What a Difference a Lane Makes

Lents residents meet next Tuesday night for an open discussion of Foster Road, specifically to explore the prospects of lane reconfiguration as a part of the Foster Streetscape Plan. While we wait for the results of the traffic analysis to see what’s possible, neighbors might ask themselves what a smaller Foster could look like and what they could get in return. We drew some pictures of Foster at 85th,  where every inch matters.

The section of Foster running through Lents from 82nd to 89th is the narrowest, unfriendliest stretch of the entire street, and it potentially stands to gain the most from the future vision depicted in the Foster plan. If the traffic analysis comes back supportive of lane reductions, a world of opportunity lies at their fingertips:

Today

Foster Road today is four fast travel lanes with one relatively infrequently used parking lane. The sidewalks are only 5 foot wide at spots, with no separation from the moving traffic. Littered throughout are driveways, powerline poles, signs, and other obstacles. A wheelchair could probably not fit through here.

Three Lanes

By reconfiguring the travel lanes with a center turn lane, more space could be given to trees, landscaping and other elements designed to enhance the street and make the walk to Fred Meyer and the Town Center more pleasant. Telephone poles will finally have a place to go, out of the way.

The parking lane and turn lane could be used to assist in pedestrian crossings, and the homes and apartments on the north will be more connected to the businesses to the south on Foster and Woodstock.

Example Street: SE 7th Avenue near SE Morrison used to be four lanes just like Foster, but was reconfigured in the 90’s as three lanes. Today it carries 20,000 cars and up to 1,000 bicyclists per day, slightly fewer trips than on Foster road.

Two Lanes

An even bolder option envisions Foster as a traditional two-lane main street without a center turn lane. This would feel more like shopping street like 28th Ave, or N Killingsworth. The extra space opens up even more opportunity for transforming Foster and the surrounding area. Everything from the three lane version could be wider. Broader trees, wider sidewalks and even European style bikeway could be provided.

Example Street: A high-volume two-lane street like this exists nearby on SE Powell Blvd around 100th Avenue. That road is two-lanes only, and carries 23,000 cars per day, the same as Foster Road.

Priorities

Reconfiguring the road is always about trade offs.  Today we trade away a pleasant walk and safe crossings in exchange for passing lanes. Maybe tomorrow we can have higher expectations from our main street.

If you are a Lents resident and care about the future of Foster Road, try to attend Tuesday nights Neighborhood Association meeting. Lents Activity Center, 8835 SE Woodstock, 7pm.

If you cannot attend the meeting, don’t worry, Nick Christensen wants you to send your thoughts, concerns and ideas to him at nick@ilovelents.com. Christensen is the Lents Neighborhood representative, and he will be considering the responses of neighborhood residents during his participation on the project Advisory Committee.

14 Comments

  1. The illustrations above show a reconfiguration of the travel lanes on Foster Road. If auto travel lanes are prioritized over parking, It is conceivable that the parking lane could be reconfigured to gain some of the benefits shown while still maintaining 4 lanes.

    It is also worth noting that the illustrations are designed to show various design concepts and are not intended to be interpreted a proposed configuration at the intersection of 85th. A detailed traffic analysis will need to inform the placement and design of curb extensions, crossing islands and marked crossings.

  2. Powell at 100th… Seems to me that’s about where traffic gets insanely awful. As a driver, I hated the two-lane section of Powell. You’ve got to have a turn lane, which eliminates the center island at the crosswalk.

    • Never mind the comment about the center island. I see 85th isn’t continuous across Foster.

      • Yeah, the design as-shown might not work at 85th if there is a lot of left turning traffic. It’s really mean to be more of a conceptual illustration showing they types of improvements a three lane design could include, rather than a specific proposal for the 85th intersection.

    • Good point about Powell & 100th being kind of lame. It is right next to a freeway onramp, which tends to muck things up. On Foster the freeway ramps are distanced past the project area enough that they may not be as big of an issue. I’m not sure.

      But you know what? A two-lanes-only Foster is probably unlikely. I tried to find an example in the City of Portland where a two-lane only street handled 23,000 cars per day, and that was the only spot I could find. At such a high traffic volume, the three lane version is probably more appropriate. I’ll leave it to the traffic engineers to tell me with more confidence.

    • This is a key question we have’t delved into much. Some of the proposed options include resizing the sidewalks, which mean moving curbs, power poles and fire hydrants. This is a very expensive proposal, and may impact how quickly we can actually fund the project.

      Personally, I don’t think the committee should be too scared of picking the higher-cost option if it’s really the best one. There is so much activisim in the neighborhood, I think we have a really good chance of winning funds through the city and the state.

    • Nope. not yet anyway. Without the alleys we could have more parking, more buildings, less potential conflicts between cars/pedestrians.

      But alleyways are also a unique asset our neighborhoods might be able to utilize in the future.

      I have a feeling we’ll leave the alleyways alone in this project. As long as we keep the curb cuts to the alley as tight as possible, it will have a minimal impact on tree planting.

  3. SE Tacoma Street in Sellwood is a comparable case study – a regionally significant arterial with 30,000 ADT passing through a mixed-use neighborhood.

    In the early 2000s it was reconfigured from 4 lanes to 2 lanes plus center turn lane / refuge islands and on-street parking. I would say the results are mixed.

    From a safety perspective, it is somewhat easier to cross. However, I live near one of the unmarked intersections (11th Ave), and it is still quite sketchy to cross, both in congested and free-flow conditions.

    From a revitalization perspective, the road diet has made the corridor more aesthetically pleasing, but has done little to spur reinvestment directly on Tacoma. Most of our revitalization has occurred on 13th Ave.

    The most cautionary tale would be the traffic impacts. Tacoma is a solid line of cars from 17th to the Sellwood Bridge during peak hours, and often on weekends too. Thanks to our street grid, we also experience significant cut-through traffic on our residential streets.

    Is it better than before? I’m not sure. I’m of the opinion that road diets are more appropriate where volume/capacity is lower and parallel routes are available. The storied SE 7th Ave road diet was an excellent idea, as was SE Holgate east of 205 and NE Multnomah St in Lloyd District. But regionally important routes? I’m not so sure.

    • Thanks for the stories of the Tacoma reconfiguration, that street is cited by some supporters as an example to follow and it’s good to hear how it has gone.

    • I lived on 11th & Umatilla in the late 90’s. I can tell you that the solid line of cars on Tacoma existed then, as well. The main problem there is the narrowing at the bridge.

      I haven’t crossed Tacoma in years but back then it was very sketchy to cross. Saw blood on the pavement a couple times. It’d be interesting to see the pedestrian injury statistics now vs then.

  4. Thanks for your efforts in helping to visualize this section of Foster. As a piece of information that might be taken into account, I live on 83rd and Foster and we get a lot of traffic cutting through, particularly for drivers wanting to avoid the Foster/82nd intersection heading south onto 82nd. I’ve approached the City about speed-bumps but, as we know, we just don’t have the budget. I’m not advocating for this section to remain as is, but I can only see cut-through traffic heading south onto 82nd getting a lot worse, particularly if there are no disadvantages to it doing so. I’m excited that there is interest in our part of the town and again appreciate all that people are contributing to the discussion.

    • Cut through traffic and added cars onto neighborhood streets is a major concern we are hearing, and the committee will be sure to request the necessary changes to prevent extra traffic on neighborhood streets. I’ve been putting together a list of potential cut-through routes and I’ll make sure 83rd is included.

      Speed bumps are pretty cheap compared to other things and I hope we can recommend adding them wherever people really want them as a part of this process.

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