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Lombard, a state freight route, will be restriped with bike lanes

Lombard, a state freight route, will be restriped with bike lanes

lombard-odot-plandrawing

ODOT striping plans for new bike lanes on Lombard.

A half-mile section of North Lombard (Highway 30) in the University Park and Portsmouth neighborhoods is getting bike lanes.

“Getting across Lombard has always been tough. The bike access and traffic island will really help.”
— Mary-Margaret Wheeler, resident of Portsmouth Neighborhood.

That might not seem like big news until you consider this: This will be the first section of Lombard west of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to get bike lanes and this a major freight route controlled by the Oregon Department of Transporation — an agency known for, shall we say, conservative roadway management.

ODOT Region 1 Transit and Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning says this restriping project in particular is happening because “All of the different pieces just fell together.” Horning, who presented the idea at a meeting of the Portsmouth Neighborhood Association Tuesday night, told us in an interview yesterday that the bike lanes and redesign of this stretch of Lombard came about due to “Agencies and developers working together well in an a way that doesn’t typically happen.”

The catalyst was the development of a New Seasons Market that is set to open early next year at Lombard and Westanna Avenue.

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Another view of the new striping plan in relation to New Seasons site.
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What Lombard looks like today. New Seasons site is on the right.

The project will restripe Lombard between N Ida and Wall. The New Seasons site is on the western edge of the project (between Westanna and Wall). Horning says that the section of Lombard to the east of the new store has been on their radar as a safety concern for years.

According to ODOT crash data several sections of Lombard west of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd are among the most dangerous roadways in Oregon. The section between New Seasons and Ida specifically ranks among ODOT’s top 10% sites in the agency’s Safety Priority Index System. “The area to the west of the New Seasons site is pretty high on that list,” Horning said.

But it wasn’t high enough up on the list to actually get any funding until New Seasons came along and “opened up a door” for the project to happen. The new store’s driveway triggered the need for a left-turn pocket, which opened up the possibility for the bike lanes.

“[The need for the left-turn pocket] meant we could try and find some funding and address a known safety problem that gets us some better connectivity between New Seasons, the Peninsula Crossing Trail, and existing bike lanes and neighborhood greenways,” Horning said. “We know kind of demand and behavior we’re going to have at this store and we’re planning ahead for it.”

The case for bike lanes here was also strengthened by the 2004 St. Johns/Lombard Plan which stated, “Between Van Houton [one block west of this project’s boundary] and Ida Streets there is sufficient right-of-way currently to provide bike lanes on Lombard without impacts to on-street parking or the number of travel lanes.”

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Graphic from 2004 St Johns/Lombard Plan showing recommendation of bike lanes between N Ida and Van Houten.

With strong policy footing, Horning went out and got a $10,000 “Quick Fix” grant from ODOT’s bicycle and pedestrian program and added it to what New Seasons is required to pay as part of their development.

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The new bike lanes will be five feet wide in most places, growing to seven feet wherever there’s space. That’s far from ideal in an era when we know protected bike lanes are what really encourage cycling, but Horning says Lombard’s freight designation meant they had to maintain 12-foot standard lanes. Anything narrower would require sign-off from the state freight committee in Salem; a step Horning said could have killed the entire project.

(In a May 2013 story about bike lanes on Lombard ODOT’s Freight Mobility and Construction Project Liaison Tony Coleman told us, “If they can figure out a 12-foot lane adjacent to the bike lane, we could work with that.”)

Unfortunately the project will leave a bike access gap where Lombard crosses a railbed on a bridge owned by Union Pacific. Horning said because the road narrows on the bridge there’s “not enough width to feel safe striping a bike lane.” People riding bikes will either have to take the lane or use the bridge sidewalks.

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Bike lane gap over UPRR bridge.

In addition to the new bike lanes and left-turn lanes, this project will also come with median islands in front of New Seasons at Fortune Avenue to make it easier to walk across Lombard. ODOT plans to commission a traffic study in six months to determine if a flashing beacon is needed to boost the crossing at Fortune. If it is, there’s already funding set aside to install it.

Mary-Margaret Wheeler with the Portsmouth Neighborhood Association said the neighborhood’s response to the project has been “really positive.” Wheeler has lived in the area for 14 years and recalls walking this stretch of Lombard as part of the 2004 plan. “I’m really excited about the work that will be making Lombard into less of a barrier,” she shared with us yesterday, “Getting across Lombard has always been tough. The bike access and traffic island will really help.”

