F#@K the Burnside Couplet

By Tres Shannon of Portland, Oregon. Tres is the owner of Voodoo Doughnut.

Voodoo_donutI love Burnside. I love it just the way it is. One way or another, I have made my living owning businesses on Burnside for more than 15 years. And I’ve had a good time on Burnside for as long as I can remember. It’s not perfect – it’s real, it’s Portland. It’s not chain stores and big boxes, faux plants, and fake Victorian light posts -- it’s Portland the way it was before big developers and Starbucks took us over. It’s our last frontier, and I’m going to fight for it.

This Wednesday, the City Council is debating whether to take a step toward making it McBurnside. Sam Adams has proposed creating what they call in government-speak, a couplet – turning West Burnside and NW Couch Street into one way streets, running in opposite directions. For Couch, that means five times as many cars and trucks traveling the street.

Gas up bud, because you won’t much like this unless you’re driving on these two streets. You won’t be walking or riding a bike, that’s for sure – not if you like breathing fresh air instead of exhaust fumes, and don’t want to play human dodge ball with cars. Burnside won’t be about the people anymore, it will be about the traffic.

Burnside is already a great street to drive on – go west and you can go to the beach, go east and you can get to Mt. Hood. But now it’s also a great street to walk, ride your bike, roller skate, or skateboard - let’s keep it that way.

We could use some improvements sure – we could use some of those cast iron poles with chains so that when drunks come flying out of bars, they don’t end up in traffic. Bring those back. Widen the medians so that the little old ladies can rest when they cross the street and give us some of those countdown crossing signals. Done. Our street is still ours and it’s safer.

Burnside is our City’s spine, it’s also our heart. Do we want to see it torn up by construction for the next eight to ten years because some people think that’s how we’ll “improve” it? What about all of the small, locally owned businesses there? What happens to them? Do they get driven out to make room for Wal-Mart? How is this any different than any of the other urban renewal projects that promised improvement, but ultimately put profit over people?

Everyone involved in these projects says that they love Portland, but if they love Portland so much, why are they so busy changing it?

Tell them no this time. Go to the meeting on Wednesday, at 3:00 PM, send an e-mail, or call the Mayor and the Commissioners.

Fight City Hall.

Tell them not to fuck with Burnside.

Comments

  • the_Cynic (unverified)
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    tell that to all the people killed on burnside just trying to cross the street.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    The couplet isn't about safety. That's the smoke screen. The couplet is about more high end development spurred by a taxpayer paid streetcar. The couplet is about more people making money off the taxpayers while our basic services continue to go to hell.

    Vera Katz went about remaking Portland in her East Coast image and her protege, Sam Adams, is continuing the task. Portland isn't Portland anymore. And I should know. I've been here the whole time.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    Cynic- Please cite statistics to pedestrian deaths on Burnside within the last 5 years.

  • pedro (unverified)
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    jenny,

    according to that link, there are two elementary schools on the couch part of the couplet. here is the full quote: "All of this on a neighborhood street that is home to two elementary schools, a playground, a church, and hundreds of homes"

    i can't think of any... what am i missing? also, hundreds of homes? do they mean condos? that site seems a little misleading. kind of disappointing.

  • Marty (unverified)
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    Burnside kills? Wow. Better dump light rail then. It's killed 19 people. It doesn't matter how unjustified some CoP BS project or spending is we'll get a big fat dose of crap from those supporting it. This Burnside couplet is a bad fiscal and transportation joke with plenty of city hall play actors and groupies pretending to be engaged in well thought out planning. LAUGH OUT LOUD

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)
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    This is one Urban Planning Overlord that agrees with Mr. Voodoo Doughnuts. Maybe not for exactly the same reasons, but politics makes strange bedfellows.

    The part of Burnside between the bridge and the Park Blocks has 100 feet of right of way. There's plenty of room to redesign this part of the street to make sure sidewalks are wide enough, there are safe pedestrian refuges in the median, etc., and still keep four traffic lanes. From the Park Blocks west things get a lot dicier, because there is only 60 feet of right of way, but it would probably be cheaper for the city to buy 10 feet of the buildings on the south side of the street, alter the buildings accordingly, and use the space to provide wider sidewalks on both sides of the street, than it would be to create the couplet.

    And the streetcar is a bad idea - streetcars are bad ideas unless they are given exclusive rights of way (or maybe shared with buses). With an exclusive right of way a streetcar can avoid traffic congestion like MAX. Without an exclusive right of way, a streetcar is merely a glamorous (for now) immobile bus.

    I can't agree with Mr. Voodoo about the "wonderful" atmosphere of lower Burnside, but we'll just have to agree to disagree. Let's just say the area could be easily gentrified without spending $50 million on the couplet and God knows howmuch on a streetcar toy.

    www.urbanplanningoverlord.blogspot.com

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    Burnside a great street to bike on? Not.

    In fact, it's one of the worst key streets to bike on, unless you're an experienced cyclist who likes interacting with car traffic (and potholes).

    The City counts biking across the four main bike-accessible bridges (Hawthorne, Broadway, Steel, and Burnside) each year. While bicyclist counts on those four bridges combined have more than quadrupled over the past 15 years, rising from 2,855 cyclists per day in 1992 to 12,046 in 2006, the Burnside Bridge counts have remained flat, going from 1075 cyclists/day in 1992 to between 965 and 1260 per day in the past three years.

    Clearly, the Burnside Bridge -- the “gateway to downtown” -- is less attractive and functional to cyclists than other bridges. A major factor limiting bike ridership on the Burnside is the relatively poor access to and from the bridge.

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    Pedro:

    I'd recommend contacting them and asking them. I posted the link to the web site, since it pertained to this conversation. But while I may have designed the web site, I'm not a spokesperson for the group.

    You can contact them here: http://www.livableportland.org/contact

  • gerry (unverified)
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    Tres knows what he's talking about! Listen to the voice of your future mayor, kids.

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    Someone's been eating too many donuts.

    Burnside has 4 of the city's 10 most deadly intersections.

    It is a nightmare for pedestrians to cross (I've risked my life far too often crossing). "Playing dodge ball with cars" is what currently happens on Burnside. When traffic on Burside is reduced by the couplet, dodge ball is a game pedestrians will finally win.

