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State and city fast-track closure of extra offramp near east end of Broadway Bridge

State and city fast-track closure of extra offramp near east end of Broadway Bridge

i-5lead

The extra “slip ramp” from
I-5 onto Broadway would close.

Here’s some good news about one of the most dangerous spots on one of Portland’s most popular bike routes.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and City of Portland are planning to break ground this spring on much-anticipated changes to the area where a southbound Interstate 5 offramp drops people fresh off the freeway into a slip lane that curves across the North Broadway bike lane.

This project had previously been scheduled to start next summer.

The changes planned will mean that when someone exits I-5 to head across the Broadway Bridge, instead of seeing this (a “slip lane” that is all but begging people to roll through it, right into a bike lane)…

Screenshot 2015-12-11 at 12.26.17 AM

…they’ll see something that looks more like this:

Screenshot 2015-12-11 at 12.28.25 AM


ODOT will close the existing slip lane and the exit will land further from the confusingly aligned intersections of Flint and Wheeler that have been the site of repeated bike-related collisions over the years.

According to Betsy Reese, a biking and walking advocate who previously owned the nearby Paramount Apartments and has continued to track the issue, the changes “should markedly reduce the chaotic cluster of crossing movements between motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians at this location.”

Here’s an ODOT graphic showing all the changes coming with this project…

broadway wheeler project elements

(Image: ODOT)

The good news continues. Thanks to increases in the number of people walking in the area (possibly related to new developments and economic activity nearby), Reese said the new pedestrian signal to be added between N. Ross and N. Wheeler (marked with a 6 in the ODOT graphic above) “will be a standard ‘Red-Amber-Green’ signal, just like the signals at Vancouver, Benton and Larrabee.”

Reese writes that this is an upgrade from earlier plans, which had called for a hybrid beacon that has only red and amber lights and goes dark when not in use.

As noted in the graphic above, the project will also add a new curb extension on the southeast corner of Broadway and Wheeler. This should calm traffic and make crossing easier.

This project is a major victory for Reese and other advocates who’ve spent years persuading the state and city that fast-moving traffic off the freeway should not be the top priority in this important corridor just outside downtown. Broadway has a long way to go before it’ll be the comfortable biking route from Hollywood to downtown that it’s destined to eventually become. But this is a significant step toward making that possible.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org


The post State and city fast-track closure of extra offramp near east end of Broadway Bridge appeared first on BikePortland.org.

ODOT will close I-5 off-ramp onto Broadway, add other safety features

ODOT will close I-5 off-ramp onto Broadway, add other safety features

i-5lead

Detail of plans to close an I-5 “slip ramp”
that dumps onto Broadway.

An open house event tomorrow night (11/19) will be your chance to see what the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has planned to improve safety on Broadway where it passes over Interstate 5.

Changes to the notorious section of Broadway near Wheeler and Flint were a focus of the city’s N/NE Quadrant planning process back in 2012 and they were included as “near-term solutions” within a larger, $400 million ODOT project to widen I-5 through the Rose Quarter.

With that large-scale proposal years away from fruition (if it ever happens at all), local neighborhood activists pressed ODOT to do something more immediate to remedy the many traffic safety issues in the area of the Broadway-Weidler couplet just west of I-5. We’ve been highlighting safety issues at this location for over seven years – ever since the Portland Water Bureau prohibited its fleet vehicles from making right turns onto Wheeler due to right-hook concerns.

Back in 2012, Betsy Reese, former owner of the Paramount Apartments that are bordered by Flint and Wheeler, successfully lobbied ODOT to address some of the issues. Tomorrow’s open house will be a chance to see the results of that advocacy and ask ODOT staffers questions about the project before it enters the final design stage (late 2015) and — if funding materializes — construction (summer 2016).

Here are the elements of the I-5 Southbound Off-Ramp at North Broadway Project (which is, by the way, a joint effort from PBOT and ODOT):

  • Realign the right turn lane – referred to as a “slip lane” – located at the I-5 southbound off-ramp (Exit 302 A) at N. Broadway (an element of the N/NE Quadrant Plan).
  • Install a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon at the existing crosswalk at the streetcar platform on N. Broadway between N. Ross Ave and N. Wheeler Ave.
  • Replace the traffic signal at the intersection of N. Broadway, I-5 off- ramp and N. Vancouver Avenue with a standard signal.
  • Extend the curb on the southeast corner of the intersection of N. Broadway and N. Wheeler Ave.
  • Reconnect the sidewalk due to the ramp realignment on the north side of N. Broadway from the I-5 off-ramp to N. Flint Ave.
  • Install ADA accessible curb ramps at the intersection of N. Broadway and N. Vancouver Avenue and at other locations within the project area.

