NE Broadway poised for transformation as city eyes major updates

The current cross-section with five lanes for car users was established in 1996.

The stars are aligning for inner Northeast Broadway to become a true main street where people are prioritized over cars. In the coming years we could see a major transformation of this key east-west corridor as a mix of federal funding and a local paving project create a golden opportunity for a redesign between the Broadway Bridge and NE 24th.

As BikePortland reported back in March, the Portland Bureau of Transportation won a $38 million federal grant to create a “civic main street” on Broadway between the bridge and NE 7th. Conceptual drawings of that project shared publicly in September show cross-sections with wide, physically-protected bike lanes, narrower general purpose lanes, a dedicated streetcar lane, and two lanes for driving cars instead of the three that exist today.

Now there’s another opportunity to extend this cross section further east to NE 24th. Sometime this year PBOT will begin formal design and outreach for a project to repave NE Broadway from 11th to 24th. As BikePortland reported in 2022, the project is on PBOT’s paving list and planners have just enough funding (an estimated $300,000) to install new pavement and then paint new lane striping.

As we’ve seen with other “pave and paint” projects, PBOT will have a clean slate and will have the option to repaint the lanes in a new configuration. Since NE Broadway is classified in Portland’s Comprehensive Plan as a “Major City Bikeway” and with funding already secured for the project on the inner portion of the street to the east of this paving project — the odds are very good a new configuration could be in the works.

In a PBOT document that lists all paving projects for the five years between 2023 and 2027, the NE Broadway project is in the “calendar year 2024” category. In a column labeled “Bicycle improvement opportunities?” PBOT wrote: “Potential to remove a travel lane and enhance the bike lane. Needs planning and project development work. Consider extending west to 7th Ave.”

That “consider extending west to 7th” was written before PBOT had won $38 million to upgrade the bridge to NE 7th, so it’s very likely the “pave and paint” project will extend west from NE 11th to connect to NE 7th.

And an update to the design would almost certainly result in less space for using cars and more space for bicycling, walking, and transit.

Rendering of NE Broadway by illustrator Owen Walz for The Street Trust in 2014.

Efforts to make a better bikeway on NE Broadway have been around for at least a decade. In 2014 the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now The Street Trust) made bike lanes on NE Broadway one of their main priorities. Staffers worked to garner feedback from business owners and educate the community on why it was needed in addition to the existing neighborhood bikeway on NE Tillamook.

In 2015, we included NE Broadway as one of our four bikeways it’d take to make the Lloyd District great. And in 2016, tactical urbanism group Better Block PDX did a “Better Broadway” installation that laid out a temporary protected bike lane and a bus stop island.

But while many Portlanders are eager for a new design that vastly improves bicycling, local business owners and other area interests might have different ideas about the future of Broadway. That 2016 Better Block installation is remembered by many local advocates for how it backfired after some local business owners weren’t on board with the idea.

Members of the Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood Association have been meeting as a “Broadway-Weidler Working Group” since last fall to strategize on how to get changes over the finish line. They want fewer cars on Broadway because they know it will lead to a safer environment and more travel capacity overall. According to meeting minutes, their ultimate goal is to decouple Broadway and NE Weidler, make Weidler a quiet neighborhood street, and then re-introduce two-way traffic onto Broadway. (According to sources, PBOT estimates returning Broadway to two-way traffic would cost over $10 million and there are no current plans to move forward with that idea.)

Currently, the section of Broadway between 7th and 24th is 56-feet wide and has five lanes for drivers and a narrow, door-zone bike lane. There are three general travel lanes and two on-street auto parking lanes. The bike lanes were installed in the late 1990s and have never been updated. With reductions in driving since the pandemic, three lanes for driving on this section of Broadway seem like overkill.

If PBOT chooses to, there is plenty of room to reduce space for car users and add a wider, physically-protected bike lane, a dedicated mass transit lane, and medians for safer crossings. They don’t currently have any extra funding in the “pave and paint” budget, but they could lay out the striping today and identify more funding later. With the $38 million in federal funds, they’ve got bureaucratic inertia to shake more funding from the trees.

This section of Broadway would be a very important link in the bike and transit network. It would connect to busy north-south bike routes (like the NE 7th Greenway), several TriMet bus lanes, and the Portland Streetcar.

While PBOT hasn’t begun official public outreach on the project, we expect that to begin soon. Stay tuned.

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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KDG
KDG
22 days ago

I’m on the Irvington Community Association board and it’s also worth noting that getting PBOT to reduce the number of travel lanes has been a priority for us for a long time.

We’ve been working not only with Sullivan’s Gulch but also the NE Broadway Business Association to try and make sure the whole area is on board with a travel lane reduction.

SD
SD
22 days ago
Reply to  KDG

Thanks! That’s fantastic! I remember a grumpy-pants dude losing his mind over the temporary broadway lane reduction years ago and getting a lot of attention, while many of the people who live in the area were very excited to see broadway turn into a destination worth walking and biking to, but were not given the same attention.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
22 days ago
Reply to  KDG

Back in 2003 when I was on the Sullivan’s Gulch NA we worked with Irvington NA to get PBOT to do this, but nothing came of it until now, over 20 years later, which by PBOT standards is “pretty soon” of course.