    It is a nightmare to ride a bike on (I've given up and moved to biking on other streets).

    When was the last time anyone saw someone skateboarding or roller skating on Burnside? I lived 1/2 block from Burnside for 8 years and never once saw anyone skateboard or roller stake on it.

    It is a wall between Northwest and Southwest Portland.

    Creating a couplet will NOT create a freeway like atmosphere on Burnside, quite to the contrary, it will calm Burnside. Traffic will flow at an average of 15 mph (controlled by streetlights) yet it will flow more smoothly because lights will be synched for cars that do not travel too fast.

    Creating a couplet will create conditions just like SW & NW 10th & 11th Avenues, or NW Everett & Glisan. Those streets work just fine for everyone.

    Pedestrians will be able to cross more easily because there will be fewer lanes of traffic to cross and traffic will be slower.

    The fact that most of the businesses on Burnside have closed and locked their Burnside doors downtown tells you all you need to know about how inviting Burnside currently is.

    And as for the contention that Burnside is not "chain stores and big boxes," what is Whole Paycheck? And have you looked at the stores that are already moving to the adjacent streets? The chains and boxes are already coming, making Burnside more pedestrian friendly (which is what the couplet does) will slow (but alas probably not stop) the trend towards chains and big boxes.

    The real forces opposing the couplet are the NIMBY fat cats who live in the Henry (and who should have known that the couplet was on the drawing board when they bought there). I'll bet when it's finished, they'll discover they like it.

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    Someone's been eating too many donuts.

    Burnside has 4 of the city's 10 most deadly intersections.

    It is a nightmare for pedestrians to cross (I've risked my life far too often crossing). "Playing dodge ball with cars" is what currently happens on Burnside. When traffic on Burside is reduced by the couplet, dodge ball is a game pedestrians will finally win.

    It is a nightmare to ride a bike on (I've given up and moved to biking on other streets).

    When was the last time anyone saw someone skateboarding or roller skating on Burnside? I lived 1/2 block from Burnside for 8 years and never once saw anyone skateboard or roller stake on it.

    It is a wall between Northwest and Southwest Portland.

    Creating a couplet will NOT create a freeway like atmosphere on Burnside, quite to the contrary, it will calm Burnside. Traffic will flow at an average of 15 mph (controlled by streetlights) yet it will flow more smoothly because lights will be synched for cars that do not travel too fast.

    Creating a couplet will create conditions just like SW & NW 10th & 11th Avenues, or NW Everett & Glisan. Those streets work just fine for everyone.

    Pedestrians will be able to cross more easily because there will be fewer lanes of traffic to cross and traffic will be slower.

    The fact that most of the businesses on Burnside have closed and locked their Burnside doors downtown tells you all you need to know about how inviting Burnside currently is.

    And as for the contention that Burnside is not "chain stores and big boxes," what is Whole Paycheck? And have you looked at the stores that are already moving to the adjacent streets? The chains and boxes are already coming, making Burnside more pedestrian friendly (which is what the couplet does) will slow (but alas probably not stop) the trend towards chains and big boxes.

    The real forces opposing the couplet are the NIMBY fat cats who live in the Henry (and who should have known that the couplet was on the drawing board when they bought there). I'll bet when it's finished, they'll discover they like it.

  • city girl (unverified)
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    Pedro,

    It's a beautiful afternoon, take a stroll on Couch. You'll see the Emerson School on Couch and the Parks Blocks and the Cathedral School up on the other end of the street. And you might notice that hundreds of people make their homes there -- whether in condos, apts., or the houses near the Cathedral .

    You'll also see a lot of other people walking, because it is currently a pedestrian friendly environment. Look hard because if this couplet passes you won't see it again -- you'll see literally five times as many cars.......

  • city girl (unverified)
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    Redway

    Try conditions like Broadway and Weidler .....and I can't believe you hold up Everett and Glisan as an example. When was the last time you saw someone happily walking there?

    Couplets are about moving traffic, increasing the volume of cars. It is about more cars, fewer people on the steets.

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    I should say this, though...

    Using traffic lights and low speed limits do not make streets safer. I've seen this tried on many streets back in Texas.

    People speed from light to light. There are regular rear-end accidents because of people not slowing down in time from them rushing from light to light. Those going the correct speed still get stuck at the traffic lights because of those who go faster than the speed limit (it sounds odd, but true because they cause backups behind the lights).

    The side streets between the two one-way streets see an increase in traffic from people having to cut over to the other street. Often times these people drive fast down those side streets because they're already having to go out of their way to get to where they're going. This makes those side streets less safe.

    Making streets one way doesn't necessarily make the roads any safer. Drivers are going to ignore crosswalks and pedestrians the same on a one-way street as they will a two-way. They'll still speed. They'll still pull out in front of pedestrians, bike riders, etc.

    And anything that can be done with speeds and traffic lights on one way streets to decrease speeds can also be done on two-way streets.

    The problem isn't the roads -- it is the people. People ignore traffic lights. They ignore speed signs. They ignore pedestrians standing at a crosswalk with the right-of-way. This couplet won't change that.

  • UrbanDweller (unverified)
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    Interesting that the couplet's main proponents are some of the weathiest of Portlanders, major developers that stand to benefit from taxpayer-funded investments in their land. Sure does take some of the risk out of owning property when the city's got your back. Interesting how those same people are big campaign contributors. Hmmm.....

  • pdxcook (unverified)
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    Burnside and Couch are growing -- naturally -- without interference OR $80+ million that "could" come from Federal funds AND tax hikes in a yet-to-be-decided local improvement district. This is about politics -- large land owners in Old Town who want even more change in their pockets. Well -- they won't pick up their dirt and move even if they DON'T get this windfall. All the couplet will do is damage a nationally recognized pedestrian friendly neighborhood that wasn't even consulted in 2000 when this project started -- because it didn't exist then!! Get real -- DUPLICATE the Pearl by dedicating some of that money to other areas of the city -- make Burnside safe with stoplights and crosswalks -- POWER TO PEDESTRIANS -- say NO to five times the traffic and pollution on Couch's residential areas. Then go to VooDoo and have a doughnut.

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    It's the condos, stupid.