For clarity, ODOT has produced this graphic of the proposed changes:

i-5map

Click to enlarge

The realignment of that “slip lane” is a big deal because it should make bicycling on Broadway much safer. Currently, people use that off-ramp and often roll the stop sign right onto Broadway. That behavior creates a potential for collisions not just at the off-ramp, but also at North Flint, a very busy biking street just a few yards to the west.

The image below shows the slip ramp and N Flint (looking toward the west). Notice how the angle of the slip ramp entices people to roll right onto Broadway without coming to a full stop.

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-3

Here’s a view looking southwest from the Flint overpass of I-5:

i-5slippic

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The other elements of these near term fixes are also important to the overall goal of making the Broadway/Weidler/I-5 area a more pleasant place to be — especially that much-needed curb extension at the southeast corner of Broadway/Wheeler (the Leftbank building).

If you have experiences with this area and feedback to share with project managers, contact Dee Hidalgo with ODOT community affairs via email at Dee.Hidalgo@odot.state.or.us.

Also don’t forget to stop by the open house event tomorrow (11/19). It’s from 5-7:00 pm at the Leftbank Annex, 2nd Floor (101 N Weidler).

For more info, visit the project website.

The post ODOT will close I-5 off-ramp onto Broadway, add other safety features appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Another right-hook on N Broadway

Another right-hook on N Broadway

The scene this morning.
(Photo courtesy Betsy Reese)

I hate to say it, but there has been yet another right-hook collision on N Broadway.

This morning at around 8:35 am, a woman driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser turned right off of Broadway onto N Ross Avenue and collided with a man riding his bicycle. The man on the bike was traveling west on Broadway toward the Broadway Bridge prior to the collision. The extent of his injuries are unknown, but I have confirmed the collision with the Portland Police Bureau and with two witnesses who saw the aftermath.

According to Krissy Harbert, who was in a car on Ross, waiting to turn right onto Broadway, the bike rider who had been hit was “clearly in a lot of pain.” Ironically, Harbert is a resident at the Paramount Apartments and she’s been helping the building’s owner, Betsy Reese, keep track of the right-hooks that happen near their building. Reese has spearheaded an effort to improve traffic safety on Broadway. Just yesterday Reese sent out an email urging her contacts to “take action now” on the North Broadway Safety Crossing Enhancement Project which is currently under consideration to make ODOT’s coveted list of State Transportation Improvement Projects. The project would aim to, “enhance traffic safety and operations along N Broadway St between N Ross Ave and N Wheeler Ave.”

Harbert said she sees ambulances on Broadway “all the time” and that just yesterday she saw a cop “busting bikers on Flint” (a reference to the notorious Flint stop sign).

The manager of the Paramount Apartments, Nita Jacura, was meeting with prospective tenants when she heard the commotion and ran outside. She saw the man being lifted into the ambulance and saw the police interviewing the driver of the car.

This area of N Broadway has a long and sad history of dangerous traffic problems. As far back as December of 2006, then mayor Tom Potter was calling out safety concerns (and sticking up for police enforcement of bicycle laws). In 2007, following fears of right-hooks on Wheeler (just one block west of Ross), the Portland Water Bureau prohibited their trucks from turning right. Problems on Broadway persisted for years and following two right-hooks in 2012, Mayor Sam Adams took the big step and installed a median to stop people from turning right from Broadway onto Wheeler.

Even with Wheeler closed, it appears the problem has simply moved to the next block.

PBOT makes Broadway/Wheeler closure permanent

PBOT makes Broadway/Wheeler closure permanent

Broadway Wheeler closed for good

PBOT has made the prohibition of right turns onto N Wheeler from Broadway permanent.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)


The Bureau of Transportation has made the closure of northbound access on N Wheeler Avenue permanent. The move comes after a temporary closure that was put into place back in August in order to prevent right-hook collisions.

The closure of Wheeler came after intense public pressure on PBOT to do something that would stop the frequent right-hooks occurring at this intersection. Former Mayor Sam Adams, who made a habit of saying safety was his top transportation priority, stepped in and made the decision that people in cars would no longer be able to turn right from Broadway onto Wheeler.

