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Finally! ODOT acknowledges need for a road diet on SW Barbur Blvd

Finally! ODOT acknowledges need for a road diet on SW Barbur Blvd

barbur-capitolupclose

ODOT’s proposal for improving bike access on SW Barbur at Capitol Highway.

Yesterday the Oregon Department of Transportation did something unprecedented: they officially proposed re-allocating lane space on on Southwest Barbur Boulevard to make less room for driving and more room for cycling. Here are their exact words: “Reduce one southbound lane on SW Barbur Blvd over Newbury and Vermont Bridges to provide bike lanes.”

This great news came in an announcement yesterday that came with the release of new documents published by ODOT in response to the Barbur Road Safety Audit that came out back in October. The audit was performed by a private consultant and it included some significant findings on how to improve cycling access on this major arterial street that’s the most direct connection from southwest Portland into downtown. One of its ideas, which we highlighted in detail a few days after the audit was released, has now been embraced by ODOT and is part of an official package of proposed improvements they’d like to move forward on.

There’s a lot to digest in ODOT’s response to the audit; but the big one has to do with the southbound section near SW Capitol Highway, just north of the Newbury Bridge. As we reported last fall, traffic data shows that 40 to 50 percent of southbound Barbur auto traffic exits at Capitol. This fact makes it reasonable to re-stripe the roadway space from the existing two standard lanes (that force bicycle riders to merge with auto users) into one standard lane and one bike-only lane. In addition to the lane re-striping, ODOT would add a bicycle-only signal at Capitol Highway to improve safety at this high-risk and high-speed intersection. Here’s the full project description followed by a screenshot of the document:

Move the centerline to the west on SW Barbur Boulevard to remove one southbound through lane to provide bicycle lanes on the Newbury and Vermont Bridges. The transition will start at the curve 1500-ft north of SW Capitol Hwy and end 800-ft south of the Vermont Bridge. Add a traffic signal at SW Capitol Highway to prevent conflict between right-turning motor vehicles and through bicycles. Signs warn motor vehicles that the through lane becomes a right-turn only lane.

barbur-caphwyplan





At this point, ODOT isn’t breaking ground or anything. And they haven’t allocated the $4 million it’ll take to do this work. But the fact that ODOT has now officially acknowledged the need for a road diet on Barbur is a very big deal. It’s a victory for all the advocates and electeds who have pushed for changes on Barbur over the years.

Speaking of which, we first shared a grassroots effort to make Barbur better for cycling in 2010 when a pair of Portland State University students started a Friends of Barbur group. The three years later the idea came roaring back into the news when ODOT released plans to rehabilitate the Vermont and Newbury bridges. Advocates — including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance who made this one of their top priorities — seized on that project as a perfect opportunity to re-stripe the road and put a separated bikeway over the bridges. As crashes and tragedies continued to happen, pressure mounted on ODOT to put the road on a diet but they resisted at every turn.

The road safety audit conducted last summer was the big breakthrough (and it helped that it was pushed for by State Representative Ann Lininger). This past November the pressure reached a breaking point when Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer both urged ODOT to act.

This project is far from a done deal, but this breakthrough is worth celebrating. And it took endless pressure from many corners — from grassroots activists to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and even the city’s own Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Stay tuned for more on this story. For now, peruse ODOT’s full response and list of projects they want to implement on Barbur in the coming years at Oregon.gov.

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

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The post Finally! ODOT acknowledges need for a road diet on SW Barbur Blvd appeared first on BikePortland.org.

With Blumenauer in his corner, Novick pressures ODOT for changes on Barbur

With Blumenauer in his corner, Novick pressures ODOT for changes on Barbur

southbound barbur street view

Almost half of southbound rush-hour traffic on Barbur turns right here. Converting the right lane to exit-only could boost driver safety on Barbur while making room for continuous bike lanes to the south.
(Image: Google Street View)

Consensus seems to be building around a new concept that could finally create continuous bike lanes on state-run Barbur Boulevard.

And now, support for changes to a notoriously dangerous section of Barbur have a new ally: U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

“I look forward to seeing these much needed and long awaited safety improvements in the very near future.”
— Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Congressman

In a letter Monday (PDF) to the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick made the case for converting a southbound lane of Barbur to an exit-only lane in order to free up road space just to the south to add buffered bike lanes across two narrow bridges.

If ODOT agrees, Novick wrote, he was “hopeful” that restriping could happen in 2016.

Novick sent his letter to ODOT Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer and attached a letter from Blumenauer. Blumenauer’s letter was addressed to ODOT Director Matt Garrett and cc’d to Karmen Fore, Governor Kate Brown’s transportation policy chief.

“This report makes it clear,” Blumenauer writes, referring to a recent safety audit conducted by ODOT. “Barbur Blvd needs significant safety investments, and there are actions that can be taken in the next few months to address some of the critical improvements that will save lives and are long-awaited by the community and my constituents.”

It’s rare for a congressman to weigh in on a local transportation issue, but as someone who used to hold Novick’s job as city transportation commissioner, Blumenauer is no stranger to these waters.

Last month, the ODOT-commissioned safety audit found that almost half of southbound traffic on Barbur already turns right at Capitol Highway. Officially converting the rightmost lane to a right-turn-only lane “should have minimal impacts,” said Novick, whose personal car commute to City Hall happens to run along Capitol Highway and Barbur.

“This lane removal could be as short as 2,900 feet, just long enough for people walking and biking to cross the two bridges safely,” Novick said.

The problem with the two bridges is that Barbur’s bike lanes disappear, forcing bike and car traffic to merge into the same 45 mph lane. It’s the only relatively flat bike route between Southwest Portland and the rest of the city.

Novick also, for the first time, endorsed a change to make Barbur safer to drive on and its bike lane more comfortable: narrowing the general travel lanes from 11.5 and 12.5 feet to 11 feet in order to add a two-foot buffer between bike and auto traffic throughout.

