City Offers First Report on South Willamette Street Improvements

New data about the re-striping of South Willamette Street shows the street is functioning well — and that critics’ concerns about major back-ups and decreased business activity have not come true.

Chris Henry, a city Transportation Planning Engineer and the Project Lead for the South Willamette project, shared data on the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan at a City Council work session in January and then at last week’s Active Transportation Committee, formerly the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Henry has come to ATC a number of times to talk about the project and gather feedback, but this was the first time he had numbers on how the current design is working.

Old South Willamette

The old street design

Here are a few slides from the presentation that show what some of the pilot study results are so far:

S. Willamette Travel Time

It’s taking people about 3-10 more seconds to get through the corridor at the evening peak travel time.

S. Willamette Traffic Speed

More people are actually traveling at or below the speed limit

S. Willamette Neighboring Streets

Almost all neighboring streets have actually seen a reduction in traffic, not an increase.

S. Willamette Traffic Volumes

The number of cars on Willamette Street have actually increased!

In summary, despite the fear and concern among some opponents of the re-striping that there would be major delays and that people would stop using South Willamette Street, what we are seeing so far is that those predictions just aren’t coming true. In fact, what we are seeing is more in line with what city staff and consultants projected and even better than their predictions.

It’s taking people about 3-10 more seconds to get through the corridor at the evening peak travel time. If you’ve driven or ridden the corridor you know that any backups occur southbound in the evening, and they are not that bad. If you’re on a bike you might pass a long line of cars, but they still make it through the corridor pretty quickly. A little bit more time through down the street (at a reasonable speed and with less jockeying in the four lanes) allows for them to see what businesses are actually on the street.

More people are traveling at or below the speed limit. Before the change about half the people going through the corridor were breaking the speed limit of 25 mph. Since the change that has dropped to half the drivers doing 22.3 mph or less through the corridor. The 85th percentile (the maximum speed at which 85 percent of all traffic on the street travels) has dropped from 31.2 mph to 27.5 mph. The design of the street is affecting how fast people drive and bringing it closer to the legal speed limit.

Almost all neighboring streets have seen a reduction in traffic, not an increase. Those opposed to the new street design said people would flee South Willamette and disrupt the neighborhood side streets. The numbers show that isn’t happening. It’s not taking much more time so it’s not worth people going out of their way to use the neighborhood streets and only Hilyard saw any increase in traffic and that’s another arterial that is built to handle the traffic.

The number of cars on Willamette Street has actually increased. More eyes on the street! Again, despite some business concerns about people fleeing South Willamette and then not seeing (or stopping) at their business, we see that even more people are using the street now that it’s a better designed street for all users.

S. Willamette Traffic

Traffic Backup?!

We still have until the summer of 2018 before the paving of South Willamette makes this design permanent and the City Council will still have to decide and vote on that change. City staff will continue to collect data including numbers on crashes and collisions, bicycle and pedestrian counts and some financial numbers from the small percentage of businesses who are participating in the financial impact analysis portion of the study.

Then even with the numbers it will be a political discussion and City Council will decide what will actually go down as a permanent design for this street. It’s hard to imagine going back from the current design that is actually working well for all users but as with any political decision you never know until the final vote is cast.

S. Willamette Josh Skov

Active Community Member Josh Skov Approves of the New Design

Amazon Corner & Active Transportation

Two projects on the drawing board have the potential to bring some great active transportation improvements to the south side of the Amazon Path system over the next couple of years: a city-planned cycle track on East Amazon Drive and the proposed Amazon Corner mixed-use development.

First, the Amazon Corner development: Planned for a lot at Hilyard and 32nd Avenue, the project is currently in the permitting stage and could bring housing, retail, and even some improvements for cycling and walking.

The former South Hills Assemblies of God church property was purchased last year by a local company owned by the Coughlin family and was torn down this winter to prepare the space for the new five-story project.