PBOT crews have now made Adams’ decision permanent by replacing temporary barricades with median islands, new striping and signage. As you can see in the photos, people on bikes can still easily make the right turn (via a cut-out in the median and a bike lane symbol to encourage it) but it’s clear that people in cars cannot.

Broadway Wheeler closed for good-2

Broadway Wheeler closed for good-3

broadway wheeler closed for good-2-2

Broadway Wheeler closed for good-7

While this new infrastructure is a welcome addition, it is a tiny improvement in an area rife with danger and many other traffic issues. Thankfully, there could be more changes coming that will further improve bicycling conditions (and safety of all users). PBOT has applied for a $1.5 million state grant for a project that will: install a new traffic signal at Wheeler; narrow the width of Broadway by removing one left turn lane and extended the sidewalks on the south side, close an existing “slip lane” offramp from I-5 east of Wheeler (that causes much of the crossing danger); install a “signalized pedestrian crossing”, and more. If awarded, money from that grant wouldn’t be in PBOT coffers until 2018. That’s a long time to wait, so hopefully we see improvements before then.

Stay tuned for more coverage of efforts to improve traffic safety in this area.

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Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection, circa 1940

Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection, circa 1940

Flint/Broadway intersection 70 years ago.
(Photo: City of Portland archives)

The notorious Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection has been getting a lot of attention lately. Just today I rolled up on PBOT traffic safety staff and engineers observing the new partial closure of Wheeler, while a PPB officer talked with Paramount Apartments owner Betsy Reese. In addition to the closure, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has followed through with promises to business owners in the Lower Albina district by removing several on-street parking spots to make it easier for large trucks to turn in the area.

But a lot of work remains to make this area hospitable to all road users. It’s a mess and the addition of the new streetcar line — set to open later this month — will only add to the traffic safety issues.


While we continue to think about this intersection, and PBOT and ODOT continue to tinker with it, I thought it’d be fun to share a historical perspective. A reader recently shared a post on the Vintage Portland blog that featured this intersection as it looked in 1940. Check it out below…

The building in the upper left is the Paramount Apartments, and of course the street in the upper middle of the image is N. Flint. Today, there’s a median island that stretches from the apartments all the way to Broadway, forming a peninsula bordered by Flint, Broadway and Wheeler. Compare the image above with the view today…

Given all the change that’s coming to this area (the streetcar opens later this month and ODOT/PBOT would like to spend $400 million to widen I-5 and make other changes), I’m sure this intersection will look a lot different in another decade or so.

Stay tuned.

Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection, circa 1940

Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection, circa 1940

Flint/Broadway intersection 70 years ago.
(Photo: City of Portland archives)

The notorious Broadway/Flint/Wheeler intersection has been getting a lot of attention lately. Just today I rolled up on PBOT traffic safety staff and engineers observing the new partial closure of Wheeler, while a PPB officer talked with Paramount Apartments owner Betsy Reese. In addition to the closure, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has followed through with promises to business owners in the Lower Albina district by removing several on-street parking spots to make it easier for large trucks to turn in the area.

But a lot of work remains to make this area hospitable to all road users. It’s a mess and the addition of the new streetcar line — set to open later this month — will only add to the traffic safety issues.


While we continue to think about this intersection, and PBOT and ODOT continue to tinker with it, I thought it’d be fun to share a historical perspective. A reader recently shared a post on the Vintage Portland blog that featured this intersection as it looked in 1940. Check it out below…

The building in the upper left is the Paramount Apartments, and of course the street in the upper middle of the image is N. Flint. Today, there’s a median island that stretches from the apartments all the way to Broadway, forming a peninsula bordered by Flint, Broadway and Wheeler. Compare the image above with the view today…

Given all the change that’s coming to this area (the streetcar opens later this month and ODOT/PBOT would like to spend $400 million to widen I-5 and make other changes), I’m sure this intersection will look a lot different in another decade or so.

Stay tuned.

The barricades are up: No more right hooks on N Wheeler Ave

The barricades are up: No more right hooks on N Wheeler Ave

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-7

This person no longer has to feel threatened for their life and limbs while pedaling past Wheeler; and people who drive near this intersection no longer have to worry about being involved in a collision.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It finally happened. Today at around noon, Bureau of Transportation crews put the final touches on barricades and signage to prevent road users from turning right on N. Wheeler Avenue from Broadway.

There will be no more right hooks at Wheeler.

