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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 13, 2010 5:58 PM. The previous post in this blog was Plastic on the beach -- not just ugly. The next post in this blog is Blazer playoff picture. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Burnside-Couch "couplet" -- traffic from hell

Commuters who used to glide into downtown Portland from points east on Sandy Boulevard and Burnside Street are finding the new routing onto Couch very much not to their liking. "I have never been so angry about traffic in all my life," one reader complained to us today. What can I say, pal? This is Portland. Go by streetcar.

Comments (18)

Oh man, I was riding my bike down Sandy into downtown from NE the other day and out of nowhere realized there was a city block in my way. I knew it was coming, but not *that* quickly. I'm not sure what the long-term effects will be, but it's not going to be good. The E Burnside, 12th, Sandy intersection was never a picnic, but the new situation is just terrible.

They kept harping on how bad that intersection was, but when you have a diagonal like Sandy, those things happen. You could have helped it a number of other ways, but the real objective here was to give real estate away to the developer weasels.

Bad traffic is a feature, not a bug.

The thing about that intersection was that it sucked, but once you were through it, life was good. Now the intersection is gone, but everything else sucks.

There are plenty of us in the Central Eastside community that know the real objective behind this crazy-ass couplet: it was a key component to gaining exposure to PDC's "signature" project, Burnside Bridgehead by routing tons of traffic through the site on Couch, then back onto the bridge. Opus even made completion of couplet funding a key point in their negotiation with PDC...Well, with a crashed economy we all know how that turned out...dog park, maybe...bike track?

Now PDC's white elephant has truly become everyone else's headache...in more ways that just incinerating tax dollars.

I happened to drive down here for the first time today, and if you havent had the opportunity to drive down here yet your in luck:

A DRIVE DOWN BURNSIDE

I read somewhere several years ago that an advanced phase of traffic calming and livable neighborhood engineering involved practically barricading neighborhoods to severely restrict private vehicle use and only allow mass transit, bicycle, and foot traffic, sort of like 'checkpoints'.

At the time I thought to myself 'they can't do that', but perhaps through construction projects that make as much sense as adding another addition to the Winchester Mystery House, that's exactly what we're witnessing.

Now if I could only somehow make enough to pay the mortgage for my luxury condo box by simply walking to my job at the Starbucks or resale boutique around the corner...

It's too bad - I liked Portland, but it appears to be a privately run urban theme park unwittingly funded by hapless taxpayers, and only for those who can afford the price of admission (white with $$... hey! maybe that's another design feature to 'make our streets safe for pedestrians and cyclists').

Go by couplet!

As a daily rider of the 20 bus that used to go down Burnside into downtown, it adds a good 10 minutes to my ride.

That is my neck-o-the woods Jack. Two things are clear: We can no longer get to or from SE Portland via Sandy; and now Stark, Gleason, and NE/SE 28th are clogged from everyone trying to avoid it. I used to love Hippo Hardware but, alas, it is now locked in a lost triangle never to be found again. I just can't see too many people lugging home an old fixture on the bus or by bike.

Dustin

What do you mean you can't get to/from SE via Sandy? It's routed around one block:

http://media.oregonlive.com/commuting/photo/gs51burn113jpg-474de86d025fbdccjpg-7563aa68c5dccb95.jpg

I didn't make it to downtown today, but the last couple of days I drove down Burnside, went around to Couch and back to Burnside. It wasn't a big deal. In fact, compared to waiting at the intersection of 12th/sandy/burnside, getting that red light at least once if not twice, then getting the next red light at 8th or 9th (near that paper store on the corner) its more efficient. Maybe by bus its a little slower--though an additional 10 minutes is really hard to believe--by car it seems fine.

To my eye, the biggest difference by far is the increased real estate value of every single piece of property on Couch that the couplet now drives along. I'd driven down Couch maybe half a dozen times the last 12 months (mostly when that intersection was backed up and I was trying a shortcut that always ending up taking more time). Now I will drive by it and see the businesses there a couple of hundred times a year. Those businesses now have a LOT more visibility and will probably have a lot more foot traffic in their stores.

