With eye on Portland-area freeway expansions, ODOT announces new “Mega Projects” office

Prep for a future Columbia River crossing project will be among the office’s priorities.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is bulking up to handle a future where the Portland region is an epicenter of highway megaprojects.

In an email (below) sent yesterday afternoon to all employees, ODOT Deputy Director Paul Mather announced the formation of the new Office of Urban Mobility & Mega Projects to be based in Portland. A search process for a manager of this office is just getting underway.

The move comes in response to House Bill 2017, the $5.3 billion transportation package passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2017. That bill laid out funding for several projects in the Portland region (ODOT Region 1) and it defined “mega transportation projects” as those that, “cost at least $360 million to complete, that attract a high level of public attention or political interest because of substantial direct and indirect impacts on the community or environment or that require a high level of attention to manage the project successfully.” (The bill also established the Joint Interim Task Force On Mega Transportation Projects.)

Among the projects ODOT will focus on in this new office are expansions to I-5 and I-205, and an effort to re-kindle the Columbia River Crossing.

Here’s Mather’s official announcement:

ODOT staff, partners and stakeholders:

ODOT Deputy Director Paul Mather.

House Bill 2017 brings some great benefits to our organization and to the state’s transportation system. HB 2017 also brings great challenges. To complete key work the bill charges ODOT with undertaking, we need to hire more. We also need to actively coordinate with our stakeholders and contractors to help ensure on time and on budget performance.

The OTC [Oregon Transportation Commission] has been clear about the importance of the success of the projects in HB 2017 and has asked us to ensure we are organized for success. Many of the “mega” projects in HB 2017 are in the Portland metro area. The burden of managing those projects is falling heavily on Region 1. At times in our agency’s past, large efforts such as the State Radio Project, the Oregon Transportation Investment Act III State Bridge Program, and others have led us to create special organizational structures to handle a particular body of work.

It’s in that spirit that today I am announcing the formation of the Office of Urban Mobility & Mega Projects, which will be led by a manager we will hire through a search process that is just getting underway. The Urban Mobility and Mega Projects Manager will be located in Portland and report directly to the Highway Division Administrator.

The Urban Mobility and Mega Projects Office will be charged with development and delivery of a number of projects and programs, including:

  • Rose Quarter
  • I-205: Stafford Rd to Oregon City
  • Tolling program
  • Key agency liaison for the Interstate 5 bridge project
  • Growing capacity to deliver future programs that may be on the horizon

We are making this move in conjunction with our Oregon Transportation Commission and especially its new chair, Robert Van Brocklin.

This change is also designed to ensure the success of Region 1 on maintenance, operational and other project delivery challenges in the region. It will be critical that the Urban Mobility and Mega Project Office and Region 1 regularly coordinate and work in harmony in the “one ODOT” spirit. Once the Manager is hired, we will further assess what positions the Office will need and refine how they will coordinate with Region 1 and other areas of the agency.

I firmly believe this move will provide an important structure and focus to help us deliver on important charges given to us by House Bill 2017 and help ODOT meet the expectations of the OTC.

Paul Mather
ODOT Deputy Director

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Note that the leader of this new office will report to the Highway Division Administrator, a position currently filled by Kris Strickler, who’s in line for the agency’s top job. As you can see in the ODOT org chart above, if Strickler moves up, next in line is McGregor Lynde. Lynde was formerly the Active Transportation Division manager. That position has been vacant for a few months but I just confirmed they’ve hired Jeff Flowers to fill it. Flowers had been in charge of the Program & Funding Services Unit within the Action Transportation Section.

In related news, the OTC discussed the appointment of a new ODOT director in a closed-door meeting this week. Sources say they’ll continue deliberations in a meeting next week when a decision will likely be made. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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‘Truck Trike’ maker seeks new partner for licensing and production

This trike was designed and built in Portland. It could also revolutionize last-mile delivery.
(Photo: Mark Gamba)

Remember the Truck Trike?

It was almost 10 years ago when we first introduced you to this Portland-made, Portland-desinged, bike lane legal, electric-assisted bicycle that can haul up to 600 pounds of cargo. Bill Stites (Stites Design) has evolved his product considerably since then. When we last heard from him a year ago his trikes were being tested by UPS in a last-mile delivery pilot project up in Seattle.

