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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 29, 2012 8:28 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland State real estate empire built on backs of students. The next post in this blog is Vestas lights too bright for Pearlies. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let's get lost

They've been turning Klickitat Street in northeast Portland into a bike road. Speed bumps, sharrows, changing the stop sign directions, the whole works. Ironically, it makes a great street to drive a car on, if you're willing to go slowly enough to deal with the speed bumps. You can get all the way from Irving Park to the Safeway in Rose City Park without a single traffic signal, and with only a handful of stop signs, for the busy streets.

Klickitat has always been a good bike street, and the bucks that the city has blown on the latest enhancements would have been better spent elsewhere. It was probably sewer bureau money -- at one point, there was talk of bioswales and a few other "green" aspects to justify the diversion of funds, but those features seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Anyway, one of the improvements that have been added at several intersections along the way are curb cuts for wheelchairs. Nowadays these are marked by bright yellow textured plastic plates, apparently for the vision impaired to tell that they have reached a corner. We noticed that in the downpour of the other night, many of these have been largely obscured by mud that came rushing down the gutter and collected, as if by design, over the cut-out curb.

So check out one corner near our place. The crews who etched the street name in the curb did their usual professional job:

It's classic Portland. If you put the brain power of this city's leadership in a bird, it would fly backward.

Comments (32)

The "green street" upgrades for Klickitat are still in play. Construction is supposed to start later this year. Mostly small stuff; the biggest will be a rain garden where Alameda crosses Klickitat and the closing off of Klickitat to auto traffic at the Madeline school.

Down Southeast way, many of the sidewalks were put in so long ago that they had the original street names and numbering system from the Depression era.

When it came time to put in curb cuts about five years ago, someone decided to maintain most of the old street-and-avenue names in the curbs, presumably as an homage to history.

Maybe that's what's going on here, but if so it's really confusing.

It's city policy to either cut out and then replace the old curb names or recreate the name including mistakes and old street names when redoing curbs.

Preserving the historical name of a street is a good thing -- we've written about it here -- but perpetuating outright mistakes with the potential for confusion is quite another. If that is in fact what happened here.

closing off of Klickitat to auto traffic at the Madeline school.

I believe you're mistaken about that. The street can't be closed without a lot of process, of which there has been none. They were talking about narrowing the street there, but not closing it.

Mike's correct. Here's the relevant guidance from the city's Standard Construction Specifications:

Historic Street Dates and Names (00759.50d)–Historic dates and street names in existing sidewalk corners will be preserved or restamped into the new concrete. Stamp the dates or names in the curb as close to the original location as practical. Restamp the dates and names exactly as they existed in the sidewalk corner. This includes misspelled words and names that are no longer used for the street name. However for dates, the original date with a slash and the current date are required to be restamped into the new corner curb. Do not preserve or re-stamp Contractor names.

As a local-history buff, I appreciate this modest nod to historical preservation, but I can see how it could be confusing to someone not familiar with why the curb stamp contradicts the street sign.

Up Seattle-way, I have noticed that some jurisdictions will install brown colored "Historic Name" signs on major streets when street names have changed.

Similar would be the "Historic Route" signs that one sees on the Historic Columbia River Highway, that show it as "Historic U.S. 30"

At least the brown historic signs make it clear that it is a historic name and is usually positioned with a regular green sign for the new name.

I believe you're mistaken about that. The street can't be closed without a lot of process, of which there has been none.

Maybe I overstated it, or the project has changed, although this document from here uses the term "street closure". We had been getting mailers about the project but haven't gotten any recently, so perhaps the scope has changed or that document is out of date.

This includes misspelled words and names that are no longer used for the street name.

This is neither a misspelled word nor an old street name. It's a numerical mistake, which is not covered by the rule you quote.

Assuming for the sake of argument that this was perpetuation of an old mistake, and not the mere commission of a new one, what possible good could come out of purposefully repeating the mistake? It's not cute -- it's just confusing. The function of these markings is to help people figure out where they are. This is an epic fail.

that document is out of date.

I believe that's the case. The last several drawings we saw would turn the whole block into an extended curb bubble, with the auto lane greatly narrowed. They'd better turn it into a one-way street while they're at it.

Ironically, the school simply blocks off the street with barrels all day every school day. They probably don't have a permit to do it, but they've been doing it for decades. It makes sense, and nobody seems to mind. In other words, it works fine, and there's no need for City Hall intervention. But no.

This is about bicycles; all the rest is political noise.

If the old curb name had this mistake on it then the policy is to leave it that way. No way of knowing for sure since the old curb is gone. In addition Eric might know if the old street name ( prior to 1933) was in fact the name stamped here.

