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Friday, September 12, 2008

A bad traffic bottleneck may get worse

As poor traffic flow goes, you can't beat westbound vehicles on NE Fremont Street in Portland Between NE Seventh and North Vancouver Avenues. A lot of the traffic is trying to make a left and go south on Vancouver to get onto the Fremont Bridge, and now that North Mississippi Avenue is happening again, there are also a fair number of travelers heading further west on Fremont into NoPo. Throw in a Tri-Met bus or two, and you've got a serious traffic load during the day.

The problem comes with cars trying to make that left turn onto Vancouver. There's no turn lane, much less a turn arrow, and the traffic just backs up as turning cars wait for eastbound traffic on Fremont to pass. Try it sometime during the morning rush -- you'll sit there for multiple cycles of the Williams and Vancouver signals, and maybe two for MLK too -- and lately it stays pretty ugly all day.

Of course, we don't expect the leading lights at City Hall to fix, or even notice, problems like this any more. They seem too busy with streetcars and bike boulevards to worry much about the misguided souls who still use cars and freeways to get to and from work or school, or to run personal errands. City action on problems like this one is usually deferred until a serious disaster develops.

Well, a mess of epic proportions is beginning to unfold at this intersection. Yesterday dieselboi reported that New Seasons may be putting a new store in on that corner. Yikes! Add the construction, and later all that additional traffic, to the mix -- including shoppers from Northwest Portland -- and the sticky situation through this stretch of Fremont will become epoxy.

While bad goes to worse, we offer this one reminder in hopes of helping the situation: Remember that you can legally make the left turn off Fremont onto Vancouver against a red light if the coast is clear. In Oregon, left turn on red is o.k. if you're turning onto a one-way street.

Comments (11)

Here's a possible history behind this misery:

The stub ramps that come off the stack interchange at the east end of the Fremont Bridge, as well as the rather odd ramps to Kirby Ave. were the connectors for the never-built "Rose City Freeway" that, if you look at a map, would have gone right across this area and across NE Portland somewhere close to Prescott St.

The streets didn't have to be widened or anything if this would have been built. However, ODOT was forced out of the urban freeway business in the 1970s due to the "progressive" Goldschmidt boys, so it got scrapped along with the Mt. Hood Freeway (US 26 through SE Portland), the St. Helens Freeway (continuation of freeway-alignment of US 30 to the St. Johns Bridge or beyond), as well as the designated I-305 spur in Salem which turned into the Salem Parkway.

Fast forward 30 years to today, and it might be nice to have those routes in the network...

Yeah, it might be nice to have those routes in the network (heavy sarcasm)

at the cost of ripping gapping gashes through the neighborhoods of Portland. The "urban freeway business" was thankfully fought off by the neighborhoods of Portland decades ago.

Good luck with getting any relief using that "left on red to a one-way street" rule. Our clueless fellow drivers haven't the slightest idea. What's more, the person at the head of the pack, instead of pulling into the intersection in preparation for the turn, is more likely to sit back at the stop line until the oncoming traffic breaks, reducing by at least one the number of cars that can make it through on the green.

Shame on you Jack for suggesting that people driving cars are anything but sinful. You have a bike, get on it and ride or put it on the bus to get to work, run those errands, do your social life and shopping. You can do it! You're still young and strong.You and the Missus could each get a tag-a-long bike for the girls. If everybody rode a bike the bottleneck wouldn't happen.

ex-Portlander, now happily in Milwaukie

As someone who lives the next neighborhood over from that area(Sabin). I'm glad that they didn't build a freeway through NE, if they'd built that Rose City Expressway I'd have a lovely view of it from my bedroom window.

The funny thing about how Williams is booming now is that the city/PDC/Emmanuel Hospital did their best in the 60's/70's to rub out the old Albina business district centered on Williams and N. Russell. They pretty much succeded b/n 1-5 and the supposed expansion of Emmnauel(now a bunch of grassy fields). Now thirty plus years later a new business district is getting built about a 1/2 mile up the road.

If our genius (California flunk out) traffic engineers do anything - it will be to paint a separator at the intersections at 7th and MLK and have the center lane for through traffic and the right lane for right turn only. They did this on Fremont at NE 57th and 82nd. That is really a stupid traffic debilitating thing to do. The center lane should be a left turn lane and the right lane a through lane as on NE Prescott and 82nd.

That exact scenario exists all over the region.

Planners call it alternative, choices and traffic calming.
Their answer is the same as the past 20 years. More Cascade Station, more SoWa, More Beaverton Rounds and more rail transit. None of which midigate any of the bottlenecks, chokepoints and congestion.
Not by confusion or accident, but knowingly and deliberate with the idea that any of the problems are worth stopping sprawl.
And that more of the same approach will somehow eventually makes sense and work out.
Just as deferring 100s of millions in road maintenence makes sense.
Or necglecting the Sellwood bridge while a new light rail bridge is built next door.
Or any number of similar policies our electeds establish.

It's a parasitical agenda delivering chaos.

"Add the construction, and later all that additional traffic, to the mix -- including shoppers from Northwest Portland -- and the sticky situation through this stretch of Fremont will become epoxy."

Just think how vibrant that will be!

It might even create a sense of place.

And you will be able to window shop from your car.

"Of course, we don't expect the leading lights at City Hall to fix, or even notice, problems like this any more."

Tell them that the bike riders are having a hard time at that intersection. City hall will have it fixed in a month.

What problem? Once the trolly tracks are laid you can take A Train, call it the Basie line.

Of all the places in the region where New Seasons could expand to, that seems like one of the worst. It's within 2 miles of two other New Seasons stores and I can't help but think that it would take business away from these other stores.

Another bad intersection is NE 21st and Weidler. I always pull into the right lane at these types of intersections if I going straight. I assume that everyone in the left lane is turning left. If others would do this as well, it would certainly speed things up. Asking people to drive mindfully, rather than unconsciously, is probably asking too much.

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