The Truck Trike was a pioneer in what is now a very hot market of zero-emission urban delivery services. Since he started the project in 2010, e-bikes have skyrocketed in popularity, battery technology has gotten better and cheaper, and businesses worldwide have begun to adopt smaller, pedal-assist vehicles for urban freight. 继续阅读“‘Truck Trike’ maker seeks new partner for licensing and production”

Traffic diverters get painted and bring neighbors together in north Portland

Neighbors in the Piedmont neighborhood recently painted these diverters.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

In too many city planning departments, diverters is a dirty word. As we’ve seen numerous times here in Portland, proposals to redirect which streets people are allowed to drive on is often met with vitriol.

Last weekend residents came out to party and paint.
(Photo: Brian Borrello)

But once diverters are installed, we rarely hear about them. Turns out most people actually like the quiet, fresh air, and lower-stress that comes with having fewer cars on streets. And in some cases, diverters aren’t just tolerated, they’re celebrated.

That’s the status of a set of diverters on North Mississippi Avenue in the Piedmont neighborhood. Installed three years ago as part of the North Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway project (PBOT promised neighbors if traffic diverted from Michigan Avenue they’d mitigate it), the nine large concrete drums block drivers from crossing over the intersection of Mississippi and Holman. Like all good diverters, the idea is to push drivers off residential streets and onto larger neighborhood collectors or arterials (in this case Ainsworth, Albina, and I-5).

Nearby residents have become so attached to these heroic, auto traffic preventers, they recently organized a party to paint them and spruce up plantings inside them. Last weekend a few dozen folks who live nearby came out to volunteer and have a little party in the street. Piedmont Neighborhood Association Board Member Brian Borrello posted photos of the gathering and allowed us to share them.


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Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re curious, this type of thing is totally legal. In fact, it’s encouraged by the city’s transportation bureau. PBOT said they welcome neighbors to “adopt” their diverters. The process of gaining permission is similar to intersection paintings (a pround Portland tradition). Hannah Schafer with PBOT told us in this case, the neighborhood proposed a design that conformed with official street painting standards: No words, letters, numbers, or universally recognized symbols; nothing that emulates a traffic control device; and no material that’s under copyright. If those standards are met, the City Traffic Engineer then reviews the plans to make sure the diverters can still be seen at night, and that the reflectors are not blocked.

To make their event come together, people on this street also applied for a block party permit through PBOT’s Portland in the Streets program that allowed them to put up barricades and create a fun, carfree environment for the day.

Borrello, a professional artist who’s created many pieces of official public art in Portland, says events like this are at the heart of why neighborhood associations are so vital. He fears a proposed change to city code that de-emphasizes the role of official neighborhood associations would make it harder to organize them.

Whatever happens with the code change, people will still love their diverters. And with a future where we’re likely to see many more of them and PBOT making adoption so easy, we hope to see more beautification projects like this spring up all over the city.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Weekend Event Guide: Save Alpenrose, critical mass for the climate, Bike Beaverton, and more

Kids launch at the start of a Cyclocross Crusade race at Alpenrose in 2008.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Time to turn your thoughts to weekend plans. Weather-wise we might get a little rain/drizzle, so plan accordingly.

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Promote your brand and support local media. Our Weekend Event Guide is currently available for sponsorship! Contact Jonathan for details.

As you can see from our selections below, there’s quite a nice diversity of things to choose from this weekend. We’ve got a mix of racing, rides, activism, and events across the region.

Have fun out there, and don’t forget to pack a rain jacket!

Friday, September 6th

Kidical Mass Ride to Swifts – 6:00 pm at Jamison Square Park (NW)
Biking to Chapman School to watch the Vaux Swifts (birds) dive into the chimney is a proud Portland tradition. Grab the kiddos and join a group ride to see what all the buzz is about. More info here.

Saturday, September 7th

Gran Prix Luciano Bailey #2 Het Meer – All day at Vancouver Lake Park
Known for its epic sandy section on the beach of Vancouver Lake, Het Meer never disappoints. Just over the river, this will be a race you don’t want to miss! More info here.

Save Alpenrose Fundraiser – 6:00 pm at Chris King Precision Components HQ (NW)
The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association is rallying to prevent Alpenrose Dairy from being sold to an out-of-state company they believe will prohibit all cycling activities on the property. This event aims to raise funds for legal expenses and show support for existing dairy co-owners who support cycling and want a sale offer of their own to be accepted instead. More info here.

