Protected bike lanes and new pavement coming to Outer SE Stark

View looking west on SE Stark at 115th. That’s Ventura Park on the right.

One of Portland’s deadliest streets will get major changes with a project set to break ground in the coming months. The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced last week they will repave Southeast Stark Street between 108th and 122nd this spring. In addition to new pavement, PBOT will add protected bike lanes on both sides of the street.

It’s all part of the larger Safer Outer Stark project that launched in 2019. Stark has a gruesome history as a high-speed stroad where people in cars, on foot, and on bikes run a higher than average risk of death or serious injury from a traffic collision. SE Stark and 122nd is known as the highest crash intersection in the entire city. Advocates have pushed PBOT for years to make a large safety investment on outer Stark and the city has responded. PBOT has split the $20 million project into five phases. The first two are complete and the one that will repave and add bike lanes this spring is phase three.

This 0.7 mile section of SE Stark begins just east of the Stark-Washington couplet at Mall 205. The width of the road is about 60-feet and it currently has four general purpose lanes and a center turn lane. The stretch between SE 113th and 117th runs along the south side of Ventura Park and has a 30 mph speed limit. Despite doing a complete repave, PBOT will not reduce the number of general travel lanes. See the before/after graphics below shared in a PBOT video about the project:

As you can see in the image above, PBOT plans a buffered bike lane with a concrete curb.

After this project is complete, PBOT will continue with the last two phases in 2025 when they’ll build six new crossings at SE 111th, 119th, 128th, 137th, 141st, and 151st. The last phase of the project will extend safety and crossing upgrades — as well the protected bike lanes — all the way to the city border with Gresham (SE 162nd).

Funding for the project comes from a mix of sources including $11 million from the city’s General Fund, $6 million from the state transportation package passed in 2017, $2 million in System Development Charges, and $1 million from the Fixing Our Streets program. Learn more at the Safer Outer Stark project website.

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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David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

It’s still going to be a deadly stroad. What they ought to do is keep the protected bike lanes but put in parking-protected bike lanes too on alternating sides of the stroad and create temporary one-lane sections for a chicane effect, to slow down car drivers.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

It looks like the city is starting to use general fund money to pay for road improvements.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Good catch. This is very unusual, particularly for East Portland.

Rob Galanakis
Rob Galanakis
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Looks like it’s part of Build Portland, part of the general fund meant for this: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/655239
Reading that presentation is absurd- zero fatalities by 2024, 70% non-car mode share. This city’s leadership has totally lost both its vision and ability to execute.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Galanakis

Thank you for the link. So in reality it’s Fix Our Streets funding, which is city gas-tax based, so it’s not really General Fund at all, but a species of General Transportation Revenue that PBOT has disguised as General Fund. Same old shit in other words for East Portland.

Wooster
Wooster
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Build Portland is not the same as Fixing Our Streets. Build Portland was a one-time program where the City bonded against new general fund revenue coming from expiring Urban Renewal Areas, borrowing the money to do a bunch of major maintenance projects. So it was general fund money (property and business taxes) and not gas tax, but the general fund money was “new” money that wasn’t already budgeted, since it had been tied up in Urban Renewal Areas for decades. Build Portland was an initiative by Mayor Wheeler to address aging infrastructure, but he hasn’t prioritized continuing it.

MelK
MelK
1 month ago

I want to be happy about this. I really do. But the “proposed improvements” image still looks extremely inviting for someone hoping to speed down this road at insane speeds. Keeping four travel lanes and a center turn lane still means no one has to ever slow down if someone in front of them is turning left or right, or if a car is turning onto the stroad from a perpendicular street. Drivers will just maintain their speed and swerve into the next lane over. I’ve seen it a million times.

A friend of mine (while driving) just got hit on 182nd about three weeks ago by a 20-year-old racing his friend at 70mph (my friend’s insurance company was able to obtain the data from the other driver’s Tesla and confirm this). At 6:45pm on a Tuesday. The driver lost control, “ricocheted” off my friend’s car (as she described it), and veered across all four lanes of traffic, hitting several other cars in the process. It’s an absolute miracle that everyone walked away. So when I see proposals like this for SE Stark, I think to myself, what good is a bike lane with a little bump if an idiot doing 70mph loses control and comes careening toward me? Every time I sit at the sad little pedestrian signal installed at 43rd and Powell, where someone absolutely demolished a bus stop a few months back, I’m a few feet from cars blasting through at speeds of at least 50 mph and think to myself, this definitely doesn’t feel safe just because I’m up on the sidewalk.

