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Brooklyn Station Areas Working Group Meeting #4 Summary

March 27, 2014

Sacred Heart Villa Community Room
3911 SE Milwaukie Avenue

Staff: Grant Morehead (PBOT), Jean Senechal-Biggs (PBOT), Diane Hale (BPS), Deborah Stein (BPS), Radcliffe Dacanay (BPS), Madeline Kovacs (BPS)

View the original meeting packet, with the agenda, handouts and presentation.

Welcome and Introductions

Diane welcomed all attendees to the meeting, and all attendees then each introduced themselves.

Portland Milwaukie Light Rail Overview

Grant Morehead gave a short presentation reviewing the LRT line section that we are dealing with in the area.

Q: When you cross on a bike onto 17th, at Powell, right after you come out the tunnel undercrossing, you are essentially trying to cross very busy traffic around a blind corner, and it feels very dangerous even with a crosswalk. Are there options to calm traffic and or improve safety?

A: I don’t know the specific thinking behind the crosswalk at that location, but I am hearing that it’s the speed of cars, gaining speed coming right around the corner just as bikes and pedestrians are trying to cross. With the off-ramp there, we do have some limited sight distance. Maybe we can find out what the difference in criteria is between the two.

Q: What exactly are you talking about with the busses on 9th?

A: TriMet is looking at having one or more bus routes use 9th Ave on the N side of Powell to access the new bridge, instead of going across Ross Island Bridge.

Q: Will there be lanes on the new bridge/ delineation for bikes and pedestrians? I am particularly concerned because traffic is going both ways on each side and it seems narrow.

A: Yes. There will be markings. The bridge has a 14 foot walk on each side of the bridge. The inner 7’-7” will be for bikes, there will be a 4” white stripe, and then 6’ for pedestrians on the outside (adjacent to the railings). There will be ped and bike symbols in each lane, similar to the symbols on the Hawthorne Bridge sidewalks. We are also anticipating a big change in the way people get from the East to the West side with this addition, hopefully diverting some people from the conflict zone at Hawthorne and 12th area, among others.

Transportation Policies/ Transportation System Plan Update

Grant then gave an overview of updates associated with the Comprehensive Plan Update, called the Transportation System Plan Update (TSP) including street classifications, and applying these classifications in practice. The Brooklyn neighborhood is a freight-heavy area, especially regarding trucks. Grant also showed a series of maps delineating high-classified streets for trucks in the area: Holgate, 17th, Powell. He pointed out that this also relates directly to the land use questions that we have been discussing over the past three months, and asked everyone to keep this in mind as we continue to discuss transportation options. There are constraints we are dealing with due to industrial uses and truck traffic, some of which are out of our control, and we do not anticipate will be changing.

Q: According to this, Milwaukie is not designated as a primary truck route, correct? 

A: Yes, trucks serving the businesses on this street would use this street, but if they are not (if they are through truck traffic), our policy directs them to McLoughlin or another street. Milwaukie’s freight classification (Local Service Truck Street) also means that features like curb extensions, pedestrian bulb-outs, and other features are much more likely to be approved. 

Q: I guess what I would like to know is whether we have options, what are the parameters as to speed limits, traffic flow, as opposed to being handed this platter and being told “and we aren’t doing anything about it.” What CAN we do?

A: The speed limits are set by the state, largely based on how fast cars currently travel. If we wanted to lower the speed limit, we would measure current speeds, 85% of this would be what ODOT said is the speed limit. State law allows cities to set 20 mph zones in some cases, partially based on the adjacent land uses and traffic volumes. I don’t think Holgate would qualify? But lowering the speed limit certainly worth looking into. 

Q: Isn’t it hard to have trucks and LRT on the same street? Such as 17th? It seems strange to have both LRT and 17th designated as a major truck route, and also bike lanes. Isn’t this really dangerous?

A: We have about another year of construction on 17th Ave before it’s complete. We are saying yes we have trucks using that street, and the project reached out to businesses to find out more precisely who is using trucks for what. Regardless, the bike lanes we will be installing here will be buffered: A six foot bike lane with a two foot buffer to provide some space between cyclists and trucks/busses. 