Our vision at that time was to make both Broadway and Weidler 2-way main streets with parking and bike lanes on both sides (parking-protected bike lanes weren’t really a thing in 2003 in Portland yet.) I still think it makes sense today.

Watts
Watts
21 days ago
Reply to  KDG

I appreciate the work your and the adjoining neighborhood associations are doing to improve conditions on Broadway.

idlebytes
idlebytes
22 days ago

As BikePortland reported back in March, the Portland Bureau of Transportation won a $38 million federal grant to create a “civic main street” on Broadway between the bridge and NE 7th.

It’s kind of a funny section to try to turn into a “civic main street” with all of its car infrastructure and businesses. Massive parking lots, a car dealership, multiple gas stations, tire center, windshield repair shop, and stripmall vibes. It’s after 7th that it starts to become more of a street you might want to walk down so any similar elements extended past 7th will see a lot more use. I don’t see a lot of people walking or biking to the shell station, Moda center parking lot or Toyota dealership anytime soon.

BB
BB
22 days ago
Reply to  idlebytes

If they make that stretch inhabitable with a road diet and good infrastructure the car lots would give way to retail space. The Rose quarter/Moda area should and would have spread north had it faced North to begin with but the entire Broadway/Weidler mess can fixed. It should be a vibrant neighborhood like most close in Sports arenas but city planning always failed it.

maxD
maxD
21 days ago
Reply to  BB

FYI: The Moda Center parking garages are setback from Broadway and built to have a retail infill building added that fronts Broadway and is attached to and I believe one story above, the parking garages. Seismic code has likely evolved enough that it would be tough to add space on top, but street-facing retail spaces with office or maybe even apartments above could be a big improvement.

eawriste
eawriste
22 days ago
Reply to  idlebytes

The federal government often funds projects through a complete streets approach, which is a step in the right direction compared to the traditional auto-centric design, but generally fails at its goals. I don’t know if it is involved here, but it’s worth mentioning. It is the “divide and share” approach to stroads, or the futon of roads. Look at the “civic main streets” site above and tell me if this design is:

1) Good as a road, i.e., having the highest number of cars traveling the highest speed from A to B.
2) Or does it serve to make a place where you would want to sit and eat at a restaurant or buy groceries?
3) Does it serve as a good route for people walking or on bikes with 5 lanes of fast moving traffic?

If the ultimate plan is to revitalize the neighborhood, this street design will do very little toward that goal. Broadway/Weidler has a LOT of potential given Albina Trust’s vision. I really hope they can get this couplet to become a street, one that is a safe and pleasant place for people to live and not a highway as it attempts to act like now.

Home
Home
22 days ago
Reply to  idlebytes

The portions of Broadway and Weidler east of 7th were historically important links to connect cyclists and pedestrians to the Broadway bridge and downtown. There’s less traffic going across the bridge these days, but a lot of people still ride that stretch.

Home
Home
21 days ago
Reply to  Home

West of 7th is what I meant to write

Let's Active
Let's Active
21 days ago
Reply to  idlebytes

As others have said, while that stretch is currently inhospitable, it is likely to be transformed over the years as Broadway changes to the west from the recent federal Reconnecting Neighborhoods grant that the city and ODOT received. Lid over I-5 at Broadway and Weidler + all the local improvements. Change might be slow, but it’s coming and it’s great to see PBOT thinking about the longer stretch of Broadway (selfishly it’s my work bike commute route and I feel starved for safety improvements along the corridor).

Greatdane
Greatdane
21 days ago
Reply to  idlebytes

People might not be biking to those particular locations, but people are definitely biking by them to get from the Broadway Bridge and things on the other side, including other bike infrastructure like the 7th bridge. With more friendly biking and walking conditions, things will come that people will want to bike and walk to. It boggles my mind there isn’t more around the Moda Center! I’ve never been to a major sports stadium in a city with so little walkable commercial around it. This will serve the Convention Center too.

maxD
maxD
21 days ago
Reply to  idlebytes

SE Division was super car-centric before the Green/Main Street plan was built out between 39th and 11th- that corridor changed really rapidly.

Allan
Allan
22 days ago

We could paint the stripes for left-side angle parking overnight and try it out. Don’t bother w/ the studies, just test it for a few months and see if it works.

Nick
Nick
22 days ago
Reply to  Allan

After all PBOT has shown that they can/will remove a bike lane in a day

Allan
Allan
21 days ago
Reply to  Allan

Apparently we’re supposed to call out our titles. I’ve been advocating for this as the land use chair of Eliot for a good long while. The business is on. Broadway are on board with trying to increase parking at the expense of a travel lane, or at least they were in the past. I’ve sat in plenty of meetings and nothing seems to happen. Without narrowing the number of car lanes, Broadway cannot be a thriving Street

Avarie
Avarie
22 days ago

Business owners not supporting people-centric design has always seemed so backwards to me. The busiest shopping streets in Portland are ones where people walk around. Namely the old “streetcar neighborhoods” that were designed for non-automobile transportation. I hope they can see why this makes sense because that would be an incredible bike and pedestrian connection.

dw
dw
22 days ago
Reply to  Avarie

I am tying to empathize more with people who I view as being “carbrained”.

