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Monday, February 25, 2013

Fremont and 57th: It's not a bug, it's a feature

We noted a couple of weeks ago that the City of Portland has stuck a concrete curb in the middle of Fremont Street just west of 57th Avenue. We have since learned from readers that this was done to stop patrons of the new-ish brew pub on the south side of Fremont from making a left turn as they drive out the parking lot of the pub.

What bothers us about the new slab is that it caused the removal of a right turn lane for eastbound traffic on Fremont -- a lane that was being used by eastbound motorists to get around traffic stopped to make a left turn and go north on 57th. The traffic signal controlling eastbound traffic has no left turn arrow, and often allows for only one car (or none, if the driver is unduly timid) to make that left. As a result, eastbound traffic on Fremont backs up.

According to the Portland transportation bureau (motto: "Only one indicted, and he's cooperating"), the removal of that lane supposedly encourages, rather than discourages, through traffic to go around those stuck waiting to make the left:

Drivers heading East on N.E. Fremont used to have two options at 57th. A single lane went straight or allowed for left-hand turns. A second lane was for right-hand, South-bound turns.

When Transportation Bureau crews installed the raised median Jan. 23, they also removed the lines for the right-hand turn lane, Anderson said. Now, N.E. Fremont Street is a single lane that is wide enough for drivers to pass cars waiting to turn left onto 57th Avenue.

That may be the intent, but it hasn't actually turned out that way. If anything, the concrete barrier shoos left-turning traffic over to the right more than it used to sit, and there's less room than ever to get by on the right:

We've seen some drivers go around, but far more sitting stuck. And that go-around maneuver sometimes takes those who make it uncomfortably close to the east-west crosswalk on the south side of the intersection.

That corner needs a left turn arrow forcing westbound traffic on Fremont to wait while two or three eastbound vehicles make the left. That may not be forthcoming, but in any event, we challenge the assertion that the concrete barrier facilitates eastbound through traffic. The opposite is much closer to the truth.

Comments (13)

Wonder what'll happen when the first pedestrian or cyclist going the same direction gets nicked by someone who moves too far to the right to pass a large truck waiting to turn left?

(Spoiler alert: the city will be sued because they've just admitted, in the passage Jack quotes above, that they've designed this specifically to encourage people to do that.)

Portland traffic planners never actually use what they wreak on us, and they certainly never revisit their handiwork to assess how it works, isn't that clear?

Listening to PBOT explain why it does things is like listening to Dr. Science answer a listener's question.

And then the waiting police officer will happily cite the motorist who passes on the right for violating ORS 811.415, which makes it a Class B traffic infraction unless, among other circumstances, "the paved portion of the highway is of sufficient width to allow two or more lanes of vehicles to proceed lawfully in the same direction as the overtaking vehicle," that is, unless the paved portion of the street would allow two lanes of cars to go straight east.

All joking aside, the point is to create congestion. According to certain studies that officials at PBOT will cite, congestion supposedly encourages people to walk, ride a bike, or use our world famous public transit system to travel to their destination.

The odd thing is that the Fire on the Mountain parking lot is set up for cars to NOT exit via Fremont, but rather exit on 57th. Cars should turn right off Fremont to enter FOTM's parking lot. Too bad the business could not have worked harder with patrons to park properly, though, yes, this is Portland and anarchy rules. Anyone patronizing FOTM should let them know how they helped screw up the intersection.

Grumpy is spot on. The entire bureau is set up to create congestion and inconvenience. The PC word is, "TRAFFIC CALMING DEVICE".

I call them upside down potholes.

"THE CITY THAT WORKS... it's citizens over"

Doesn't the Fire Bureau get to weigh in on this stuff?

I know that in other cities more extreme "traffic calming" measures have been shot down by the fire department, which thinks that their trucks need to be able to rapidly proceed down the street, for some reason.

What they SHOULD have done is to do what exists at the corner of 39th/Belmont. If you are heading east on Belmont, when you get to the 39th you have two lanes...the left one is for left turns only, the right one is for people going straight or right. Since people turning right rarely linger as long as people turning left, people heading straight don't have a problem.

"Traffic Calming"...

When I was on a "CAC" (Citizens Advisory Committee for the unindoctrinated) dealing with unwelcome cut-through traffic in our neighborhood, I wanted to slap the PDX traffic planner every time he felt the need to mention that they were internationally known for "Traffic Calming".

Unless I'm mistaken, back in the early days of "traffic calming", I seem to recall hearing that the PFB chief in fact did vehemently complain to City Hall that response times to emergencies would be hampered by these plans, and that he was promptly replaced with someone who kept his mouth shut. I cannot cite the source, but I swear I read this in one of the local rags back when they used to actually report things CoP would rather they didn't.

Jack wrote "If anything, the concrete barrier shoos left-turning traffic over to the right more than it used to sit...".

Well, yeah, especially with that yellow line painted eight inches (maybe) from the barrier, as if to warn drivers to give it a wide berth. Other places in Portland, I see no such line; the yellow paint on the median suffices. Or maybe it's just worn off in those other places.

That truck is stopped INSIDE the future bike lane.

Cars and trucks are to use the lane between the yellow cement raised median (shown currently with orange traffic cones) and the bold yellow line on the street.

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