months ago

Another bike lane on the left side, where cars don’t expect bikes to be!

I haven’t watched the video yet but I hope they don’t signalize each intersection and make the bikes wait, and then the cars wait, in an endless dance that frustrates everybody.

Priscilla P
Priscilla P
4 months ago

Sure hope PBOT doesn’t 86 this project because someone complains like they just did with the bike lane removal on 33rd.