Community Supports Road Diet via Barbur Concept Plan UPDATED

The City of Portland has released a draft of the Barbur Concept Plan which calls out, among other things, the pressing need to fix the “Barbur Bridges.”

The latest draft of the Plan represents 18-months of community engagement by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s 19 member Community Working Group made up of local stakeholders including BTA representatives Kiel Johnson and Phil Richman.

The plan has a wide scope and a long range. It addresses development patterns, environmental issues, and transportation needs.

It is exciting to note, though, that it also very directly addresses the Barbur Bridges. The Community Working Group clearly recognized them as a safety hazard and a barrier to active transportation.

From page 30 of the Barbur Concept Plan:

Recognizing the costs associated with complete replacement of the viaducts structures or the addition of parallel bridge structures to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, the community identified an interim low-cost solution. By reducing the number of northbound travel lanes from two to one across the viaducts…the current 3-foot wide raised shoulder on the bridges could be expanded to 8 feet in both directions, and a continuous buffered bike lane could likewise be provided. 

This reallocation of road space will be a real safety improvement on Barbur Blvd.

It is not a surprise that the community recommends a road diet on Barbur. Southwest residents and Oregon Walks asked ODOT to consider this option well before the BTA called for a road diet on Barbur Blvd two months ago.

The surprise is that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has still not agreed to study the potential effects of a road diet.

We encourage ODOT to do that study — seize this opportunity for a near-term, affordable fix to one of SW Portland’s most serious active transportation barriers. It’s what community stakeholders want.

UPDATE: Metro is analyzing roughly 400 projects as part of the SW Corridor planning process, which hopes to bring high-capacity transit to the region in decades to come. Among those projects are three that, when combined, would remove a lane on Barbur between SW Naito and Terwilliger and, presumably, provide safe places to walk and bike. Metro is using their sophisticated modeling programs to do this analysis right now and results for all projects are expected by the end of April.

The 400 projects are grouped in five “bundles” depending on various high capacity transit alignments. They plan to select a bundle by June. Even if these vital safety improvements on Barbur are included in the selected bundle, the timeline for implementation may be years away.

It is our hope that Metro and ODOT will recognize a safety improvements on Barbur as an “Early Opportunity” and move towards implementation as soon as possible.

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