Video: Get a sneak peek at what’s coming to N Willamette Blvd

Yes, the transformation of North Willamette Boulevard is something I’m very excited about. And yes, I’ll admit it’s partly because it’s a key bike street in my neighborhood and my family, friends, and I will be among the many people who use it.

I know I’ve done two posts about it in the past few months — one about newly released designs, the other about some project elements that will break ground this year — but it’s time for another. Why? Because at last night’s monthly meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Capital Project Manager David Backes shared a sneak peek of newer “60%” designs and overlayed them on a Google Map to give us a detailed look at what’s coming.

Backes (who happens to live in St. Johns and rides/walks/drives on Willamette a lot) said the designs and map he shared last night were completed a few weeks ago and haven’t been made public yet. I was watching the meeting and happened to record my screen while he explained the designs (and rationale behind them) to BAC members. Beyond the exciting changes Backes revealed, it’s a fascinating look at some of the thought processes PBOT goes through to arrive at design decisions.

What we see in the video above is Backes going through major elements of the project starting from the corner of N Willamette and Rosa Parks.

At Rosa Parks, he reveals PBOT will actually widen the road in order to make room for full concrete protection of the bikeway. Then he moves north to the expansive intersections of N Liberty/Oatman and N Vincent/Saratoga — both of which will be severely necked down as part of this project. Next stop is the intersection of Willamette and Bryant, where big changes are in store for the bus stops and the awkward diagonal connection with a major east-west greenway. Then we hear about changes at N Chautauqua, where PBOT will add curb extensions to shorten crossing distances and cut into the bluff for the bike lane. Further north, at N Olin and Harvard we learn about plans to close Olin to drivers. Backes also shares plans for the bike lane at the University of Portland entrance and N Ida just beyond the railroad cut.

Pretty exciting stuff huh? And BAC members were thrilled and thanked Backes and the other PBOT staffer in attendance for their work thus far. Let’s just hope PBOT is taking care of the public process in a way that assures we’ll actually see these changes come to fruition.

On that note, remember that PBOT won’t begin major construction on this project until 2025; but we’ll see big changes to the striping as early as this spring when PBOT tags onto a planned repaving project to lay out the new bike lanes as the plans call for. The bike lanes will get wider, we’ll see removal of on-street parking, ADA curb ramps, and lots of other changes coming this year. Then, when the federally-funded project gets going in 2025-2026, PBOT will come back and add the concrete curbs, medians, and other major elements.

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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John V
John V
1 month ago

That looks great! I can find no big faults with it. This used to be on my commute from Princeton near the cut to downtown. I no longer commute and also moved to another neighborhood but I still ride out this direction for fun.

Lots of weird and very long 4ish way intersections turning into much smaller easier ones. Very nice. Those huge wide intersections allow people to cruise off of Willamette at an angle at full speed which can be scary and unpredictable. This will be a nice improvement.

I like what they’re doing with the Willamette to Rosa Parks corner. I remember hearing about it and there was some concern that it was going to be kind of marginal, but it looks good to me. I’m sure roadies will complain about many of the bus stops because they can’t cruise through in a straight line anymore, but those don’t look hard to navigate and it’s a small price to pay for not having to pass a bus on the left.

EP
EP
1 month ago

It would be great to see some of those closed off intersections reimagined as micro-parks/rest areas for people using the bike lanes. Obviously there are other problems that could arise from campers and such, but it would help make the street more friendly for kids and new riders if there was a spot to pull off and have a snack or a drink of water.

Maybe PBOT needs to make some greenways “destination” types of attractions to get people interested in riding different parts of town.

“Connect them all”.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
1 month ago
Reply to  EP

It would be a shame to lower our ambitions for pedestrian infrastructure because we might lack the will to prevent campers from commandeering it. The city should build and protect it, just as they should recommit to protecting our existing pedestrian paths.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago

This is great. I really appreciate PBOT taking pedestrians into account in a mostly thoughtful way. The only design flaw, in my opinion, is running bikes through the pedestrian zone at Willamette/Rosa Parks.

Fluidity
Fluidity
1 month ago

Why isn’t it a two way cycle track on the bluff side? At least until Portsmouth where it could use the signal to get WB cyclists to the north side of Willamette…

Michael
Michael
1 month ago

Really makes me wonder why they’re planning on doing a two way cycle track on the south side of Halsey east of 80th. Doubly so, given that cyclists east of 92nd are forced onto the north side of Halsey going over the overpass. I just sent an email off to the program director voicing my concern over that particular feature, but I wonder if you’ve heard something I’m not aware of on that front. As far as I can tell, the 68th to 92nd Halsey project has kind of flown under the radar for something that’s supposed to imminently break ground.

(Aside from the 92nd intersection issues, I’m super excited for the Halsey project for the same reasons you’re excited about the Willamette project ;p)

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  Fluidity

Connecting between the cycletrack and the side streets would be problematic, and the beginning/end would require dangerous crossovers. I appreciate the lack of right hooks from the a 2-way cycletrack, but IMO it is not worth the aforementioned compromises.

I think PBOT did a great job of addressing ten right hook dangers by eliminating a few intersections and reducing the width of the intersection to slow down people who are turning.

HJ
HJ
1 month ago

This is nice infrastructure to have, but let’s face it, the area is already pretty good. It really doesn’t make sense to keep adding upgrades to the same stretch of road (this is what, round 6 of upgrades there in the last 20yrs) when there are so many areas that don’t have any infrastructure at all. No sidewalks, no bike lanes. Heck, there are areas that don’t even have paved roads.
PBOT would see far more bang for the buck in terms of safety improvements by getting even minimal infrastructure in wholly unserved areas than they will get by doing yet another upgrade to Willamette. For a theoretically cash strapped organization this investment makes no sense. Address the severe infrastructure problems in the hills and further east first, then do further enhancements to the areas that are already solid.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
1 month ago
Reply to  HJ

Hard disagree. This is a popular place to bike because it provides efficient and scenic access to UP and St. John’s, but for these same reasons, it’s also a popular route for drivers (especially during rush hour). These improvements will make it way safer and will encourage folks like my family to ride without worry, rather than taking a car.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

This all looks great, but I really wish there was something they could do about the average speeds on this stretch. I feel pretty safe in the existing bike lane, aside from the drivers going 40-50mph. I wouldn’t be shocked if the average speed is 10+mph over the posted limit.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Speed bumps are part of the project as well

Matt G
Matt G
1 month ago

Missed opportunities to use roundabouts in those massive unprogrammed intersections to calm traffic. Speed cushions will not slow down the most egregious drivers on this stretch. Protection for bike lanes needs to be Montreal barriers.

Dubs
1 month ago

It seems a little complicated in spots They need to discuss how to improve the traffic flow along Lombard in tandem with this project. Since Lombard has been “improved” I am seeing a lot more traffic overflowing onto Willamette, Oh and whatever happened to the extension of the NP Greenway…sigh https://npgreenway.org/