  • elizabeth (unverified)
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    [This comment has been identified as a sockpuppet. See here. -editor.]

    thank you, trey. portland is at a serious crossroad. if this couplet goes through and the city caves to politics and large developers, our central city will look like bridgeport village. instead of places like voodo donuts, the jupiter hotel, the crystal ballroom, rocco's pizza, hippo hardware and powells, we'll have the gap, banana republic, pizza hut and the olive garden. we are a city that prides itself on values of sustainability and community. we value alternative transportation and pedestrians. why would we want to compromise and give up our value for the promise of rapid growth as opposed to the kindof growth that is organic and value-based.

    AND, burnside is our grand boulevard, our only direct east/west street. if the couplet passes and you want to travel east to west, you will have to make 8 turns. visually and functionally, the couplet makes NO SENSE.

    burnside is iconic. it is unique. it has character. it is portland. sure, we can clean it up and provide more safety and easier north/south access. but don't destroy this important street that has been the fertile ground for so much of what we value.

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    I kind of have a bad feeling about the couplet myself. While I don't currently live in Portland, I will be returning there after I return from overseas.

    There are things that could be done besides the couplet to make the street safer for cars, pedistrians and cyclists. I think this is a terrible waste of money. What about spending at least some of this money (even a tiny portion) on fixing the exsisting roads and making it safer.

    I know there are probably some cameras along Burnside, but lowering the speed limit and putting more cameras would be another option.

    I like the idea of putting in pedistrian islands in the middle of the street as well.

    At this point, I guess it seems like the city council is going to go through with this project anyway.

  • pdxcook (unverified)
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    Mike - If you've lived 1/2 block off Burnside for 8 years, I'll just bet you've managed to cross that "great divide" a zillion times. You don't sound dead to me.

    NIMBY fat cats? Would YOU want five to seven times the number of cars driving by your front door -- it doesn't have anything to do with "fat cats" -- it has to do with favoring cars over people -- and that isn't what Portland is all about.

    And condos? Isn't a condo a home? I'll bet their property tax bill reflect that -- the fact that "homes" are stacked on top of each other in an efficient use of space THROUGHOUT the Pearl AND Northwest AND South Waterfront doesn't make them less a home and shouldn't make people who have gotten rid of their cars and take up less space the target of criticism. Someone should say 'thanks" and give them some crosswalks and lights on Burnside.

  • TheLastNativePortlander? (unverified)
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    I just returned this minute from walking Burnside with Tres and his buddy Jay. We went in and out of locally-owned businesses (minus one large bookstore) to talk about the couplet. Not one business we entered (and we covered 3rd to about 19th) supports the couplet. There's already a ton of construction on Burnside and the surrounding streets, and it's hurting local businesses. If the couplet proposal goes forward tomorrow, it's sure to put many locals out of business, and some of those businesses have been serving Portlanders for 50-100 years. The only businesses that can survive 8-10 years of construction are chain stores, who can afford to take a loss for an extended period of time.

    Everyone is in agreement that Burnside could be improved, and the Planning Commission's "Enhanced Burnside" proposal has some great suggestions about how to fix safety issues on Burnside. Those ideas come from certified experts in urban renewal and transportation plans, are actually affordable, and provide a viable alterative that our city leaders should adopt.

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    And not to nit-pick over words, but many people use the word "home" to mean where people live. It isn't necessarily a single-unit house. It could be a condo. Or a townhouse. Or an apartment.

    According to dictionary.com, the very first definition of "home" is:

    a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.

    None of the definitions I saw on there limited it to mean only a detached unit, single family house, etc.

    So to say there are hundreds of homes is not misleading.

  • UrbanDweller (unverified)
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    Also, in response to Mike: 1. Saw a skateboarder on Burnside today and bikers are everywhere

    1. Everett and Glisan, huh? Plans in the work to decouple those streets, as well as Broadway and Weidler. A little Google search will show you that couplets are archaic, auto-focused solutions, and many cities are currently decoupling streets.

    2. The fat cats in this project are its primary supporters: Powells, Goodmans (ever park in downtown Portland?), and Harsch Investments (Schnitzers). See for yourself on Sam's own website, where he's praised by Harold Schnitzer of Harsch Investments in a formal letter sent to Sam's office.

  • erica (unverified)
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    [This comment has been identified as a sockpuppet. See here. -editor.]

    please, please, PLEASE---NO COUPLET!!! make no mistake--this is about politics and big business. this ill-conceived plan will destroy the brewery blocks and compromise the very character of portland. burnside one-way. RIDICULOUS!

  • ashley (unverified)
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    [This comment has been identified as a sockpuppet. See here. -editor.]

    why in the world does sam adams want this so badly? why in the world would he choose this over a more ssensible, less disruptive and less expensive alertnative? why in the world would the large developers promise development of the buildings they own on burnside if the couplet passes? are they implying they will not develop their properties if unless burnside is a one-way street? it just makes no sense.

    THE COUPLET IS A BAD IDEA!!!!

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    1) I don' care if the people who support the couplet are "fat cats". I don't see how they necessarily benefit from turning Burnside and Couch into freeways if that is what the couplet will do.

    2) I don't much care if people are NIMBY's. If the couplet makes their neighborhood a better place to live NIMBY's ought to support it.

    3) So maybe people can start making real arguments and cut the ad-hominens. If there are real motives that people have that are suspect, go ahead and address them. But even fat cats and nimby's can get it right.

    4) I would only ride my bike on Burnside if I had to and I have had to. Its not a pleasant experience. But will the couplet make it better? Grand Avenue, MLK, Weidler, Broadway? None of those are great spots to ride either. The couplet's proponents point to Alder and Morrison, but I think that is a best case scenario. Are the traffic volumes and speeds really what you would expect on a Burnside/Couch couplet? I'm doubtful.

    5) While a couplet will make it easier to cross Burnside, it will make it more difficult to get across Couch. My experience with Grand and MLK is that the combined effect of a couplet is not positive for pedestrians or bikes trying to cross it.

    6) Its not clear to me where this goes in the future if the amount of traffic wanting to use the corridor increases. Will the right-of-way being created end up being turned over to automobiles at some point, rather than to maintaining a high quality streetscape? I think that is very likely.

    7) The streetcar is more an idea than a real plan. There simply aren't going to be the resources to provide a streetcar on every commercial street that wants one. Its not clear to me that Burnside/Couch are at the top of the list.