I can see a more cynical take, which is that business owners and their employees often drive in from far-flung places and want to preserve their own convenience and car access. Any employees who don’t drive or support better streets probably won’t speak up for fear of retaliation. If you’ve ever worked for a small business tyrant you know the vibe.

On the other hand, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say. Business owners probably hear a lot from folks about car access – ie parking was too hard, traffic was bad, I hate bike lanes etc. Any sane business owner would try to be responsive to customer feedback. If we all emailed Jonathan and told him we wanted him to only do stories about the guy who bikes around with his cat in his bike basket he’d probably feel some pressure to start following the bike cat guy.

Businesses probably don’t hear much from people about how difficult bike access is, because for the small percentage of us who do bike places, we’ve accepted that it’s just part of the lifestyle.

TLDR; politely tell your favorite local businesses how important it is to you to be able to access them via biking, walking, and transit.

Joseph E
Joseph E
22 days ago
Reply to  dw

Re: “business owners and their employees often drive in from far-flung places and want to preserve their own convenience and car access.”

This is totally correct. And often they take up the street parking closest to the shops, so customers have to park farther away and walk anyway. Studies have shown that small business owners greatly overestimate the percentage of customers that arrive by car and underestimate the number arriving on foot, by transit and by bike.

donel courtney
donel courtney
21 days ago
Reply to  Avarie

People fear change. If you’ve had a business that has stayed in the black you just want to keep it going. Major changes are going to seem scary.

Also, if you perceive you are a legacy business selling something that the tourist/hipster/young crowd isn’t going to want you might be scared your loyal clientele is going to desert you thus leaving a precarious revenue situation.

Life is full of fear, i myself am susceptible to it, its called catastrophization according to therapists.

MontyP
MontyP
22 days ago

It’s always seemed crazy that this stretch of Broadway is as wide as one side of I-5! The better block project was cool to ride back in the day, I’m amazed this road diet hasn’t happened yet. Also, every time I read Sullivan’s Gulch I am reminded of another project that hasn’t gotten anywhere, and will likely take forever to happen.

GF
GF
22 days ago

Can they maybe do something with most of 82nd and outer Foster Rd first…I have been on ATV trail that are better then those roads…

Let's Active
Let's Active
21 days ago
Reply to  GF
eawriste
eawriste
21 days ago
Reply to  Let's Active
David Hampsten
David Hampsten
21 days ago
Reply to  GF

Outer Foster east of I-205 to Gresham is quite a bit more complex. There are longstanding plans to raise the roadbed above the Johnson Creek flood plain, but not enough funding yet, and the portion from 145th to 162nd follows a steep hillside. The combination of wetland marsh and hillside is known in highway parlance as a “4F”, a very expensive encumbrance.

maxD
maxD
21 days ago

The best way to improve Broadway IMO would be to close the on and off ramps to I-5.

Cheryl
Cheryl
21 days ago
Reply to  maxD

Why?

maxD
maxD
20 days ago
Reply to  Cheryl

Ramps are inherently dangerous and counter toa safe, walkable streetscape. Especially the ODOT-planned ramps that are 2-3 lanes wide. The City would be much better off if there were far fewer and much ramps on and off the freeway. Driving on Broadway, MLK, NE Everett and Glisan, even Interstate Ave around freeway ramps reveals consistent patterns of people driving faster and more aggressive than a couple of blocks away. This is exacerbated is slip lanes or large diameter curb radii are used.

Todd/Boulanger
21 days ago

Just checking: did I see back-in reverse diagonal parking proposed for this project?!

Nice, to see it! BUT as a long time back-in parking practitioner / street designer / researcher, I would caution against placing it on the left side of the roadway, as this makes it 3x more difficult for the driver to pull back out in the traffic (looking thru the B pillar / passenger)…versus placing it on the right side of the street (but left of the protected bike lane). But I guess that was ruled out for conflicting with the bus lane(?).

I guess ‘do the math’, as sometimes the addition of diagonal parking vs parallel does not always create that much more parking capacity vs. the safety/ design difficulties…especially if there are driveways / curb cuts mid block.Sometimes there is only 1 to 2 additional stalls created per Vancouver (er Portland) block length.

If diagonal parking is added…see what blocks it works most easily…and then consider alternating every other block with parallel parking to set up a bit of chicane friction vs typically stroad “shotgun” / straight “raceway. For a local example, see what we did on McLoughlin in downtown Vancouver back in (~2005).

https://maps.app.goo.gl/QXRx9rYEVJxSypR46

Watts
Watts
21 days ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I’m personally not a fan of diagonal parking, whether that be back-in or back-out. Have you seen any data that shows that it is not more dangerous than parallel parking?

Allan
Allan
21 days ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

In my opinion, the goal is to fill at least one lane with with “something “. It doesn’t really matter what that something is, we just need to take a lane away from cars and it will be way easier to walk across the street. If diagonal parking is politically viable, let’s do that. If it’s something else, that’s fine too. If we need to switch block by block that’s also fine.