Six Pack Shuffle – 7:00 pm at Woodlawn Park (N)
Portland Bike Polo is hosting this mystery ride that will venture wherever participants suggest. Bring a six-pack of something to drink, write your chosen destination on a piece of paper, drop it into the hat, and have fun! Bring lights, speakers, and friends! More info here.

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Sunday, September 8th

Skyline-Banks Loop – 9:30 am at REI Tanasbourne (Washington County)
A 50-mile ride led by Portland Bicycling Club that will roll on the beautiful roads of rural Washington County. More info here.

Bike Beaverton – 1:00 pm at Beaverton City Park
This annual family-friendly event ride will allow you to explore the streets in and around Beaverton with lots of other riders of all ages. Come out and meet other bike lovers and help build community in Washington County. More info here.

Critical Mass Climate Emergency Ride – 1:30 pm at Salmon Street Fountain (SW)
Join a local ride to spark a global movement. One of several rides that will converge at the Bike for the Rainforest event being hosted by Extinction Rebellion. More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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PBOT touts ‘significant success’ of traffic calming project on Lincoln-Harrison

This diverter and lane reconfiguration at SE 30th and Lincoln/Harrison is part of the project.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland has released the first batch of traffic analysis data for one of their most contentious projects in years and the numbers look good if you’re a fan of safer streets.

The data

PBOT counted the volume and speed of cars before and after the project.

Looking to slow down drivers and create low-stress bicycling conditions, the Portland Bureau of Transportation launched the Lincoln-Harrison Neighborhood Greenway Project two years ago. Elements of the project included the standard suite of PBOT tools including diverters, updated crossings, speed bumps, daylighting of intersections, and more.

While many applauded the project, opposition was fierce.

In November 2017 the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association voted against the most controversial part of the project — a diverter that would limit driving access to Lincoln from SE 50th. A subsequent public meeting to discuss the diverter turned into one of the ugliest displays of anger and neighborhood revolt PBOT has ever seen. Residents who supported the changes even had their property vandalized.

PBOT ultimately pushed through with the changes and now that they’ve been up and running we can see what impact they’ve had.

PBOT map of data collection locations.
Click here for PDF

PBOT collected driving speed and volume data at over 50 locations along the greenway couplet and surrounding streets (since diverted auto traffic was a major point of contention). They released the first batch of data today (a final report once the project is 100% complete is forthcoming).

“The initial data demonstrates significant success,” reads the PBOT statement. Below are several “key locations” where the volume of auto traffic has gone way down.

SE Lincoln Street at SE 30th Avenue – 41% decrease in average daily traffic (ADT)
SE Lincoln Street just east of SE 50th Avenue – 51% decrease in ADT
SE Lincoln Street just west of SE 50th Avenue – 50% decrease in ADT
SE Lincoln Street at SE 57th Avenue – 16% decrease in ADT

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Some people feared diverted drivers would simply use adjacent streets. PBOT has committed that if other streets see too much traffic (volume not exceeding 1,000 cars per day or 50 cars per hour during peak times), they’ll continue to “provide further mitigation to offset these effects.”

PBOT says their data shows most side streets are well below those thresholds, but there are a few locations they will continue to monitor:

SE 48th Avenue north of SE Division Street
SE Harrison Street west of SE 49th Avenue
SE 28th Place south of SE Harrison Street
SE Market Street east of SE 30th Avenue
SE 25th and 26th avenues north of SE Harrison Street
SE Stephens Street east of SE 25th Avenue.

View the map of data collection locations and see a spreadsheet of the data.

Learn more about this project by browsing our Lincoln-Harrison Neighborhood Greenway story archive.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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State commission close to making pick for ODOT director

The Oregon Transportation Commission just announced a special meeting that will take place on Wednesday where they are likely to choose a new leader of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

ODOT’s longtime director Matt Garrett announced his resignation back in January and left the agency in June. An OTC search committee has been meeting since March to choose his successor.

The Willamette Week reported in late August that three finalists have been chosen. On the short list are Contra Costa Transportation Authority Director Randell Iwasaki, New Hampshire Department of Transportation Director Victoria Sheehan, and current ODOT Highway Department Manager Kris Strickler.

