Thursday, May 19, 2011

down the rabbit hole

word on the street is that the stakeholder advisory committee process for the lloyd district bikeway development projects may be broken.

a couple of the freight people have literally walked away from the table, and some of the commercial real estate interests are raising eleventh hour objections to stuff that was agreed to months ago.

but as of this morning, they were at least limping along okay, still getting stuff done. looks like they are keeping the bus/bike only lane on vancouver south of broadway in the plan after all, etc.

but something weird has happened to the 12th avenue overcrossing project.

back in april, david lorati of the central eastside industrial council publicly trashed the SAC process in an open letter to project manager ellen vanderslice. go ahead and experiment with signal timing on the 12th avenue bridge, he said, but don't change the lane configurations for at least a year because

"truck users remain unconvinced that reducing a lane will not severely restrict their movement on a major entrance and exit to the district."

they "remain unconvinced." obviously this is not data, and in fact it seems to anticipate rejecting whatever data might be produced.

here is some data that might be relevant: at what hours exactly does franz bakery run its 105-foot, 40-ton triples over the bridge, and when exactly do they encounter traffic congestion, and to what extent is it actually the case that they cannot use any other route, etc.

if some of these businesses have become dependent on running oversize loads through a mixed use district, maybe they should be assessed some portion of the cost of upgrading the transportation infrastructure they are in effect taking away from other users.

and frankly, if freight has difficulty with congestion on the 12th avenue overcrossing, the problem is not bicycles or pedestrians, but private automobiles.

a week later, dave lister ran a screed in the oregonian, talking about the "agenda-driven mayor" and the "politically appointed transportation chief," skateboarder tom miller, who is supposed to have told the CEIC in exactly so many words, "portland hates freight," whatever that is even supposed to mean.

while he did not directly reference lorati's letter, lister cited eleven hundred businesses and eighteen thousand jobs at stake, which numbers roughly correspond with the geographic reach of the CEIC. but that district extends all the way south to powell, and includes hundreds of businesses that for one reason or another have chosen not to join the CEIC. anyone south of, say, stark is probably less concerned with an exit from 84 onto northeast 12th.

jonathan maus reported that the project had "gotten enough heat," that "sources" said the mayor's office had "taken an interest[,]" and that his transportation policy advisor (presumably katja dillman) would be meeting separately with the CEIC.

but then gerik kransky posting to the BTA blog indicated that portland bottling and franz bakery have said privately that they are "willing to accept the needed improvements [kransky's words] being proposed in option 2" -- which kransky calls "the most desirable solution" -- if the changes in signal timing actually yield better traffic flow over the bridge.

it is unclear how this will be measured, or over what interval. but more to the point, it is unclear who cut this deal, if it is a deal, and with what authority.

freight interests are/were already represented on the SAC. there is no reason this constituency should be given a larger, separate voice from any of the other stakeholders. the stakeholder advisory process is not perfect, but it is what we have. you want to turn these decisions over to lobbyists and power brokers, you better bring a lot of money. watch what happens to the milwaukie light rail bridge over the next several months.

something like 1,750 cyclists cross the 12th avenue bridge every day. roughly a quarter of these are heading south over the bridge and taking a left onto irving. while some significant fraction of these are sufficiently daunted by the difficulties of fighting for a space in the left turn lane that they will take the sidewalk and wait for a cross light at the south end of the bridge, another sizeable number do assert their rightful space on the road and execute a vehicular left.

whatever PBoT ends up doing here should not make life more difficult for these vehicular cyclists, and it should not impose additional bike traffic on the pedestrians using the sidewalk along the west side of the bridge. the number 70 bus stop should be moved off the bridge and to the south of the intersection under any scenario, and pedestrian crossings should be adjusted to facilitate this.

the so-called "option 2," which would put southbound bicycle traffic on a ten-foot wide multi-use path with pedestrians, is not acceptable, for reasons i have detailed elsewhere. while "option 1" places southbound bicycle traffic in a segregated bike lane, it has at least the virtue of keeping cyclists on the bridge deck and making it possible for a cyclist who intends to turn left onto irving to do so in a somewhat vehicular fashion.

at the SAC meeting in march, ellen vanderslice was quoting rob burchfield as suggesting an "enhanced do-nothing" option, which would simply put sharrows on the bridge deck indicating that a cyclist may assert the travel lane. this would be in combination with changes to the signal timing and maybe facilitating the existing use of the sidewalk as a southbound MUP. but apparently "enhanced do-nothing" is now off the table.

so apparently freight gets its way here, and southbound cyclists will be relegated to an MUP. the argument can certainly be made that a mixed-use path is a "bicycle path" for purposes of 814.420, the mandatory sidepath statute. certainly motorists will expect to see cyclists up on the MUP rather than on the deck once this is in place.

i would say thanks a lot, but i am not sure whom we have to thank. possibly the BTA.

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