Burnside Couplet Given Initial OK

After a long and heated discussion yesterday, the city council voted unanimously to start initial planning work on a project to convert W. Burnside and NW Couch into a pair of one-way streets. The change would affect the streets between 2nd and 15th and would also include a streetcar line. Overall, the project would cost over $80 million. The decision today commits $2.6 million towards planning of the couplet and keeps alternative plans to renovate Burnside on the table with a $500,000 planning budget.

There are strong feelings on both sides of this thing.

Pro-coupleters argue that Burnside is a wretched hive of scum and villainy that poses a barrier for pedestrians and is a traffic nightmare. A one-way Burnside, they say, would allow for “increased investment” (improvement, development, gentrification, change, destruction, take your pick) in Old Town and other areas.

On the flip side, those opposed seem to take one of two arguments. The first of these, summed up nicely by Voodoo Doughnut owner Tres Shannon over at Blue Oregon, is that Burnside is the last refuge of authentic Portland downtown and should be kept the way it is. The other arguments against the plan center around the second half of the couplet, NW Couch, and how it could be destroyed by increased traffic. From Catholic schoolgirls to Pearl business-owners and condo-dwellers, there seems to be agreement that “fixing” Burnside will destroy their street.

  • Does Burnside need to be fixed, or preserved?
  • Streetcars are already delayed because of traffic on Lovejoy. Is Burnside really the best place for them?
  • Does Portland already have too many one-way streets?
  • Is increased efficiency worth the increased traffic on Couch?
  • Is $80 million a fair price to pay for being able to turn left?
  • What’s your view on this planned one-wayification of Portland’s main drag?

9 Comments so far

  1. dieselboi (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 8:04 am

    I think condos in the Henry may become affordable. Get yours quick.

  2. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 8:10 am

    Of course it’s a lovely plan… all of Portland’s ills can be solved by more streetcars and condos. Duh!

  3. divebarwife (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 9:09 am

    Ok – first I love the Burnside / Mos Eisley reference.

    Second – I think it’s a ridiculous plan. The minor annoyance that traffic can be on Burnside at occasional parts of the day are nothing compared to the years of monster annoyance and cost of this sort of change would involve.

    If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it – and it is not broke.

  4. truth (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 9:26 am

    I’m really excited by this change. Burnside IS a pedestrian nightmare. As easy as it is to make fun of, adding a streetcar will spur development, and removing cars from burnside and slowing it down (ala lovejoy) is not all evil… This could be the best thing that has happened to downtown in a long time.

  5. george (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 9:33 am

    i don’t buy this “last refuge of authentic portland downtown” argument. burnside does indeed look like downtown portland in the 80’s, but calling this period of portland’s history “authentic” is completely arbitrary.

  6. Audrey (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    The idea that splitting traffic onto two streets will make Burnside pretty and friendly seems very silly. It’s just going to split the pain onto another street that had been quite walkable. I can’t imagine how they’re going to prevent a gigantic bottleneck at the end of the bridge, either.

    And yeah, it’s really not that broken. I worked just off Burnside & 5th for 5 months recently. Never felt half as dangerous as some of the other intersections around town.

  7. Beulah Mae (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

    Yes, yes! Let’s start it today. There hasn’t possibly been enough construction in this town, what with the sewer work on the west side, the sewer work on Sandy and in the east side, the transit mall, Front, Hawthorne, the Burnside Bridge closures, etc.

    We need a break more than we need another “fixed” street.

  8. Kai Jones (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

    I don’t really understand why they want to do this; I walk and drive on inner West Burnside almost daily, and don’t find it to be much different from other downtown streest (say, Broadway). For example, I walk from 5th and Burnside up to Powell’s (at 10th and Burnside) about once a week during my lunch hour, and I don’t understand what makes it a pedestrian problem.

    The only problem with driving is the lack of legal left turn possibilities when driving westbound off the bridge.

  9. chris (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

    whats worse than one burnside? two burnsides!

    does this mean satans testicle will get a companion on couch?

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