by Terry Dublinski.
Since we are having a debriefing on CURBS this Tuesday, I want to make sure everyone has access to my data collection so far. This is a living document that I have been adding to over the weeks as we get more information.East Burnside 41st to 71st : How do we make it safer?
Here is my synopsis of the data collection I have done over the past months, current conditions and my recommendations as to where we go from here when it comes modernizing the High Crash Corridor which is Burnside.
History: Burnside was initially designed as the main road to Montavilla out of downtown in the 1930’s as the “Alternative 30” state route around the time the Burnside bridge was completed. Except for the intersections of 60th and 47th ,which were widened when the traffic lights were installed, we have 44 feet from curb to curb. The streetscape has not been extensively modernized since its initial construction.
Current Conditions: Burnside is one of Portland’s ten High Crash Corridors. Though it is not the most dangerous, the crash rates through all travel modes are much higher than the city average because of the lack of separation between autos, buses and bikes, large distances between safe crossings, poor lighting, few bus stop shelters, off-set intersections, blind curves and narrow sidewalks. The current “Pro-Tem” parking, which allows for three lanes of travel during commute time, makes improving crosswalks prohibitively expensive. Local residents rarely use the on street parking because of its dangerous nature, so Burnside acts like a four lane highway encouraging speeding. The 60th street traffic light when red is run frequently. This intersection is so dangerous many parents refuse to let their children walk the few blocks to Mount Tabor Middle School. The occasional parked car, stopped buses and left turns through the curves exacerbates the crash risk. Pulling out from one’s driveway sometimes is an effort in futility and very dangerous at most times. Burnside carries around 18,000 vehicles per day making it less busy than either Glisan east of 58th or Division between 60th and 80th . Each of these have recently been given a safety modernization (otherwise known as a “road diet.) Modern Federal urban safety guidelines recommend that at even 22,000 vehicles per day a three lane configuration, over the current conditions, can handle the same volume of traffic but cut crashes by up to 30% with minimal congestion impacts.
Long Range Planning: Burnside is designated as both a high frequency bus route and as a protected bikeway in PBOT’s long range transportation plan. Metro’s Regional Active Transportation Plan designates it as a “Bicycle Parkway” and a “Pedestrian Parkway.” Metro’s plan has been extensively modeled with significant outreach throughout the region. Burnside shows significant commuter bike traffic increases if safe facilities are implemented. This lines up with our neighborhood goals of decreasing SOV traffic, congestion and improving local air quality.
In response to these conditions I requested traffic modeling data from PBOT to determine what the traffic impacts would be if Burnside was given a safety modernization according to modern NACTO design standards that lined up with Metro’s Regional Active Transportation Plan.
In the preliminary modeling of Burnside, PBOT used a standard three lane configuration with one travel lane in each direction, a center turn lane and modern bike lanes. This is a similar treatment that was recently done on Division between 60th and 80th. The results indicate that the traffic light at 60th would become safer and more efficient with a grade of “C” which is the baseline balanced goal for an urban multi-modal intersection. The intersection at 55th remains at a “B,” while the current “C “ status of 47th plummets to an “F.” I suspect this is because of the large number of trips Providence Hospital creates. West of 47th we would need a traffic circulation study in the vicinity of Caesar Chavez, and 47th between Burnside and Glisan to determine what improvements are needed to bring the intersection at 47th and Burnside up to an acceptable rating. As part of this, the cut-through traffic problems on 44th and 45th should be addressed. This study recommendation has been included in our comprehensive plan letter to the city of Portland.
PBOT’s engineers preliminary suggestion is that a road reconfiguration “seems do-able,” but at this time only east of 47th. This of course requires parking removal which they also stated they do not have the labor for the political lift required, but would be amenable if it is the locally preferred option. This bikeway conductivity lines up with the 50’s bikeway which is currently scheduled to be built this spring. As a property owner on Burnside I contacted 12 of my neighbors last spring located between 60th and 62nd both on the north and south sides of Burnside. 11 out of 12 preferred the possible new road striping with parking elimination over the current conditions. The only “no” was a visitor who did not want to walk around the block. When I pointed out that local residents do not park on the street because of all the crashes, her answer was “that is what insurance is for.” The main area where parking could be in conflict is between 53rd and 48th across from the higher density apartment buildings. Due to the few driveways it may be possible to save one strip of parking in this stretch and still have minimal traffic impact if we sacrifice the center turn lane. I have counted parked cars on weekends evenings when it is the most congested multiple times. Each time there was enough parking if they were on only one side of the street. This possibility would have to be extensively discussed as part of any stakeholder’s committee, but as part of any roadway safety modernization active transportation modes would need to be prioritized over SOV’s or parking demands to align with Portland’s long term transportation mode splits, air quality and sustainability goals.