Q: So does this mean there will be no parking on 17th?

A: No, there will still be parking in some spaces along 17th. We will be working with property owners to identify the best spots. 

Q: What is the width of the vehicle travel lane?

A: It varies depending on the location. It will be similar to Interstate Ave in that sense. 

Q: And the order of features on the street?

A: From outside toward the center: Sidewalk, parking, bike lanes, travel lanes.  

Q: I thought the trucks leaving Brooklyn Yard would be re-routed onto Harold, instead of using 17th.

A: That’s been done, and was part of what came out of the LRT project.

Q: Trucks coming out of the yard?

A: Now they come out on McLoughlin, used to be a mess coning out on 17th and Schiller.

Q: Is a bunch of westbound traffic on Holgate headed North? What happens with truck traffic is a massive amount turns right onto 17th. Westbound, people used to turn right to go Northbound.

Q: Do you have counts for trucks Milwaukie?

A: We do not have recent truck counts. We need to wait to take counts to see how traffic patterns have settled after light rail construction is complete.

Grant: We have been hearing a lot about the need to improve mobility in the area around Powell for bikes, pedestrians, and also cars. Decreased circulation, it turns out, is also important to consider as it hinders the development potential of the Clinton Station. We have conducted a small circulation study, and are currently trying to find funding to do a full-scale circulation study of the larger surrounding area. I mention this again because we have heard about this as a trouble spot frequently from the community.  

Q: As a cyclist, it seems that 9th is the street to go to if you want to climb hills and descend - not the most attractive thing. My husband and I both bike up and down Milwaukie instead because it’s more do-able. This happens a lot across Portland it seems, where the hilliest streets are also where the bike lanes go. Also, the bus/ bike mixed use streets are often awkward.

A: As part of the LRT project, we tried to get ODOT to put a signal at 8th, and that way the busses could have used 8th both in and out as they come off Powell. Traffic modeling has shown that many of the congestion issues near the east end of the Ross Island Bridge are caused by the ramp configuration on the west side. With all the changes with the LRT and zoning changes, if we can find the funding, we may also try to look at Milwaukie specifically as a commercial corridor, and assess pedestrian-bike safety and access along the entire corridor.

At Center St, we talked about over-crossings for the rail yard. It would be a pretty heavy lift, but in terms of circulation it would definitely be nice. But without large dedicated funding for a bike/pedestrian project it’s difficult.

Q: Cars too?

A: Maybe – if it’s open to cars, too, you do open up more funding possibilities.

Q: There is a lot of traffic from TriMet workers – they had talked about shutting down a lot of traffic so people would be forced to go to arterial streets.  Is the pedestrian overpass coming back to Clinton [Gideon Street Bridge], too? That would be nice.

A: We are doing a development opportunity study around the Clinton station – the short answer is there is not currently funding to rebuild that bridge, although we would like to. We want to maximize development opportunities as well as circulation. So that’s also part of the reason we are looking at reconfiguring some of the streets, so after taking a closer look, it may belong in a similar but slightly different place than it was before. 

Q: There is also a pedestrian crossing of Powell at 13th. Especially in our neighborhood, pedestrian access to grocery stores is lacking. 

A: It really is going to depend what the land use scenario is there, and what businesses can be supported. 

Q: If people are particularly interested in being updated on what is happening here, should they also be tracking the SE Quadrant project?

A: Yes! We are looking at the whole Central Eastside – this area is not currently in the Central City, but the planning boundary may be extended. We also will have a stakeholder committee that meets monthly, and I am happy to give updates to anyone who may want to be abreast of that.

Q: Can you get the company who owns the land to give us pedestrian access?

A: Well, they are one of the developers at the table – to the extent that it helps provide access to business, they may be a player in that. Overall circulation studies help. 

Q: I want to advocate for Project 19, an overcrossing at Reedway. Crossing Holgate to Bybee is more than a mile. The Reedway crossing would be difficult because the LRT crossing over the MAX creates some elevation difficulties.

A: Harold Street station?

