Archive for March, 2011

Attend Upcoming I-5 / Rose Quarter Planning Charrettes

Posted in News on March 31st, 2011 by Steve – 2 Comments

If you’re interested in a city without a highway down its spine and a walkable, bikable Rose Quarter, make sure you have a say in this part of the Central City Plan:

If you have experienced traffic in the city, it’s quite likely around the Rose Quarter — either on I-5 or on the streets surrounding the Broadway/Weidler interchange. Now the City of Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation are tackling the transportation issues there during a three-day charrette (or workshop), as part of the N/NE Quadrant Project.

Come learn about the underlying issues and be a part of the solution.

The charrette will be held April 11–13 and will begin the process of developing preliminary concepts for improvements to the I-5 freeway in the vicinity of the Broadway/Weidler Interchange. It will also look at how the freeway interfaces with the local transportation system, including ramp and bridge design and impacts on the circulation system, considering all modes. All members of the public are invited to attend and participate in the charrette at three different sessions:

  • April 11, 5-8:30 pm, Opening session
    ODOT Offices, 123 NW Flanders, Conf Room A&B
  • April 12, noon to 1 pm, Check-in session to review preliminary work
    URS Offices (project consultant), 1100 SW Columbia, Suite 1500)
  • April 13, 5-7 pm, Closing session to review and discuss charrette products
    ODOT Offices, 123 NW Flanders, Conf Room A&B

More information about each session is also available in the charrette agenda.

About the N/NE Quadrant and I-5 Broadway/Weidler Plans (N/NE Quadrant Project)
The N/NE Quadrant Project will act as a quadrant-level guide for implementation of city-wide goals to ensure a vibrant Central City at the heart of the metropolitan region. The planning area includes Lower Albina and the Lloyd District. The project is a unique collaboration between the City of Portland and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to jointly develop a land use plan and plan for the I-5 Freeway in the vicinity of the Broadway/Weidler Interchange. The N/NE Quadrant Project is an element of the broader Central City 2035 project to update the 1988 Central City Plan.

For more information about the N/NE Quadrant Project, visit the project website: or call Karl Lisle (503-823-4286) or Stephanie Beckman (503-823-6042).  You may also reply to this email.


Join us today in Salem, Virtually!

Posted in News on March 30th, 2011 by Steve – Comments Off on Join us today in Salem, Virtually!

Today is active transportation lobbying day in Salem.  Hundreds of state-wide advocates will convene at the State Capitol Building to meet with their elected officials and urge their support for upcoming biking and walking bills.

Can’t make it to Salem?  No problem.  Contact your legislators by email or phone today in solidarity with folks on the ground.

Tell your Representatives to Vote NO on CRC Funding (HJM 22)

Posted in News on March 28th, 2011 by Spencer – Comments Off on Tell your Representatives to Vote NO on CRC Funding (HJM 22)

I followed Evan Manvel’s advice and contacted my representative Ben Cannon, and members of the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee, urging them to vote NO on House Joint Memorial 22, which, “Urges  the federal government to fund Columbia River Crossing Project.”

I invite you all to write your reps and/or the members of this committee, and if you can keep it shorter than I did, more power to you.  Evan also points out that HJM 22 is likely to be voted on by all house members soon, so it’s worth contacting your own representative.

This committee is in session until 3pm, and you can stream it live here, in hearing room D.

Here is my letter:

Dear Representative Cannon,

My name is Spencer Boomhower, and I’m one of your constituents here in District 46.

I’d like to urge you to vote NO on House Joint Memorial 22, which calls for the federal government to fund the Columbia River Crossing freeway expansion.

I did an animated video on the CRC for former Metro Councilor Robert Liberty’s CRC Alternatives panel; if you have ten or so minutes to spare, I invite you to take a look:

Naturally the idea of bringing more federal money to the region is appealing, especially considering this region pays more into the federal budget than it gets out. But it seems like the problem with this particular federal expenditure is that it wouldn’t come without Oregon also pouring a huge amount of its own wealth into this 4.4 mile stretch of freeway.

