The Portland Bureau of transportation has unveiled their list of options for the Foster Road Streetscape. Keep in mind that these are not final, and we are not limited to what is shown here. I wish it were a simpler task, but the given all of the factors at play we’re left with a fairly large set of 14 options. (Even beyond this list, each option can be tweaked and adjusted into more permutations, not to mention options not even included in their analysis.)
I’ve presented all of their options below for you to look at, but the bottom line is this: we don’t have enough information to decide.
As far as I’m concerned, there are two fundamental questions we need to answer before we make any hard decisions on the streetscape:
What are the traffic impacts of these different configurations?
It does us no good to debate the merits of 5 lanes vs 2 lanes without knowing what it does to traffic. I think most people would say they want the fewest lanes possible without causing bad congestion. If we can do that with 2, great! if we need 3, awesome. If we need to stick with 4, we understand! But I worry we’re going to go in circles while we wait for the technical analysis.
How much money will it cost to relocate curbs, and how likely is it that we can fund it?
Moving the sidewalk curb is a very, very, very expensive proposition, but it may turn out that to create the best street for everyone we need to do it. How much would that cost? And more importantly, how likely is it that we can get it funded. We’ve spent 10 years waiting to fund the original streetscape plan, how long are we willing to wait if we double cost?
If we decide that the cost of moving the curb is too expensive, we will find our options much more limited, and the necessary tradeoffs more extreme. Personally, I’d rather aim for world-class and create the best street, not the cheapest street. But maybe that’s just me.
The City’s Proposals
The city split the street into three segments based on how much ‘street’ there is. This impacts what elements can be included within the street area, and as you’ll see below, not all sections are provided the same quality of design.
52nd to 72nd
This section has the most room and the most flexibility of all of Foster. With 94 ft between buildings, and ample 17ft sidewalks, this section provide some wiggle room for squeezing in higher quality bikeways without compromising on the quality of the pedestrian environment.
72nd to 80th
This section is a little tighter than farther west, and the proposed options show it. Sidewalks stay smaller, bike lane configurations are reduced.
82nd to the Couplet
This is the most challenging, and arguably the most important section of the entire street to get right. If our goal is to make Foster Road a pleasant place, this stretch is the farthest behind.
Because there is only 60 ft between buildings, the options here are much more limited. The street could see wider sidewalks and protected bikeways, but it might have to come at the expense of auto lanes.
The city’s options all operate under the assumption that property acquisition or dedication is off the table. I think this is a mistake, and it unnecessarily limits the options available for enhancing the street here. If we’re willing to spend a few million dollars to relocate the curb, we should also be willing to do the same to bring this part of Foster road to a similar standard as the rest of the corridor. By acquiring thin strips of property along the road, the 5 ft sidewalks can be expanded to the wonderful 10-15 ft sidewalks enjoyed by the rest of the street.
That said, this could only improve parts of the corridor. Much of the area is built up with buildings against the street, constricting the potential to widen sidewalks in those areas. As the map below shows, the area from 84th to 86th is built up, and there really isn’t room for expansion. In these areas, 60 feet is all we’ve got.
I’m on the stakeholder advisory committee for the Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan Update. Do you have a vision for what foster should look like? Do you have ideas for where crosswalks should go? If you feel strongly about what Foster should look like, please attend. If you can’t make it, leave comments below and I’ll bring them to the committee for consideration.
Thursday, November 15th. SE Works (79th & Foster)