Roundabout at SE Harold among ideas to make 122nd Ave a safe ‘civil lane’

“We are looking forward to a more significant change in the streets.”

– Brian Paul, PBOT

A plan to modernize 122nd Street in East Portland took a big step forward. After nearly a year of collecting feedback, the Portland Transportation Office has released the project plan for the 122nd Ave. It includes a first look at roundabout concepts and other important changes that could eventually lead to the taming of this street.

122nd Ave is one of the most dangerous trails in Portland for people who walk, bike, or take transit. The PBOT readily admits that there are significant safety concerns on the street: In their draft plan, they state that “the broad road has inadequate infrastructure and its large intersections are among the most dangerous in the city. Significant changes are needed to save lives and reduce life-altering injuries.”

Currently, there are 122 on PBOT’s High Crash Network, which are generally unpleasant to walk or bike. PBOT’s goal is for 122nd Ave to not only be a safe place for people walking and cycling, but also a “Civil Trail,” which the city defines as an “attractive, pedestrian-safe boulevard while continuing to play a key role in the city’s transportation system.”

The PBOT identified four categories of recommendations in the plan:

safetywhich will include “redesign 122 to achieve safe driving speeds, safe intersections and better separation of users” and include projects such as implementing more street lighting, pedestrian and bicycle crossing and improving speed management

Multimedia and accessibility improvements to “improve areas where people walk, roll, bike, and wait to cross” through projects such as protected bike lanes, access management, and increased Biketown stations

Map of heat-related deaths in Portland between June 28 and July 7, 2021 (Source: PBOT)

Crossing performance and experience “to ensure buses run on time even during periods of congestion” with bus parking access and priority transportation improvements and treatments to allow buses to navigate vehicular traffic

Development of Street 122 as a civil corridor “Representing the benefits of green infrastructure and minimizing urban heat island impacts, while also being pleasant places to live, work and gather” by expanding sidewalks, increasing tree canopy coverage and examining the possibility of bus rapid transit service at 122nd Ave

As we reported in March, tree canopy coverage was a particularly important issue for survey participants. Shade from trees is essential in dense sidewalk areas such as the 122nd Avenue driveway. During last year’s heat wave, some parts of East Portland recorded temperatures as high as 124 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the sake of this plan, PBOT divided the long corridor into three parts. Within the far northern segment, which runs from Marine Drive to San Rafael Avenue, PBOT has revealed plans to make major changes near the Sandy Boulevard junction (Highway 30).

There are currently two free-flowing sliding lanes from 122 South Sandy providing access to NE 121. PBOT proposes closing those lanes to create T-shaped intersections. The concept described in the draft plan also calls for new piers and marked crossings.

Below is the current view of this crossover and the conceptual design of the PBOT:

Another notable recommendation is in the southern part of the 122, where the PBOT wants to reduce the space available for drivers.

We outlined potential PBOT design options for this southern extension in a recent article, but the draft plan brings something new to the table: a roundabout at Junction 122 and SE Harold made possible by reducing driveways.

“We are looking forward to a more significant change in the streets,” said PBOT planner Brian Paul in a presentation to the Cycling Advisory Committee on June 14. “Because volumes are lower, we’re suggesting a road diet here: reducing the number of vehicle lanes from five to three, making room to actually improve bike facilities and adding trees along the lane, something we’ve heard a lot about.”

Here’s how it would look compared to current conditions:

PBOT’s design drawing shows how drivers will encounter a much narrower road than they are facing now, significantly reducing speeds and improving safety for everyone. Middle islands and extended corners will slow drivers down as they enter the roundabout. Bike lanes appear raised to sidewalk level and will cross next to pedestrian crossings.

Roundabouts on Main Streets are extremely rare in Portland. Sharing this concept shows that PBOT is ready to take bold steps to change how our streets are used and who will feel safe using them.

The list of “future plans” includes converting TriMet 73 to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and setting standards that require elevated, protected bike lanes for future developments.

The next step is for PBOT to find more money to implement these recommendations. You can help create an urgency by sharing your feedback via our 122nd Ave Online Survey. Find the full plan and learn more about the plan on the PBOT website.

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