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Portland Bureau of Transportation carves out center lane of Northwest Everett Street from Broadway to the bridge.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A TriMet bus make an unimpeded stroll up Northwest Everett Street toward the Steel Bridge on Tuesday, Aug. 27. Installation of another bridgehead bus lane should speed up the clock for commuters making the trek in and out of downtown Portland, officials say.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has carved a bus-reserved route on the center lane of Northwest Everett Street from Broadway to the Steel Bridge on-ramp — at a budgeted cost of $1.02 million. The bureau believes the true price tag will be "significantly" lower due to design simplification.

"It's a few blocks leading up to the bridge, but those few blocks make a really big difference for bus reliability and travel times," said PBOT spokeswoman Hannah Schafer. "The feedback that we have received so far has been extremely positive."

According to PBOT, buses have been flowing like molasses along Everett in recent years — averaging less than 10 MPH during the workweek evening commute, and slowing to less than 5 MPH when they reach the on-ramp.

As part of the project, city workers are also closing the southbound Naito Parkway on-ramp that leads to the Steel Bridge, in order to reduce "merging conflicts" and boost safety.

This project is technically a "business access and transit" lane, as auto traffic is allowed to use the middle lane in order to turn into driveways. On-street parking on Everett has not been altered.

With the construction work finished Aug. 11, PBOT has checked off two of the three bus lanes it plans to implement this year as part of the City Council-approved Central City in Motion Plan.

The first bus lane was installed on Southwest Madison Street at the Hawthorne Bridgehead in May, and PBOT expects to add another leading to the Burnside Bridge once maintenance work by Multnomah County ends this fall.

Speaking anecdotally, Schafer says the Everett bus lane has already enticed some riders back onboard TriMet.

"They were sick of sitting in that congestion on the way home," she said. "People are now giving it a second chance. What we're hearing is it improves the speed so much already."

Six different TriMet bus lines — the 4, 8, 16, 35, 44 and 77 — will use the new lane to ferry thousands of riders across the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge, which remains a stubborn chokepoint for MAX trains and traffic. TriMet dreams of completely replacing the 107-year-old span owned by Union Pacific, but their wish list is long.PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - The 107-year-old Steel Bridge is owned by Union Pacific railroad, though its upper deck is shared by TriMet buses, MAX trains and general auto traffic.

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