The neighborhood contact at South Tabor who worked on the Division project, had good things to say. In her opinion crossing has become much easier, the pedestrian experience has improved significantly and the number of cyclists has also increased. The number 4 bus Tri-Met reports has only been slowed down during commute time by “a few seconds.” PBOT is doing a one year follow up study this month and I will obtain the results. She did state that there is a perception that this has slowed commuter traffic down “somewhat,” but she suspects this is more of a perception problem because of the construction on Division further west.
Contacts from Montavilla also had good things to say about the Glisan road reconfiguration. Glisan has become much safer as a result and residents are happy with the new flashing beacon at 78th. The follow up study will be done this summer. In North Tabor, this reduction in travel lanes has allowed PBOT to budget for a new pedestrian crossing and flashing beacon at 65th this spring. This will give us safe access to Fred Meyer from the south which was the location of a pedestrian death in 2007. The project manager for the Glisan safety project at PBOT stated that Tri-met data shows the commute time delay also has only been a “few seconds” through this one mile stretch from 60th to 82nd. Lew invited me to speak at the January 2014 Montavilla Neighborhood Association Meeting. I spoke to Mount Tabor’s Neighborhood Association in February.
My intent was to not only obtain information on what local residents felt about the Division and Glisan reconfigurations but to “shop around” the idea of giving Burnside a safety modernization. The reaction was very positive with a few direct questions regarding how it would be implemented, impact on parking, bikeways and the number 20 bus. Seven individuals expressed interest in becoming involved in a “Stakeholders Committee” to study this concept in detail.
I am very excited about the results so far and think that this is a project worth pursuing. As the only neighborhood in Portland without a school, safe access is critical to maintain family livability. The 50’s bikeway will create a direct and safe route to Glencoe elementary, but without a crossing at 57th Mount Tabor middle School is currently too dangerous for school children to safely access. Mount Tabor Park is a regional asset that should have safe access from every direction. With the future construction of the Multi-use path and crossing from Lincoln across Division on 64th as part of the Park’s Department headquarters remodel, Burnside will become the biggest barrier to creating long term a 60’s active transportation route from the 60th street MAX stop via 62nd and Scott drive to Mount Tabor Park. Combined with the new path at Division a safe residential corridor can easily be built in the future south to the city limits as the crossings of Powell and Foster are already signalized. Also, with a proper crossing at 65th and East Burnside lining up with our new pedestrian crossing at NE 65th and Glisan coming this spring a safe route north to Fred Meyer would be possible.
This is a vision worth fighting for. Please, give me your input, ideas and help for this project as we work toward a more healthy, safe, and livable North Tabor Neighborhood and the entire region.
What have we learned from the High Crash Corridor Presentation?
PBOT is going to extend the Burnside bike lanes from 71st west to 68th.
PBOT is requesting ODOT to drop the speed limit to 30
The HCC Program will look into getting us a “Speed Detection Board” to place at 62nd
The HCC Program will look into what the costs are to upgrade the 60th street traffic light so there is a dedicated left turn signal on 60th to make crossing as a pedestrian safer and lower crash risk
The rest of this project is out of the scope of their program. Metro has designated Burnside as a “Bicycle Parkway” and I think that the time has come to prioritize safe active transportation over automobile parking.
The next step would be to organize a stakeholder’s committee, or a first meeting of C.U.R.B.S (Citzen’s United Rebuilding Burnside Safely,”) so we can organize, mobilize and come up with a plan to make this vision a reality. The issues are different east of 47th than west of 47th but I think if we work together as a community we can come up with an affordable plan that fixes a significant number of long standing transportation issues in North Tabor.
Thank all of you for your interest and time,
NTNA Transportation and Land Use Co-Chair