Upper West Burnside Compromise Proposal
About the Burnside-Couch Project:
Much has been discussed in recent days about the Burnside-Couch couplet proposal.
If you aren't yet familiar with these proposals, here’s links to the original documents:
Also, Commissioner Sam Adams has been having discussions on his blog:
And, the topic is discussed in several posts over at the Portland Transport blog:
Overall, I support the project. It has a few things here and there that I'd prefer were done differently, but I believe the positive outcomes will far outweigh the negatives.
However, there is one segment of the project that I feel creates too many potential problems – the Upper West Burnside Segment. (From about NW 15th to NW 23rd).
Let’s start with the problems that exist on Burnside today in that section, to understand how the plans came about:
Burnside exists as four 11ft lanes, two in each direction, with 8ft sidewalks. This brings the overall width to 60ft – from building to building.
The narrow 8ft sidewalks have several disadvantages:
The City's Plan:
It is for the reasons above that it was decided to narrow the travel lanes on Burnside from 11ft to 10ft wide:
This lane narrowing allows for the widening of the sidewalks on both sides of the street to 10ft. The extra two feet allows for a 3ft “furnishing zone” with room for trees, plus a 6ft “through zone”, 6in of curb and 6in of building frontage.
The Problem with the Solution:
This is great for pedestrians, to be sure, but the plans have run into opposition from freight interests and others. For comparison, the lanes on SE Hawthorne Blvd are 9 1/2ft wide, and they are 10ft wide on the St. Johns Bridge.
Ten foot travel lanes have the following problems:
It is for the above reasons that I am uncomfortable with the current plans for Upper West Burnside. After giving it some thought, I have come up with the compromise pictured here: (click for full-size version)
The attributes of this compromise are:
The 42ft automobile right-of-way allows for the right lanes to have an 11ft width, while the center lanes have a 10ft width. This allows automobiles and smaller delivery vehicles to travel safely in any lane, while buses and large trucks have enough leeway for their mirrors to completely fit in the right lanes. It may also open up the possibility of federal funding to support this project segment.
This idea, while making the roadway slightly wider, still gives several advantages over Burnside as it is configured today:
The “meandering” quality added to Burnside is very slight and easily navigable... a variance of no more than 2ft every 200ft. Other “parkway” style streets actually vary more than this. To the eye at street level, it will appear almost straight.
Admittedly, the proposal as illustrated here is a bit oversimplified... there are numerous unique intersections in this stretch of Burnside, including some triangular intersections. This proposal is meant to be a statement of a general design principle which could be adapted and altered as needed to fit specific intersections.
If you have questions or comments about this proposal, I would love to hear them. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org