Amazon Corner Picture

Artist’s rendering of Amazon Corner

Mike Coughlin is a local businessman who has been involved in a number of businesses over the past 35 years and is the owner of Burley Designs, a manufacturer of balance bikes, tag-a-longs, strollers, and of course bike trailers. He says the new project will be a pedestrian and bicycle friendly project with a plaza that is inviting and open to the public, anchored by retail shops that bring life to the corner, some ground floor residential units at the edges that provide active engagement and character along the street frontage, engaging artwork, a bike repair station, quality long-term bike parking for tenants, and accessible bike parking for clients of the retail shops. Continue reading “Amazon Corner & Active Transportation”

Refreshed Knickerbocker Bridge Open

 

Knickerbocker GraphiThe new and improved Knickerbocker Bridge opened again to the public yesterday after being closed for a few weeks as crews replaced the old railing that was partly made of wood and rotting out. The replacement was also part of a project to repave and improve the access on the south side from Franklin Boulevard to the bridge. This section of path hard large root heaves and very poor pavement before this work was completed. The approach from Franklin to the railroad underpass was also a tight turn so that turn radius was expanded to give cyclists a better view before entering the tunnel. Striping was also added to guide people to make a safe passage under the Union Pacific railroad right-of-way.

IMG_8311 2The Knickerbocker bridge was built in 1978 and is one of the examples of a partnership between the City of Eugene and the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) that combined getting utility lines across the river while also providing a safe and convenient crossing of the river for people walking, biking, and rolling (the Autzen Bridge is another example). The bridge was dedicated in 1980 and is named for Willie Knickerbocker (1868–1960), who was called “The Father of Bicycling in Eugene.” There’s a good piece about Willy from the Register Guard if you’d like to learn more about him. The quote at the end show’s us why they picked a good person to name a Eugene bike bridge for:

“Let’s not forget the simple man who lived a simple life, riding his bicycle as the world sped up around him.

The man who, when asked why he rode — if it was the independence or the beauty or the solitude — cocked his head and scrunched his eyes and thought about it a moment and said, “No, it’s to get there.”

IMG_8317This bridge is not one you’ll cross much on a pure pleasure ride. It’s a pretty practical connection for “getting there”, providing a link from Springfield, the Northeast part of Eugene, campus, and the Glenwood area.  However, make sure you stop along your journey (maybe on one of the new benches) and enjoy the natural beauty of the Whilamut Natural Area, watch some boaters and tubers float by in the summer, and watch for all sorts of birds, water mammals, and other wildlife.

The sign commemorating the building of the bridge is a bit weathered and hidden on the north side of the bridge but Eugene Parks and Open Space says the old plaque will be incorporated into a new sign going in soon. A new bike counter will also be going in on the south side of the bridge as many new projects in Eugene include the counters as part of the project so that planners can better track the number of walkers and bikers using the system.

KnickerBocker SignWith the completion of this section and all the work that went into improving the river path system after the I5 bridge construction, including the new viaduct on the east side of I5 leading into Glenwood, one of the older parts of our river path network system is now updated and improved. Now if we could just figure out how to connect the south bank path from the Autzen Footbridge to the Knickerbocker without having to go up to Garden Avenue. More about that idea in an upcoming story on WeBikeEugene. Stay tuned.

 

 

Public Hearing Monday for Eugene’s Transportation System Plan

A nearly 7-year planning process on Eugene’s transportation system is nearing an end, and one of the last opportunities for community input is coming up next week.

On Monday March 6, the Eugene City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners will conduct a joint hearing on the draft “2035 Transportation System Plan” (TSP) which lays out the policies, priorities, and projects for Eugene’s transportation system over the next 20 years.

Eugene TSP 2017The TSP lays the groundwork and acts as a guide for future transportation decision making by creating the vision and laying out the specific projects that will make up the transportation system moving forward. The TSP states that transportation “decisions will be made within the overall context of the City’s land use plans, commitments to address climate recovery, and support for economic vitality.”

The plan includes the idea of “Triple Bottom Line” decision-making, that is, making transportation decisions as a way for the city to improve social equity, economic development, and environmental problems, such as climate change.