Based on conversations with constituents, advocates, neighbors and City staff, the City of Portland strongly supports 11-foot wide travel lanes throughout the corridor as well as a two-foot buffer for bike lanes. Numerous studies have highlighted the ability of narrow travel lanes to reduce motor vehicle speeds, and thereby improve safety.

That 11 feet is wider than the national minimum standard of 10 feet for lanes on a higher-speed urban arterial. TriMet buses and most trucks are 10.5 feet wide, mirror to mirror.

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And Blumenauer has Novick’s back 100 percent, saying in his letter that he supports the removal of one southbound lane and narrowing of existing lanes to make room for “protected bikeways.”

Unlike the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Novick didn’t call for physically protected bike lanes and sidewalks to be installed right away. But he did say that they’re an important longer-term goal: “Two-foot buffers will have an immediate safety benefit, but roadways like Barbur need protected bicycle facilities and sidewalks to encourage their full use.”

In his letter, Novick also offers a useful analogy from ODOT’s own playbook.

I believe removing the southbound lane over the Newbury and Vermont bridges is in the same spirit as the recent change ODOT made on the last mile of I-84 in which two lanes were dedicated toward I-5 south as opposed to I-5 north. This change had safety improvements and was generally not noticed by road users because it reflected the natural flow of traffic.

As someone who regularly drives on this mile of 84, I can certainly attest to loving this restriping — it makes it much easier for people driving west to avoid last-minute lane changes when I-84 meets I-5, which I’m sure reduces crash rates.

If a similar common-sense restriping could also add continuous bike lanes to Barbur, it’s hard to see what’s standing in the way of Novick’s proposed 2016 timeline — especially now that Blumenauer is pushing in the same direction.

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


The post With Blumenauer in his corner, Novick pressures ODOT for changes on Barbur appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Safety audit reveals new approach to fixing Barbur bridges

Safety audit reveals new approach to fixing Barbur bridges

southbound barbur street view

Almost half of southbound rush-hour traffic on Barbur turns right here. Converting the right lane to right-turn-only could boost driver safety on Barbur while making room for continuous bike lanes.
(Image: Google Street View)

Buried inside 115 pages of analysis of Barbur Boulevard, a “safety audit” released Monday seems to have come up with something interesting: a pretty solid new idea for fixing the dangerous wooded section of Southwest Portland’s most important street.

It’s fairly simple. Instead of losing a northbound auto lane from Miles to Hamilton, one of Barbur’s two southbound auto lanes could peel off at Capitol Highway.

South of Capitol Highway — which is where 40 to 50 percent of southbound Barbur traffic exits anyway — the street could be restriped to add continuous bike lanes across a pair of narrow bridges, ending the current situation that pushes bikes and cars to merge into the same 45-mph lane.

This was one of seven scenarios highlighted in the road safety audit commissioned by the Oregon Department of Transportation that we covered yesterday, but it wasn’t until we called around to several of the engineers behind the audit that we started to realize how much the “southbound drop lane,” also known as “Option #5”, stood out.

“It felt like southbound made the most sense, because a lot of the traffic was getting over to the right lane,” said Carol Cartwright, an ODOT roadway manager on the audit committee.

Here’s what the southbound drop lane concept has going for it:

It’d make driving much safer on the most dangerous stretch of Barbur

The southbound approach to Southwest Barbur and Miles.
(Image: Google Street View.)

It’s a myth that the Barbur Woods safety problems are all about people biking. They’re mostly about people driving.

In part because so few people are currently willing to bike on this stretch of Barbur, no one has actually died while biking there. The people who have been dying on Barbur have been in cars or (in two cases) on a motorcycle.

Removing one of the two southbound auto lanes south of Capitol Highway addresses the single biggest safety problem on the wooded stretch of Barbur: extreme speeding by people driving southbound south of Capitol Highway, toward Burlingame and Hillsdale. At least five of the 10 people who’ve died on this stretch of Barbur over the last 10 years were in this situation.

The safety benefits of going from two auto lanes in the same direction to one are well-documented, but mostly boil down to the fact that with only one lane, the most reckless drivers aren’t tempted to weave through traffic. Last year, an ODOT construction project took Barbur down to one lane in each direction. That led to about one minute of additional rush-hour travel delay, but a 68 percent drop in extreme speeding.

That’s no coincidence. The Federal Highway Administration says that restriping streets to remove traffic weaving reduces collisions by 19 to 47 percent.

It might have even less impact on congestion than removing a northbound auto lane
road segment studied

The wooded stretch of Barbur runs 1.9 miles from SW Bertha Avenue to SW Hamilton Street.
(Image: Portland State University PORTAL system)

The biggest misconception about Barbur Boulevard — the fundamental thing that’s been holding improvements back for years — is the understandable but false assumption that removing one of two auto lanes means a street can only carry half as much traffic.

That’s mostly true on a freeway, but Barbur isn’t a freeway. It has stoplights. As long as the traffic signals on each end of the Barbur Woods are letting through approximately the same number of people on each green light, it doesn’t matter much how many lanes the street has in between.

That said, there’s one big intersection right in the middle of the Barbur Woods: Capitol Highway curls west towards Hillsdale. During the morning rush hour, 50 percent of the southbound traffic peels off there. During the evening rush hour, it’s 40 percent.

If about half of the southbound traffic vanishes south of Capitol Highway, what’s the point of the second traffic lane?

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It’d fix one of the worst gaps in the region’s biking network
lonely biker on barbur bridge

Adding complete bike lanes over Barbur’s bridges could greatly increase the number of people willing to bike there.

Carved out for a 19th-century rail line, Barbur Boulevard is the only flat connection between Southwest Portland and most of the rest of the city. Forcing bikes and cars to merge into the same 45 mph lane isn’t just nerve-racking for people driving, it’s a dealbreaker for almost anyone who might be interested in biking.

When Barbur crosses the two bridges just south of Capitol Highway, its lanes are 11.5 to 12.5 feet wide.

barbur status quo

Drawings from ODOT’s Barbur Blvd Road Safety Audit report.

