Traffic signal finally coming to Going Street greenway at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Traffic signal finally coming to Going Street greenway at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

A rider on Going Street looks for oncoming traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A notorious crossing on Portland’s marquee neighborhood greenway is finally getting a traffic signal.

At their meeting Wednesday Portland City Council will pass an ordinance (PDF) that authorizes the transportation bureau to move forward on several crossing projects including a new traffic signal at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Going Street.

This intersection sees around 2,000 average daily bicycle trips (extrapolated from hourly 2019 PBOT bicycle counts five blocks east) and it’s a key east-west connection between the Alberta area and the Vancouver/Williams corridor. PBOT added median islands and caution signage in 2010 to improve conditions for bicycle riders; but with two lanes in each direction, drivers on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. still pose a (double) threat. MLK (also known as Highway 99E) is an arterial with high traffic volumes and a 30 mph speed limit.

Below are views of the intersection from MLK,

and from Going:

Concerns about this crossing have been well-known for many years. In 2012 we published an article by noted local traffic law expert and lawyer Ray Thomas that revealed his concerns. Thomas considers it an “ambiguous intersection” and wrote that it, “creates a troublesome situation for those it most seeks to help, as bicyclists are encouraged to assert a right of way they do not possess by law.” Thomas believes Oregon law doesn’t require auto users to stop at the crossing, but since many do — and because many bicycle riders might feel they have the right-of-way — confusion can too often lead to collisions.

The new signal will hopefully end that confusion and improve safety for greenway users.

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In 2017 PBOT gathered public feedback about how to best spend a new pot of revenue from the 10-cent gas tax increase that’s known as the Fixing Our Streets program. After hearing from students and families in every local public school cluster and working with nonprofit Oregon Walks on a series of community events, they learned, “Street crossings are the biggest barriers students face walking to school.”

That process led to the identification of several projects. With council’s blessing Wednesday, PBOT will begin procurement for this signal on Going and at four other locations including: E Burnside and 16th (a man was killed two blocks east on this intersection in September), SE Washington and 86th, SE 148th and Main, and NE Glisan and 113th. They’ll also move forward on a project to add street lighting on Glisan between NE 82nd and 162nd (city limits) as well as build related ADA updates.

In addition to Fixing Our Streets, the projects are funding by cannabis tax revenue and system development charges.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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