The plan specifically highlights that the “Eugene City Council adopted a Climate Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 10.01.13 PMRecovery Ordinance that codified a Council goal of achieving a 50 percent citywide reduction of fossil fuel use by 2030” and rolls that goal into the TSP as well.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the TSP incorporates the Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, which was “accepted” by City Council in 2012. Part of that incorporation includes a specific goal that by 2035 the city will triple the percentage of trips made on foot, by bicycle, and by transit from 2014 levels.

In other words the plan has some lofty goals and a great vision but a few questions remain, including: does it go far enough, how will projects be prioritized, and where will the funding for bold visions come from?

Let’s consider the piece incorporated from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan regarding tripling of active transportation trips. In 2015, 7.6% of Eugene residents got to work by bike; 7.6% walked; and 4% travelled by bus (LCOG). If we are to hit the target contained in the TSP to triple the percentage of non-auto trips, we will need some 23% of residents biking, 23% walking, and 12% riding the bus to work just 18 years from now.

Cities that have this level of biking include Copenhagen, Denmark (30%) and Davis, California (23%) (Wiki).  We would have to achieve mass transit ridership rates closer to LA (11%) or Portland (12%) (Wiki). We would need a walking environment closer to Cambridge, Massachusetts (23%), or Berkeley, California (16%) (Wiki). 

Does this plan have what it takes to get us to these kind of numbers? A good spot to look is the plan’s project list and the funding that is projected for those projects. Under the “Roadway, Multimodal, Transit, and Rail Projects to be Completed Within 20 Years” we see a total projection of $406.6 million worth of projects. Under the “Pedestrian and Bicycle Projects to be Completed Within 20 Years” we see $71.7 million worth of projects. That is 18% of the total budget for mode shares that we are hoping to get to 46% by 2035.

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 10.00.42 PMCompare the 130 miles of bicycle and pedestrian projects at $71.7 million to the .95 mile “Randy Papé Beltline Highway Facility” at $85 million (the largest project on the roadway list) and we can see where some of the problems might come as we try to reach these lofty but important goals.

Where will the prioritization of these projects come from and more importantly where will the funding come from? Sometimes it’s easier for a city to work, lobby, and find funding for one major bridge project than it is for it to find funding for 239 separate small projects that may add up to a complete network but also takes a lot more political work to make happen (and provides a much less interesting photo shoot).

What work will city leaders and staff do to make sure that these active transportation projects will get funded and built in time to reach these goals? Right now we don’t have the kind of funding needed to get these type of projects done. Will we in the future?

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 1.46.07 PMIf we were to build out the TSP bicycle and pedestrian project list in 20 years, we would need to be awarded some $3.6 million dollars for these projects every single year between 2018 and 2038. With some transportation funding already programmed out to 2023, and no major shifts to increase active transportation funding sources, it’s unclear how we’ll make any real strides until we see major changes in the funding structure of our transportation system. 

So what can be done to improve this plan and make it so we actually reach the goals laid out? Do we have the enough bold active transportation projects in the plan? Do we have a good enough prioritization plan so that we know the right projects will get built first? Do we have a plan for finding the right kind of funding to match our goals of increasing walking and biking rates?

Monday’s public hearing will be a good time to state support for the goals and projects laid out in the TSP, but it’s also a good time to ask some of those questions and any others that you might have around how the plan will be implemented. With the work that has gone into the many pieces of this plan and its 20-year horizon this is a crucial point to make any comments before its final adoption.

What: Joint hearing on the “2035 Transportation System Plan

When: Monday, March 6th, 5:30 pm

Where: Harris Hall in the Lane County Public Services Building (125 E. 8th Ave.)

Huge Crane to Lift New Bike-Ped Bridge Into Place

What- A 100-foot crane will hoist a prefabricated 90-foot bridge deck onto the support structure for a new bicycle-pedestrian bridge over Amazon Creek. Images from a prior lift are attached for reference.