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    Attention readers: The comments above by "ashley", "erica" and "elizabeth" are all by the same person (and the same as "liz" who posted yesterday on December's couplet post). Sockpuppetry is not acceptable here at BlueOregon. We've now banned all future comments from 24.22.30.133.

  • dyspeptic (unverified)
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    What Tres said.

  • lin qiao (unverified)
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    I have no strong opinions about the couplet idea. I think the proposed streetcar line ot the east side is absurd. but nonetheless, the following from the original posting:

    [Burnside is] also a great street to walk, ride your bike, roller skate, or skateboard

    is completely delusional.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    I ride my bike on Burnside all the time. It gets a bit dicey west of the Park Blocks when the street narrows, but the lower end isn't that bad except it's hard to hit three lights in a row. The 12 mph streets south of Burnside are ideal for bicyclists.

    Would the lights be synchronized at 12 mph if the couplet is put in? If not, I'm not sure there will be any improvement for bikers.

    If the streetcar goes in, then there will be curb extensions at every streetcar stop, which means bicyclists have to thread about a foot-wide passage between the track and the curb extension. Try riding your bike down 10th Ave. in the right lane--it's impossible to pedal when you go past a curb extension.

    Until the couplet issue came up, I never thought much about Burnside being a dangerous street--seedy and motley, yes, but it's not MLK, 82nd or 39th. It would be nice if our city councilors for once met a capital project they didn't like.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    Isn't this Voodoo guy the same fellow who is vocally against any trans fat ban? Since when did Blue Oregon became Libertarian Oregon?

    I'm sensing more and more libertarian-like memes from Kari and other lefties... that's a scary thing.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    As an out-of-towner, small town - rural, very rural, visitor to Portland I've had occasion to spend a couple days on both MLK and Burnside. I was raised in cities, that was a long time ago, but I can drive in them, I just don't like it. The point of all this rambling is this, MLK sucks eggs - to drive on and to cross. Burnside is a PIA but not nearly the MLK POS. Turn Burnside into a one way and it'll be a nightmare. That's fine if you do, I won't spend more than a couple days on it next year, either.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Recently, there was quite a discussion about the couplet over on Portlandarchitecture.com :

    http://chatterbox.typepad.com/portlandarchitecture/2007/03/ a_streetcar_nam.html

    Keep your eyes out for comments by Lyle. He consulted some tables listing traffic volumes on other couplet streets in Portland.

    I'm basically opposed to the couplet, but believe Burnside does need to be made more pedestrian friendly. I have ridden it on my bike. I'd say it's for wary, highly skilled riders only. UrbanplanningOverlords novel idea of buying 10 ft of building in the 60' right-of-way area of B struck me as funny...but practical, I don't know. I'd take a look at proposals.

    I'm glad Tres Shannon weighed in on this issue. He's articulate, strongly opinionated and fairly well known. Such people talking about the issue can substantially help to raise awareness of it. The only caveat here might be that Shannon is maybe not so typical of the greater range of pedestrians the city is likely hoping to make B more pedestrian friendly for. Burnside, the street and the neighborhood around Old Town where the donut shop is have a rough-house charm that might work for quick reflexed, street-wise people, but it's got a lot to be desired for most others.

    Generally reducing non-neighborhood destination commuter auto traffic from the Burnside corridor by diverting it to freeways would be the more worthy objective, and would make B more pedestrian friendly without having to resort to the couplet.

  • Madam Hatter (unverified)
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    I don't understand how turning these streets into one-ways will make them any safer. It seems to me, like Jenni Simonis wrote above: "anything that can be done with speeds and traffic lights on one way streets to decrease speeds can also be done on two-way streets" can't it?

    Also, this little project will take 8-10 years?? How safe is it going to be during that time? Try walking or riding a bike or skateboarding when half the streets are torn up or blocked off. THAT ought to be real fun.

    I also think it's pathetic that some of these "fat-cats" get all up in arms over Schumacher's closing, but have no problem with risking many other old, local, family-run businesses with this fiasco. It's somehow outrageous that a business was (allegedly) closed because of some folks who exercized their free speech rights to protest a morally repugnant practice, but it's A-OK if someone else puts other small businesses out... as long as they make a profit doing it.

    Or maybe it's just OK as long as you're wearing a 3-piece suit instead of tie-dye and sandals.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    Tell them not to fuck with Burnside.

    Just to note, your message will be taken more seriously if you leave the gutter language out of your posts and any testimony you may give before city council.

  • pdxcook (unverified)
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    Love 'em or hate em -- "The Oregonian" editorial board got it right this morning -- LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF says it all about the couplet -- "Don't go there". Now, if only the Mayor and Commissioners subscribe to the newspaper -------

  • Penny (unverified)
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    ws writes:

    I'm glad Tres Shannon weighed in on this issue. He's ... strongly opinionated ...

    Is that how the kids are saying "vulgar" these days?

  • Faolan (unverified)
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    All the people who say that the couplet will make those streets more friendly to pedestrians are smoking crack.

    Couplets make streets more friendly to cars. Couplets increase the speed at which cars travers those streets. Couplets make streets very unfriendly to pedestrian traffic.

    Add to that the fact that mashing those traffic streams back together to go across the bridge, and before burnside goes up over the west hills, would be a nightmare. You wanna talk about traffic congestion, just wait until you get stuck trying to turn back onto burnside to go up the hill or across the bridge.

    I am a civil engineer. I have not done full street studies but this is my educated response. Couplets are a bad idea if what you want to do is increase pedestrain traffic.

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    Isn't this Voodoo guy the same fellow who is vocally against any trans fat ban? Since when did Blue Oregon became Libertarian Oregon?

    I don't have any flippin' clue about Shannon's views on any topic other than the Burnside Couplet. Posting someone's guest column is NOT an endorsement of their politics - not even of the politics espoused in their guest column. Later today, we're hoping to run a pro-Couplet piece - but that contributor has been dallying.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    The Oregonian" editorial board got it right this morning -- LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF

    The Oregonian is clueless. It doesn't matter what they think.

  • Samuel John Klein (unverified)
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    Testify, Tres, Testify!

    I loved his piece. Not many people write fearlessly like that. He won me over.