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-13

It has been nearly five years to the day that I first wrote about the dangerous conditions at this intersection. In fact, things were so bad back then that my story was about how the Portland Water Bureau — concerned that their employees might hurt someone, or be hurt themselves trying to access their headquarters on N. Interstate — first began to consider a bureau-wide prohibition from turning right on Wheeler (they went through with it a few months later).

Now Mayor Adams, buoyed by his staff at PBOT and listening to a loud chorus of concern from nearby business owners and citizens, has limited access to Wheeler for the entire city.

I spoke with a lead employee from a very nearby business today while I was out taking photos (she wished to keep her name/business out of the story pending notification of her marketing department). She said they fully support the closure. She also said that employees and visitors to their business had dreaded the stressful intersection for many years, and that, while they must now go around the block to access their parking lot, the delay is “worth it.” “This is long overdue,” she said.

That woman’s perspective was similar to other business owners in the lower Albina district that I’ve talked to. No one felt comfortable making these right turns because the stakes were so high. Even though some local media coverage made this out to be a “bicyclists vs motorists” or “bicyclists vs businesses” story, that’s not what it was. This was about doing the right thing to improve safety.

We should continue to have the discussion about how people don’t obey laws as much as they should; but we should not continue to let blatantly dangerous streets continue to hurt our fellow citizens.

Below are a few more photos and thoughts …

Here’s how it looks from the windshield of a car (sort of) as you drive down Broadway…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-3



No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-12


And a bit closer up…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-9


In addition to the medians in the road, PBOT has added “No Right Turn” and “Do Not Enter” signs, as well as Detour signs helping folks in cars and trucks access businesses on other streets…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-4


No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-16

Looking northeast from northwest corner of Wheeler/Broadway.

As you can see in this close-up, there isn’t any room for a quick right turn by people on bikes either; although it’d be relatively easy to roll up the curb ramp and onto the sidewalk to head north…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-8


And here’s the full view looking toward the northeast while standing on northwest corner of Wheeler/Broadway…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-15


For more context, in this photo I’m standing north of the intersection looking south at the Leftbank Building…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-6


Overall, it’s very obvious and clear that you are not allowed to turn right. Even so, I won’t be surprised if the barricades get run into and/or if people try to turn right (north) into the opposite lane. If that happens, I just hope no one is coming the other way!

As a parting thought, remember that this fix helps just one of many safety and connectivity problems in this area. In the coming years, major changes are afoot with the I-5 widening plans and associated surface street projects. Stay tuned…

— For full background on how this closure came about, browse our Broadway Flint Wheeler archives (15 posts dating back to August 2007).

The barricades are up: No more right hooks on N Wheeler Ave

The barricades are up: No more right hooks on N Wheeler Ave

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-7

This person no longer has to feel threatened for their life and limbs while pedaling past Wheeler; and people who drive near this intersection no longer have to worry about being involved in a collision.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It finally happened. Today at around noon, Bureau of Transportation crews put the final touches on barricades and signage to prevent road users from turning right on N. Wheeler Avenue from Broadway (exiting Wheeler onto Broadway is still allowed). Mayor Adams shared the news and a photo via his Facebook page, where many folks are telling him what they think about it.

Think about this for a second: There will be no more right hooks at Wheeler.

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-13

It has been nearly five years to the day that I first wrote about the dangerous conditions at this intersection. In fact, things were so bad back then that my story was about how the Portland Water Bureau — concerned that their employees might hurt someone, or be hurt themselves trying to access their headquarters on N. Interstate — first began to consider a bureau-wide prohibition from turning right on Wheeler (they went through with it a few months later).

Now Mayor Adams, buoyed by his staff at PBOT and listening to a loud chorus of concern from nearby business owners and citizens, has limited access to Wheeler for the entire city.

I spoke with a lead employee from a very nearby business today while I was out taking photos (she wished to keep her name/business out of the story pending notification of her marketing department). She said they fully support the closure. She also said that employees and visitors to their business had dreaded the stressful intersection for many years, and that, while they must now go around the block to access their parking lot, the delay is “worth it.” “This is long overdue,” she said.

That woman’s perspective was similar to other business owners in the lower Albina district that I’ve talked to. No one felt comfortable making these right turns because the stakes were so high. Even though some local media coverage made this out to be a “bicyclists vs motorists” or “bicyclists vs businesses” story, that’s not what it was. This was about doing the right thing to improve safety.

We should continue to have the discussion about how people don’t obey laws as much as they should; but we should not continue to let blatantly dangerous streets continue to hurt our fellow citizens.

