Got thoughts about Barbur Blvd? Tell ODOT at open house Wednesday

Got thoughts about Barbur Blvd? Tell ODOT at open house Wednesday

Riding Portland's urban highways-29

Taking a lane on the bridge.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is hosting an open house this Wednesday (3/19) to discuss the Newbury Vermont Bridges Rehabilitation Project.

This is the project that sparked interest in doing a “road diet” on Barbur that was ultimately rejected in favor of future traffic studies. While some saw the bridge rehab project as a golden opportunity to re-design Barbur, ODOT maintained that consideration of a road diet was beyond the scope. Instead, they opted to spend $180,000 to install four “Bikes on bridge” flashing warning signs that were turned on last week.

Wednesday’s open house is a chance to offer feedback on those signs and learn more about how the rehab project will impact traffic on Barbur Blvd.

ODOT plans to start the project April 21st with a series of lane closures. Here are more details about the closure plan (emphases mine):

… one lane in one direction on one bridge will be closed at a time. When a lane is closed on one bridge, the other will have all lanes open. The closures will be in place around the clock
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No night work or weekend closures or detours are planned. All work will be done during the day unless an unexpected need for additional work hours arises
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During daytime work, bicyclists will share a wider lane – 14 feet instead of 12 feet – with motorists. Evenings and weekends, the contractor, whenever feasible, will open a separated bike lane through the construction zone.

Bridge walkways will be closed in one direction on each bridge and the Barbur Boulevard speed limit will be decrease from 45 mph to 35 mph, with increased enforcement.

It’s worth remembering that ODOT has repeatedly dismissed the road diet idea because they do not want to limit auto capacity or delay auto traffic on Barbur, which they say is a key alternate route to Interstate 5. However, in a previous statement about these construction plans, they admitted traffic “will not be significantly impacted” by the closures, especially over time as motorists adapt to the changes.”

Throw in the fact that traffic engineers from both Metro and Portland State University have disputed ODOT’s Barbur traffic analysis and it’s clear that a new, independent study is needed. While there was talk last fall about these construction closures being a good opportunity to model traffic impacts, some people say construction closures aren’t close enough to real-world conditions. ODOT has said the study should be done by Metro as part of the larger SW Corridor Plan process and PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick said he’d defer to (and support) whatever ODOT does.

At this point, it’s not clear who — if anyone — is actively working on a Barbur Blvd traffic study and/or whether that study will take place during this construction project. We’ll update this post if we receive any further clarifications.

The open house is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center (6651 S.W. Capitol Hwy). Photo ID is required to enter the center.

Learn more about the Newbury Vermont bridges project at Oregon.gov.

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