If that were switched to two 11-foot northbound auto lanes and one 12-foot southbound auto lane, there’d be room for comfortable buffered bike lanes on both sides of each bridge.

southbound drop plane

What’s more, there’s room on the rest of Barbur to narrow the travel lanes a bit and add a painted buffer (or even some sort of thin physical barrier, such as flexposts) that could turn this into a genuinely nice route between the densest parts of Southwest Portland and downtown.

It responds to one of ODOT’s main concerns: Spillover from I-5
southbound detour

The route for southbound I-5 traffic onto Barbur is an unmarked zigzag through residential streets, making Barbur’s southbound lanes much less useful as an “incident management” spillover route.

Over the last few years, the Oregon Department of Transportation has said over and over again that Barbur Boulevard plays an important role as an escape valve for traffic when trouble hits Interstate 5.

Whatever you think of that theory, here’s something indisputable: this doesn’t apply nearly as much in the southbound direction. Unlike northbound I-5 traffic, which has a relatively intuitive spot to jump onto northbound Barbur five miles to the south, traffic that’s southbound on I-5 can’t get onto Barbur without a zigzag through narrow streets in this Lair Hill neighborhood:

“Accessing Barbur Boulevard from I-5 southbound is challenging and may only attract motorists already in downtown Portland,” the safety audit writes.

Dropping the southbound lane at Capitol Highway would still have challenges
terrible-bus-stop wide

Two bus stops on this part of Barbur are so inaccessible that almost no one uses them, but a few people do.
(Photo: M.Andersen)

Like all the options explored in Monday’s safety audit, Option 5 has downsides.

There’s a bus stop at Southwest Barbur and Parkhill that, as of 2012, sees two people get off (and zero people board) on the average weekday. If TriMet buses continue to stop there, they might or might not be able to pull fully out of the way of a single southbound travel lane. There’s another bus stop 2,000 feet north, beneath the Capitol Highway overpass, that sees one person get off per weekday and would also be affected. (Last spring, The Oregonian enshrined that one in video as maybe the worst bus stop in the city.)

Another complication is that southbound bike traffic would somehow need to cross the drop lane at Capitol Highway. If it’s restriped into a drop lane, it might feel even more like an offramp than it already does.

Depending on how the turn lane works, there might be enough room here in the existing roadway to swoop the bike lane around and create a less acute angle for bikes to cross the ramp. Here’s an image in ODOT’s bikeway design guide that suggests the geometry involved:

right angle

(Image: ODOT)

On the other hand, one of the main problems with this intersection is that so many cars fail to signal their right turns, so it’s impossible to know, while biking, whether a car is about to zoom up Capitol Highway or zoom under Capitol Highway. If the right lane were a drop lane, someone biking or walking here would know that every car in the right lane was preparing for a turn.

In any case, it’s clear that a bit more design work would be required to know whether this might be an adequate compromise. On Monday, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said that ODOT’s Portland regional manager, Rian Windsheimer, will make the call about whether to assign anyone to look at it and at the other options explored here.

“We’ve already decided this requires further study,” Hamilton said. “That’s going to begin soon. … It’s a question of how and when.”

Everyone who drives, bikes or walks on Barbur should hope that work doesn’t wait until after another person dies.

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


The post Safety audit reveals new approach to fixing Barbur bridges appeared first on BikePortland.org.

ODOT releases Barbur Boulevard Safety Audit

ODOT releases Barbur Boulevard Safety Audit

barbur-reportcover

The Oregon Department of Transportation has just released their Barbur Boulevard Safety Audit. The 115-page report takes an in-depth look at the safety issues of one the most deadly and dangerous urban highways in our region and it has been eagerly anticipated by advocates for months.

The audit came about after ODOT received significant pressure from the community (including a petition from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) to do something about street’s dangerous bicycling conditions.

While the audit addresses many issues, the one that has generated most of the attention and controversy (and led to the audit in the first place) is the lack of a dedicated place to ride a bike across the Vermont and Newbury Bridges. Currently those bridges force road users into a pinch-point right at the location where ODOT’s own data shows has the highest speeds in the study area.

ODOT spent about five months on the project and had nine “independent” engineers from the public and private sector on the official Road Safety Audit team. That team spent 3-4 days in the field to observe how a 4.3 mile corridor of Barbur — from Naito Parkway to Capitol Hwy — is used by all modes. They biked, walked, and drove at all hours of the day.

Here’s the audit team roster:

audit-barbur-road-audit-team

The resulting report lists eight general safety issues, nineteen location-specific safety issues. The RSA team offers recommendations on how to address those issues in the short, near, and long-term. There are no cost estimates and the engineers did not go into detail about the technical feasibility of the various suggestions. Nor did they law out any timeline for completion. In a cover letter from the RSA Team leaders to Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer, says the report was intended to identify issues and “help the region plan.”

Why was an audit needed on Barbur? Here’s a snip from the report summarizing the toll it takes on our community:

Over the ten-year study period, 919 crashes were reported on Barbur Boulevard, including 873 vehicle related, 34 bicycle related, and 12 pedestrians. Ten fatalities were reported, eight of which involved alcohol.

The audit split up safety issues into three categories: I, II, and III, with III being the most severe. Speed and bicycle facilities were identified as two of the Category III issues.

On the issue of bicycle facilities, the audit provides a treasure trove of crash data. There have been 34 reported crashes involving people on bicycles in the past ten years. The majority of those crashes (26 of 34) happened because someone did not yield the right-of-way.

The chart below shows all the bicycle-involved crashes by location:

barbar-bikecrasheschart

Here are the bicycle safety issues identified in the audit:

barbar-bikesafetyissues

And here’s the audit’s breakdown near, short, and long-term suggestions to improve bicycling safety in general:

Near-term suggestions:
Provide clear direction for drivers and bicyclists through pavement markings at conflict areas, including:

    —At select locations, carrying bicycle lane markings through accesses/driveway area.
    — Shortening skipped bicycle striping at transition/conflict areas to minimize weaving-section across bicycle lane.

