Foster Road plan offers ‘Road Diet’ alternative

Two “final” public open houses on the topic are done, and now find out why two driving lanes on Foster Road may soon disappear …

Many people at the Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan Update open house posted notes on the many exhibits displayed.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A couple of years ago, the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) blew the dust off the 2003 Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan – as a prelude to investing $3.25 million on the arterial street, from SE 50th Avenue out to SE 90th Avenue

Starting in 2012, a stakeholder advisory committee was established under the banner of the “Foster Corridor Investment Strategy” to discuss issues surrounding revitalizing the street and increasing pedestrian safety.

Then, the public was invited to a series of three open houses, with the “last and final” event scheduled for February 28, 2013.  However, one more “final” well-attended open house was held on June 4. [CLICK HERE to read about that meeting.]

PBOT Senior Transportation Planner Mauricio Leclerc explains changes potentially coming to SE Foster Road.

The “Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan Update Open House”, held on the evening of December 5 in an upstairs office space at SE Works, wasn’t again declared “final” – but it, too, was well-attended, with about 140 people examining infographics and making comments.

“We looked at more than 20 options throughout a year-long process,” recounted PBOT Senior Transportation Planner Mauricio Leclerc, “after our stakeholder advisory committee, made up of people from the neighborhoods and businesses in the area, met several times.”

At the June 4, 2013 meeting, Leclerc recalled, several street cross-section options were shown. “Based on the feedback from the previous open house, we had a very strong recommendation for three travel lanes, plus bike lanes. This came from talking to the public.”

This is a cross-section of the “recommended alternative”, which some call a “road diet” for Foster Road. PDOT illustration

In November last year, Leclerc told East Portland News, the stakeholder advisory committee chose the Recommended Option by a strong majority.

“At this open house, we’re presenting two options: Keep Foster Road as it is today; or, follow the recommendation, which is to transform the number travel lanes from four to three.”

According to transportation planners Leclerc explained, a center “left-turn lane” is considered a “Travel Lane” – which means motorized vehicle through traffic would be provided one actual driving lane in each direction.

“With this change, Foster Road would still maintain its function, so it is considered to still be an arterial road,” Leclerc remarked. “We have other examples of this, such as SE Tacoma Street in Sellwood or SE Division Street in Tabor South.”

Beyond reducing the number of lanes dedicated to “motorized vehicle through traffic”, he pointed out the recommended plan also provides mass transit improvements. “For example, we’re recommending aligning bus shelters with street crossings, so people can safely cross the street to ride.

A “left-turn lane” is considered to be a “travel lane”, explains PBOT Senior Transportation Planner Mauricio Leclerc.

“We are also providing ideas for what type of trees to plant, what type of lighting could be installed along the street, and improving pedestrian crossing safety,” Leclerc said.

“I really am surprised and actually shocked by this ‘road diet’ idea,” protested Samantha Regan. “This is the first open house I’ve been to; I know they’ve been working on it for a while. But still, for the City to ‘shrink’ the number of lanes on a major street like this is just, well, wrong.”

Neighbor Ed Wallace discusses the “road diet” being suggested for SE Foster Road.

For about a half-hour, area resident Ed Wallace bantered with others at a table, who expressed enthusiasm for the changing the Foster Road’s lane cross section, while filling out comment forms. The conversation was polite, but spirited.

Wallace summarized, “I prefer keeping at it the way it is with four lanes of vehicle travel.”

40-year resident Joe Ruggiero shook his head as he looked at the preferred alternative. “Why does the City ram things like this down our throats? There aren’t many major east-west roads, there are bike lanes everywhere. Soon, there won’t be any place to drive.”

Back in 2012, Foster-Powell Transportation Chair Dan Campbell sits in on an organizing meeting of the Foster Road Coalition. East Portland News archive photo

Foster-Powell Transportation Chair Dan Campbell also heard some of “road diet” complaints during the open house.

“If you think back, East Portland News came to report on our organizational meeting in July, 2012,” Campbell recalled. [CLICK HERE to about that meeting.]

“All of the pedestrian fatalities and injuries that happened on Foster Road brought together what we now call the ‘Foster Road Coalition’,” Campbell said.  “We were just sick and tired of hearing about one pedestrian injury and fatality after another.

“We wanted something to be done right away,” he added. “We are the ones who came up with the ‘road diet’ idea, not PBOT. Originally, they were not very excited about this idea.”

The PDOT SE Foster Road “cross section” being proposed came out of meetings of the Foster Road Coalition the organized in July, 2012. East Portland News archive photo

Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association Transportation Chair Marcel Hermans agreed. “The Foster Road Coalition is made up of three neighborhood associations: Creston-Kenilworth, Foster-Powell, and Mt. Scott-Arleta. The Foster Area Business Association is also a coalition member.”

Instead of complaining about the problems they saw with the road, the group created a “vision document” they presented to PBOT, Hermans said, describing how they wanted it to become a better road. “We all put down what the term ‘better road’ means to us. For me, that means being business friendly, neighborhood friendly, and safer for pedestrians.”

For more information, or to keep up with the Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan Update, see PBOT’s webpage: CLICK HERE to open it in anouther window.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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