TriMet is ready to move into final design of their plan to create a new Hollywood Transit Center. Project staff from the agency attended the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) Tuesday night to present the final conceptual plans after over a year of wrangling with the group over how the project would impact bicycle riders, walkers, and transit users.
The HollywoodHUB project is a partnership between TriMet and BRIDGE Housing that will build a 220-unit affordable housing complex on the parcel of land bordered by Northeast Halsey, I-84 and two existing large retail buildings (24 Hour Fitness and Target) between NE 41st and 42nd. The land is currently used for several bus stops and a ramp and stairs that connect to a bridge over I-84 and the Hollywood Transit Center MAX light rail station.
TriMet’s challenge was to fit necessary right-of-way and a new housing development into a relatively small site that will mix many different types of users. The BAC has been particularly interested in this project because NE 42nd is a major north-south bicycle route. The carfree, bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-84 that runs through the site is an important connection between the Hollywood and Laurelhurst neighborhoods.
In our story on this project back in September we detailed major concerns with this project from bicycle advocates and BAC members. On Tuesday, TriMet Project Manager Catherine Sherraden spoke to those concerns as she shared new design drawings and laid out what the community can expect when construction starts in January 2024.
According to Sherraden project will include:
- two new crosswalks on NE Halsey at 41st,
- bike parking via staple racks in the new plaza and an indoor facility accessible with a TriMet Hop card,
- a new ramp from the I-84 bridge to Halsey that will have two sharp turns instead of seven,
- moving two bus stops (that serve lines 75,77, and 66) out onto Halsey and 42nd,
- a 20-foot wide connection to the future Sullivan’s Gulch Trail path (which has been on pause for years),
- and a new dedicated traffic signal to help bikers and walkers cross Halsey at 42nd.
The ramp design has been a major sticking point for the BAC. TriMet says the new one will be 11-feet wide — about twice the width of the current one. Combined with fewer switchbacks, it should be much easier to bike through this plaza without dismounting once the project is complete. For people that don’t want to bike on the ramps, there will be wide wheel ramps on the stairs. It’s important to keep in mind that the entire plaza zone from the I-84 bridge to Halsey will be a shared environment where bicycle riders must be cautious of other people and be ready to dismount if necessary.
BAC Member David Stein has repeatedly told TriMet about his concerns.
“The transportation design elements of the project seem like they’re not serving anyone that well,” he told Sherraden on Tuesday. Here’s more from Stein:
“If you’re taking transit, you’re having to walk much further [to the new bus stops]. If you have a mobility device or some kind of mobility impairment, it’s going to still be challenging with an 8% grade. I know I’ve written on the Tilikum Crossing which is a 5% grade and that’s quite a bit, so I can’t imagine if I was in a wheelchair having to to navigate that. As far as biking. The switchbacks are pretty devastating. And then the four-foot bike lanes on 42nd — I’ve ridden on 42nd and a four-foot space is so uncomfortable and just really doesn’t do much to encourage biking.”
“The fact of the matter is, there simply is not a lot of space. We just don’t have a lot of room,” Sherradan replied. “Within those real constraints, we strove to make a facility that would work as well as it could for all of our users. So that’s the design we have. I wish we had a different scale of project and we had more room in all the directions. But we just don’t.”
There was an interesting exchange at Tuesday’s meeting about those narrow, four-foot wide bike lanes proposed for NE 42nd Ave (above). Many attendees expressed concern about them. When asked why they weren’t any wider, Sherraden said the lane widths on the road are out of their jurisdiction and any changes would be PBOT’s responsibility. Hearing that, BAC members turned to PBOT Bike Coordinator and BAC liaison Roger Geller. “It’s about a 29-foot road, so any changes would require either a major operational change — like turning it into a one-way [for drivers] or major construction [to widen the road],” Geller said.
And with that, a few BAC members volunteered to write a letter that will recommend PBOT consider a design change to 42nd that would make it possible to create more cycling space (we’ll share the letter when it’s done).
In the end, Stein and other members of the BAC seemed resigned. While the project isn’t perfect, TriMet listened and made some changes based on their input. An online feedback page used by BAC members included this comment from someone who rides an adaptive tricycle: “It is impossible to cross I-84 with existing conditions. While the switchbacks will make it extremely difficult, it will now at least be possible.”
TriMet will now finalize the design and move into permitting for the project in the coming months. Construction is expected to start in early 2024. The Hollywood Transit Center and the NE 42nd Avenue bike route will remain open throughout construction.
CORRECTION, 1:01 pm: The original version of this story referred to narrow bike lanes on NE Halsey. That was a mistake. The exchange about narrow bike lanes was about NE 42nd Ave. I regret any confusion.