If you think the SE Clinton bike boulevard is already turning into more of a car boulevard, you won’t like this news: The Bureau of Environmental Services announced today that during a two-week re-paving project on SE Division set to begin later this month, all eastbound auto traffic will be detoured to SE Clinton.
Not surprisingly, news of the decision is spreading fast throughout the community and many people are very concerned. Why would the city purposefully add more auto traffic to a street that already has too much of it?
“I must say that I am shocked and disappointed that the City of Portland would make such a poor choice.”
— Kari Schlosshauer, nearby resident
Joe Annett, manager of community outreach for BES, tried to tamp down concerns when we called him today, saying it would only be temporary and that, “People will just have to be careful,” he said. “That’s just how it’s going to work. We’ve got to pave the road.”
Why not divert them one more block south to Woodward? “Even if we diverted them to Woodward,” Annett answered, “They’ll still turn on Clinton because it’s the first one they come to.”
Annett points out that a similar detour was in place when a different section of Division was repaved in June. He chalks up the current level of citizen pushback as the result of frustrations from the length of the project (which has already been going on for a year) and a recent story on KGW-TV titled, Cyclists upset Portland bikeway loaded with cars .
This work is part of the Division Streetscape Project, a $5.8 million ($2.5 from the feds, $3.3 in local funds) partnership between BES and the Bureau of Transportation. BES is involved because much of the work involves “green street” and stormwater management features like bioswales, street trees, and new sewer pipes. (It’s also important to note that, despite the major transportation component of the project, BES has been contracted to do all the public outreach.)
The impacts of auto diversion have been a major concern of this project since before it was adopted by Portland City Council in June of 2010. At that time, PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller told the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee that, “We already want to do something on Clinton because the auto volumes are too high.”
And in the Division Streetscape and Street Reconstruction Project Final Report (June 2010), PBOT refers to Clinton as, “a vibrant and well-established bicycle facility in the City of Portland and is an important east/west connection for the cycling community.”
In that report (page 16), PBOT promised to monitor traffic volumes on Division and Clinton before and after completion of the project and “take measures to prevent any further diversion” if it occurs.
But those promises refer to the impacts after the project is completed — not this upcoming, two week construction period.
For nearby resident Kari Schlosshauer, this is the last straw.
“I have just learned that, during repaving on Division, car traffic will be diverted onto Clinton,” she wrote in an email to Annett today, “and I must say that I am shocked and disappointed that the City of Portland would make such a poor choice.”
Schlosshauer suggests an auto detour to Powell (10 blocks south) or SE Grant (three blocks north). Adding to her plea for consideration, she writes, “Or would you kindly consider any other street that, while it may increase traffic on a neighborhood street, at least won’t add to what is already a difficult situation on one of the city’s originally dedicated Bicycle Boulevards?”
Schlosshauer and others think this might be a good time for PBOT to do a pilot demonstration of traffic diverters on Clinton; but Annett doesn’t think that will work.
He said they’ve tried temporary diverters in the past and people will simply get out of their cars, move them aside, and drive through. Not only that, he said, but if they put up barricades on Clinton, “Cars will go around them making it even more dangerous… There’s no safe way to do that.”
Barring any changes to the current plans, bicycling conditions on SE Clinton are likely to get even worse later this month. See the BES website for construction dates and times and more background.
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