Below are a few more photos and thoughts …

Here’s how it looks from the windshield of a car (sort of) as you drive down Broadway…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-3



No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-12


And a bit closer up…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-9


In addition to the medians in the road, PBOT has added “No Right Turn” and “Do Not Enter” signs, as well as Detour signs helping folks in cars and trucks access businesses on other streets…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-4


No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-16

Looking northeast from northwest corner of Wheeler/Broadway.

As you can see in this close-up, there isn’t any room for a quick right turn by people on bikes either; although it’d be relatively easy to roll up the curb ramp and onto the sidewalk to head north…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-8


And here’s the full view looking toward the northeast while standing on northwest corner of Wheeler/Broadway…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-15


For more context, in this photo I’m standing north of the intersection looking south at the Leftbank Building…

No more right hooks on Wheeler Ave-6


Overall, it’s very obvious and clear that you are not allowed to turn right. Even so, I won’t be surprised if the barricades get run into and/or if people try to turn right (north) into the opposite lane. If that happens, I just hope no one is coming the other way!

As a parting thought, remember that this fix helps just one of many safety and connectivity problems in this area. In the coming years, major changes are afoot with the I-5 widening plans and associated surface street projects. Stay tuned…

— For full background on how this closure came about, browse our Broadway Flint Wheeler archives (15 posts dating back to August 2007).

Mayor makes it official: PBOT will close Wheeler Ave tomorrow

Mayor makes it official: PBOT will close Wheeler Ave tomorrow

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-15

Mayor Adams at a meeting this morning
about the N. Wheeler Ave closure.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In a meeting with over a dozen representatives from businesses in the lower Albina district, Mayor Sam Adams announced this morning that he will move forward with a partial closure of N. Wheeler Ave. PBOT crews will install a median barrier in the northbound lane of Wheeler and make other adjustments by tomorrow morning. The step is being taken to prevent right-hook collisions that have plagued the intersections for many years.

PBOT first floated the idea of a Wheeler closure on August 10th, saying it was the only “immediate” fix that would prevent right hooks and thus further injuries to people bicycling down Broadway. (PBOT analysis shows that Broadway/Wheeler has more bike/car collisions than any other in the city.) When it became clear that some business owners were not on board with the idea, PBOT delayed action to hash out their rationale and meet with those who would be impacted.

Addressing meeting attendees this morning, Adams said, “We have a very serious problem and it’s an urgent problem and it’s literally matter of life/death in the near term.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-11

“It’s not a question of if I like bikes or cars better, or whether or not I’m pro business… I’ve sat with too many families that have lost loved ones who were killed under trucks, or sideswiped by cars… I’m not going to wait to sit with another family member of someone that dies or is seriously injured.”
— Sam Adams, Mayor of Portland

While Adams made it clear that there are much bigger plans that will address safety and access issues in the coming years, he said he can’t sit idly by while people continue to get hurt. “It’s not something I feel I can let continue as it is for any longer,” he said, “It’s not a question of if I like bikes or cars better, or whether or not I’m pro business… I’ve sat with too many families that have lost loved ones who were killed under trucks, or sideswiped by cars… I’m not going to wait to sit with another family member of someone that dies or is seriously injured.”

Addressing the major public narrative (which is, not surprisingly, the focus of media coverage) about whose at fault for the collisions (many people are upset that so many bike riders ignore the stop sign at N. Flint, which is just a few yards away from where the Wheeler collisions are happening), Adams said, “There’s plenty of blame to go around. Bikes plow through the stop signs, cars don’t turn on their blinkers in time… or if they do turn on their blinker the structure of the intersection makes one wonder whether they’ll turn at Flint or if they’ll turn on Wheeler.”


On that note of people not obeying the stop sign at N. Flint, prior to this morning’s meeting, Mayor Adams visited the intersection while a Portland Police motorcycle officer did an enforcement action.

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-6

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-7

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-4

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-9

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-10

The motorcycle cop barely had time to rest between writing tickets. In the few minutes I was there, I saw three people on bikes pulled over. The officer was there for several hours and was busy the entire time. I heard one report that he pulled over someone in a car; but the vast majority of tickets went to bike riders and he was focused primarily on the Flint stop sign. (You’ll recall that enforcement focused on bicycle traffic has been going on at Flint since at least 2006. It is always controversial, and it doesn’t seem to be working. It’s also important to remember that there are many other high-volume, law-breaking behaviors at this location by all road users.)