Intermediate suggestions:

Provide clear direction for drivers and bicyclists through pavement markings at conflict areas, including:

    — Using green pavement marking at intersections and driveways with high volumes of right-turns.
    — Eliminating on-street parking where possible.
    — Extending skipped bicycle striping through wide intersections to guide bicyclists and bring attention to bicycles on the roadway

Provide consistent bicycle facilities by:

    — Restriping the roadway to narrow travel lanes where possible (consistent with suggested corridor cross-section, see previous “Speed and Cross-section Inconsistency” section), including buffered bike lane.

Long-term suggestions to address bicycle facilities:

Create shared pedestrian and bicycle space where width is limited.

Where there is insufficient roadway width, either widen the highway cross-section or provide alternative location to provide bicycle facilities.

The audit also has a section on pavement quality of bike lanes, which it identifies as a Category I safety issue.

As for the Vermont and Newbury Bridges, how best to provide “defined bicycle facilities” on them was the one issue in the entire report the audit team did not reach consensus on. They did however agree that the best option would be to replace and widen the existing structures.

Beyond a complete replacement of the bridges, the audit shares some suggestions on what can be done interim to make things safer.

In the near-term, the audit recommends two things: “adding pavement symbols indicating the loops that actuate the warning lights on the bridges so bicyclists are aware of where they need to ride”; and, “Consider signage or striping to encourage bicyclists to take the outside travel lane across the bridges.”

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The audit also offers seven different options for how to manage the existing bridges; but they’re careful to underscore that they believe none of them are ideal:

“There is not a preferred option within the available existing cross section. The team suggests further evaluation of the trade-offs associated with these options and how they compare to the evolving vision for this corridor.”

One of the options they explore is to do the road diet and re-allocate space so that the existing cross-section over the bridges has three standard lanes and a bicycle-only lane instead of four standard lanes and no space for bicycling. This is the design the BTA and other advocates are pushing for. PBOT studied this design and found it would cut speeds significantly and result in only minimal delays to users during peak times.

Here’s the sample cross-section:

barbrur-bridgeoption-adwidebikelanes

And here are the “cons” with this option noted by the audit team:

— The ability to implement incident management (ICM) is limited with a single northbound travel lane, because northbound I-5 traffic may be redirected to the I-5 Terwilliger exit to bypass an incident to the north on I-5.

— Potential safety implications associated with the transition area at the two-to-one lane merge and the potential impact it may have on upstream signals.

— Increased congestion for northbound traffic anticipated, with impacts to upstream signals (SW Miles Street, SW Terwilliger Boulevard, SW Bertha Boulevard), which may result in increased rear-end crashes.

— Although Barbur Boulevard serves directional peak traffic (AM northbound into town and PM southbound out of town), there is a northbound PM peak in addition to the AM peak because of congestion on I-5 – motorists use Barbur Boulevard as an alternate to access the Ross Island Bridge). Therefore, this option has impacts during both the AM and PM peak periods.

There’s a lot to digest in this audit. Will it help increase urgency on ODOT to make Barbur safer for cycling? That depends on how it’s used by our electeds, agency leaders, and advocates. From ODOT’s perspective, they say the recommendations will be “taken into account” as funding becomes available and as they plan future projects. They also include this friendly reminder in the report: “Safety issues cannot be completely addressed through engineering alone.”

Stay tuned as we continue to cover Barbur Blvd.

Download the full report here.

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


The post ODOT releases Barbur Boulevard Safety Audit appeared first on BikePortland.org.

After media reports, state says it will smooth sunken grates on Barbur

After media reports, state says it will smooth sunken grates on Barbur

Beaverton to Tualatin ride-14

Jim Parsons in a 2011 photo.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

For at least one last time, the squeaky wheel known as Jim Parsons has gotten some grease onto the gears of government.

After the veteran Portland-area bike advocate’s unsanctioned paint job of two sunken grates in Barbur Boulevard’s bike lanes landed them on TV news for two consecutive days, the Oregon Department of Transportation said Friday that it’ll follow his recommendations for addressing the problem within the next week or two.

An agency spokesman added that ODOT owes thanks to Parsons, who recently finished a degree at Portland State University and is planning a move to China.

“He frequently brings maintenance issues to our attention, and we go out there and address them,” regional ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said Friday. “We rely on that, and this guy has been a valuable player.”

sunken grate prepaint

A 2012 photo of the offending grate, long before Parsons’ unsanctioned paint job.
(Photos of grate: Jim Parsons)

It was a sharp turnaround from Wednesday, when a different ODOT staffer had responded to Parsons’ scolding of ODOT with a scolding email of her own, describing his unsanctioned warning paint as illegal and irresponsible graffiti and saying he should not have applied it.

Parsons says he applied the white and yellow warning paint (along with the slightly ominous message “ODOT knows”) only after complaining to ODOT about the problem intermittently for seven years, starting in 2008, and seeing no change. Earlier this year, Parsons says he broke a spoke on his bike while crossing one of them.

odot knows straight

Some of Parsons’ DIY street markings.

After receiving ODOT’s email on Wednesday dismissing his concerns, Parsons forwarded the email to BikePortland. We wrote about it Wednesday; KGW’s coverage followed.

In a reply-all email Friday morning to several people including BikePortland, ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer wrote that “my crews have had an opportunity to review the grates and will be making adjustments to improve them over the next week or two as the equipment needed is available.”

On Friday afternoon, Hamilton clarified that though the agency is “not exactly sure” of what adjustments will be made, “we’re planning to grind them out and smooth them out, one of them with some cement grout. The other one will be ground down. And we’re going to wash out the paint and replace it with black.”

Those were the quick-fix actions Parsons had proposed to the agency earlier this week.

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Hamilton said that the agency hasn’t recorded any bike-related crashes at that location, but that the sunken grates “probably would have been addressed” eventually as part of the broader road safety audit that ODOT is conducting on Barbur.