Wheeler did add however that there are some concerns that New Seasons customers will park on nearby streets and a few business owners along the project boundary might not be happy to lose their on-street parking. The new bike lanes will be installed in what’s currently a parking lane; but ODOT says it was very rarely used.

Changing Lombard from the loud, dirty and dangerous highway it currently is into a more human-scale neighborhood street like it should be has stoked dreams and hopes of planners and residents for many years. Now there seems to be real momentum. While the ideal situation would be for the City of Portland to wrest control of it away from ODOT (a bill this legislative session that would have made that possible didn’t pass), this and a few other projects in the pipeline could have significant impacts.

The Portland Development Commission has embarked on a project to improve Lombard (they had an open house on it last night). Their project will focus more toward the east in the same area that Portland State University students researched in the Lombard Re-Imagined effort.

And ODOT is already working on another safety project on Lombard currently winding its way through their 2019-2021 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. We’ll have more on that soon.

For now, we’ll await these new bike lanes and see how they work. They should be on the ground any day now.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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State wants your advice to prioritize Portland-area biking and walking projects

State wants your advice to prioritize Portland-area biking and walking projects

odot bike needs

An interactive map of ODOT biking facilities,
including gaps.
(Click for live version)

As the Oregon Department of Transportation sprints to meet an August grant deadline that could bring federal money to local biking and walking improvements, it’s asking for public input about the deepest needs.

As we wrote in February, this project is part of the state’s first-ever comprehensive list of the existing state of its biking and walking facilities.

If awarded, the federal grants that ODOT applies for after this process will go toward projects being built from 2018-2021.

“If you were going to pick one thing to spend time on in the virtual open house, it’d be the virtual maps tab,” Horning said in an interview Monday. “Write your address in the search box so it’ll zoom to your neighborhood, and just see if that annoying gap in the sidewalk on the ODOT highway by your house, does that show up as red? And if it doesn’t, drop a pin there.”

The maps of biking and walking facilities include such things as a solid red line on Portland’s 82nd Avenue, indicating the lack of any bike facilities there, and 25 missing crossings along Tualatin Valley Highway through Washington County.

Bike Gallery warehouse sale!

Horning also encourages people to check the existing lists of comments about biking and walking facilities and give “thumbs up” votes to problems that they agree with. ODOT hopes this will help the biggest problem spots float to the top.

“If somebody already wrote ‘there’s no bike lane on this bridge, fix the bike lane on this bridge, it’s a priority for me,’ you can just click on the thumbs-up,” Horning said.

ODOT launched the inventory process after coming up completely empty on federal grants for Portland-area active transportation projects to be built from now until 2018. This pilot project in Region 1, which is ODOT’s name for the Portland metro area, may become a model for other parts of the state.

Another component of ODOT’s open house is a brief survey that asks people to help ODOT decide which factors should most important in deciding which projects get built. The current options are crash history, crash risk, transit access, access to essential destinations, service to transportation-disadvantaged populations, filling network gaps and being part of local jurisdictions’ existing plans. Survey takers can also suggest other criteria that the state should consider.

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ODOT is building its first complete wishlist of biking and walking projects

ODOT is building its first complete wishlist of biking and walking projects

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82nd Avenue: a priority, but how high?
(Photo: Elly Blue)

As Oregon creates its first-ever comprehensive biking and walking wishlist, it’s run into a hard question: how should it rank the importance of the many projects on its list?

The question comes three years after a round of ODOT’s federal grant applications for Portland-area biking and walking projects came up completely empty. As the next federal grant deadline approaches, ODOT is hoping that by creating a more sophisticated system to choose its top projects — a complete sidewalk along 82nd Avenue, maybe, or a crosswalk beacon on North Lombard street — it won’t miss out on the next round of federal grants.

Applications for the next grant cycle, which will fund projects in the years 2018-2021, are due this August.

“I think this is going to bring active transportation on par with our other systems,” ODOT Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning said Thursday. “We’ve had a pavement management system in place for years.”

