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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
With the OHSU tram up and running, local bloggers, worry-worts, the Portland Planning Commission and even the editorial page of the Oregonian have all turned their attention to another proposed civic "improvement." The West Burnside "couplet," which would turn one of Portland's most iconic and well-traveled streets into a one-way with a streetcar line running down the center, seems like a mess in the making. According to the editorial linked above, City Council was set to make a decision on the proposal earlier today.
I'm against it, mostly because, much like the tram to Pill Hill, it's likely to cost double or more what City Hall surmises at this stage in the process, all money better spent on much needed infrastructural improvements elsewhere. Plus, I can't imagine what the already cramped and partially residential NW Couch is going to look like with 5 o'clock gridlock.
Still, this doesn't change the fact that the stretch of Burnside from the river up to NW 21st needs some serious work. The street, littered with weird dips and uneven patches of pavement, makes for a bumpy ride. It could use a major repaving along the lines of the project that did wonders to the once pothole-clogged Natio Parkway. Worse yet, crossing the Burnside Bridge and trying to turn into downtown is a nightmare. Making a left turn, while not impossible, is definetely illegal. Turning onto SW 3rd, which should be as simple as waiting at a turn signal, requires a trip through Chinatown, a real pain on weekend nights when the streets are clogged with clubhoppers.
Is there a serious need to extend the streetcar line down Burnside and across the river? I don't know, you tell me. From my perspective, the street's problems can be solved with simple solutions. Repave Burnside. Put in a turn lane on 3rd and another one up on Broadway. Use the rest of those millions to fill all the potholes around town and maybe, just maybe, fix the Sellwood Bridge before it falls into the Willamette.
Also: a little advice. If you ever get an itch to use the "bus only" turn lane at the corner of 3rd and Burnside on a Friday night, don't. Trust me on this.