“This has not been our top safety priority in the Portland area,” Hamilton said, but given the “significant amount of attention” ODOT was receiving, “we want to make sure that we can take steps that will allay concerns the public has about this.”

A tour of the West Side-21

Parsons in 2009.

This is the latest victory for Parsons, whose years of dogged digital and physical activism for bike safety have prompted profiles on BikePortland and Oregonlive. It’s a sequel of sorts to his similar action on Hall Boulevard in Tigard and a cousin to his email campaign to fix storm drains that are slightly too small for their slots.

(Another memorable Parsons tale: the time he got egged on his bike by a carful of boys but managed to get them to donate two bicycles to the Community Cycling Center in apology.)

Hamilton said that despite his colleague’s earlier email to Parsons, the agency is grateful to him for helping it keep its streets safe.

“We appreciate that,” Hamilton said. “We try to treat everybody with the respect that is deserving of people who take the time to contact us.”

As for Parsons, he wasn’t too proud to indulge in a little shameless campaigning Fiday for Portland bike advocacy’s most prominent honor.

“When it comes time for the Alice, don’t forget me,” Parsons said over the phone, sotto voce. “I’ve never gotten one.”

Update 8/12: One of the two grates has been fixed. Here’s a photo (also by Parsons) of the result:

ODOT shows up to fix the issue...

Apparently the other grate is marked as a road hazard; we expect it to be smoothed over soon.


The post After media reports, state says it will smooth sunken grates on Barbur appeared first on BikePortland.org.

After man adds warning paint to sunken grate, state roads agency calls it vandalism

After man adds warning paint to sunken grate, state roads agency calls it vandalism

sunken grate prepaint

A 2012 photo of the offending grate, long before Parsons’ unsanctioned paint job.
(Photos: Jim Parsons)

Update: After this and other media coverage of Parsons’ action and ODOT’s repsonse, the agency has announced plans to fix the grates and says it is grateful for Parsons’ work.

A local man who says he’s been warning state officials for seven years about a sunken grate in the middle of Barbur Boulevard’s northbound bike lane has finally gotten some action from the agency.

After he marked the grate himself with yellow warning paint and with the letters “ODOT KNOWS,” the agency is planning to visit the site … to erase his paint.

In a Wednesday email to the man, Jim Parsons, an Oregon Department of Transportation staffer with the title “citizen’s representative” scolded him for what she said would make the street more dangerous.

odot knows straight

“Cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain and steer themselves into a lane of traffic,” wrote the staffer, Monica Bustos. “Mr. Parsons, I was made aware that you painted the drain yourself. It is dangerous, you are on the highway without proper traffic control to advise the public that someone is on the roadway. It is also illegal to vandalize (paint) ODOT property. The ODOT Maintenance Manager will now be spending the already limited maintenance budget funds on removing the vandalism from ODOT property.”

In an interview earlier this week and in previous emails to ODOT over the last week, Parsons said he had first notified ODOT about the problem in 2008, but was moved to start worrying about it again in June after he accidentally crossed it while biking to Portland State University and broke a spoke from the impact.

“Front wheel in, front wheel out, rear wheel in, rear wheel out,” Parsons said Wednesday, describing the jolts of crossing the grate. Here’s a photo he took showing the depth of the grate:

prepaint with foot

In an email to ODOT Monday and in an interview with BikePortland Wednesday, Parsons said his preferred solution would be to “grind the thing smooth.”

“You don’t have to raise the grate, you don’t have to pave it, you just have to grind the damn thing,” Parsons said.

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Parsons said the site is north of Barbur’s two narrow bridges where the bike lanes vanish and south of the crosswalk that ODOT installed after the 2010 death of a woman walking her bike across the street.

Parsons said he decided to paint the street himself only after a series of responses from ODOT dating back to 2008.

“Every time I call they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll be paving that area next year,’” Parsons said in an interview last week. “They just don’t think it’s a problem.”

Beaverton to Tualatin ride-14

Jim Parsons in a 2011 photo.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Parsons applied his paint Friday. The “ODOT KNOWS” message, he said, was intended to be a message to any lawyers whose clients might be injured by collisions with the grate.

“It’s downhill,” Parsons said. “With a tailwind, you can hit 40 mph easy. … Sooner or later, somebody’s going to hit that thing the wrong way.”

Parsons said he had previously painted warning paint around the grate back in 2012, but without the “ODOT KNOWS” message.

Also on Friday Parsons also applied paint to another location just to the south. Here are his photos of that grate before his paint job (with a Home Depot paint stirrer to show the scale):

paint stirrer wide

The divot between grate and pavement runs parallel to the roadway, so a bicycle wheel might be caught in it.

paint stirrer closeup

And here’s his unsanctioned treatment:

odot knows yellow

odot knows curve

Parsons does seem to have received one fairly detailed email reply about his problems, sent on Monday by ODOT Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning. She sent this in response to his emailing a link in which he shared his photos of the unsanctioned paint job.

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the update. I’ve forwarded your message on to our maintenance crew, who will take another look at this area. As I mentioned last time, we plan to adjust these grates next time we have work scheduled in the area. I do not currently have a timeline to give you.

As I mentioned on the phone, ODOT recently conducted a Road Safety Audit on Barbur. The whole RSA team rode over these grates on a bike ride from Naito to the “Crossroads” (Capitol Highway/99W/I-5 interchange) and back… and the consultant leading the RSA bike commutes on Barbur daily. The RSA report will include prioritized recommendations for near and long term bike safety improvements on Barbur. I know that storm grates are included on the long list of issues that were noted during the RSA, but do not know where they will fall on the draft prioritized list. I will let you know when there is a complete version of the RSA report ready to share. You can also read more about the Barbur RSA on our website: www.BarburSafety.org.

(We reported about ODOT’s in-progress road safety audit in May.)

On Wednesday morning, Parsons received the email from Bustos, saying that “The ODOT Maintenance Manager has looked at the drain and determined that paint lines are not in the best interest of anyone” and informing him that ODOT would be spending part of its maintenance budget to remove the paint. It didn’t mention any schedule for fixing the grates.