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Horning and project manager Karla Kingsley of Kittleson and Associates presented their work so far at the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s free “lunch and learn” seminar at City Hall on Thursday. They shared a list of considerations used by a similar project in Washington County:

criteria

And a second list, of the seven criteria that have tentatively been selected by ODOT’s committees as the most important:

top criteria

But ODOT hasn’t yet figured out how to weigh those factors against each other, or whether other factors deserve top billing too. Next month the agency plans to hold an online “virtual open house” to ask for advice on how to do so. To sign up for email updates, contact Horning: jessica.horning@odot.state.or.us.

Though the new priorities database applies only to the Portland area, known within ODOT as Region 1, Horning said the system is being designed as a template for the rest of the state.

“It’s going to be the first time that we have a holistic picture of what our needs are and how they stack up,” Horning said. “It’s an exciting pilot project.”

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Bike riders can expect up to 20 minute delays at Sellwood Bridge through end of March – UPDATED

Bike riders can expect up to 20 minute delays at Sellwood Bridge through end of March – UPDATED

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Major work on water lines as part of Sellwood Bridge project mean delays for bike riders and walkers of up to 20 minutes.
(Photo: Michael H.)

If you commute across the Sellwood Bridge, you might want to add an extra 20 minutes to your trip just to be safe.

Yesterday we got an email from reader Michael H. He was riding south toward the bridge on SW Macadam (state route 43) when he was unexpectedly forced to stop because of an active construction zone. There was no detour posted and he waiting “about 10 to 15 minutes” before he was let through by work crews.

According to Michael, “At least one other person on a bike was already there waiting and at least another who was running late gave up after about five minutes and took the lane down Macadam.”

In a chat with one of the workers, Michael was told they’d hoped the Oregon Department of Transportation would have provided continuous bicycle access during the work. But the worker told Michael that ODOT didn’t allow them to use a flagger or provide a bicycling/walking path that would impact other traffic on Macadam. “Since they’ve [ODOT] taken Barbur off the table, you’d think they could do something nice on one of the only safe ways to go SW from downtown.”

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I immediately forwarded Michael’s email to Jessica Horning, ODOT’s local transit and active transportation liaison. She had not heard of any biking/walking access closures and hoped it was just a one time occurrence. However, when she inquired with the Sellwood Bridge project office at Multnomah County, they confirmed the closures.

According to County engineer Chuck Maggio, these closures are going to be happening more frequently for the next two months along this stretch of the project. The work involves new water lines that run parallel to Macadam/Highway 43. Here’s more from Maggio:

“There will be times when they are moving equipment and materials that will require short closures of bike and travel lanes. We are allowed to close lanes temporarily for up to 20 minutes without having to set up lanes closures. We have been doing this throughout the project for years, but this is the first time where we have directly impacted bike lanes. There should be flaggers on site to direct traffic when this occurs, and we will reinforce the twenty minute limit with the subcontractors.”

Horning says flaggers will be present to direct people around the work zones, but you should expect delays of up to 20 minutes while the work takes place. She added that ODOT will work with the County to send out a formal traffic advisory and improve the signage as soon as possible.

In the meantime, you might want to avoid the area if possible. Or bring a book or magazine to pass the time.

UPDATE, 5:20 pm: County spokesperson Mike Pullen offered this update via email today along with the photos below:

“Our Sellwood Bridge contractor established a separate lane for the bike lane today north of the bridge along the east side of Hwy. 43. They had flaggers escort pedestrians and cyclists while they walked their bikes through the construction zone. This helped reduce the delays that were reported on Bike Portland.”

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The post Bike riders can expect up to 20 minute delays at Sellwood Bridge through end of March – UPDATED appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Citing a possible 9-minute auto delay by 2035, ODOT dismisses bike improvements on Barbur

Citing a possible 9-minute auto delay by 2035, ODOT dismisses bike improvements on Barbur

Riding Portland's urban highways-40

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation brushed aside proposals to allow safe bike travel on Southwest Barbur Boulevard, raising the possibility of “unacceptable impacts” that might result from replacing a northbound travel lane with dedicated bike lanes.

“While some have framed the removal of a motor vehicle lane on the bridges as a quick and easy, ‘noimpact’ solution, there are impacts that need to be considered,” the agency wrote in a memo distributed Thursday evening.

The memo cited estimates that removing one of Barbur’s four travel lanes would increase northbound auto travel times between 5 and 15 percent today, and somewhere between 10 and 65 percent by 2035.

During the busiest few minutes of the morning on the 4.9 mile corridor in question, it comes out to an additional delay of somewhere between 84 seconds and 9 minutes over the course of the next 22 years.

