The discussion of possible changes to traffic flow for vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, and buses on North Williams Avenue continued on Tuesday with a meeting of the N Williams Traffic Operations and Safety Project's Stakeholder Advisory Committee.
The afternoon meeting was held to present the findings of last month's Portland Bureau Of Transportation open house that invited cyclists, residents of the neighborhood surrounding N Williams, and business owners to weigh in on potential solutions that would ease congestion and help protect people on foot and on bikes.
According to a memo distributed at the meeting by Alta Planning + Design, the local firm tapped by PBOT to help facilitate and design the alternative solutions presented at last month's open house, there is overwhelming support for converting parking and/or travel lanes along Williams to provide for better bike and bus travel. And there was some hope that solutions could be put in place to discourage drivers from using Williams as a throughway, directing them towards alternate routes such as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The community’s biggest concern, though, surrounds what is referred to as "Segment 4", the section of Williams that runs from N Cook to N Skidmore. It is here where the majority of the businesses on the street are located and where most of the congestion happens.
While everyone agrees that better bike lanes are needed—whether a cycle track that sits between parked cars and the curb or an enhanced bike lane that would put more room between cyclists and the roadway—the suggestion is now to reduce the number of traffic lanes from two to one either on Segment 4 or along the entirety of N Williams.
"I was quite impressed with the number of people who gave eloquent comments about going to one lane in Segment 4," says project manager Ellen Vanderslice. "People felt pretty strongly that the problems would be solved by going from two lanes to one."
Vanderslice also noted that pedestrians are encouraged by the idea of reducing the traffic to one lane, as that would help reduce traffic speeds and increase visibility for people looking to cross N Williams. She was quick to add, though, that this one traffic lane option has not been approved by PBOT yet, but it is something that they will consider when they bring possible solutions to the table at another open house to be held on May 31st.
The other issue at play in Segment 4 is the impact that these changes could have on the businesses that call N Williams home. Some addressed concerns about discussions of a lane of parking being removed (an option that is not going to happen according to Vanderslice), but the biggest issue is the potential of customers not being able to get to the businesses with one fewer lane of traffic. This, though, will be the focus of another meeting to be held between project staff and local business owners sometime this month.
UPDATE 5/18/2011: "Based on public input, City will consider lane change on Williams"
By Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org