Background- LTD is building two new bicycle-pedestrian bridges this year as part of the West Eugene EmX project. The bridges, plus a third bridge to be built next year by the City of Eugene, are funded through a $2.9 million ConnectOregon V grant. This investment will allow residents who live south of Amazon Creek to easily connect to West 11thAvenue businesses and the West Eugene EmX service that will launch next fall. The bridges also enhance Fern Ridge Path and the rest of the path system for recreational walking and bicycling.

When– Thursday, October 27, 2016. Be in position by 12:00 p.m. (Noon). The crane lift is expected to occur between 12:15 p.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Where- Just West of Acorn Park on the Fern Ridge Path. If driving you may park along the street on Buck Street or West 13th Avenue.

ltd-bikebridge-map

South Willamette bike lane striping delayed until June

The re-striping of south Willamette Street, which will add bike lanes from 24th to 29th avenues, has been delayed for a few weeks.

Crews have marked out the new configuration of the street, and the actual re-striping was expected in the next week or so.

Spray-painted white markings show where the new pavement striping will go.

Spray-painted white markings show where the new pavement striping will go.

But the contractor hired to do the striping had a conflict and is not available for few weeks, City of Eugene Transportation Planning Engineer Chris Henry told a meeting Thursday of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The striping should be completed by mid-June, Henry said.

Tree Planting By Bike

Tree Planting by Bike3It’s bike planting season again with Friends of Trees! In partnership with REI and many volunteers they are building their plant-by-bike program and they could use your human powered skills! Over the past few years the program has had several of these ‘bike crew’ plantings and they are a very fun way to show the power of bikes AND get more trees planted in Eugene; creating a more livable and greener city.

There are two tree plantings left this season; April 2nd and 23rd. Sign-up here, gather your trailers, cargo bikes, or just your regular bikes (to assist cargo bikes) then arrive at 8:30 – 8:45 am to be registered to a bike crew. Grab coffee and breakfast treats, and then help load trees and tools onto bike trailers — and tally ho — you’re off to plant trees by bike. Help show the power of bikes to do work and spread shade and beauty around Eugene!

Tree Planting by Bike

 

bikeguy

Sign-up to plant & ride

 

Fox Hollow Road and Dillard Road Update

I have been in contact with the City of Eugene staff concerning two very heavily used cycling routes, Fox Hollow Road and Dillard Road.  The bad news is we’re going to have to wait for the Fox Hollow fix until 2017 or later. The good news is, most of Dillard will be fixed this Summer. Keep in mind that the city staff is doing the best they can under the current funding program. What is needed is either a bond measure or gas tax to cover the 50 miles of unimproved streets in the city. Please contact your city councilor to start the ball rolling. And do it today!

The following is from Eric Johnson, Surface Operations Manager, Public Works Maintenance Division:

“Fox Hollow Road, south of Donald Street is classified as an unimproved street. Unimproved streets are generally defined as those streets not built to City street standards. More specifically they lack an engineered road base and paving structure, curb and gutters, and sidewalks. There are approximately 50 miles of unimproved streets with in the City limits. Unimproved streets received limited maintenance such as potholes repairs that are 3” or greater in depth, periodic street sweeping, and in the case of Fox Hollow snow and ice control as needed.

Unlike improved streets, local gas tax and Bond Measure funding are not used to fund resurfacing unimproved streets. Public Works does have a program that addresses unimproved street surface treatments. The Enhanced Street Repair Program currently receives $200,000 annually from the road operating fund to provide asphalt maintenance overlays on our 50 miles of unimproved streets. Currently there is an estimated three million dollar backlog of projects similar to Fox Hollow Road.

Fox Hollow Road between Donald Street and Cline Road (City limits) has been identified as a potential project through this program. We are hopeful that in the next few years continued program funding will enable Public Works to overlay this section of Fox Hollow Road. Paving is limited to the existing road surface and does not include adding bike lanes. During the paving process we look for opportunities to widen the road shoulder to provide pedestrians and bicyclists safer passage. In the meantime we will continue to provide surface maintenance as described above. I have asked our surface maintenance team to inspect Fox Hollow Road and make appropriate repairs as needed.

