Your new favorite way to cross SE Powell is open (photos)

Your new favorite way to cross SE Powell is open (photos)

The SE 17th Avenue bridge over Powell has
a wide new multi-use sidewalk.
(Photo by Howard Draper.)

Inner southeast Portland’s summer of detours is finishing with an early Christmas present: great big human-friendly new crossings of Powell Boulevard and the nearby railroad tracks at SE 17th.

The new bridge, built by TriMet as part of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, opened to traffic Aug. 30. Last weekend, bike user Howard Draper grabbed the photo at right, so we decided to head over and take a look.

It’s an improvement in many ways, though there are a couple problematic features worth considering.

Here’s an overhead view of the area in question, satellite imagery from before the construction:

Crossing these two diagonal obstacles by bike or foot remains a bit of a maze. But in terms of comfort, it’s a huge improvement, especially compared to the former sharp-cornered underpass that ran beneath the railroad.

Here’s what the underpass, running parallel to Powell on its north side, looks like now:

(Photos © M. Andersen/BikePortland)

Here’s the ramp down to the underpass, seen from just east of the tracks and north of Powell:

Here’s the overpass across Powell, as seen from its landing to the south near Pershing Street. Those are the future MAX tracks to the right.

At the southern side of this overpass, people on wheels and feet are directed across a crosswalk that involves a semi-blind corner and what’s currently an uncomfortable pedestrian refuge. On the bright side, the crossing is well-marked and has a hand-activated flashing light.

Another feature worth understanding is intended to help people walking north of Powell efficiently reach the railroad underpass. It’s a ramp, set off by steps at both top and bottom, that runs between the sidewalk above and the underpass. The steps, presumably, are there in part to keep this from becoming a blind corner for bikes:

There are a few steps at both the top and bottom of this ramp.
For bikes, the best down way to the underpass is
to follow the street to each side of the ramp, and
descend more gradually.

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch (herself a longtime daily bike commuter from North Portland to TriMet’s office south of Powell) added a few more notes:

When they are striped, the designated bike lane on 17th Avenue will end around SE Pershing, and then northbound bikes go onto the multi-use path. There are no designated bike lanes on the structure. The designated bike lanes near SE Pershing have not yet been striped, but will be in the future.

Additionally, the new sidewalk is open on the north side of Powell under the overpasses (MUP width except under UPRR structure). Follow up work still happening, but it’s open and much improved over the crossing before construction began.

Hard to argue with that.

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