Neighbors weigh options on SE Foster Road’s future

Neighbors weigh options on SE Foster Road’s future

Cycle track on Foster? It could happen.

After years of residents clamoring for safety improvements, options for how the City of Portland will ultimately redesign SE Foster Road from SE 52nd to 90th are now on the table. Among them are exciting changes that could finally add room for bicycles to travel on this key southeast Portland corridor.

This project is part of an effort to update the 2003 Foster Streetscape Plan. Sometime next year, following a public planning process that began back in September, City Council will adopt a new street plan and will begin to implement $3.25 million already set aside for improvements (thanks to federal and PDC grants). Whether or not those investments lead to high-quality bicycle access the entire length of the project depends largely upon who speaks up and the stakeholder advisory committee will be left to hash it all out.

Over at FosterUnited.org (a blog that serves several of the neighborhood associations around this segment of Foster) resident Nick Falbo (who’s also on the stakeholder advisory committee) has provided a helpful breakdown of the cross-section options under consideration.

(In his blog post, Falbo rightly points out that it’s premature to debate the options because not enough is known about how/if they impact traffic and how much they would cost to implement.)

PBOT has broken down the street into three sections based on how much room (curb-to-curb width) they have to work with. There are 14 different cross-sections being considered. That’s confusing; but the good news is that nearly every option on the table includes at least some degree of bike access — from a standard, 6-foot bike lane next to traffic to a 7-foot, curbside, protected cycle track with a 3-foot buffer to parked cars.

By way of comparison, check out the two cross-sections below. The first shows how a cycle track could fit and the second shows the current configuration of four standard lanes:

As you can see, there’s a lot at stake with this project. Locals — and even Mayor Adams — refer to this road as the “Foster Freeway.” As we’ve seen countless times on other projects, whenever a change to lane configurations is considered, people get emotional and fears begin to fly about traffic impacts, the sky falling, and so on.

But — similar to Sandy Blvd in northeast — Foster’s diagonal layout, it’s budding commercial districts and neighborhoods, and it’s ample width (in most sections), make it a perfect candidate for high-quality bikeways.

High Crash Corridors campaign launch-2

The freeway.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Foster-Powell resident Brett Holycross shared with me recently that at first he thought putting a bikeway on Foster was a crazy idea. But then he changed his mind. “Initially, I was skeptical of the feasibility of bike facilities on Foster Road and didn’t give it much thought. But, as I began to attend meetings and outreach events, I started to believe that Foster Road is uniquely suited to benefit from bike facilities.”

It’s also worth noting that Foster is a designated High Crash Corridor and it has a long history of collisions. The Mayor has already fast-tracked some safety investments to the street and a group known as the Foster Road Coalition made up of neighborhood and business associations has already endorsed a road diet.

Other things to keep in mind while following this project are that since the 2003 Foster plan was completed Portland City Council has adopted a Streetcar System Plan and a new Bike Plan. Foster is flagged as a future streetcar corridor and the 2030 Bike Plan says it should be a “City Bikeway” with “separated in roadway” bike facilities.

Tonight’s stakeholder committee meeting is at 6:00 p.m. at SE Works (7916 Southeast Foster Rd., #104). Review the cross-sections at FosterUnited.org and learn more at PBOT’s official project website.

Stay tuned for more coverage of this project.

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