Mayor Unveils West Burnside Ideas

Mayor Adams posted a letter on his web site today, outlining stripped down alternatives for treatment of West Burnside Street.

The focus is a much-reduced project, $18M rather than the original $80M. And it does not include streetcar:

We completed the 25-year Citywide Streetcar Strategy. It showed me the need to prioritize streetcar extensions on the east side of the Willamette River.

The primary approach is a hybrid 3/4 lane Burnside that creates more left turn opportunities and improved pedestrian crossings.

But there is also an option for a “skinny Couch” to couple with Burnside – it looks like a very heavily traffic-calmed version of the original couplet idea.

I’m looking forward to learning a lot more in the near future.

15 responses to “Mayor Unveils West Burnside Ideas”

  1. The bike lanes up to Park look great, but I have to wonder why they’ve decided to end them there and instead have a parking lane for the the rest of the distance heading west. Seeing as there’s not already parking there, I don’t see why it needs to be put in (I can see why businesses might want it though) when the bike lanes could easily be continued instead. Two 11′ lanes, a 12′ turn lane and two 5′ bike lanes would work just fine, I would think.

    Additionally, I wonder if some money could be saved on the stretch with the median by extending both sidewalks by 4′ instead of just the north one by 8′. That way, no trees would have to be moved, and the median could stay relatively untouched.

  2. I was wondering the same. I wonder where all the traffic will go if this is implemented. Clearly this is a reduction in westbound capacity unless I’m totally out of it

  3. Last year, someone mentioned that PBOT was considering using paint rather than full curb extensions as a cost-saving measure. A number of folks, including me, were critical of the idea.

    I see now from these “Basic Couplet” plans and example photos (PDF), including actual projects from New York, that the Basic Couplet proposal goes beyond mere painted boundaries, but includes a very thick and distinctive surface treatment (similar to bike boxes, but tan rather than green), bollards/chains and planter boxes or boulders to serve as boundaries and protection, and that these would primarily be used along the parking areas.

    Given those adjustments, while I would still prefer a full couplet (and one which goes beyond 14th, which I predict will become a mess because of the shared space with the I-405 offramp), I retract my initial shock and horror at the painted pedestrian area concept.

  4. I’ve never really understood the costs associated with the couplet, particularly when a streetcar isn’t included.

    What’s wrong with two lanes each way from Broadway to 19th: two eastbound lanes on Burnside, with parking, and two westbound lanes on Couch, with parking. Why would that be so expensive? Other than changing traffic lights and re-striping lanes, what is there to do, really? Couch is already a two-lane street with parking on both sides, and Burnside is four lanes … turn the outside lanes into parking, and you’re done. It would create a whole bunch of street parking for Burnside businesses, increase traffic on Couch … but it doesn’t seem like it should be expensive to do, since it would use lanes, curbs and sidewalks already there.

  5. Douglas –

    According to the “Basic Couplet” proposal (link in my previous comment), about $6M of the $21M is for necessary pavement improvements on Couch to handle the traffic.

    A bunch goes to stormwater improvements, and remember that on Burnside many of the traffic light masts will have to be relocated to opposite corners, plus new traffic lights added along Couch.

    The proposal also notes that the wiring for the street lighting on Burnside is very old and fragile, and not easily spliceable, meaning lots of utility work if even one light post is relocated or upgraded.

  6. If PBOT wants to do something to Burnside do that WBEEP proposal for pedestrian improvements to an improved Burnside and only Burnside. Don’t kill Couch with the drag strip one way couplet, it is a fantastic street through the Brewery Blocks… a good urban pedestrian-oriented retail street is supposed to be slow and congested. The stop signs at NW Couch & 10th are key to keeping traffic from racing through.

    Unlikely but if I had my way I’d just make Burnside one lane in each direction with on-street parking and widen the sidewalks. In other words just like NW 23rd now. Burnside and NW 23rd are both thru-streets with the same right of way width (at least Burnside west of the Park Blocks), but they feel so different.

    And that revised scaled back Burnside-Couch couplet plan unveiled a few years ago kept all the bad stuff of the couplet plan, such as the one way drag strip quality and value engineered out all the good stuff like curb extensions, sidewalk reconstruction and the streetcar for a later phase.

    P.S. All this just for left-turns on Burnside? Somehow the Brewery Blocks is thriving despite this supposed deficiency.

  7. “Don’t kill Couch with the drag strip”

    Couch would be no more of a “drag strip” than any two-lane, one-way downtown street with regular, timed signals.