Iwasaki, a civil engineer by training, (@RIwasaki2 on Twitter) has more experience than the other finalists, having worked as head of CalTrans in California where he managed a $10 billion budget (twice that of Oregon’s) and 21,000 employees (over four times the size of ODOT’s staff). In an interview with Contra Costa Today in February of this year, Iwasaki said he got his “love of cars” as a boy while hanging around the gas station owned by his father. Iwasaki’s biggest project to date is the $1.3 billion in eastern Contra Costa County (northeast of San Francisco) that added light rail and widened Highway 4 from four to eight lanes.

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Sheehan oversees an agency that’s much smaller than ODOT. Trained as both an engineer and architect, she recently told New Hampshire Public Radio that NHDOT considers bicycling and walking, “as viable modes of transportation.” “We would like to see that number [of bikers and walkers] increase for many reasons: To get people into active transportation to for their health and well-being and in urban settings where we have congestion and we are trying to create communities where people can live and work and play, we’re working to invest in walking and bicycling that will help communities reach those goals.

Strickler moved to ODOT from Washington’s DOT to be project manager of the failed Columbia River Crossing (CRC). During a legislative hearing on speed limits back in March Strickler acknowledged that the 85th percentile rule for setting speeds is outdated. “Maybe the historic practice that we’ve been using [to set speeds] doesn’t necessarily fit the context of what our current transportation system is,” he told lawmakers. “And maybe what the future of that transportation system is, and are there other ways to look at speed setting as we start to look at this future.”

This morning the OTC announced they will meet over the phone in executive session (not open to the public) tomorrow (9/4) at 11:00 am to discussion the director position appointment. “The Commission may come out of Executive Session to take action and name new director and delegate authorities to the newly named director,” reads the agenda (PDF).

Stay tuned for the announcement.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Man arrested after admitting to Springwater Corridor assault and bike theft

Hamlin’s bike, his battered body, and the path where it happened.
(Photos: Jay Hamlin)

Back in July, Jay Hamlin was the victim of a scary assault and robbery while bicycling on the Springwater Corridor in southeast Portland.

Today the Multnomah County District Attorney announced they arrested a suspect in connection with the case and have charged him with robbery, assault and theft.

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20-year-old Diovionne Green was seen in a video (above) riding Hamlin’s high-end Colnago road bike valued at $10,000. Once that video circulated online and in the local media, someone was able to identify Green. Portland Police Bureau detectives were able to meet with Green yesterday and he subsequently admitted to the crimes and was booked into jail.

According to the DA’s statement (PDF), the bicycle has been returned to Hamlin. Green has been released and the investigation is ongoing.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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High level talks next month will decide fate of I-5 Rose Quarter project

ODOT says even if they did do an EIS it wouldn’t stop the project from moving forward.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

What’s really going on with the controversial I-5 Rose Quarter project?

“I think the governments here are realizing we need to pay more attention to what the community is saying.”
— Paul Slyman, Chief of Staff to Metro President Lynn Peterson

The activist group No More Freeways was quick to call it a “win for the good guys,” after Willamette Week reported Tuesday that the Oregon Department of Transportation would be required to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project as part of their obligation to fulfill National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.

This was considered major news because ODOT has said all along that — despite strong disagreement from environmental groups — their less-rigorous Environmental Assessment (EA, completed in February) was adequate. The news was also a big deal because doing an EIS would significantly delay ODOT’s march forward and give critics more time to organize and poke even more holes in the already embattled project.

But it’s important to note: No formal decisions have been made about what type of environmental analysis will be required. The Federal Highway Administration (who controls the NEPA process) has not made any final determination about the EA versus EIS question.

As reported by Willamette Week, Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission (the governor-appointed body that oversees ODOT) Robert Van Brocklin said, “conversations” regarding “the question of what kind of environmental review to pursue” will begin in September.

Earlier this week ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton told me he wasn’t sure what form those conversations would take, but they’re likely to happen at the September 18th OTC meeting in The Dalles.

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Aaron Brown from No More Freeways called this week’s news “a win for the good guys.”

One person following these conversations closely will be Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. Back in April Metro’s senior planner said ODOT’s EA was “inadequate” and “potentially misleading” but Peterson was far more diplomatic in her statement. When I spoke to her Chief of Staff Paul Slyman on Wednesday, I asked if Peterson would advocate for a full EIS. “I think we would say it appears to us that all signs are indicating that a full EIS is probably the way to go,” Slyman replied. He said their office hasn’t emphatically called for the EIS because they’re “open to being educated” that the EA is sufficient.