More than likely it will be no sooner than the 2017 construction season before Fox Hollow Road from Donald Street south to the City limits will be paved. I have committed our program resources to another south Eugene project this summer, Dillard Road from 43rd Ave. to near the City limits. This will be the largest projects in terms of square footage and funds we’ve taken on through this program. I am currently working with our contractor on an estimate and will have a better sense of whether will be available for this construction season. Fox Hollow is also a large project and more than likely we won’t have sufficient funds to add it to this year’s project list. I also have scheduled our contractor to provide me with an estimate for Fox Hollow so we have a better idea of costs.”

Territorial Highway Update

Background

The Territorial Highway Corridor Plan will address safety for all users of a particularly dangerous section of Territorial Highway. The Plan will focus on a 5.7-mile long section of the Highway that extends south from Gillespie Corners to Cottage Grove-Lorane Road. This section is narrow and in poor condition. It is used by trucks, cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This is a key transportation link to rural communities and forest, farming, and winery businesses. The Plan will document the process of developing and selecting a preferred design alternative supported by the public. The Plan will also include preliminary designs for the preferred design alternative.

Project Update

Lane County and ODOT continue to partner in the planning and design process for improving Territorial Highway. They have been collecting information about cultural resources, wetlands, and geology — investigating what it would take to implement the preferred design alternative that was supported through the public process. There are design solutions for avoiding the cultural resource sites and for mitigating wetland impacts; however, the geological findings at Stony Point prompted further analysis of the preferred design alternative.

The results of the geotechnical readings indicate movement at the active slide at Stony Point. The stabilization needed to construct the preferred design alternative could be cost-prohibitive and would have a significant footprint. They have identified a range of possible alternative solutions, such as structural anchors and terracing. It may be necessary to consider alignment adjustments for cuts into the hillside. Any alignment changes would need to be discussed with affected property owners and would require additional geotechnical investigation.

Current funding will allow completion of the corridor plan and preliminary design work, but there is no funding identified to complete the design or to construct the improvements. They will seek funding to complete the design work through the upcoming State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Obtaining funding to complete the design will make the project “shovel ready” which better positions the project for construction funding. Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.24.40 PM

Current Status 

The Territorial Highway project from Gillespie Corners to the Town of Lorane is awaiting approximately $1million in funding from ODOT to complete the design phase. This is for further design work due to hillside slippage. The county expects to know by this Summer whether or not the funds will be available.

 

 

Construction underway for Willamette Street ‘road diet’

If you haven’t noticed, construction has begun on south Willamette Street, the first steps toward the test of a “road diet” on the stretch from 24th to 29th streets.

construction

Preliminary work is underway on south Willamette Street, leading up to the re-striping.

The street will be reconfigured from four auto lanes to three auto lanes with bike lanes.

The actual re-striping of the road probably won’t happen until late March or early April, said Chris Henry, Transportation Planning Engineer for the city. Other work needs to happen first, he said, including widening the road at 24th and installing a traffic light at the driveway into Woodfield Station, the shopping area anchored by Market of Choice.

The widening at 24th is now underway. That will allow for the continuation of the southbound bike lane, which now ends at 23rd. The widening will also make room for a left-turn pocket for cars headed south on Willamette and wanting to turn left on 24th.

While the “test” road diet does not include repaving the street (that will happen in a few years), the city is also reparing some of the worst cracks and drainage problems that would have been in the new bike lanes.

share_the_road

Driveway lips have been ground smoother.

Some of that work is already done. Workers have also ground a number of driveway lips, to make it easier to turn a bike off the road into a business driveway.

The stretch of Willamette in question sees about 14000 automobile trips per day. That’s about 2,000 less than the older figure that was used when the street was initially studied and the road diet was proposed.

Because of vocal oppostion to the idea of a road diet from some businesses on Willamette, the City Council voted in 2014 to test the idea for a year. The council will take up the issue again in summer 2017 after reviewing how the street functioned under the test, and also considering results from an economic impact study of area businesses that is being conducted by the Community Service Center at the University of Oregon.

All of that will lead to a decision on how to re-stripe the street when it is fully repaved in 2018.