Bureau of Planning Releases Burnside Couplet Critique

Today the Bureau of Planning released its response to the Burnside Couplet plan. Here are Gil Kelley’s cover letter and the analysis document.

The top line: BOP thinks a couplet is not the way to go on the west side.

I think the report actually raises some important issues, including the need for stronger planning of placemaking along the ‘link’ section (2nd to Park) and the need for stronger analysis and planning for linkages with the districts emerging along Burnside.

But of course, that begs the question: where was BOP with this analysis during the two 18 month planning processes we have already conducted? The plan could have been greatly strengthened if we had had the benefit of this level of analysis and thought during the process, rather than applying that effort as second guessing afterwards.

As to some of the recommendations in the analysis:

“Burnside … is one of the city’s few distinctively ‘big city streets’ …”

I think we could do without the kind of distinction that makes pedestrians avoid the street!

“Some reduction of capacity on Burnside might not be a bad thing.”

Gil, where were you when I was trying to remove one eastbound lane between NW 23rd and NW 15th?

The plan proposes intersection treatments and additional signalized crossings at 8th, Park and 9th as an alternative to the couplet. This does NOT provide a comprehensive answer to the left turn question.

It even goes on to suggest widening sidewalks by:

“…reducing the existing 11-foot travel lanes to 10 feet …”

Now astute readers will remember that the Freight Committee has bitterly opposed similar narrowing from the freeway to NW 23rd. This suggestion seems calculated to draw opposition to the central segment.

Indeed the capacity reduction suggestion is certain to draw opposition from PBA’s “portals” sub-committee, whose mission to to guard access to the central retail core. During the stakeholder process, PDOT was clear that the project could not reduce capacity. This restriction was a major motivator for the couplet, as it allowed traffic to be calmed and made compatible with pedestrians without reducing the capacity.

If I were feeling cynical – and since it’s almost midnight I’m tending in that direction – I might suggest that this report was intended to introduce a degree of uncertainty and doubt, and draw two important groups into opposition to the plan. Possibly a way to effectively kill the plan without having to come out in direct opposition?

But read the report – I will certainly be reading it again – and form your own opinion.

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