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    While I am mixed on the Burnside-Couch couplet, I have a question for opponents:

    How do you propose eliminating the Burnside-wall? Let's get the amateur Portland planners to work on some solution, since (IMHO) Burnside is obviously a negative to downtown.

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    Burnside is currently a mess that impedes traffic. There's nothing more frustrating than coming into the heart of the city from the east side on the BB--and having no way to get to it without making a U-turn, since turning left is verboten on every street. The couplet obviously fixes that.

    I personally think MLK and Grand do exactly what they should--make traffic flow more quickly and smoothly through the city, using those roads as thoroughfares to access the rest of the streets. Burnside is basically MLK without a corresponding Grand.

    Interesting to say this is all about fat cats supporting it--my understanding is that the people opposing it are also some of the tubbiest Portland felines...they just happen to be the ones who live on Couch.

    As for the streetcar, yeah what a waste--it's not like it's totally linked up the western Pearl and 23rd Ave with PSU or anything...oh wait, yes it has.

  • Grant (unverified)
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    Of the thoughtful and well-articulated arguments I have heard both for and against the couplet, this certainly isn’t one of them. I’m undecided on the couplet personally, but I am still amazed at some of the arguments people are positing against it.

    I can’t believe that some people actually think making traffic one-way will result in some kind of big box haven. Wal-Mart? The Olive Garden? Who are you kidding? Where exactly would a Wal-Mart fit on West Burnside? Remember the brouhaha over a Lowes on the EAST side? You are appealing to people’s emotional response; the entire notion of big box on Burnside is a strawman.

    “it’s also a great street to walk, ride your bike, roller skate, or skateboard.” Wrong, a thousand times wrong. Try skateboarding on the 6 foot sidewalks west of the freeway sometime. Bettwe hope no one else is walking near you. Seeing one guy in the Park Blocks on one sunny afternoon does not a case prove.

    “it’s also our heart. Do we want to see it torn up by construction for the next eight to ten years…” If it is our heart we need bypass surgery. EIGHT TO TEN YEARS?????? We are building a street, not a fleet of aircraft carriers! Sheesh…

    “It’s Portland the way it was…” I agree. The way it was when we were building for the auto culture.

    Jenni Simonis: “Using traffic lights and low speed limits do not make streets safer. I've seen this tried on many streets back in Texas.” And how long have you lived in Portland? Based on your assumptions about driving behavior here, my guess is not very long.

    Urban Dweller: “Interesting that the couplet's main proponents are some of the weathiest of Portlanders, major developers that stand to benefit from taxpayer-funded investments in their land.” I find it interesting that most of the OP-ponents are some of the weathiest of Portlanders, who have ALREADY benefitted from from taxpayer-funded investments.

    Burnside IS NOT a “Grand Boulavard” and it never will be. Portland doesn’t have a “Grand Boulavard” and we never will. The notion that Burnside is some kind of iconic testament to the pioneering spirit of the PNW is just pathetic.

    Sockpuppet Liz: “if the couplet passes and you want to travel east to west, you will have to make 8 turns.” I know those words, but the way you have strung them together doesn’t make any sense at all. It would seem to me that east to west could still be accomplished with a straight line. Ok, 2 turns coming off the bridge, but 8? Hyperbole doesn’t seem to be one of your strengths.

    Pdxcook: “I'll bet their property tax bill reflect (sic) that.” Actually, a lot of the condos in the Pearl District don’t pay property taxes at all. They wouldn’t exist otherwise.

    Urban Dweller: “Plans in the work to decouple those streets, as well as Broadway and Weidler.” Really? The same Broadway-Weidler that were coupled less than a decade ago, and are consistently held up as a testament to how lanes can be removed and ped space enhanced without impeding traffic flow? I would love for you to provide a citation for that, if it exists. My guess is that it doesn’t.

    Jonathan: “Not many people write fearlessly like that.” It’s easy when you’re just making sh*t up.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Torridjoe, maybe the city just needs better signs with direction for how to get to the heart of the city coming from the east on B. It's not that hard: Turn right on 3rd, left on Couch (same as you would with the couplet)drive a couple blocks to Broadway, turn left, cross B. That's it.

    You could also turn right on Couch, right on second and go under B. or go another block and hit Front and turn right to catch a number of Portland's east-west streets.

    "How do you propose eliminating the Burnside-wall?" Jonathan

    You have to reduce auto volume there. Period. Longer pedestrian walk signals with a greater frequency of walk periods would help too. It would be nice to have a signal at Park and Burnside even though there already is one at Burnside and Broadway.

    "ws writes:

    I'm glad Tres Shannon weighed in on this issue. He's ... strongly opinionated ...

    Is that how the kids are saying "vulgar" these days? " Penny

    Penny, nah, I wasn't referring to the vulgarity. Profanity doesn't really much offend me, though very much of it isn't usually very constructive in serious discussion, but geezh... he only used the word once, maybe twice. I was just referring to his clearly stated support for certain aspects of Burnside that many people couldn't so wholeheartedly support in addition to his equally unequivocal degree of support for a non-couplet encumbered Burnside. Oh...I'm not a kid either.

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    My quibble with Tres's column is that I can't see how the fact of the couplet will draw more cars than would otherwise travel along the Burnside corridor. I just can't see a commuter who doesn't already pass that way changing their route and saying, "Oooh, couplet!"

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    My quibble with Tres's column is that I can't see how the fact of the couplet will draw more cars than would otherwise travel along the Burnside corridor.

    Transportation theorists hold that any reduction in traffic jams will prompt previously reluctant drivers to use that particular system. This will result in an eventual traffic jam. (These same theorists hold that just about anything you do to "ease congestion" will result in possibly more drivers, but the same amount of congestion.)

  • pedro (unverified)
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    did another walk along couch/burnside. burnside is still totally horrible. couch is still only vibrant from 14th-ish to nw park-ish, with a small gap, with the rest being somewhat isolated and dreary.

    for fun i made a google map showing where the schools, church, etc are located. sorry about interpreting "homes" as houses, it was a mistake, but an understandable one, i think. it'll be intreesting to see what happens today at the hearing.

    it'd be nice if the people mentioning the alternate burnside improvement, without the couplet, could link to some information so we could discuss something tangible.

    obviously there are "Fat Cats" and "NIMBYs", as well as planners, car advocates, small businesses, and others on both sides of this issue, which seems to split people along something other than the normal lines.

