A proposal to replace the signaled, intersection of Fairview Parkway/207th Avenue and Northeast Halsey Street with a bona fide traffic roundabout providing a free-flow of vehicles with park-like aesthetics could be a significant step in changing the corridor's look and feel.
"I think it'll be transformative," said Fairview Mayor Brian Cooper. "If the Halsey Corridor vision develops, I think this will be the start of a safety and aesthetics transformation."
Cooper and his fellow city councilors attended an introductory presentation on the roundabout concept during a council work session at City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
As explained by Wade Scarborough of Portland-based Kittleson & Associates Engineering, the roundabout provides a way to increase driver and pedestrian safety and calm traffic while improving its flow. It also would serve to improve aesthetics as part of an evolving Halsey Street Corridor upgrade program between the Sandy River and Fairview Parkway involving Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale.
"Safety is the No. 1 factor," Scarborough noted. "The (roundabout) geometry forces traffic to slow down. That's the key feature of the roundabout, entering and circulating at 25 miles per hour for a single (lane) and 30 mph for double lanes."
Roundabouts, many of which were implemented in the U.S. during the 1990s, have the effect of reducing driving delays, providing environmental benefits and reducing maintenance costs compared to traffic signals.
"Some roundabouts have (additional) costs to them (in) landscaping costs," Scarborough said. "As far as aesthetics, the interest here, as in other places, is to create a gateway to the city ... a way of separating (sections)."
Though relatively quiet around mid-day, the 16-lane Halsey-Fairview Parkway intersection links a significant traffic corridor between Interstate 84 in Fairview and Eastman Parkway and Highway 26/Powell Boulevard in Gresham that sees traffic volumes swell in morning and evening hours.
In 2018, the Fairview intersection saw 28,000 vehicles per day pass through, at a rate of 28 vehicles per hour. By 2040, the daily number is expected to increase to 33,000, which the proposed four-lane roundabout with right turn bypasses is designed to handle.
There were five reported crash-related injuries at the intersection in 2011 as well as the following year when red-light surveillance cameras were installed. Three injury crashes were reported between 2013 and 2014 before the cameras were removed.
In addition to vehicle traffic improvements, the Fairview roundabout proposal would upgrade the intersection to include bicycle lanes that segue into widened sidewalks with staggered crosswalks to assist cyclists as well as pedestrians.
"The public is getting more used to them," Scarborough said of roundabouts, referring to a chart showing an uptick in public acceptance after they are installed. "People are sometimes negative when they first hear about it, then after they go in, opinion switches to more positive."
A cost estimate for the proposal has not yet been established. Both Halsey and Fairview Parkway are maintained by Multnomah County, which was represented at Wednesday's meeting.
"We are pushing the designs and doing the legwork," Mayor Cooper explained. "All our (findings) will need to be submitted to the county."
Cooper said he was pleased with the presentation and felt his fellow councilors — who asked questions related to traffic flow, crosswalk and pedestrian signals — were generally supportive of the plan.
"We all agree there is a problem with that intersection, (there are just) differences on the details," he said. "I think the presentation checks a lot of boxes that Fairview needs: safety, aesthetics, traffic mitigation and creating the means for Halsey to become an actual corridor.
"It will really change Halsey to our main street," Cooper added. "If we do this, it will give Fairview its own sense of identity."
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