Mar 13, 2013

Foster Streetscape Plan: Status Update March 2013

By Marcel, MSA Transportation Chair

The City of Portland has been working on the revision of the Foster Streetscape plan over the last several months, and the project is now getting into a phase where the first preliminary options are 
taking shape. The City is reporting on its progress and continues to collects feedback from the Citizens Advisory Group, which consists of different community representatives such as several Neighborhood Association board members, local business owners, SE Uplift, the pedestrian coalition, etc.

Although there is still much work to be done, and a long way to go till everything is finalized and ready 
for implementation, some early insights are now available and there is reason for excitement and 
optimism. The project team has developed and analyzed different cross-section alternatives for different 
road segments of Foster Road. The City is currently working on an analysis of several full alternatives, 
based on basic cross-section alternatives. These full alternatives will provide a lot of the details for the 
specific intersections, transitions, and other special situations.
Some of the main highlights are:

1) Bike infrastructure (bike lanes of some sort) is part of pretty much all of the alternatives, which 
means that upon implementation of the streetscape plan Foster Road has a great chance to
become a truly integral part of Portland’s bike network, that our neighborhoods will be better 
connected to other parts of the city for those traveling by bike and will be on their way to 
become bike-friendly neighborhoods.

2) A better business climate through improved streetscape, reduced traffic impacts, a pedestrian 
and bicycle friendly environment, such as safer crossings and easy access, and well-balanced 
parking availability plus good transit. 

3) One of the front-runners in the preliminary analysis is the so-called three-lane option, between
52nd and 90th Avenues, providing for a bicycle lane and a motorized-vehicle traffic lane in each 
direction, plus a center left-turn lane in the middle. (Yes, you’re right; that is really 5 lanes in 
total, but since bike lanes have much less impact as far as traffic noise, risks, pollution, etc. it is 
simply referred to as a three-lane option).

Some of the advantages of this particular three-lane alternative are:

  •  It will provide multiple good options and choices for people using Foster Road as their road to travel: it will be usable safely and comfortably not only by car, but also by bike, bus and foot. 
  • Traffic will be calmer and less intimidating. Crossing Foster Road will be safer and easier.
  • Foster’s unique (much wider than usual in Portland) sidewalks can be maintained as a special neighborhood asset and trademark and can be put to good use to enhance the business climate and overall livability.
  •  Because bike lanes will be narrower than the current traffic lanes, there will be some additional space available on the road that can be allocated to provide parking in areas as needed and applicable. At certain intersections, that extra space can be used for turn lanes to help assure smooth traffic flow for all.
  • Traffic safety will improve considerably, which is a real benefit on a road that has seen an average of almost one fatality per year! Obviously, we’ll never know which individuals will be the ones whose lives will be saved by this improved road lay-out, but as a community we can be happy that less people (or hopefully none at all) will be killed on our Foster Road in the future. And of course a “stranger” to one, is still a family member, friend, neighbor, etc. to many others.
  • The cost of this alternative is relatively low compared to options that would change the location of the existing curbs: it’s mostly a matter of re-striping and paint which is much cheaper than digging and building actual road or sidewalk surfaces. That means that there is probably a higher chance and/or earlier start of the implementation phase -or stated another way - more of any available funding will remain for other components of the plan.

One of the reasons this three-lane alternative looks very promising is that traffic impacts to the rest of 
the network in and around our neighborhoods are expected to be very limited. There was some initial 
concern that the reduction in motor-vehicle traffic lanes from 4 to 3 would possibly cause serious 
congestion and/or major diversion of traffic onto neighborhood streets. The preliminary results from the
Bureau of Transportation’s traffic models show that that is not the case!

In some ways the results indicate that this alternative will actually reduce diversion, since some of the 
through-traffic that is currently using Foster Road as a quick and easy cut-through through our 
neighborhoods will be more inclined to use the freeways, highways and real through-corridors which is 
confirmed by the model results: traffic counts on I-205, Powell, Division and 82nd Avenue all show slight 
increases in the scenario of a three-lane Foster. This means that Foster Road will have less motor vehicle lanes but also less motor-vehicle traffic, and as the model results show, the net result of that is 
an only slightly lower travel speed on Foster without any real congestion. 

There are however also some minor localized impacts within our neighborhoods as the traffic pattern 
changes due to the improvements on Foster Road. The most noticeable in the traffic model pertains to 
the stretch of Holgate between 62nd and 72nd Avenues. In the year 2030, the number of cars using that particular section of Holgate is expected to be quite higher during afternoon rush hour than in the 
situation without the Foster Road improvements. (Initial indications are that this is mostly local 
destination traffic). Although this may indicate that this section of road would get a relatively large 
increase in traffic, the model shows that the road would still be well below capacity, so this will not lead 
to congestion on Holgate either. 