Historic dates and street names in existing sidewalk corners will be preserved or restamped into the new concrete.

Unless the street is named Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard.

I can't tell if the first N was placed there by the crew or if someone scratched that in there. It looks scratched in. N 12th street N may have been the old street name. There was the great street renaming in 33(I think that was the date) due to all the small cities that Portland absorbed and the confusing double and triple same street names.Your assuming they meant to put in NE 21 not N 12th which I doubt was gthe case. Besides no one actually gets lost following a street curb name around do they?

I would assume carelessness or dyslexia (12 and 21 being a clear transposition of the same two numbers) on the part of the original sidewalk builder 100 years ago, after which the crew that in the recent past re-poured the sidewalk dutifully followed the city's rules and preserved the mistake when they re-stamped the curb.

This might have been a case where clarity and correcting an error should have trumped historical preservation. There's a corner on NE 53rd where the "3" is reversed so that it appears as "5E". The average person should still be able to figure that one out. Replacing 21 with 12 is a bigger mistake that should probably have been fixed.

I don't think that street was ever named 12th, at any time. None of the other curbs in the neighborhood are that far off the current numbering.

I don't care when the mistake was made. It's stupid.

Has anyone noticed the new solar powered pedestrian crossing signal at 33rd and Klickitat?

I find it fascinating that the city spends money on this sort of improvement (3 polls, powered with solar, push buttons, and new signage) in a spot that already had a crosswalk. Just to add insult to injury, they then put up a stop sign at NW Broadway and Couch (near Central City Concern's new medical clinic) instead of a stop light.

Think about that...we've gotten to the point that one of the city's major streets in downtown's core area has a stop sign on it. And of course I see the bikers run that stop sign on a daily basis...and I'm supposed to stop for them at 33rd and Klickitat.

And while we're at it, has anyone noticed the plethora of new signage that has been put up lately? In my corner of the city, I've noticed numerous new stop signs, slow children signs, signs informing me that cross traffic doesn't stop, etc. Did the city win the lottery so they could put up these absolutely useless signs?

Some streets had directionals on both ends of the street name but I believe that was replaced even before the 1930's great renaming. Leftovers from Portland's early expansions of surrounding towns.

There's also hitching rings around too. Those get reinserted into fresh concrete when the sidwalks/curbs are rebuilt as well.

Oh good God. Now street markings etched in concrete are "historic". Really? And mistakes need to be preserved because they're "historic". Memo to history geeks - just because something is old doesn't make it historic.

The old name for NE 21st Ave is Brazee. Sorry I can't verify the directionals.
Note that the old name for 20th Avenue was 20th Street. The photo might be proof of a really low bid modern contract.

To see the map, Google this phrase: Assessor 1N1E26AA You may have to use Internet Explorer as a browser

"The Great Renumbering" started in 1931


Do you know when they moved the "Lunatic Asylum" from the east side of the Willamette to SW 4th Avenue?

You were right when you wrote "Nowadays these are marked by bright yellow textured plastic plates, apparently for the vision impaired to tell that they have reached a corner." Those are an ADA requirement called a Tactile Ground Surface Indicator they are designed to assist blind and vision impaired pedestrians. They don't have to be yellow.

Driving faster smooths out the speed bumps

"I don't care when the mistake was made. It's stupid."

It's not a mistake. Curbs, old and new, have this style on them all over NE. There are hundreds of them.

What does that curb say?

E 12 SI N

Which means what?

The tactile warning pads are made in colors other than yellow, but they are easiest to see by those who are partially sighted. There was an issue several years ago when black tactile warnings were installed, and partially sighted folks interpreted them as holes, and would walk around them.


Prior to 1933 Portland did not have our current system of NE NW SE SW N. It was a mess. Part of the old system was as follows "Numbered streets on the east side north of Burnside were, as on the west side, suffixed North, but still carried the East prefix for differention. What we today call NE 12th Avenue was known, therefore as East 12th Street North." from Zehnhaken Blog. So on the picture it's East 12th street North or E 12ST N Do not know why its not E 21ST N. Could have been an original mistake on that curb.

And while we're at it, has anyone noticed the plethora of new signage that has been put up lately?

You mean, like these?

(Although this sign is for 39th Avenue, the picture shows the new and old signs together. The new signs are being mounted all across town; even though many of the older signs which have been around for decades are still in very good condition.)

According to Sam, street curb signage replication and duplicate/triplet street signage is for SAFETY. That trumps fixing potholes or new sidewalks. Go by Tram.

Anymore it seems that bicycling is more about making a political statement than it is about actually getting somewhere.

Hey thanks Mike. Good to know. What would be better to know is why in the heck that crap is still doing being etched into the side walk. Historical value? Great.


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