The post After man adds warning paint to sunken grate, state roads agency calls it vandalism appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Big upgrade to commercial stretch of Barbur looks likelier as Metro rejects OHSU tunnel

Big upgrade to commercial stretch of Barbur looks likelier as Metro rejects OHSU tunnel

buczek walking

Metro staffer Anthony Buczek walks Barbur’s
current auto-oriented commercial strip in February.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Long-term plans are falling into place for a federally-subsidized biking and walking upgrade to one of Southwest Portland’s most important main streets.

And oh, it might come with a rapid bus or rail system, too.

Staff at the regional agency Metro announced last week that they weren’t going to recommend a $900 million light-rail tunnel beneath OHSU, instead sending the proposed Southwest Corridor high-capacity transit line on the surface of SW Naito and Barbur as it passes through Southwest Portland toward Tualatin and Tigard.

The decision means the possibility we wrote about during our Southwest Portland Week last winter — federal matching funds for major sidewalk upgrades and protected bike lanes through the Barbur commercial district and key feeders like Capitol Highway — is likelier than it was. However, it comes at the cost of direct transit access to Oregon Health and Science University, the city’s largest employer, and to the Hillsdale neighborhood.

In any case, none of the work is likely to happen for years. Metro’s schedule for the project anticipates completion between 2025 and 2035.

A Metro map of options for future high-capacity transit routes through Southwest Portland.

I’ll let Metro News writer Craig Beebe take it from here:

In short, planners say, the ends don’t justify the means – or the money – for either a deep-bored light rail tunnel to serve Marquam Hill and Hillsdale, or a shallower tunnel that would just serve Hillsdale town center.

Substantial construction impacts on nearby neighborhoods and sensitive medical facilities at Oregon Health & Science University drove the recommendation to remove a Marquam Hill light rail tunnel from further consideration, Southwest Corridor Plan manager Chris Ford said.

“The vibration impacts to OHSU facilities, the physical damage to Duniway Park for the north portal construction site and the constant truck traffic over multiple years in Lair Hill and Hillsdale are major community costs,” Ford said, “with only moderate gains in riders.”

Ford said the large price tag of a Marquam Hill light rail tunnel – as much as $900 million in latest estimates – was also a concern. It could cost 35 to 46 percent more than a surface route with only an eight percent bump in total transit ridership, according to the report.

In their recommendation, planners acknowledge that they heard a lot of public support for directly serving Marquam Hill with light rail. But they maintain that light rail or bus rapid transit on SW Barbur Blvd. or Naito Parkway, with elevators or escalators connecting to OHSU, would provide improved service to Marquam Hill with fewer neighborhood impacts and at a lower cost.

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A surface route, Ford said, would also improve transportation safety in South Portland and along Barbur, including adding new bike and pedestrian infrastructure at two notorious bridges along a wooded stretch of the road. Such a route would be within walking distance of high-density South Waterfront, where OHSU is building new facilities.

OHSU officials have said they don’t want to be bypassed by high capacity transit, but have declined to say whether they’d insist on a tunnel. “As we grow, it’s essential that we continue to have excellent [transit] service,” OHSU associate vice president Brian Newman said in April. “That doesn’t necessarily mean a tunnel, but it does mean that the project needs to serve Marquam Hill and South Waterfront.”

A tunnel to serve Hillsdale alone would be shorter and shallower, and could work with either light rail or bus rapid transit.

But that tunnel option would actually result in fewer new transit riders and a longer trip from Portland to Tualatin, according to planners’ analysis, at a significantly higher price. Additionally, its prospect had raised significant community concerns about multiyear construction impacts in the Hillsdale business district, which would have to be torn up temporarily for the tunnel to be built.

Planners also note that Hillsdale is already well-served by frequent local buses, and TriMet is planning improvements as part of its Southwest Service Enhancement Plan.

All that means a direct transit tunnel might not be worth the added cost of $230 million for light rail or $140 million for bus rapid transit. Planners suggest exploring whether local buses might be able to use any dedicated transitway that’s built on Barbur or Naito from Hillsdale to downtown Portland.

SW Barbur Blvd observations-5

SW Barbur might be the route through Tigard, but a transit line could veer onto I-5 or elsewhere instead.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Beebe goes on to explore the still-open question of a tunnel that could directly serve Portland Community College’s huge Sylvania campus, which is likely to be a major driver of transit in the area.

Of course, it’s also totally plausible that none of this project will move forward. Tigard and Tualatin voters have approved ballot initiatives giving themselves veto power over major transit projects, and if a new bus or rail line can’t serve those cities, the ridership math falls apart. But as the planning process continues, last week’s staff recommendation (which hasn’t yet been approved by Metro committees or council) could gradually evolve into big news for biking on SW Barbur.

Got questions or opinions on the decision? You can learn more and share your thoughts online right now or at an open house tomorrow at Metro headquarters.


The post Big upgrade to commercial stretch of Barbur looks likelier as Metro rejects OHSU tunnel appeared first on BikePortland.org.

By pushing for road safety audit, state Rep. Ann Lininger steps into leadership role on Barbur

By pushing for road safety audit, state Rep. Ann Lininger steps into leadership role on Barbur

lininger

Lininger says she had “a number of conversations”
with ODOT’s new regional manager about safety
improvements on Barbur.
(Photo via Oregon Legislature)

When the Oregon Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday that it had decided to change course and formally consider a road diet on Southwest Barbur, its news release included two words that hadn’t been associated with the issue before:

Ann Lininger.

The state representative appointed last year to represent much of Southwest Portland and her hometown of Lake Oswego, Lininger was quoted by ODOT itself as favoring “improving safety for all users on this crucial roadway.”

Though she’s only one of many people who’ve contacted ODOT in support of low-cost, short-term improvements to Southwest Barbur — multiple sources said that U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has expressed his opinion, not to mention Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and hundreds of local residents and organizations — Lininger is one of a few who’ve done so from a position few people have: direct authority over ODOT, thanks to her seat in the state legislature.