  • pedro (unverified)
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    "Longer pedestrian walk signals with a greater frequency of walk periods would help too."

    indeed. some of those signals start flashing red before you even step off the curb, after waiting 5+ minutes to cross in the first place, so if you're not on it, you might have to wait another 5 minutes.

  • workingmom (unverified)
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    I worked in the traffic engineering/traffic calming world in another life, so have a solid understanding of how these sorts of projects are generally developed and designed in a more rational environment. I also travel on West Burnside daily. My problem with the proposal is that it is being put forward as though it is the one and only solution to the obvious problems. It's not. There are ALWAYS alternatives, each with different pros, cons and costs. Where is the data? Where is the thoughtful analysis and dialogue? Traffic engineers use sophisticated computer modeling programs that can demonstrate alternative schemes and their impact on affected streets. And there are ALWAYS impacts to adjacent streets and neighborhoods. Drivers are like water . . . they eventually find the path of least resistance and follow it . . . the impacts can go far beyond the immediate project site. We need open, honest dialogue about the problems, the alternative solutions and the costs associated with each. Instead, in typical Portland style, we get a trumped up sense of urgency in order to push through someone's political agenda.

    IMHO, this proposal clearly demonstrates the case for eliminating the commissioner form of government. Suddenly Sam Adams is an expert in traffic engineering? Last year he was an expert in . . . what was it . . . sewerage treatment? Next year perhaps he (or some other instant expert) can tell us all how to run the 9-1-1 center.

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    ws: It's not that hard: Turn right on 3rd...

    I'm sorry you just turned into three lanes of oncoming traffic. Your car is totalled. Maybe it's harder than you thought. Please try again.

    You could also turn right on Couch, right on second and go under B...

    Forgetting that Second also goes the wrong way (and doesn't go under Burnside)and assuming you meant First, I hope you're prepared to pay a hefty fine for driving on the MAX tracks, as there's no (legal) car access to First as it passes under the Burnside ramp.

    I'm not sold on the couplet idea by any means, but let's face it, Burnside sucks. It is far from the perfect Utopian street Shannon describes.

    For bikes: I've ridden my bike on it many times and found it to be extremely treacherous every time. There are potholes deep enough to destroy a rim in a heartbeat. Lanes are narrow. Some of the drainage grates are of the old kind that eat rims alive (I know, I actually [yes, carelessly] tacoed one there).

    For peds: The sidewalks aren't especially wide. For much of it's length, there's no distance between the sidewalk and traffic making it noisy, smelly, and dangerous. It takes a long time to get across, and cars are frequently turning left and nearly hitting peds in crosswalks (particularly at 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and Broadway).

    For cars: Turning left is a bitch. The afore-mentioned potholes are no treat either.

    So, the couplet may not solve all of those problems, and some could be helped by just a little maintenance (the potholes), but as I'm trying to form an opinion about the future of Burnside it would be much more helpful if the opponents of the plan came up with some possible solutions of their own rather than ad hominem attacks on couplet supporters and delusions that Burnside is nearly perfect the way it is.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Warning: Hijacking in progress.

    Isn't this Voodoo guy the same fellow who is vocally against any trans fat ban? Since when did Blue Oregon became Libertarian Oregon?

    When I was growing up here, liberals were in sync with libertarians on a number of issues. We still are, but the partisanship on all sides has made collaboration a dirty word. We'd get a lot more done -- and be a lot more progressive -- if we stopped applying labels and started sharing ideas.

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    "Torridjoe, maybe the city just needs better signs with direction for how to get to the heart of the city coming from the east on B. It's not that hard: Turn right on 3rd, left on Couch (same as you would with the couplet)drive a couple blocks to Broadway, turn left, cross B. That's it."

    I rest my case, given the post-couplet alternative: turn left on 3rd. That's it. :)

  • Miles (unverified)
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    IMHO, this proposal clearly demonstrates the case for eliminating the commissioner form of government. Suddenly Sam Adams is an expert in traffic engineering?

    No, Sam's staff at PDOT are experts in traffic engineering, just as they would be under a strong Mayor. Bad ideas won't get better just because you change the form of government. The new system has nothing in it that would prevent the Mayor from pushing the couplet, but it makes it a lot harder for the Council to stop the Mayor's bad ideas. (And since Sam is as likely as anyone to be our next Mayor, why would you want to give him more power?)

  • ws (unverified)
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    Nate Currie, guess I'll have to try harder. It's been awhile since I've actually driven there. I walk there quite a bit. I'm taking your implication that both 3rd and 2nd are one-way, since I can't remember for sure about 3rd at the moment. Years back when they were doing work on Burnside, for a short time I think you could turn right on 3rd coming from the east. Worked just fine.

  • Bob (unverified)
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    Burnside is a people stopper. It is too wide and needs more green and trees to be more pedestrian friendly, like a nice boulevard built with as much in mind for cars as well as bikes and pedestrians. For cars the pavement is uneven and full of potholes. It is a separator that keeps people either north or south, it creates an illusion of two separate areas of the downtown preventing people from going from one side to another. Burnside in the past has been one of the main feeder arterials coming down from the hill bringing Tualatin Valley traffic into town. It was never designed as such, it just became a feeder from over the hill by default. So it was modified and re-modified to handle that sort of traffic in the 30s and 40s, underground infrastructure was strung out along it, electrical wires clogged the sky overhead. But after the 50s the freeways shouldered that load, and now the Max brings people into town and it is not needed to direct that sort of traffic flow. Burnside needs to be reduced to just another street to walk along. Flowing the traffic by splitting it up into two streets will reduce the amount of cars on Burnside and make it easier to drive as well as to walk along and across. Compared to what it was and what it has become, it is about time that the city take my tax money and turn it into something we deserve rather than an illusionary border between us, a separator between two areas.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    "Burnside has 4 of the city's 10 most deadly intersections."

    Uh, facts please! I think you will find 82nd and 122nd have the most dangerous intersections by far. Sure it might be nice, but folks $80M (that Sam's swag number - remember the Tram estimate and how accurate that was) or for 1.5 miles = $10K/foot. Next time he says he has no money to fix your neighborhood remember this, it is just the latest in umpteen projects to "fix" downtown.