Update 8:03 pm: I’ve changed these figures (previously 1.8 miles and 36 seconds to 4 minutes) to include the full stretch of road studied and to allow an apples-to-apples comparison of travel times in 2035. -MA

“The actual amount of delay would likely fall somewhere in between these two predictions on ‘typical’ travel days,” the memo from ODOT’s Jessica Horning explained.

Barbur currently forces cars and bikes to merge into the same lane as they cross two narrow bridges on Barbur. The speed limit on the bridges is 45 mph.

“Over the past several months, ODOT has received both strong messages of support for a road diet,” Horning wrote, “and strong objections from stakeholders who feel that reducing motor vehicle capacity on Barbur/99W would create unacceptable impacts for commuters, businesses, transit, and freight operations.”

ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said Tuesday that he didn’t know if ODOT’s traffic models accounted for any reduced auto traffic that might result from turning Barbur into the only safe and comfortable bikeway between Southwest Portland’s 60,000 residents and the rest of the city.

“That’s a good question,” Hamilton said. “I’m not sure.”

Update 6:34 pm: According to files provided by Hamilton, the traffic model used by ODOT that found the 65 percent increase assumes that the ratio of people driving, biking and taking transit would be unchanged both by bike improvements and by increased congestion, and that people would not readjust their schedules to avoid congestion.

Two weeks ago, ODOT wrote in a press release that “traffic will not be significantly impacted” by the temporary removal of two motor vehicle lanes on the bridges, “especially over time as motorists adapt to the changes.”

The memo released Thursday night also estimated that “a significant amount of traffic (5-20% of vehicles today, and 10-35% in 2035)” would “divert to local streets such as Corbett, Terwilliger, Capitol Hill, and Taylor’s Ferry.” It did not discuss the possibility of other measures, such as speed bumps or traffic diverters, that might limit such diversion.

Hamilton said such measures were outside the scope of ODOT’s study.

“This was designed to understand what a road diet would affect,” Hamilton said.

He added that “any suggestion that we ignore bike and pedestrian needs is incorrect.” ODOT is planning to install a flashing “bikes on bridge” sign and to reconsider bike improvements as part of the Southwest Corridor planning process that’s expected to wrap up in the mid-2020s at the soonest, though changes to bike facilities might happen earlier in that process.

“This is an area that is ripe for improvement, and it’s getting some serious attention,” Hamilton said.

Horning, who works a 4/10 schedule, was unavailable for comment Friday.

ODOT will install automated counter on new State Trail in the Gorge

ODOT will install automated counter on new State Trail in the Gorge

Manufacturer’s graphic of how the counter works.

The Oregon Department of Transportation just received shipment of an automated counter similar to the one in use on the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. After ODOT Region 1 Transit and Active Transportation Liaison tweeted a picture of the new counter today, we followed up and learned a bit more about where it’s headed.

Horning says the counter will be installed on the new segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail that is set to open on September 15th. As Horning shared in a guest article here on BikePortland back in May, ODOT has been investing millions to renovate and re-build the Historic Columbia River Highway’s eleven miles that are set aside exclusively for hiking and biking. In September, ODOT plans to celebrate the opening of a 1.6 mile section that connects John B. Yeon State Park in Warrendale to the existing restored section of the state trail at the Moffett Creek Bridge (towards Cascade Locks).

The new counter is the Eco-Multi model by Eco-Counter, the same company that made Portland’s counter. Horning says due to limited cell phone coverge, their new counter in the Gorge won’t have a visual display or daily uploads to a website like the Hawthorne counter. However, ODOT will regularly download the data so staff and the public can have an accurate count of path users. The counter will also tally all path users (not just people riding bicycles) thanks to what the company calls, “the Smart Connect,” technology, “which is able to prioritize choices in order to classify the different user types.”

Funding for the $5,000 counter came from the same pot of money that is normally used for the state’s manual trail counts. ODOT granted a special request to try this automated counter pilot program.

In other Historic Highway State Trail news… On August 2nd, an invite-only ride featuring regional dignitaries and advocates will get a closer look at the new path and other wonders of biking in the Gorge. The ninth annual “Voyage of the Visionaries” — also known as the Policymakers Ride (organized by Cycle Oregon) — will take participants 26 miles from the Women’s Forum to Cascade Locks Marine Park.