Unexpected road diet

A single day closure on Franklin shows what a road diet might feel like

Franklin @ 3rd Street in Bend
Looking east on Franklin at 3rd Street in Bend. Photo credit: Jeff Monson, Commute Options

Last week, westbound auto travel lanes on a short section of Franklin Avenue in Bend were reduced from 2 lanes to one. The closure didn’t include things like traffic signal changes or protected intersection treatment; as Qwest was using the closure to do some quick roadway work. It did however give some folks a feel for what it would be like if Franklin, just before and after 3rd Street, were slimmed to one westbound lane.

Here’s a quick primer, excerpted from the Federal Highway Administration website, on what a road diet is and why it’s desirable.

“A classic Road Diet typically involves converting an existing four-lane, undivided roadway segment to a three-lane segment consisting of two through lanes and a center, two-way left-turn lane.

“The resulting benefits include a crash reduction of 19 to 47 percent, reduced vehicle speed differential, improved mobility and access by all road users, and integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life. A key feature of a Road Diet is that it allows reclaimed space to be allocated for other uses, such as turn lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters, parking or landscaping.

“Why consider a Road Diet? Four-lane undivided highways experience relatively high crash frequencies โ€” especially as traffic volumes and turning movements increase over time โ€” resulting in conflicts between high-speed through traffic, left-turning vehicles and other road users. FHWA has deemed Road Diets a proven safety countermeasure and promotes them as a safety-focused design alternative to a traditional four-lane, undivided roadway.”

What was the result? In a group email from one Bend City Councilor sent last Monday,

“I have driven as well as observed the temporary closure today. I have not witnessed any significant drawbacks or hazards whatsoever…
-Doug [Knight]”

There are sections of Franklin where a road diet makes sense; it would also make a lot of sense on the section of Newport/Greenwood from the NW Wall Street to 3rd Street. There are four lanes at 3rd which eventually become two as you travel west. Without a middle turn lane, traffic travels haltingly on occasions when someone wants to head north or south by turning left. The street feels overly wide to pedestrians and those traveling by bicycle, which also makes gives those driving the feel of a wide open road and might explain the fact that many ignore the posted 25 mph speed signs.

The FHWA advises road diets on streets with less than 20,000 vehicles per day. As of a 2013 traffic analysis, Newport Avenue just before NW Wall Street has an average daily traffic count of about 13,000. Reclaiming space on Greenwood would make a bike lane (maybe even a protected one) possible.