Q: Yes it would be expensive but worth it. Great connection. TriMet has been at our neighborhood meetings, and mentioned that it’s hard to validate a crossing without a station and hard to validate a station without a crossing (chicken and egg).

A: Yes, and this very chicken/egg issue has been talked about for decades, before LRT was even a thought. 

Q: What about additional at-grade crossings?

UP Representative Response: Never say never, but it’s a huge safety concern for us. Not something the railroad would likely support. 

Q: We have three crossings at other places. Could another grade-separated crossing perhaps be something simpler and less expensive to engineer, if people are flexible? Maybe a slight bike/pedestrian ramp with a drawbridge? It’s a lot less money, less of a grade for people to cross. 

A: That’s definitely a creative idea, but you have to consider the operation and maintenance costs for a bridge like that.  

Grant then introduced the TSP Project Selection Criteria (draft), which attempt to give transportation projects an overall score by quantifying features like access, economic benefit, climate, equity. This set of criteria will begin to be applied over the next year. We want to take the list of projects brainstormed over the summer and plug them in and see how they score. As some are then incorporated into the TSP they will then become eligible for funding. 

Jean asked meeting attendees, in light of this project prioritization and process, think back to brainstorms over the summer and what has made it onto this map showing transportation priorities. What did we miss? Please let us know. Jean also reminded attendees that the open house on the 15th will have maps up describing potential projects, and that the evaluation of those projects and additional public outreach will take place over the summer.

Holgate Boulevard

Grant then turned to the question of Holgate, as it has emerged as a major priority during past community discussions. PBOT went out over the summer and took an inventory of everything on the sidewalk. As you can see [from the presentation images] it’s a pretty grim situation. Sidewalks are 7 feet wide, which is substandard. And it is difficult to move through with utility poles and wires. There is about a 60 foot right of way which is pretty typical for city streets. Buildings are built right to the property line so expanding outward is not really an option - we would have to take down multiple buildings to expand the sidewalk.

Q: West of the viaduct, can you use your traditional 60-foot right of way design, but reduce the number of travel lanes? It seems very, very dangerous as is. 

A: The only way to really provide for bike lane or wider sidewalks is to use the existing right-of-way – we are seeing these on Division, Glisan, or other places in the city. One of the things you see, is when you take a two-lane each direction street and make it one lane each direction with a center turn lane, you see a demonstrable decrease in crashes. That said, Holgate is not among the most dangerous streets in the City in terms of the total number of crashes.

Q: Well I have a shrine on my street for someone who was killed…one of my employees was hit once.

A: I am not saying it’s great, but City-wide, it is not among the streets with the highest total number of crashes.  

Q: You are not considering the increase in people with this light rail project, which in any case will increase the accident rate. It’s a dangerous intersection, just like along Milwaukie and Holgate.

A: I didn’t mean to discount that it is dangerous, but we are limited as to what we can do. So what can we do?

One potential solution for Holgate is road re-organization. PBOT has another project that is looking at SE Foster, and we did an analysis of how putting in bike lanes at expense of a motor vehicle lane would affect traffic. One of the ways we made decreased traffic on Foster work was to increase traffic on Holgate. People will make their route decision early in the trip, so before getting onto Foster they will turn onto Holgate or Powell instead. So, we would have to look at how our decisions may affect travel patterns. I mentioned this before, but McLoughlin is a state highway – ODOT does have the authority to disallow us to change the travel patterns and capacity. So as we move forward with the TSP project list, we can try and come up with a project that addresses these ongoing issues. 

Q: What about taking out just one of the westbound lanes? A lot of the challenge is eastbound trucks needing to turn, and if they can do it safely in the direction they need to travel most, pedestrians and bikes can have way more room on the other side. 

A: If you took out one lane, which would give you just over five feet for each bike lane, and still have only 7-foot sidewalks.

Q: What if we just widen the sidewalk on one side? 

A: That’s an interesting idea – with multi-use paths? 

Q: Yes!

A: So that maybe works, having the funnel getting bigger not smaller. Great potential solution!

Q: And maybe an additional idea to widening the sidewalk is also adding street trees? Right now it is ugly and you feel like you should go faster. Simply the addition of trees has been shown to slow people down. 