As I understand it, if we assume the CRC will cost $3.6 billion dollars, Oregon’s share would be $600 million. It seems like this state could find much better uses than a short stretch of freeway for that kind of money.

And that $600 million estimate is going on the shaky assumption that there will be no cost overruns on this freeway mega-project, despite 90% of freeway mega-projects going over budget.

What’s more, that $3.6 billion estimate disregards the potential for ballooning costs due to interest, cost of collecting tolls. And there will likely be a shortfall of toll revenue (because traffic will likely be less than originally projected):

It seems like the problem at this particular area has come about because of local commuter traffic using an interstate highway chokepoint over a very large river as an arterial for everyday commuting and shopping. (Here’s a link to a 24 second video I made that captures a week’s worth of this congestion: .) This pattern has come about because of a quirk of two states’ tax codes that makes it cost-effective to live in one state, and shop and work in the other. Cost effective, that is, as long that freeway keeps expanding to accommodate the demand it induces, and as long as the state and federal taxpayers keep paying for it.

The problem is not going to get better by feeding it more of the costly resource that is freeway capacity. It might go away for a little while, but it will always come back. This resource will eventually be consumed because more freeway capacity opens up for lucrative development more land that is further and further from our urban centers. And in this case it’ll be land outside of the constraints of Oregon’s admirable land use laws.

What’s more, while interstate highways are great for getting between cities, the idea of putting them through the hearts of cities has proven to be a bad one that is rapidly becoming obsolete:

I fear that the CRC – and the likelihood that it will pour more traffic into the heart of Portland’s northern neighborhoods, and into the already congested Rose Quarter – will lock us into this outmoded and futile pursuit of federal money for freeway expansion.

There are alternatives. The best I’ve seen is known as the “Common Sense Alternative” by George Crandall and Jim Howell. The CSA suggests, among other things, focusing on the hundreds of millions of dollars that are already available for improving rail.

Remember there is only one – extremely vital but also very old – rail crossing in this area, where there are already two much newer freeway crossings.

Improving rail could have the surprising effect of improving freeway traffic, as you can see in this short clip from my longer CRC animation

Here I have to apologize for the wordy email. It’s a complex issue (as you no doubt know), and I find it difficult to discuss in any meaningful way while also keeping it brief.

Again, I encourage you to please vote NO on HJM 22. And I thank you very much for your time!


Spencer Boomhower

P.S. I sent the above to the members of the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee, who are set to vote on this bill today. Should it come for a vote on the floor I hope you’ll work against it, and I hope you colleagues – especially those representing regions furthest from Portland, and least interested in supporting a Portland Metro boondoggle – will also vote NO on HJM 22.

Gateway Plaza at Grand and Hancock Missing Sidewalk

Posted in News on March 27th, 2011 by Doug – 14 Comments

Portland Development Commission is applying for Design Review for the Gateway and Heritage Markers Project, a plaza to be built in the triangle formed by the angled section of Grand Ave., the narrow north-south Grand Ave, and Hancock Street. The project will omit putting a much-needed sidewalk along the diagonal Grand Avenue. According to Eliot neighborhood folks, the neighborhood wanted the sidewalk there, but PDC got an opinion (and an official Design Exception) from PBOT, to omit that sidewalk, since PBOT says it would be unsafe to encourage folks to cross that Grand Ave. “exit lane” at the south end of the triangle to walk along the diagonal Grand to take the shortest route. The plaza plan includes a meandering wall/fence that comes very near to the Grand Ave. curb, specifically to discourage walkers from using the well-worn path that is there now.

The Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee is sending a letter to the planner requesting the sidewalk, AROW is working on a response (contact Steve), and neighbors and concerned citizens can also write to the planner, Tim Heron, regarding case LU 11-115003 DZ. Heron’s number is 823-7726, and email is The relevant city regulations are in the Community Design Guidelines, and Guideline E1 says: “Create an efficient, pleasant, and safe network of sidewalks and paths for pedestrians that link destination points and nearby residential areas while visually and physically buffering pedestrians from vehicle areas.” The buffering the guideline speaks of is usually a planting strip with street trees along the curb, not an 8 foot high fence.

