This post was written by Keith Liden, a Southwest resident, BTA member, and land-use planner. He is a long-time member of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and is currently representing the BTA on ODOT’s Barbur Bridge Rehabilitation Project as part of our Project Advisory Council. (Photo by Roger Averbeck; diagram by Carl Larson.)
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently held an open house to get public comments regarding potential safety improvements for people walking and bicycling on the Newbury and Vermont bridges located on Barbur Boulevard between Capitol Highway and Terwilliger Boulevard — the bridges at which Barbur’s bike lanes end and people on bicycles are pushed out into high-speed traffic.
The safety improvements being proposed — wider sidewalk on the west side of the bridges — are good but not a long-term fix. At best, they would give uphill cyclists the option of riding on a still-narrow sidewalk.
Luckily, there might be a forward-thinking, inexpensive, long-term fix on the table. ODOT has indicated a willingness to consider a “road diet” for this portion of Barbur Boulevard to provide adequate space for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridges. A road diet would involve reducing the current 4-lane cross section to 3 lanes. This space could then be used to create:
- Buffered bike lanes in both directions, and standard bike lanes on the bridges and provide a pedestrian walkway in the location of the existing northbound bike lane; or
- A multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists on the east side of Barbur Boulevard (as illustrated).
This may be possible because a recent evaluation by ODOT indicates there is sufficient roadway capacity to accommodate today’s traffic demand with 3 travel lanes (2 southbound and 1 northbound). ODOT traffic projections indicate that 1 lane northbound could create capacity problems during the morning peak (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) by 2035. Although it was not evaluated, this study suggests there may be potential for a road diet north of Capitol Highway to Hamilton or Naito.
Barbur Boulevard has enormous potential to be a primary bicycle route between downtown and southwest Portland because it is the most direct route with a moderate grade. Enhancing the existing bike lanes and providing bike lanes on the Newbury and Vermont bridges would remove the primary obstacles to bicycling on this important route.
It’s exciting to see ODOT taking a multi-modal approach to their roads and making safety for all users a top priority.