A: Four feet would be needed for the planting zone, a tree well might preclude shared bike/pedestrian route. 

Q: What if one sidewalk were really wide, and the other were narrower? I spent some time in the Netherlands and this seemed to be a great solution in some places – nearly no streets were perfectly symmetrical, but functionally they were even better. 

A: So that would be 18 feet. That would be wide enough for a shared bike/ped facility.

Q: I would put the wider section on the south side instead. 

Q: That’s true, but if you think about what we’d like to see redeveloped, then you lean toward the north side.

A: On the south side, there would be conflicts with trucks turning into Brooklyn Yard. Concentrating bike/ped traffic on the north side would minimize that conflict. 

Q: I am also a fan of at least one “safe zone” – safety is really what we are looking for. Personally I would rather be on a wide sidewalk mixed up with a bike rather than next to a narrow lane in the street and mixed up with a truck. 

Q: There is no dispersion south of Powell – so I think this crossing here is really important. 

A: Yes, and the school here is also a big feature we have to look at.     

Q: And that’s my other argument for putting the wider sidewalk/ protected area on the North side of the street.

Q: I like the idea of the wider north side of the street, too –you wouldn’t want that on the south side where trucks are turning, because trucks can’t see and make a right turn, that’s where people get killed, too. It’s important not to have people tucked to the right side of trucks turning frequently. 

Grant: Structurally, adding weight to a bridge can be difficult. We’d need do some significant engineering work to determine if that’s feasible. 

Q: What about using jersey barriers? Now you have a lane for bikes to go both directions?

Q: Well I like that idea, to try the low-tech way with paint, see what happens, and then add the hard infrastructure later on.

Q: The westbound traffic doesn’t seem that bad in the morning. So there are a few dynamics there I am not sure we are totally aware of how they work. The traffic patterns are still a bit funny due to construction. I would be willing to bet that one westbound lane removed wouldn’t add much difficulty at all. I don’t think the traffic counts you list are right. I think the traffic between 17th and Milwaukie is much lower due to traffic turning onto 17th.

Jean: We have lots of good creative ideas, but Holgate is not an official project yet. I am hearing among this group that Holgate is project #1 – you saw earlier the list for criteria for projects. What feedback do you have for Grant on that list? What other projects? I am hearing:

  • Holgate needs to be fixed
  • Access to other side of tracks: Bringing old Gideon bike/pedestrian bridge back
  • No decent access to Springwater Corridor or Sellwood

Q: I would add Springwater Corridor access to the top of our list. We have been talking about addressing this for years and nothing has happened.

A: There’s a plan for that, adopted in 2000. It uses Ross Island Sand and Gravel’s access road as a way to get down to the river. But they are still an active business and the cost of that project was over $3 million 14 years ago, so it’s pretty unlikely in the short term.

Q: I do know that the neighborhood has felt owed that for decades since we were first cut off. 

Q: The other thing is the elevation on Milwaukie, yes you can get a bike lane, but you have to go up and down so no one does it. It could so easily be striped. 

A: There was a proposal for a bike facility from Oaks Bottom – it was going to be a two way on the West side of Milwaukie – unclear what the current status of that is.  

Q: 17th is a horrible bike street going up and down hills, crossing McLoughlin – it should not be the bike street.

Q: It’s fine for me as it’s no elevation change toward the river. 

A: I am hearing that a connection to Oaks Bottom is a priority?

Q: Yes, but our overall access to anything is poor. I think the overall point is that we need to be able to get out of our neighborhood on foot and on bike more safely and easily, in ALL directions. 

Grant: At PBOT, we have a very small amount of money available for consulting work – I can try and get order of magnitude costs perhaps for the open house, so maybe we could feed into the TSP in time to get an estimate and move a project forward. 

Q: Can we add the other two crossings into the cost estimation [Gideon and Reedway]?

A: Gideon we can perhaps use the Lafayette overcrossing to estimate cost

  • We can take measurements and compare track spans, but it will be a longer structure.