    Meanwhile, we have potholes in the areas outside of downtown, jails we can't open and the highest water bills in the country and traffic congestion all over.

    I wish someone would see Mr Adam's using these projects as a smokescreen to cover his inability to address the real problems facing the 98% of people who can't afford to move downtown.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I went and walked around lower W Burnside today. Crossing the bridge from the east, you can turn right on 2nd, a two-way street. From there, it's true, you can't turn right on 1st, (the max line), but you can do so one block further at Naito Pkwy. Then you can get back into downtown by turning into a number of side streets as you proceed generally south on Naito.

    Optionally, turn left from 2nd and Couch, one block to 3rd, another left and you can cross B with a light into SW Old Town. 5 blocks from 2nd and Couch and you can turn left onto Broadway and cross Burnside with a light into downtown.

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    Jenni Simonis: “Using traffic lights and low speed limits do not make streets safer. I've seen this tried on many streets back in Texas.” And how long have you lived in Portland? Based on your assumptions about driving behavior here, my guess is not very long.

    I've lived here for 7 years. And I've seen the same behavior here. When traffic speeds are lowered, people still go the same speed limit as they did prior -- which was higher than the limit then.

    Gresham's done some work to time the lights based on a certain speed limit. But you know what happens? People are still driving considerably over the speed limit, punching it through red lights. I've seen more blatant red light running by people going straight through the intersection at higher rates of speed than I did before the change in the traffic lights.

    In today's society, changing lights and speed limits does not get people to slow down. A large portion of drivers pay no attention to these rules.

    I was using my experience from Texas, because there the speed limits are changed more often. There aren't set limits for different types of roads by the state (see your DMV handbook). As such, cities will often try different speed limits and traffic light settings to decrease speeding and speed related accidents. None of it worked.

    Upon moving here, I found drivers to act the exact same as they did back in Texas. They speed. They run red lights. They don't give the right-of-way to pedestrians. They do illegal u-turns. And it's only getting worse.

    Changing the lights or the limits don't matter to people who are already breaking the law.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)
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    "Changing the lights or the limits don't matter to people who are already breaking the law."

    That may be true. Changing the nature of the street, however, is more likely to do the trick. I live off of Hawthorne (duh) and am already seeing changes in driver behavior based upon changes to the street being made. It seems like the farther out you get from the core of the city the more likely that the streets are huge and made for autos and little else. What would happen if they were redesigned for people?

  • pdxcook (unverified)
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    Steve Duin had it right -- "Portland's theater-in-the round" last night did exactly what was expected: gave an "almost" rubber stamp to SON OF TRAM. -- Guys, hold onto your hats -- sneaky little "local improvement districts" (that translates to "HIGHER TAXES") will come riding on that streetcar before it's over.

    BIG QUESTION after enduring six HOURS of slide shows and paid independent experts last night along with testimony from 70 or so interested citizens -- how could the Council so carefully and compassionatly listen and respect the wishes of Cathedral School by diverting the whole thing back to 15th AWAY from them yet totally ignore Emerson School's students on Park and Couch??? Don't they have to breathe and cross busy streets as well?? OH -- I GET IT ---- Emerson School is close to the Old Town developers' properties!! Never mind -- those kids can just breathe construction dust along with 18,000 cars' exhaust + dodge the streetcar. The only public school in the Pearl District just got thrown under the train ----

  • Jon (unverified)
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    So now the couplet is going to create more traffic?

    Sounds like reverse psychology to me. Trying to get the "pro-car" folks on board.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    It seems like the farther out you get from the core of the city the more likely that the streets are huge and made for autos and little else. What would happen if they were redesigned for people?

    I think we know the answer to that. Narrow streets, tree-lined streets, streets with parking are all safer, people drive slower and are more alert to what is going on. You can't expect law enforcement to fix an engineering mistake. If a street is designed so that it appears to be safe for a driver at 40 or 50 mph, signing it for 20 or 30 is not going to get traffic to slow down.

  • Lenny Anderson (unverified)
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    I walked along East Burnside during evening “rush” hour the other day…not unpleasant, even interesting. The mature trees provide real distance from the traffic…faster in the less congested direction…and in places the sidewalk feels generous. New cafes, restaurants, shops are along the stretch between Hippo Hardware and the new Wentworth Bldg…very nice addition. The street has some edge, some energy; crossing is risky, except at lights, and there is only one between Grand and 12th Avenue. Maybe a couple more signals is a cheaper fix that the whole enchilada. But the roadway is six lanes here, with parking in the non peak direction, so clearly parking for new businesses ranks below commuters going through…same as Division, Sandy, and numerous other arterials in the City.

    The Burnside Bridge has appeal because it does not end in ramps and parking lots, but plunges you right into the City on both ends, that will be only more so on the east end with the Burnside Bridgehead project. But why is it three lanes out of downtown and only two in; why not just make it two lanes in each direction and use the excess width to widen the sidewalks, bring the bikelanes up above the curb; with some ped friendly lighting this could be a really nice promenade across the river.

    On the west side, again we are plunged right into the thick of the historic district with plenty of grit and lots of folks who seem to make some of us nervous. It strikes me that Portlanders or at least many of them like to see things tidied up, order restored, both visual and behavioral; they are uncomfortable with messiness, fear chaos, etc. We see this in some of the hysteria about Downtown, and is reflected institutionally in projects like Burnside.

    Actually for the first 8 blocks, Burnside was widened in the 20s, no doubt at great expense, and there is plenty of room for parking, two through lanes, maybe even a left turn lane or two. But parking has been again sacrificed for “right turn only lanes”…deadly for pedestrians. This stretch also has some vast “fields” of asphalt at 3rd Ave and Broadway, not to mention surface parking, gas station, etc., uses that could be shifted elsewhere to make room for more friendly, greener environment without making a mess or spending tons of money.

    And there is retail activity…bars, restaurants, performance venues…probably quite lively at night for the young and brave; but not every district needs to meet the needs of nervous visitors from the suburbs…though many of the patrons of bars and clubs are probably from there. And there are various resources for homeless folks.

