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City's 'preventative' project focuses on N. Williams Ave. bike traffic

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - A cyclist makes the turn from Northeast Broadway onto North Williams Avenue where a bike specific signal alerts riders when it is safe to cross traffic. Portland officials plan a street improvement project to avoid problems for bicycle traffic on the busy street.About 4,000 bicyclists a day travel on North Williams Avenue, one of Portland's busiest bike commuting routes. Possibly an equal number choose alternate north/south commuting routes because the North Williams bike lane has become so crowded during morning and evening rush hours.

A number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents in recent years, combined with a number of complaints about safety, have led the Portland Bureau of Transportation to come up with a re-design of North Williams. Construction will begin in September on a $1.5 million street improvement program that will extend on from Northeast Broadway to North Killingsworth Street.

Two lanes of vehicle traffic on North Williams will turn into one lane but transportation officials say they expect cars won't take substantially longer to travel on the street because left and right turn lanes will be added so that delays at intersections should be shorter.

Bicylcists will see something relatively new for Portland — a bike lane on the left side of the street. Moving the bike lane from the right side of traffic to the left is expected to decrease conflicts between bike riders and buses. The new lane will also be much wider than typical bike lanes to accommodate more riders. And one of the city's headache intersections at North Vancouver Avenue and North Cook Street will get a traffic signal, as will the intersection of North Williams and Cook.

“We're taking a preventative approach here,” says Portland Bureau of Transportation spokeswoman Diane Dulken. “We're not waiting for crashes to occur or for Williams to turn into a high-crash corridor.”

The new Bureau of Transportation street design and construction plans will be available for public viewing at an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 12 at Immaculate Heart Catholic Church, 2926 N. Williams Ave.