“People in the Portland part of the district have expressed a lot of interest in improving safety for bikes and pedestrians. I think it’s really important for us to do this.”
— Ann Lininger, Oregon State Representative

Lininger and others, in turn, credited ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer with both the suggestion and the final decision to conduct a road safety audit of Barbur that would include consideration of a road diet. Windsheimer, like Lininger, came into his current job last year — in his case being promoted to replace the departed Region 1 Manager Jason Tell.

Previously a Clackamas County Commissioner for four years, the Lininger, a Democrat, was appointed to the legislature in January 2014 to replace resigning legislator Chris Garrett. Last November, she was elected without opposition to a full second term.

And somewhere along the way, Lininger said in an interview this week, she developed a clear sense of the transportational desires of Southwest Portlanders.

“People in the Portland part of the district have expressed a lot of interest in improving safety for bikes and pedestrians,” Lininger said. “I think it’s really important for us to do this, and part of the community where people walk and bike a lot.”

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After Windsheimer became ODOT’s Portland interim regional manager last August, Lininger (who had previously served with him a Metro policy committee) called him up to discuss active transportation improvements in Southwest Portland.

“I’m going to have to hand it to Rian — his team did a great job of identifying the project. They came up with this suggestion.”
— state Rep. Ann Lininger on ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer

It was the first of “a number of conversations,” Lininger said. Those culminated in a sit-down meeting in Salem on April 22 between Lininger and Windsheimer, also including staffers from the offices of state Sen. Richard Devlin and state Rep. Margaret Doherty, whose districts sit just southwest on Barbur.

The idea of a Barbur road safety audit came in part out of those conversations, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said this week.

“Certainly we always listen when legislators start describing things that they hear that are wrong on the roads,” Hamilton said.

Lininger praised Windsheimer and his colleagues for trying to find “a cost-efficient way we can get to making bike and pedestrian improvements.”

looking back

An organized ride on Barbur in 2013.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

“I’m going to have to hand it to Rian — his team did a great job of identifying the project,” she said. “Short of doing something that requires hundreds of millions of dollars today, what are the things we could do today, this year, to start improving safety? … They came up with this suggestion.”

The safety audit will open the door to possible safety improvements not just on the much-discussed wooded section of Barbur just south of downtown Portland but on the commercial section to its south as far southeast as its intersection with Capitol Highway.

“I’m hoping that it will be a conversation about a huge chunk of Barbur and not just limited to a part that has received a lot of attention in the past,” Lininger said.

Browse the 64 stories we’ve published about Barbur Blvd.


The post By pushing for road safety audit, state Rep. Ann Lininger steps into leadership role on Barbur appeared first on BikePortland.org.

By pushing for road safety audit, state Rep. Ann Lininger steps into leadership role on Barbur

By pushing for road safety audit, state Rep. Ann Lininger steps into leadership role on Barbur

lininger

Lininger says she had “a number of conversations”
with ODOT’s new regional manager about safety
improvements on Barbur.
(Photo via Oregon Legislature)

When the Oregon Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday that it had decided to change course and formally consider a road diet on Southwest Barbur, its news release included two words that hadn’t been associated with the issue before:

Ann Lininger.

The state representative appointed last year to represent much of Southwest Portland and her hometown of Lake Oswego, Lininger was quoted by ODOT itself as favoring “improving safety for all users on this crucial roadway.”

Though she’s only one of many people who’ve contacted ODOT in support of low-cost, short-term improvements to Southwest Barbur — multiple sources said that U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has expressed his opinion, not to mention Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and hundreds of local residents and organizations — Lininger is one of a few who’ve done so from a position few people have: direct authority over ODOT, thanks to her seat in the state legislature.

“People in the Portland part of the district have expressed a lot of interest in improving safety for bikes and pedestrians. I think it’s really important for us to do this.”
— Ann Lininger, Oregon State Representative

Lininger and others, in turn, credited ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer with both the suggestion and the final decision to conduct a road safety audit of Barbur that would include consideration of a road diet. Windsheimer, like Lininger, came into his current job last year — in his case being promoted to replace the departed Region 1 Manager Jason Tell.

Previously a Clackamas County Commissioner for four years, the Lininger, a Democrat, was appointed to the legislature in January 2014 to replace resigning legislator Chris Garrett. Last November, she was elected without opposition to a full second term.

And somewhere along the way, Lininger said in an interview this week, she developed a clear sense of the transportational desires of Southwest Portlanders.

“People in the Portland part of the district have expressed a lot of interest in improving safety for bikes and pedestrians,” Lininger said. “I think it’s really important for us to do this, and part of the community where people walk and bike a lot.”

We rely on financial support from readers like you.


After Windsheimer became ODOT’s Portland interim regional manager last August, Lininger (who had previously served with him a Metro policy committee) called him up to discuss active transportation improvements in Southwest Portland.

“I’m going to have to hand it to Rian — his team did a great job of identifying the project. They came up with this suggestion.”
— state Rep. Ann Lininger on ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer

It was the first of “a number of conversations,” Lininger said. Those culminated in a sit-down meeting in Salem on April 22 between Lininger and Windsheimer, also including staffers from the offices of state Sen. Richard Devlin and state Rep. Margaret Doherty, whose districts sit just southwest on Barbur.

The idea of a Barbur road safety audit came in part out of those conversations, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said this week.

“Certainly we always listen when legislators start describing things that they hear that are wrong on the roads,” Hamilton said.

Lininger praised Windsheimer and his colleagues for trying to find “a cost-efficient way we can get to making bike and pedestrian improvements.”

looking back

An organized ride on Barbur in 2013.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

“I’m going to have to hand it to Rian — his team did a great job of identifying the project,” she said. “Short of doing something that requires hundreds of millions of dollars today, what are the things we could do today, this year, to start improving safety? … They came up with this suggestion.”