Q: I would also advocate looking at some sort of pedestrian drawbridge across the tracks – such as canals in the Netherlands that can be automated with signals. Across I-5 at Gibbs, the pedestrian elevator has been out more than it’s been working - so the less mechanical option the better, especially as a biker not lugging the bike up and down stairs.

A: Yes, they have those for Marine traffic, it’s a creative idea! So raise the drawbridge when the train comes through? The railroad will probably not be in favor of having something at the same level of a train – there is give and take with maintenance – maybe best to have a fixed structure. We have the MAX line down there now too, so 20-30 trains a day. 

A: There used to be street crossings there, and we closed them to improve safety. The trend is consolidating crossings.

Q: I would advocate for having a tire channel for bikes on the stairs.           

A: It has one.

Q: Better than the one crossing I-5 and Gibbs?

A: Yes – it is challenging to design both an ADA-compliant hand rail and functional bike tire channel, but this one is an improvement over previous designs.

Next Steps and Adjourn

Diane passed back meeting feedback forms and announced that an open house will be held on May 15, where recommendations will be presented, including zoning and transportation recommendations. Staff will be available to take feedback and answer questions. Diane then announced that she will be transitioning into a new position with the Bureau of Development Services. She will continue to stay involved in the Brooklyn Project, but Marty Stockton also provide staff support as the new SE District Liaison.

Upcoming Events:

  • Open House, May 15, 2014, 6:00 to 8:00pm, Meals on Wheels at Sacred Heart Villa, Community Room (3911 SE Milwaukie Avenue)

Feedback Forms and Meeting Evaluation

Feedback Summary

Two types of comment cards were distributed, asking meeting participants to rate their meeting experience, and also asking whether they would support the proposed zoning change, and asking for additional comments.

Meeting Feedback Form
How appropriate was the pace of the meeting?  Much too slow Slow Just right Fast Much too fast
  0 0 5 1 0
How would you rate the quality of the presentations? Very poor Poor Average Good Excellent
  0 0 1 3 2
How useful was the content of the discussion? Very poor Poor Average Good Excellent
  0 0 0 4 2

Comments                                                                                                                             

What aspect(s) of the meeting were most useful?

  • Focus on Holgate: Reduce traffic lanes, and add pedestrian and bike access
  • Open discussion
  • Feedback from neighbors
  • Latest project info.
  • Good meeting, Great dialogue

What aspect(s) of the meeting were least useful?

  • Reluctance to deal with on grade Rail Road pedestrian access
  • Needed a bit more facilitation to move conversation along
  • Discussion about Holgate

Any additional feedback or comments?

  • Holgate upgrade to connect neighborhood for pedestrians and bikes
  • Nice job!
  • The more meetings I have attended, the less I feel that my input makes any difference. It has become extremely discouraging as I am left feeling that the neighborhood will change in a way that will no longer be pleasant to live here.

Tell Us What You Think

Written feedback forms were distributed to meeting attendees asking for any additional comments they would like to make from topics covered all four Brooklyn meetings:

  1. Neighborhood needs ped/bike access in every direction. My number one priority is north at 13th/ 14th. Also, simple things like planting trees to make unpleasant walks along busy thoroughfares less onerous. Thanks!
  2. Please add the Reedway Overcrossing to the TSP Project List. 23rd-28thAve. Grade separated ped/bike overcrossing:
    map
  3. There should be height limitations to keep scale of street at pedestrian scale so 3-4 story maximum along Milwaukie. Address the parking issue up front.
  4. Focus should be on the transitions at the edges of the neighborhood, and this includes both use and most importantly height. Improve Holgate for bikes and pedestrians. And, access out of the neighborhood, especially south, to the Springwater Corridor, and the Rail crossing to Clinton.
  5. Please do change zoning along Milwaukie to CS. Suggestion: Low draw bridge over Gideon Street area – minimize elevation gains. Support closing northernmost lane of Holgate from 28th to McLaughlin. Could even do it temporarily to test how this would work. Support striping of Milwaukie to support bike lanes.
  6. Refocus flow on Holgate: add pedestrian/bike lanes, reduce traffic lanes to one each way and center lane. Make all access in and out of Brooklyn bike friendly – meaning at grade – no hills!