At the meeting this morning, Adams emphasized that this partial closure of Wheeler would be a temporary fix. He said he’s focused on a traffic signal in the coming years — but that it would cost $500,000 and it still wouldn’t fix the right-hooks during green lights.

There was some concern and opposition aired at Adams from business reps at the meeting, but Adams countered each one of them with a laser focus on solving the immediate safety concerns.

One man asked Adams if PBOT had considered limiting the number of people that bike down Flint. “If I thought that was realistic,” Adams replied, “I’d pursue it. But it’s not. Respectfully, that’s just not realistic… They’ll go down the path of least resistance.”

When someone called for more enforcement at Flint, Adams answered, “We’ve had enforcement out there 1-2 days a week for many months. There’s plenty of tickets we could right for everyone involved. When engineering of intersections is this chaotic, people forget to turn on their blinker, they forget to stop if they’re coming down the hill on Flint.”

First Inc. owner Bob Huckaby continued; “There’s got to be more law enforcement. That’s what we’re lacking out there.” Again, Adams countered:

“We’ve been putting significant law enforcement out there. Let’s say there were no cops there, we still have this problem. We can have a cop out there all day long and we’re still going to have the problem. They’re blowing with the cop sitting right there. The geometry of the area makes it hard for people to even see the officer sitting on the sidewalk. I understand you don’t like this. I’d say we’ve invested a lot of money on the work-around and I don’t think this, in the scheme of things, is a very big price to pay to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-12

Bob Huckaby, owner of First Inc., a furniture installation company based just north of Wheeler Avenue.

“We believe in safety,” Huckaby said in response. To which Adams quickly replied, “Well then, what do you suggest we do?… You tell me you care about safety, I need to hear if you have a better option for safety. What I’ve heard is to close Flint. That’s not realistic.”

Adams spoke with confidence and respect and showed a solid grasp of the transportation issues faced by businesses in the area. For truckers concerned about limited access on Wheeler, Adams urged them to not use the street at all, pointing out that the City spent million upgrading N. Interstate Avenue as a main truck route and that large trucks negotiating Wheeler is inherently unsafe. (Adams drove a few alternate routes himself and found avoiding Wheeler would only result in about 30-45 seconds delay.) The mayor made it clear that he and PBOT staff plan to work with businesses to make access as smooth as possible. “We can work with you on curb cuts [to increase truck turning radii], removing parking, all of those things. I’m not going to leave you guys stranded out there,” he said at one point.

PBOT traffic safety project engineers gave a presentation to complement Adams’ closure plan. Greg Raisman said they’ve found collisions at Wheeler are caused by an even split of people riding down Flint and down Broadway. “Our analysis is that this location suffers from a significant geometry problem,” said Raisman, “Even if everyone behaved like angels here, we’d still be looking at a high-crash intersection.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-13

PBOT staffer Greg Raisman went through the City’s rationale for the closure.

Far from a knee-jerk reaction, Raisman explained (to the appreciation of meeting attendees in my opinion) that they have taken a very thorough look at the issues and have found the Wheeler closure to be the best solution at this time. He called PBOT’s approach “access management” and said the goal is to “reduce the number of conflict points.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-1

A view from east, looking west at the Broadway/Flint/Wheeler triangle. The black sedan is turning right on Wheeler; the people on bikes are stopped at N. Flint; the Jeep in the foreground is coming off of the I-5 slip ramp.

Raisman also acknowledged that there are myriad other problems (both with infrastructure and behavior) in this area and he assured everyone that PBOT is working on them. “But what we’ve got right now,” he said, “Is a critical safety problem.”

By the end of the meeting, the mood in the room seemed collaborative and productive, not angry.

In the end, Adams said, “This is transportation, no matter what we do it’s always controversial… We’ve gotten criticism for waiting as long as we have. We’re taking action; but we recognize your needs and we want to work with you.”

The closure is set to begin Wednesday.

— Read our full coverage in the archives.

Mayor makes it official: PBOT will close Wheeler Ave tomorrow – UPDATED

Mayor makes it official: PBOT will close Wheeler Ave tomorrow – UPDATED

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-15

Mayor Adams at a meeting this morning
about the N. Wheeler Ave closure.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In a meeting with over a dozen representatives from businesses in the lower Albina district, Mayor Sam Adams announced this morning that he will move forward with a partial closure of N. Wheeler Ave. PBOT crews will install a median barrier in the northbound lane of Wheeler and make other adjustments by tomorrow morning. The step is being taken to prevent right-hook collisions that have plagued the intersections for many years.