The safety audit will open the door to possible safety improvements not just on the much-discussed wooded section of Barbur just south of downtown Portland but on the commercial section to its south as far southeast as its intersection with Capitol Highway.

“I’m hoping that it will be a conversation about a huge chunk of Barbur and not just limited to a part that has received a lot of attention in the past,” Lininger said.

Browse the 64 stories we’ve published about Barbur Blvd.


The post By pushing for road safety audit, state Rep. Ann Lininger steps into leadership role on Barbur appeared first on BikePortland.org.

State will conduct safety audit of Barbur and formally weigh road redesign

State will conduct safety audit of Barbur and formally weigh road redesign

barbur curve looking north

Typical midday traffic approaching a curve in Barbur Boulevard from the south.
(Image: Google Street View.)

Four months after saying it had no plans to do so, the Oregon Department of Transportation will formally consider the possibility of new changes to a two-mile stretch of Barbur Bouelvard where six people have died in cars, on motorcycles and on foot in the last six years.

“The audit will consider a road diet as a potential safety tool in the corridor.”
— ODOT

ODOT’s announcement of the new analysis to be launched this summer by a team of multi-agency experts came Tuesday after years of pressure from some Southwest Portlanders and other safety advocates including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

“Many residents of House District 38 use Barbur every day to travel to and from home, work or school,” said Rep. Ann Lininger in ODOT’s news release Tuesday. Her district includes much of Southwest Portland on both sides of Barbur, Lake Oswego and other communities southeast of Barbur. “I am very pleased to see ODOT initiate the Road Safety Audit and further its commitment to improving safety for all users on this crucial roadway.”

The stretch of road up for analysis runs 5.6 miles from Barbur’s southern intersection with Capitol Highway to its junction with Naito Parkway.

Near the northern end of that line are two miles through a wooded section of Barbur, where the lack of signals or significant intersections means that a northbound passing lane could be removed without major loss of roadway capacity.

However, ODOT engineers said in an interview Tuesday that changes to the two-mile section between the signals at Southwest Miles and Southwest Hamilton might lead people to merge into the left lane further south, which could then reduce signal capacity at Terwilliger and Miles. They said they haven’t yet done enough analysis to know how much delay that might add, though ODOT’s analysis of last summer’s construction on Barbur suggested that it might add about one minute during the morning rush hour on the busiest weekdays, Tuesday through Thursday.

“The audit will consider a road diet as a potential safety tool in the corridor,” ODOT wrote in its news release Tuesday.

ODOT regional manager says any changes might come in next three years

road segment studied

The stretch of Barbur that’s been suggested as a candidate for immediate changes runs 1.9 miles from SW Bertha Avenue to SW Hamilton Street.
(Image: Portland State University PORTAL system)

ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said Tuesday that road safety audits follow a procedure spelled out by the federal government to get outside experts’ eyes on a problem.

“It is not anybody from ODOT Region 1, but it could include people from cities or counties,” Hamilton said. “The idea is that we bring in independent people, we show them what we got and they then do the study. At the end of it there is a findings meeting where they present a report to the owner. In this case, that’s us, and we will then respond to that in some way.”

Alongside ODOT’s news release came a letter from ODOT Regional Manager Rian Windsheimer to Bicycle Transportation Alliance Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky, a response to the 721 signatures delivered to ODOT by the BTA last month.

“My goal is for the RSA [road safety audit] to identify improvements that will benefit all modes and help us prioritize where to spend our limited funds,” Windsheimer wrote. “If the audit identifies opportunities we feel are a higher priority than the projects we currently have programmed in the 2015-2018 STIP [statewide transportation improvement program], we may want to consider revisions to the scope of those projects to include higher priority locations or elements.”

“I think it’s welcome news from ODOT that they’re listening to the community conversation about safety on their roadways,” Kransky said Tuesday. “I am eagerly awaiting an announcement regarding who will be participating.”

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The BTA, Oregon Walks, City Club of Portland, Lewis and Clark College, the Markham Neighborhood Association, Southwest Trails and a handful of local businesses have urged a study along these lines, including the possibility of restriping Barbur to remove a northbound passing lane and add continuous protected or buffered bike lanes and/or walking lanes across two narrow bridges on Barbur where the bike lanes disappear, forcing people on bikes and cars to merge into the same 45 mph lanes.

For people biking, it’s by far the flattest connection between most of Southwest Portland and the rest of the city.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, definitely welcoming the conversation and hoping that it leads us directly to protected bike lanes over the Newberry and Vermont bridges,” Kransky said.

Neighborhood groups hopeful

lonely biker on barbur bridge

Other advocates for the safety of driving, biking and walking on Barbur also voiced cautious support.

“I’m excited for a chance for the community to weigh in on Barbur, and I hope that people will get involved,” said Kiel Johnson, an organizer for the local safety group, Friends of Barbur, that gathered 502 of the signatures delivered by the BTA. “I think it’s a pretty easy case to make to reduce speeding and make it safe for all modes. … I just hope that it’s transparent and anyone who wants to weigh in gets to weigh in.”

Roger Averbeck, chair of Southwest Neighborhoods Inc.’s transportation committee and a prominent voice for safety changes to Barbur, said he was pleased that Windsheimer had invited him to participate.

“Those sorts of thing have been done before on urban corridors in Portland such as 82nd Avenue, Powell Boulevard,” Averbeck said. “They are helpful.”

Hamilton said the safety audit process, which takes place this summer, will involve multiple days of “people crawling all over this area” to observe road behavior and wed it to the state’s trove of speed, safety and capacity data. “It involves real hands-on observation,” he said.

Hamilton said the list of participants isn’t fixed yet but that the audit will include “people from outside the region.”

The news release mentioned “law enforcement, fire and rescue, neighborhood representatives, transit providers, bicyclists, pedestrians and ODOT” as stakeholders.

Hamilton said he didn’t anticipate a formal public hearing as part of the process but that “there will be something” such as a live or online open house to gather more input from the public at large.


The post State will conduct safety audit of Barbur and formally weigh road redesign appeared first on BikePortland.org.