PORTLAND, Ore. – Barbur Boulevard might be about to go on a diet.
A road diet.
Portland Commissioner Steve Novick wrote on his website Tuesday that the city’s Bureau of Transportation has agreed to discuss putting Barbur on what's being termed a road diet in hopes of improving safety on what’s been a dangerous stretch of road.
Local bicycling advocates want the city to consider removing a northbound traffic lane to make room for bike and pedestrian lanes.
“Right now we've got a challenging environment for everyone, whether you're in a car and you're stuck behind someone on a bike or you're riding a bike and you're not feeling safe,” said Bicycle Transportation Alliance spokesman Gerik Kransky.
The BTA plans to testify at a meeting scheduled Wednesday to discuss the Southwest Corridor Plan. Novick wrote that the road diet will not be part of the plan, both because he doesn’t want to slow down the plan, and because he thinks the road-diet study should move more quickly.
“The Southwest Corridor plan will take shape over a dozen years; I would like to do a Barbur road diet study in a dozen months,” he wrote.
The Oregon Department of Transportation will be working on the Vermont and Newbury bridges next summer, a project Novick thinks will provide an opportunity to study the effects of fewer lanes on the stretch of Barbur in question.
The BTA said it doesn’t think the construction project will replicate real-world conditions.
A stretch of road that includes the two bridges has been a magnet for accidents.
“You find yourself in a bike lane until you get to those bridges and then there's no bike lane,” Kransky said. “And you're traveling with 45 to 50 mile an hour traffic, and you don't know if the cars are going to buzz right by you, or pass you in the other lane.”
Lewis and Clark student Henry Schmidt was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Barbur in August. He was wearing a helmet, but his leg was broken in several places, his spleen was lacerated and he suffered three minor spine fractures and a mild concussion.
State transportation officials have said the road diet could increase drive time by as much as 65 percent in the next 20 years.
The city council was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning, with the Southwest Corridor Plan discussion to begin after 2 p.m.