PBOT first floated the idea of a Wheeler closure on August 10th, saying it was the only “immediate” fix that would prevent right hooks and thus further injuries to people bicycling down Broadway. (PBOT analysis shows that Broadway/Wheeler has more bike/car collisions than any other in the city.) When it became clear that some business owners were not on board with the idea, PBOT delayed action to hash out their rationale and meet with those who would be impacted.

Addressing meeting attendees this morning, Adams said, “We have a very serious problem and it’s an urgent problem and it’s literally matter of life and death in the near term.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-11

“It’s not a question of if I like bikes or cars better, or whether or not I’m pro business… I’ve sat with too many families that have lost loved ones who were killed under trucks, or sideswiped by cars… I’m not going to wait to sit with another family member of someone that dies or is seriously injured.”
— Sam Adams, Mayor of Portland

While Adams made it clear that there are much bigger plans that will address safety and access issues in the coming years, he said he can’t sit idly by while people continue to get hurt. “It’s not something I feel I can let continue as it is for any longer,” he said, “It’s not a question of if I like bikes or cars better, or whether or not I’m pro business… I’ve sat with too many families that have lost loved ones who were killed under trucks, or sideswiped by cars… I’m not going to wait to sit with another family member of someone that dies or is seriously injured.”

Addressing the major public narrative (which is, not surprisingly, the focus of media coverage) about whose at fault for the collisions (many people are upset that so many bike riders ignore the stop sign at N. Flint, which is just a few yards away from where the Wheeler collisions are happening), Adams said, “There’s plenty of blame to go around. Bikes plow through the stop signs, cars don’t turn on their blinkers in time… or if they do turn on their blinker the structure of the intersection makes one wonder whether they’ll turn at Flint or if they’ll turn on Wheeler.”


On that note of people not obeying the stop sign at N. Flint, prior to this morning’s meeting, Mayor Adams visited the intersection while a Portland Police motorcycle officer did an enforcement action.

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-6

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-7

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-4

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Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-10

The motorcycle cop barely had time to rest between writing tickets. In the few minutes I was there, I saw three people on bikes pulled over. The officer was there for several hours and was busy the entire time. I heard one report that he pulled over someone in a car; but the vast majority of tickets went to bike riders and he was focused primarily on the Flint stop sign. (You’ll recall that enforcement focused on bicycle traffic has been going on at Flint since at least 2006. It is always controversial, and it doesn’t seem to be working. It’s also important to remember that there are many other high-volume, law-breaking behaviors at this location by all road users.)

At the meeting this morning, Adams emphasized that this partial closure of Wheeler would be a temporary fix. He said he’s focused on a traffic signal in the coming years — but that it would cost $500,000 and it still wouldn’t fix the right-hooks during green lights.

There was some concern and opposition aired at Adams from business reps at the meeting, but Adams countered each one of them with a laser focus on solving the immediate safety concerns.

One man asked Adams if PBOT had considered limiting the number of people that bike down Flint. “If I thought that was realistic,” Adams replied, “I’d pursue it. But it’s not. Respectfully, that’s just not realistic… They’ll go down the path of least resistance.”

When someone called for more enforcement at Flint, Adams answered, “We’ve had enforcement out there 1-2 days a week for many months. There are plenty of tickets we could write for everyone involved. When engineering of intersections is this chaotic, people forget to turn on their blinker, they forget to stop if they’re coming down the hill on Flint.”

First Inc. owner Bob Huckaby continued; “There’s got to be more law enforcement. That’s what we’re lacking out there.” Again, Adams countered:

“We’ve been putting significant law enforcement out there. Let’s say there were no cops there, we still have this problem. We can have a cop out there all day long and we’re still going to have the problem. They’re blowing with the cop sitting right there. The geometry of the area makes it hard for people to even see the officer sitting on the sidewalk. I understand you don’t like this. I’d say we’ve invested a lot of money on the work-around and I don’t think this, in the scheme of things, is a very big price to pay to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-12

Bob Huckaby, owner of First Inc., a furniture installation company based just north of Wheeler Avenue. He has concerns about the closure, and feels more needs to be done to improve Flint stop sign compliance; but he is also very reasonable and understands the safety concerns.

“We believe in safety,” Huckaby said in response. To which Adams quickly replied, “Well then, what do you suggest we do?… You tell me you care about safety, I need to hear if you have a better option for safety. What I’ve heard is to close Flint. That’s not realistic.”