As far as everything after that intersection sucking (David J.), my experience was get through the intersection and all the rest of the traffic lights were timed such that I didn't stop once until I came to Grand--then I was on the bridge and everything was the same as its always been.

AE, I agree with increasing real estate values everywhere. We should make all streets one-way with couplets to increase value. Value is where it's at.

Neighborhoods are secondary, maybe last.

Congestion of couplets is good because it slows down vehicles so they can look into story windows, consider stopping for an item. Getting home 30 minutes later missing your child's soccer game for commerce is great. Spread the traffic around and have a light at every intersection. Slow it down. Idling cars means business...well, pollution too.

As a Westmoreland resident who uses 99E a lot, I think it's great because it helps with one of the formerly most annoying features of going to & from NE via Sandy: before, I couldn't easily hang a left onto MLK (or 7th, or 12th, or anything sensible going south) without being all the way up by Lloyd Center. Now I can cruise down Couch and turn left on MLK with no problem.

I'm hoping it also makes turning left off Burnside (as you're going east) easier, but I haven't tried that yet.

Also, I've lived in Portland 14 years now so I got used to that intersection long ago, but I do remember almost getting in an accident early on by trying to drive east from Burnside and not realizing I wasn't supposed to head for Sandy like the other cars. Signage didn't completely address the sheer unpredictable insanity.

The construction is a drag, though.

LW,
Do you drive to downtown from Burnside? If yes, now that Couch is open, does it take you longer?

It has been my route to work for 8 years now. It used to take me approximately 11-14 minutes from my house to the office (primarily depending on the intersection at 12th). I will time it today, but I don't think it will take me any more time-it certainly won't take 41-44 minutes as you suggest.

The slower speed I have noticed the last 4-6 weeks is because of the construction; I don't think that will carry through once the construction is over.

As to the increasing land value along Couch, I think that is more of a residual effect than a purposeful one. But either way, all of its seems like a positive to me:
- safer intersection
- no noticeable effect on commuter time
- new visibility to Central Eastside businesses.

I don't get why anyone would be bent out of shape about any of that. I can see people questioning the cost of doing the work and being funky about the commute during the construction. But not moaning about the end result as it relates to commuting because its at the least the same if not better.

I don't commute that way but I've lived on the east side of the river for 55 years so I've been through the interesection a few times. It's tough for me to believe that these changes will lead to an equal commute time for those who commute that way.

For me the weird pre-construction design just wasn't broken enough to justify the expense of making this change. I thought we were supposed to be keeping Portland Weird. I'm not normally a conspiracy theorist, but I think there has to be another motive for this project. It may not be the one being talked about on this blog, but there's got to be something.


My commute times today were:

7:51 am - 8:03 am = 12 minutes

6:28 pm - 6:40 pm = 12 minutes

My commutes are basically identical than they were pre-construction of the couplet. Are other people noticing something different now that the work is basically complete?

I drive from the NE (32nd St) into downtown daily.

Going in on Couch is a breeze now that the construction on that direction is done. Smooth roadway, synchronized signals, drops you right on the bridge. It is great. Faster than my previous drive, by a couple of minutes.

Coming back on Burnside remains a pain, because they are still working on that direction. When that work is done, I think the east bound direction will be a breeze too.

So far, looks to me like this Eastside couplet is working just fine. It will free up much of the width of Burnside for wider sidewalks, parking without getting sideswiped, riding without getting sideswiped, etc.

I'm looking forward to the Westside couplet. Burnside is currently a sluggish pain in the you know what, and ugly to boot, it needs this improvement.

I live in the area, and it already way better than it was before.. it is still under construction (burnside), you can get to hippo and SE just fine, this project has been in the works for over a decade, quite acting like it is some underhanded deal for developers. That intersection was dangerous and annoying... so far fro what I have seen it an improvement.


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