All these millions of dollars for “improvements,” and for what? So we can pretend we did something while we still invite speeds that kill and maim human beings?

Death to the stroads.

dw
dw
1 month ago
Reply to  MelK

Uhh, homie who was doing 70 on the stroad probably does similar speeds on neighborhood streets too. I don’t disagree that stroads should be redesigned but that sounds more like an enforcement issue than anything.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  MelK

I agree, MelK. Can you imagine the speeds at which people will be turning across the bike lanes? (in the unprotected breaks). The protected bike lanes will just make the drivers drive their cars even faster.

No thanks. It’s Performative Portland: make it *LOOK* like you are doing something to promote cycling but it’s really all about moving the cars and trucks even faster.

Jd
Jd
1 month ago

Hard pass. The only way I’d ride this is if they did a road diet to one lane going each direction and added a concrete guard rail between the car lane and the bike lane.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 month ago

3rd paragraph says “The stretch between SE 113th and 177th” I think you mean 117th, not 177th.

And I agree with others. Keeping it 2 lanes each direction with a center turn lane does nothing to slow down the absolutely insane speeds some people drive between 122nd and the Stark/Washington split.
Eliminate the center turn lane with concrete medians that force turns only at designated intersections, and cut it to one lane each direction and add parking like similar parts of Glisan 5 blocks north.

Daniel Reimer
1 month ago

It’s not a protected bike lane if the protection is designed to be driven over!

Take a ride down Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy that has the same treatment and you’ll see more than half of the plastic wands in-between the curbs missing and the ones remaining clearly having been hit several times.

Combined with being a 5 lane road, very few people on bikes are using it. Why does PBOT insist on building inadequate bike infrastructure?

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Daniel Reimer: I think PBoT is recommending a different design than your Hillsdale Hwy example (paint + wands) vs concrete raised curbs and paint. See screenshot from Google Maps. Or am I missing something?

Screen-Shot-2024-02-27-at-5.16.28-PM
MontyP
MontyP
1 month ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

They’ve added concrete curbs by SW Bertha and other locations. Google maps doesn’t show them all but Apple Maps shows the ones by Bertha that are missing wands.

IMG_3710
Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
1 month ago
Reply to  MontyP

Well, they can still do that to Stark but they also know that they need time to do so. That being said, that same idea was a missed opportunity on NE Glisan

Nick
Nick
1 month ago
Reply to  MontyP

There are many modified vehicles that can drive right over these in either direction, they’re a start but still don’t make me feel safe.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

I vote for fluorescent yellow or orange concrete barriers!

MontyP
MontyP
1 month ago

So bikes get to ride along the same ‘ol road, but now with a tiny little curb next to them? I’d say there will be less cars, but the truth is there are hardly ever any cars parked on this section from 108th-122nd. Take a street view tour through the years and there are only ever a few cars on that whole stretch. It’s hard to tell from the before/after pics if the lane widths are changing, as they’re of different locations and styles of renderings. What is being done to reduce the “fast moving traffic” here?

This isn’t really moving the needle much in terms of cyclist safety.

Rob Galanakis
Rob Galanakis
1 month ago

I think the bike lanes here are mostly to protect pedestrians, since we know from comparable lanes they will be abused by drivers and not well-used by cyclists.
This is truly awful though. More frequent crossings of a 5-lane stroad is not, and will never be, safe and convenient. It’s a massive distance and crossing multiple general purpose lanes is always scary, even with a HAWK, since you don’t know who is going to stop.
We’re spending $20 million on this. The bike lanes could be added for a few hundred thousand, if we want them, but instead it’s done as a generational paving project that will cement this dangerous lane configuration further (and cue all the complaining about bike lanes when drivers are stuck in traffic). We will never get a connected network using this approach, we’ll never get safe streets with this approach. It’s irresponsible to the safety of our citizens, it’s an irresponsible use of taxpayer funds.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago

I do not think they are adequately meeting any of their goals with this project. From the PBOT statement linked in this article,

Plan Goals:

Reduce deadly and serious crashes for all people using all modes

Reduce excess motor vehicle speeds

Provide safe access and crossings for people walking/ riding bicycles, and accessing transit

Support future development of enhanced transit along the corridor”

As far as I can tell, they are keeping the 2 driving lanes in each direction (AKA, the double threat for pedestrians and design that supports high speed driving) to hold space for future transit. MAX runs on Burnside a few block north, though. I think they should replace the parking lane with a bike lane, as proposed, but then they should replace the outer driving lanes with large planters with large street trees to buffer the bike lanes. There are so many driveways, you could probably only get 2-3/block, but there may be an opportunity to include a little on-street parking behind a tree. This would start to create a much more humane street with more congestions and slower speeds. More shade would make it more comfortable. Fewer driving lanes would make it easier to cross. The street would be quieter and more attractive and support redevelopment.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
1 month ago
Reply to  maxD

The city is putting their chips on the cameras that frequent Stark now for their VZ goals.

dw
dw
1 month ago

As someone who bikes around this area a lot, I like it. Incremental improvements are incremental, as it turns out.

Narrowing this small stretch down to one lane wouldn’t really do much to fix safety and speeding but sure would build a whole lot of negative political will that could kill any prospects of improving other East Portland stroads dead in the water.

It would also be simple enough to narrow it down in the future by reconfiguring the outermost lane for street parking and/or bus only.

Perhaps the bigger problem lies west, in the Mall 205/205 interchange zone, where Stark and Washington are like 5 lanes each.

Honestly people still drive way too fast on Foster despite it getting the road diet treatment. The problem is more enforcement imo. Doesn’t matter what the streetscape is, we have too many sociopaths behind the wheel who we enable by not enforcing the speed limit. Speeding fines should be steep and scaled to income.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

Speeding fines should be steep and scaled to income.

The fines aren’t the problem; all that’s needed is consistent enforcement.

PTB
PTB
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

This morning at 92nd and Holgate, coming into town, I was on my bike behind a car, sitting at the red light. The only traffic with a green were the left turn lanes on Holgate to get onto 92nd. When the east facing/turning north onto 92nd traffic cleared, the car in front of me went. Through the red! NBD! And fast, too. So yeah, sociopaths? This was at 8:30 am. There were many other cars around, and cyclists! Crazy shit like this has become absolutely common and it sucks.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  PTB

What I’ve seen several times recently in the last couple of months here in Greensboro NC is one or two drivers will stop at a green or yellow light, wait until it turns red, then turn left or go straight – they only do it when there’s drivers on the cross streets waiting to legally cross on a green.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

I think the PBoT design needs more than just the low concrete curb – like others have suggested: add protected by parking vs a ‘complete streets stroad’…if not continuous then perhaps on alternating blocks (based on land use) to help break up the unending vista of the shotgun view.

Scott Kocher
1 month ago

The last page of the Safer Outer Stark plan actually illustrates what could have been.

IMG_6442
dw
dw
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott Kocher

Oh boy did you even read that before you screencapped it?

The cross-section below is a concept of what the future of corridors like SE Stark Street could look like. This will not happen immediately, but as transit service improves and further development occurs. The Safer Outer Stark project recommendations are expected to improve safety in the short-term while allowing these other modifications to be phased in as necessary in the future.

I don’t see anything in what they’re building that precludes painting a bus lane in the future.

Wooster
Wooster
1 month ago
Reply to  dw

Exactly. The bus on Stark only runs every 15 minutes. There’s no way you could justify a bus lane at that frequency, the lane would be empty and a waste of space most of the time. So the idea is that if TriMet were to ever increase the frequency, then bus lanes could be installed.

ROH
ROH
1 month ago

why keep 4 motor vehicle travel lanes? That seems like an obvious fix. Limit the lane-hopping, racing behavior. As it stands it will still be a very straight, multi-lane highway appearing stroad