Adams spoke with confidence and respect and showed a solid grasp of the transportation issues faced by businesses in the area. For truckers concerned about limited access on Wheeler, Adams urged them to not use the street at all, pointing out that the City spent million upgrading N. Interstate Avenue as a main truck route and that large trucks negotiating Wheeler is inherently unsafe. (Adams drove a few alternate routes himself and found avoiding Wheeler would only result in about 30-45 seconds delay.) The mayor made it clear that he and PBOT staff plan to work with businesses to make access as smooth as possible. “We can work with you on curb cuts [to increase truck turning radii], removing parking, all of those things. I’m not going to leave you guys stranded out there,” he said at one point.

PBOT traffic safety project engineers gave a presentation to complement Adams’ closure plan. Greg Raisman said they’ve found collisions at Wheeler are caused by an even split of people riding down Flint and down Broadway. “Our analysis is that this location suffers from a significant geometry problem,” said Raisman, “Even if everyone behaved like angels here, we’d still be looking at a high-crash intersection.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-13

PBOT staffer Greg Raisman went through the City’s rationale for the closure.

Far from a knee-jerk reaction, Raisman explained (to the appreciation of meeting attendees in my opinion) that they have taken a very thorough look at the issues and have found the Wheeler closure to be the best solution at this time. He called PBOT’s approach “access management” and said the goal is to “reduce the number of conflict points.”

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-1

A view from east, looking west at the Broadway/Flint/Wheeler triangle. The black sedan is turning right on Wheeler; the people on bikes are stopped at N. Flint; the Jeep in the foreground is coming off of the I-5 slip ramp.

Raisman also acknowledged that there are myriad other problems (both with infrastructure and behavior) in this area and he assured everyone that PBOT is working on them. “But what we’ve got right now,” he said, “Is a critical safety problem.”

By the end of the meeting, the mood in the room seemed collaborative and productive, not angry.

In the end, Adams said, “This is transportation, no matter what we do it’s always controversial… We’ve gotten criticism for waiting as long as we have. We’re taking action; but we recognize your needs and we want to work with you.”

The closure is set to begin Wednesday.

— Read our full coverage in the archives.

UPDATE, 3:18 pm: Mayor Adams has just released a statement and a diagram of their fix…

Statement from Mayor Sam Adams on Safety Measures at Intersection of Wheeler, Flint, and Broadway

Today, after extended planning and engineering evaluation, I have made the announcement that the City is closing Wheeler Street to right turn traffic from NE Broadway as a short-term safety solution. As we go forward with the N/NE Quadrant plan, unanimously approved by stakeholders, we will be implementing a long-term solution that increases safety and supports freight and other needs. In the short term, Wheeler will be closed to right-turn traffic starting Wednesday morning (see attached diagram.)

For some time I have been concerned about this dangerous intersection that proves hazardous for cars, trucks, bicyclists and pedestrians. From 2000 to 2010, there were 20 reported crashes at this intersection. Seventeen of the 20 collisions were right-hook crashes involving a bicycle and an automobile.

After years of study, we have found that what makes this intersection so dangerous isn’t only the behavior of those using the roadway, but the roadway itself.

The blind curve of Broadway as it reaches toward Flint is a geometric puzzle that has one solution: closing Wheeler down to right-turning traffic. Even if every driver and every bicyclist that moves through this intersection follows every road rule perfectly, this would still be an extremely dangerous intersection because the curve of the road does not allow cars and trucks to see and respond to bicyclists moving downhill quickly and does not allow bicyclists to see and respond to cars and trucks.
Since 2008, the City has installed a long list of safety measures that did not bring about the needed outcome. Including:

– Installed a stop bar across the bike lane on Flint.
– Installed a legend that says “BIKES STOP”.
– Installed left turn only travel from northbound Wheeler.
– Installed large curb extension to reduce wrong-way driving/riding as people go from Wheeler to Flint.
– Adjusted the travel lanes on Broadway to bring travelers further away from the complicated traffic weaving on the north side of the street.
– Increased traffic enforcement by police officers.

Despite all of this reengineering, this section of Broadway continues to be hazardous to all who use it. When I became mayor, I made road and transportation safety a major focus. As transportation commissioner, I have had to make difficult decisions. It is a difficult decision, but Wheeler needs to be closed to right turn traffic in order to save lives until the longer-term solution offered by the N/NE quadrant plan can be implemented.

The team at PBOT will be working closely with the business community to find solutions that support their needs. We will all work together to keep things safe and keep things moving.