In addition, some of the other alternatives still being considered and analyzed are different variations of 
4 travel lanes for motor-vehicle (like the existing situation): variations include with and without and 
different types and widths of bikelanes, on-street-parking during non-rush hours, reduced sidewalk 
widths, etc. The main differences of these alternatives compared to the three-lane option described 
above are a noticeable lower level of overall traffic safety, less and lower-quality crossing options, less 
pedestrian-friendly in general, and decreased access for left-turning vehicles.

The results described above are all just preliminary results though, so things may still change in the final 
version and analysis. More importantly, the final selection of the preferred alternative to be recommended for 
implementation is still to be made. After further analysis and community input the preferred alternative 
will be chosen. It will be very important that you make your input and thoughts about this known to 
your neighborhood association representatives so that they can convey comments received to the City 
and make informed decisions on the upcoming choices! 

This will be especially important in the coming months as the choices between alternatives will take 
shape, and as further details of the streetscape will be filled in. Altogether, the signs are that there will be great opportunities for improvement of the whole Foster Road corridor: a much more neighborhood-friendly Foster Road is within reach!

We are on the way, but we’re not there yet. Besides the ultimate decision about the cross-section 
(whether the three-lane option will be selected or not), there will also be several important choices 
made about detailing the right balance between levels of parking availability, sidewalk widths, 
intersection designs, specifics of bike lane location and lay-out, etc. And then there are the other 
streetscape elements, so as trees, benches, markers, banners, etc, and last but not least, there is the funding part of the puzzle. Similar to many programs and projects these days, the Foster Streetscape plan does not have a big pot of money set aside for its implementation. Finding the needed funding will be a major challenge. However, taking things one step at a time, it makes most sense to focus our current efforts and attention to assuring the plan itself will be the best possible for our community. 

Once that perfect plan has been established and officially adopted, we’ll have to work hard with our partners at the City and other governments to get funding allocated for a timely implementation, so more on that in a following phase….

Please share your thoughts, comments and input with your neighborhood representatives, at the 
monthly meeting, through e-mail, in person or in any other manner. Post comments below or e-mail to Marcel Hermans, MSA Transportation Chair at or Erika Palmer-Wilson, MSA Chair at We are sharing all your input with City staff.


Tom said...

Wow, exciting. So it is possible that Foster Road really becomes neighborhood asset instead of a dangerous barrier for humans to cross.
I hope that the three-lane option you describe will be selected and that our neighborhood will get a chance to flourish again. And even if it doesn't, at leats it will save some lives along the way...

Jed Roberts said...

Excellent update, Marcel. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

This 3-lane option sounds horrible. We have a multitude of bike boulevards nearby without having to sacrifice Foster. There's no need for extra parking. My vote is to keep four lanes of traffic, and I bet 95 percent of our neighbors feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Too bad you didn’t provide your name since I’m sure a lot of people would LOVE to take you up on that bet; maybe not 95% of the population, but certainly a large majority of the people will disagree with your statements. (And where you state "our neighbors" we wouldn't even know who those people are and if they even live in Oregon, letv alone Mt.Scott-Arleta....).

Also, you don’t really provide any substance or reason as to why you think a 3-lane option may be horrible. A comparison to the one comment you make: If there are already parks or shops in an area, would it be horrible to have another park or shop….? Plus, that argument of yours would apply more so to regular roads with busy car traffic than to bike boulevards, since there are a lot more roads than bike boulevards or even bike lanes in our neighborhood.

Please remember too, adding bike lanes will simply facilitate bicyclists to travel in their own lane as opposed to sharing the lane with cars in the current situation. The 3-lane option is really a 5-lane option, with 2 (narrow) lanes dedicated for bicyclists, and the other 3 lanes dedicated for motor vehicles. So no more bicyclists in “your” car lane !

Also, there aren’t any bike routes on the diagonal grid at all, so adding those to Foster will indeed provide valuable new infrastructure.

If you are interested oin taking on bets, please provide your name......

Dan PC said...

This is detailed news and sounds like progress to me! Thanks again Marcel.

TeeBee said...

Thanks for the detailed update Marcel. This is exciting! I appreciate all the hard work and dedication from the advisory committee. If you live or work along Foster, I'm 95% sure you will agree that major changes are needed for Foster to thrive(especially if you factor in the avoidable fatalities.)

Keep up the good work and I'm so glad our neighborhood has folks like you working hard to improve our quality of life. Thumbs up for livability!

Nick said...

While the update to the plan is underway, there is an opportunity to get funding from ODOT for eventual buildout. Fill out the form and let them know you want it!

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