City switches plan for Division detour: Signs will point to Powell, not Clinton

City switches plan for Division detour: Signs will point to Powell, not Clinton

clinton traffic

Traffic on Clinton.
(Photo by Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Six days after saying that it would detour eastbound traffic from Division Street onto the Clinton Street neighborhood greenway for two weeks, the City of Portland has changed course.

Starting Monday, electronic signs will instruct drivers heading east at 26th Avenue to turn seven blocks south to Powell Boulevard rather than one block south to Clinton, the Portland bureaus of transportation and environmental services said Thursday.

It’s a measure of victory for people who called the detour an inappropriate use of an all-ages walking and biking facility that is already at or above the maximum national standard for auto traffic volume on a bicycle boulevard.

But the city also said Thursday that it still expects many people to detour onto Clinton anyway, because there are no plans other than signage to prompt them otherwise.

PBOT has also attempted to schedule the detour hours to minimize conflict with school release times and asked the Portland Police Bureau to station additional officers in the area for traffic enforcement. PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said he wasn’t sure exactly what that additional enforcement would focus on.

“Last summer, for detours, they were looking for people running stop signs,” Rivera said. “Drivers tend to get frustrated during a detour.”

Rivera said Thursday that the city changed its official detour plan after “we just took a closer look at it.” He added that because people won’t be physically blocked from turning at the first available street — they’ll simply be told to head to Powell by signs — traffic is likely to increase on Clinton all the same.

“We can’t make people follow our detour routes,” he said. “That’s just a reality of any sort of attempt to change behavior like this. But we think it’s important to do all we can with signage to try to encourage people traveling with motor vehicles to stick to major arterials when they’re diverting from a major arterial.”

This work is part of the Division Streetscape Project, a $5.8 million task by the Bureau of Environmental Services, which is adding natural storm drainage along Division, and the Bureau of Transportation, which is improving crosswalks and sidewalk buffers on Division.

After last week’s coverage of the city’s plan, some local safety advocates planned a Super Legal Ride on Clinton next Friday, as a demonstration:

The plan is to get as many cyclists at the intersection of 26th and Clinton at rush hour. Every bike makes a complete stop. EVERY BIKE STOPS. If 3 pull up to the same stop sign, each bike waits to stop individually. Take your time. Wave on cyclists or even autos. Make sure to let those cross-walkers go!

Rivera said he didn’t know whether or not temporary physical diverters across part of the Clinton-26th intersection had been discussed among PBOT staff as a way to further reduce traffic on Clinton during the detour.

“Next week’s going to be different despite our best efforts,” Rivera said to Clinton Street’s regular users, “and we beg their patience and forgiveness. But we think we’ll have a more walkable Division out of this that’s going to be of more benefit to the community.”

Correction 7:30 pm: A previous version of this post confused east and west.

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