    Once Burnside narrows then things are very restricted…from 8th to across I-405…but for just 7 blocks do we need to spend $80Million? It is a canyon, but there are still open spots where the nonaligned grids meet; there is the greatest retail moment in town…the main entrance to Powell’s, not to mention the Crystal Ballroom, Everyday Music, etc. It is not a dead street. Let's leave it alone.

  • (Show?)

    " went and walked around lower W Burnside today. Crossing the bridge from the east, you can turn right on 2nd, a two-way street. From there, it's true, you can't turn right on 1st, (the max line), but you can do so one block further at Naito Pkwy. Then you can get back into downtown by turning into a number of side streets as you proceed generally south on Naito.

    Optionally, turn left from 2nd and Couch, one block to 3rd, another left and you can cross B with a light into SW Old Town. 5 blocks from 2nd and Couch and you can turn left onto Broadway and cross Burnside with a light into downtown."

    Or how about you make Burnside part of a couplet, and you simply turn left on 3rd? Or 5th, or Park, etc....

  • ws (unverified)
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    Torridjoe, with the couplet, west-bound cars won't be using Burnside between..I believe it's 2nd to 15th. West-bound cars will be using Couch. They won't be turning onto 3rd, 5th, Brdwy into SW downtown from Burnside. They'll be doing so from Couch and crossing Burnside to get to SW Downtown.

    So that's the deal; west-bound cars coming off the Burnside Bridge will be turning right on 2nd or 3rd, left on Couch, then proceeding either straight on through to wherever, or, if they wanted to go into SW Downtown, left on 3rd, 5th, Brdwy, etc. Same as you can do today, except for the light rail construction going on.

    More traffic signals at intersections that lack them now, are allegedly part of the couplet proposal. Maybe that will discourage some of the commuter traffic from using W Burnside. That would be the best hope. I don't feel familiar enough with E Burnside to say anything about that area.

  • Blitz (unverified)
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    Burnside - the great wall, divider, canyon, pedestrian nightmare. Why is it that so far this debate has not looked at other solutions to the "tangible" problem of pedestrian crossings. The City notes there are 4 primary pedestrian crossings of concern. Why not create, at a vastly less cost, 4 - 6 major pedestrian overpasses to bridge the street - just like we have done the Willamette - which at one time was the City's primary transportation boulevard?

    These overpasses could be configured so they spanned Burnside at key cross streets - with downramps extending down onto the sidestreets. Their architectural designs could be uniform or they could each be a unique piece of urban art. Think of the Fish over I-205 near Sandy boulevard. These pedestrian bridges could add to the architectural richness of a city that is famous for its bridges. If you look at old photos of Portland -Broadway in downtown had metal arches that were lighted and added to the energetic feel of a downtown.

    Lets connect the North Park blocks to the south side by making one of these bridges a block wide with a naturescape or an open air cafe on it.

    And of course, Create better pedestrian islands at other crossings and potentially add chain or rail barriers (like in Europe)between sidewalks and Burnside. Surely these types of changes could be done for less that $80 million. And these changes could still allow for a Trolley on either Burnside or Couch at a later time if they pencil out.

    Perhaps the city needs to carefully identify and quantify what each of the problems actually are and then have an open competition for alternative ideas to address them - instead of just having vague problems and shifting goals.

  • lw (unverified)
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    I suggest just paying Mr. Powell ten million to move his business to a better location or twenty thousand to move his main entry to Couch and use the difference from the $84M change to fix my street and a few others.

    By the way even at yesterdays Council hearing even Sam the Tram admits the $84M is a very "soft" number. Hold on to your hats, the final hard costs will be $150M. Then add in the debt costs and all the planning/staff, etc. costs and the price will be $350M. And watch out for the Local Improvement Districts (LID's) coming out of the pavement. As several citizens said yesterday at Council-when has the City had a project even come in less than THREE times the budget-like South Waterfront where every project has exceed budget by three to twenty times?

  • Lenny Anderson (unverified)
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    Most of the pedestrian crossing problems are where West Burnside is plenty wide...river to the Park Blocks. What kills peds are the right turn lanes, which could be taken out tonight, if PDOT had the will. Let's keep that portion of Burnside to 2 lanes each way instead of three, keep the parking during all hours and increase the crossing time for peds across Burnside. Problem solved.

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    "Torridjoe, with the couplet, west-bound cars won't be using Burnside between..I believe it's 2nd to 15th. West-bound cars will be using Couch. They won't be turning onto 3rd, 5th, Brdwy into SW downtown from Burnside. They'll be doing so from Couch and crossing Burnside to get to SW Downtown."

    Say what? Are you telling me that westbound Burnside Bridge drivers will immediately hit a one-way street going THE OTHER WAY at 2nd Ave? I naturally assumed that Burnside would be the westbound street, Couch the eastbound. If it's the reverse, that's truly wacky.

    "As several citizens said yesterday at Council-when has the City had a project even come in less than THREE times the budget-like South Waterfront where every project has exceed budget by three to twenty times?"

    Does the City get credit for the Yellow Line, which was 3 months early and UNDER budget?

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    Doing my own research, as I should:

    "Traffic would head east on Burnside and west on Couch. A streetcar would run from the Burnside Bridge to Northwest 24th Avenue, although city leaders haven't decided how long the new line will stay on Couch. It could eventually extend over the river all the way to Hollywood."

    That strikes me as nuts. The airport and both directions of I-5 dump onto the east side of the river, travelling west on Burnside to get to the city (if one takes Burnside, of course). Who enters the city from the west?

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    Who enters the city from the west?

    People who live in the West Hills.

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    "People who live in the West Hills."

    Right, but they live here, and can navigate themselves accordingly based on experience. My concern is with the casual traveller.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I think that with the couplet, the reason east-bound traffic gets W Burnside rather than Couch, is because south of Burnside, there isn't any convenient side street parallel to Burnside like there is on the north side. Stark and Ankeny both run at crazy angles to Burnside. The other approach, diverting east-bound cars onto Couch at 15th or 14th would involve impractical traffic management measures.

    I'll have to take a look at Lenny Anderson's suggestion when I'm down there next time. The simple things he suggests might help a lot.

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    Does the City get credit for the Yellow Line, which was 3 months early and UNDER budget?

    Yellow line -- as in the MAX? Isn't Tri-Met handled by Metro, and not the city?

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