New options on the table for Foster streetscape plan

New options on the table for Foster streetscape plan

Detail of a newly proposed cross section.

Please welcome our new contributing writer, Tyler Pell. This is his first report.

The fourth Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting for the Foster Streetscape Plan was held last week, with new proposals presented to the SAC as well as a redevelopment project known as the “Green Link.”

The “Foster freeway” as it’s locally known, has been due for safety improvements for many years. As we recently reported, a new streetscape plan is being drawn up and $3.25 million in safety improvements has already been obtained via federal grants and other funding sources. The City Council will adopt a new plan for Foster sometime in the next year, but the specific road design will depend on how the the stakeholder advisory committee is steered in the coming months (among the many proposals on the table is the Foster Road Bikeway plan).

Last week’s meeting featured new cross section alternatives for all three of the plan’s segments, which includes the Central Segment (SE 52nd to SE 72nd), the West Segment (SE 72nd to SE 80th), and the East Segment (SE 84th to the Couplet). As explained by PBOT: Each cross section “conveys a broad level modal tradeoff, as design features within the cross section are either introduced, removed, moved, expanded, or reduced.” In other words, we can’t make the street any wider than it is, and increased accommodations to one mode may have to come at the the expense of another mode.

Below are details from proposals discussed at the last SAC meeting.

There were two new proposals put forth for the West Segment (SE 52nd to SE 72nd).

Here is the existing cross section:

And a new Option 6 would have a six-foot bikeway on the existing sidewalk.

Option 7 would have traditional, six-foot, non-buffered bike lanes.

These two options don’t favor bikes as much as options 4 and 5 do, both of which call for a cycle track (we shared those designs last month). Also worth noting in these new options are the ten-foot lanes. City buses are 10.5 feet from mirror to mirror, which could make the 6 foot non-buffered bike lane feel that much smaller when buses are near. A possible future streetcar line will likely also need 11 foot travel lanes, if plans for that move forward. All this is not to mention the political strain of using 10-foot vehicle lanes. Sources tell us TriMet has been pushing back on 10-foot lanes whenever PBOT considers them.

As for the Central Segment (SE 72nd to SE 80th), a new option presented that would have standard, five-foot bike lanes:

The East Segment (SE 84th to the Couplet) had one new option presented. Below is what it looks like today…

And the new option would have a six-foot bike lane eastbound and a six-foot, raised bikeway westbound:

PBOT staff also proposed a “Green Link” concept, which got mixed reviews from the SAC. The new proposal would create something of a commercial district bounded by Laurelwood Park on SE 63rd, and the Firland Parkway on SE 72nd. The use of more distinct street light and different trees would establish a a more defined “Foster district”. Cost concerns were voiced, particularly whether it would be funded by the City, through grants, or by business owners. But those questions weren’t addressed, as these plans are too far out to discuss funding.

City staff had much to report in last night’s meeting, including pending installation of safety beacons due to hit Foster soon. The first of the four safety beacons, which are being installed in a separate project from the Foster redesign, will be installed next Tuesday.

Also discussed was a potential $2.5 million grant PBOT has applied for to install a transit island on 50th and Foster to help slow traffic and ease transit use at the busy intersection.

Having biked on Foster to the SAC meeting last night around 5:30 p.m., I can say all of these proposals are a huge improvement to the current adrenaline-inducing conditions. Given its diagonal orientation and the lack of connectivity on side streets, the prospect of improving access for bicycles on Foster is a big deal. But even beyond bikes, this planning process could make Foster a much nicer place to live, work, and visit in general. Stay tuned (another place to follow updates on this project is FosterUnited.org.)

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