Given that the NEPA process usually follows a standard script that only includes the DOT and the FHWA, I asked both Slyman and Hamilton whether or not it was unusual for the OTC and other interested parties to be having high-level conversations about environmental analysis at this stage of the project.

Slyman said the fact that OTC commissioners are weighing in means what’s happening with the Rose Quarter project isn’t normal. “This does not seem like how these projects typically move forward,” he added. “I think the governments here are realizing we need to pay more attention to what the community is saying… the discourse has clearly been elevated… The commissioners are saying, ‘We need to get involved because what we’re hearing is that the agency might be out of step with what the community is telling us.’”

As for ODOT, Hamilton said the OTC’s involvement “Is not unusual at all.”

Hamilton, who acknowledges an EIS could very well be the next step, said despite the questions about environmental analysis, the project will continue to move forward. As per recently passed House Bill 2017, ODOT will receive $30 million per year in bond proceeds earmarked for this project (estimated to cost $450 million) starting in 2022. Their current timeline is to begin construction in 2023 and an ODOT rep told us this week they’re already at 5-10% design.

“We’re not going to stop everything and wait for this,” Hamilton said. “We’ve won broad approval from many areas and we’ll do what we need to do to make it happen.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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PBOT will restripe North Denver Avenue in Kenton next week



(Before and after)

It’s another paving project from the City of Portland that comes with changes to cycling facilities. And it’s another project where the bike lanes will be outdated from the moment the paint on the new striping is dry.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced today they will begin the North Denver Avenue paving project on Tuesday of next week (9/3). As part of their Fixing our Streets program that uses funds from a voter-approved gas tax increase in 2016, PBOT will spend $1.9 million on new pavement from North Lombard to Watts.

In addition to smooth pavement, the project comes with updates aimed at making crossings and bike lanes safer. “These upgrades,” PBOT wrote in a statement today, “will also improve safety conditions by adding safer pedestrian crossings and improving the existing bike lanes… and will include new striping and refuge islands at N Russet, Terry, and Watts streets as well as the widening of preexisting refuge islands.”

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Initial plans called for a more robust parking-protected bike lane. There was strong community support for the protected lanes, given how much people like them on nearby North Rosa Parks Way. But for reasons we still don’t fully understand or agree with, PBOT opted for these less-safe, unprotected lanes that will provide only marginal improvement over what exists today.

This seems like yet another example of PBOT making a significant compromise in the safety of the most vulnerable road users because of “concerns” from a small number of adjacent residents. In a December 2018 letter, PBOT Project Manager Geren Shankar acknowledged that most people he heard from wanted the parking protected lanes. However, because some neighbors complained about the lanes’ impacts to parking and garbage roll-cart access, PBOT backed away from the design, “In the interest of moving forward with the needed paving maintenance.”

PBOT has said they could still switch to a parking-protected design in a future project. But it’s unclear when that might happen.

This project is expected to be completed by October 1st.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Journalist Angie Schmitt, critic of ‘hyper-macho trucks’ and defender of walkers, to speak in Portland

(Photos courtesy Portland State University)

One of America’s leading voices in the War on Cars is coming to Portland.

Angie Schmitt is the editor of Streetsblog USA, author of a prolific and popular Twitter account, and author of a forthcoming book (due out next year from Island Press) that will cover the ‘pedestrian safety crisis’ nationwide.

Schmitt has been invited to speak at Portland State University on October 15th as part of the Transportation Research and Education Center’s (TREC) Ann Niles Transportation Lecture series which TREC describes as, “a unique opportunity to bring world-class thinkers on pedestrian and bicycle issues to Portland State University (PSU) and the active transportation community in the Portland metro region.”

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(A sampling of Schmitt’s recent headlines.)

Tickets ($10-$20 sliding scale) go on sale next month and they’re sure to be a hot item. Schmitt has gained a strong following among activists, planners, and fans of cities in recent years for her clear and powerful reporting and opinions on America’s dysfunctional traffic culture.

Among the topics she regularly covers are the acute threat to road users posed by oversized SUVs and “hyper-macho trucks”, the “environmental justice disaster” of major highway projects, how the transportation system is biased against women, the pitfalls of electric scooters, and the negative impacts of Uber and Lyft. Read more of her work at Streetsblog.org.

If you’re interested in attending the lecture, you can sign up here to be notified when tickets go on sale.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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