    Nor has eastside Couch become a “drag strip”, with lights timed at 15mph, and the benefits for all users, peds, cyclists, motorists alike of the improved eastside Burnside are now quite obvious.

    The eastside couplet is proof that you can improve the situation for all modes (and dramatically improve the situation for peds, parking and circulation) without creating a “drag strip”.

  8. It’s not like they are going to turn Couch into a drag strip and keep Burnside as is. Burnside and Couch will both become your typical 2-lane signal-controlled downtown street. Personally, I would prefer two higher traffic, slower, safe streets, to one calm street, and one freeway a block apart. Just look at the Burnside/Couch couplet on the east side. Couch is just fine, and it very nice to walk on.

  9. And another factor to livability is signal length. On the newly
    ‘improved’ nw Lovejoy in the Pearl , the signal length is so long in favor of the Lovejoy cars so that peds are effectively walled off.
    At first many Peds stood around on both sides of the street waiting for the Walk signal [as few cars go by on Lovejoy except rush hour] , many now just jaywalk.
    Hmmm , now that is safer than it was!

  10. billb: I’ve walked the “new” section of Lovejoy quite a few times, and jaywalk no more or less than before the change. If there is no traffic coming many people (especially those of us who have lived in bigger cities) will jaywalk. The biggest difference is that it’s both easier and safer on one way streets than two way streets.

  11. burnside west of the freeway is a pedestrians nightmmare.

    the sidewalks are so narrow and the motorists speed excessively.

    it’s like on that one street, all drivers become californians.

    fix that s***

  12. many of the one ways in portland are dragstrips where motorists race to the next light regardless of the supposedly timed lights. there are some outstanding one ways in portland that work very well, 10/11th and morrison/yamhill for example, but most are terrible, i for one am no fan of the new east burnside couplet nor nw lovejoy/northrup.

    In the Rust Belt, Protecting Pedestrians is a Two-Way Street

  13. I’m against the couplet.

    NW Couch through Pearl is the quintessential and defining street of the district. Ramming more traffic and ugly lights will ruin the character. It’s not worth it and very expensive. It’s a civil engineers’ design for cars — not cities or people.

    With that said, upper W. Burnside is a nightmare.

    My experience from Burnside, as a driver and pedestrian, is that people turning left will cause most of the congestion. The street needs:

    -Bus pullout and possibly reorganization of bus stops. Fred Meyer is redoing it’s building, maybe work with them on land acquisition for a bus pull in. Just an idea.
    -More protected left hand turns at some intersections.
    -On street parallel parking is just not feasible – it will cause congestion behind people and the proposal I see has on street parking.

    Sorry, bikes and on street parking aren’t going to work on Burnside.

    My section idea:

    12′ sidewalk | 12′ travel lane E | 12′ left turn lane / suicide | 12 ‘ travel lane W | 12’ sidewalk

    Personally, I wonder if the city could paint a few lines and test and see what it does to congestion with a lane diet. My crazy theory is it won’t impact congestion and make travelling the road much easier.

    Increasing congestion would not benefit pedestrians or transit users, so caution needs to be made.

  14. WS,

    Bus pullouts don’t benefit pedestrians or transit users. They benefit motorists, by permitting cars to speed past stopped busses unimpeded. (And then the bus has to merge back into traffic–while busses entering the roadway have the right of way in law; in practice cars will often try to squeeze past a bus flashing its “yield” sign).

    OTOH, bus pullouts in the context of a road diet (one travel lane per direction) strike me as more reasonable.

  15. ES:

    I still feel the bus pullouts are safer than having a bus stop when people are not expecting it (drivers behind the bus) on heavy used roads like Burnside. I see more close calls with the buses stopping in traffic than a slight delay from pulling out. A driver sees a green light then is quickly caught off guard from a bus stopping. A pullout with a bus shelter is a visual cue to a driver that there is going to be a stop ahead and movement to the other lane can be made. I have no data to support this, just anecdotes.

    Reducing lanes on B-side would need to benefit motorists in some way. Bus pullouts do not negatively affect transit riders or pedestrians, but their apparent ease of traffic congestion seems to be a positive.

    The current designs I see for the Burnside redesign still show 8′ sidewalks, which is absurd.

    Any money poured into Burnside that does not include increasing the sidewalk width is a plan I cannot support.

    Not to mention 12′ sidewalks can support street trees — another thing missing on Burnside.

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