Here’s the site:

Aerial of triangular site. The missing sidewalk should be where the white dashed line is.

Here’s the plan for the plaza, from the Design Exception, where PBOT shows “conventional sidewalks”, and the “difficult crossing” at lower right. Neighbors also would like a crossing of Martin Luther King Blvd at Hancock, at the north of the project.

Site Plan from Design Exception, with added notes in red.


Letters to Tim Heron (email or snail mail to Bureau of Development Services, 1900 SW 4th Ave., Ste. 5000, 97201) are due by March 31st at 5 PM. The PDC project manager is Irene Bowers, 503-823-2419. To contact her by email use the email contact form at the bottom of the project’s web page. The website also includes pretty pictures of the project, but notably none as seen from Grand Ave.

There is a meeting of the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee on Thursday, April 21, 5:30 to 7:30 PM, at Irvington Village, Vanport Conference Room, 420 NE Mason St. This might be an opportunity for a show of support for sidewalks. The agenda lists only “project update”.

New gadget for transportation activists — “Tapered Gauges”

Posted in News on March 18th, 2011 by Ted – Comments Off on New gadget for transportation activists — “Tapered Gauges”

Streets and sidewalks have standards for smoothness. When you’re walking or bicycling on the public transportation system, you can expect surfaces to be uniformly smooth. You should be able to operate a wheelchair without being blocked by a step, go on a walk with your grandpa and not have him get knocked off balance by busted sidewalks, or ride your bike without being jolted off by a pothole. These are characteristics of a well-designed, well-maintained transportation infrastructure.

Of course, we all know too well that this isn’t always the case.

One of the “holy grails” I’ve been searching for are standards for street smoothness and tools to evaluate such.

Today I was at Woodcrafters, a shop on NE 7th and Davis, that sells tools and gauges of all descriptions. I asked them about such a tool and they said one existed, but they no longer carried it — it was a wedge that you could slide under a straightedge, and the thickness of the wedge at various points was printed on the top of it.

With this information, I was able to find the “Veritus Wedge Gauge” at “Lee Valley Tools”. It’s a fabulous little invention, I’m disappointed I hadn’t thought of it myself. See their page at,43513&p=32520 (click “continue” to get past the shipping notice).

The $32 price tag is a little steep. But, fortunately it looks pretty easy to manufacture such a tool yourself –just take a wooden wedge and a sharpie, and write the thickness of the wedge at various intervals on the top of it.

I’ll do this myself in the next couple days, then take it to the streets and start measuring pothole depth. I’m thinking that we’ll get speedier responses from the various maintenance bureaus if we are able to definitively report the depth of potholes.

For instance, here is a sinkhole I ride through on N Williams Ave every morning. It doesn’t look too bad in the photo, but riding I either need to slow down, get jolted, or swerve. And there’s three others just like it in the next block — probably from replacing water or sewer hookups and not compacting the subsurface before patching the pavement.

I emailed this photo in to PBOT on Jan 24, 2011, and still haven’t gotten any action. But I’m thinking if I had a straightedge and tapered gauge in the photo to indicate the depth, I might have gotten my request to start a few levels of priority higher in the Maintenance Bureau’s project list.

Ted Buehler

(BTW, does anyone know where to find street smothness standards for Washington or Oregon? In California they’re in Chapter 1000 of the Highway Design Manual, page 1000-24 — “For rideability on new construction, the finished surface of bikeways should not vary more than ¼ inch from the lower edge of an 8-foot long straight edge when laid on the surface in any direction.” To figure this out, you need a straightedge, and a tapered gauge to wedge beneath it, and you can ensure that your municipality does this correctly, and that the bikeway is very smooth, and will take a lot of abuse/settling before it gets rough. But this is the standard for California — now we just need to find the standard for Oregon)