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Dispatch from SE Foster Road

Posted by on January 24th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

SE Foster Road-10
Seeing SE Foster for myself — from the safety of the sidewalk.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Over the long weekend I was summoned by the sun (and the need to break in a new bike) to do an exploratory ride. I hadn’t rambled down the Springwater beyond Sellwood for ages so I thought I’d go do “the loop” (north Portland to Springwater via the Esplanade then back north via I-205 path). As I rolled north on the path, one of the overcrossings (thanks TriMet!) allowed me to gaze down on SE Foster Road. Foster has been on my mind lately as a redesign that could include bikeways has recently floated up during the ongoing streetscape planning process. Without any set route in my mind, I decided to ride up Foster and get a first-hand feel for the street.

Eek. After being out there myself, I have a much better sense of what we’re up against. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on Foster; but it’s the first time I spent time to soak in the atmosphere and think about what could be.

Almost immediately I realized that riding on SE Foster is not an option, at least not for me (I have heard that some people aren’t afraid to try). Traffic is very fast, the road is wide (at least two lanes in each direction, and some portions have a wide center turn lane as well), and there is zero room in the shoulder.

SE Foster Road-1

Some people might think the sidewalk is a pleasant oasis. It’s not. Not next to a street like Foster when a huge cement truck can rumble by just inches away (that actually happened and it sort of spooked me).

I have some personal principles about not riding on the sidewalk and asserting my legal right to be in the road. But I swallowed my pride on that stance in about two seconds. Then I realized even the sidewalk on SE Foster is no picnic. It’s extremely narrow in spots. So narrow in fact that I saw two people chatting, walking side-by-side, and one of them actually had to step into the street to continue their conversation because a utility pole blocked his way (see below).

SE Foster Road-11
SE Foster Road-2

Then I stood for several minutes at the intersection of SE 82nd and Foster. The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the intersection, the massive volume of cars that go through it, and the horrible condition of the pavement. Then I noticed, despite how intimidating the place was for everyone outside of a car, there was actually quit a bit of street life. Almost everywhere I turned I saw people walking, riding bikes, or rolling along in a scooter.

SE Foster Road-8
SE Foster Road-7
SE Foster Road-6
SE Foster Road-4
This guy popped a killer wheelie!
SE Foster Road-3

Then it occurred to me how much potential the street has. Imagine the life that would spring forward if auto traffic was tamed and the overall streetscape was more humane? Foster has a lot going for it in the way of existing storefronts and (relatively) dense residential areas nearby. Even with the clamoring and obnoxious auto traffic that defines it, it’s easy to imagine Foster as a much different place. A place where people can meet, talk, and enjoy the public space that runs through the center of their neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, at the present time, it’s just a big, wide, high-speed thoroughfare where only motor vehicles are welcome. (*SE Foster is one of the most deadly corridors in the City and has been part of PBOT’s High Crash Corridor program since 2010.)

SE Foster Road-12
So much space, so much potential.

Luckily a lot of dedicated and smart people are working to help Foster reach that potential. Following a link from the excellent neighborhood blog, FosterUnited.org, I came across the Foster Lents Integration Partnership (FLIP) planning exercise by the Portland Development Commission. They’re holding an online Town Hall to garner feedback on how to invest in the Foster Corridor. If you care about this part of our city (and you should!), I hope you’ll consider getting involved in making it a vibrant and welcoming place.

— For more on some of the streetscape design options and the potential for creating bikeways on SE Foster, see our report from last month.

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Comments
  • Nick Falbo January 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for the writeup Jonathan. That stretch from the 205 Path to 82nd really has terrible conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, the worst of the worst.

    Those are the most important blocks to get right as a part of the Streetscape Plan, but so far there is resistance from the Lents neighborhood representatives to consider lane removal on Foster as a way to see improvements for people on foot and on bikes.

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  • pdxbikeworm January 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan, for noticing the heavy pedestrian traffic at the Foster/82nd intersection. That amount of pedestrian traffic is true throughout the Lents area – one of the reasons I love living here. Another thing you will also notice about Foster are a lot of new start up businesses, particularly restaurants, but also a bike shop, a tango establishment, and a budding theater. Perfect for a bike clientele. Note, however, that there are a number of close by low traffic streets and bike boulevards. However, they aren’t well marked, and are following the standard east side grid, making it hard to maintain contact with the diagonal direction of Foster Road.

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    • Spiffy January 24, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      thumbs up for Meticon Bikes! those guys are way cool… and only about 6 blocks away from me…

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  • Timothy W January 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Funny you posted this, I just happened to be looking through vintage Portland photos and was shocked by this one of Foster and 82nd:
    http://vintageportland.wordpress.com/category/streets/foster-rd/

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  • Mike Hernandez January 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Great piece Jonathon. We’re excited as new residents of the Foster neighborhood and hope to see some positive changes in the near future.

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  • Mike Hernandez January 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I should say we can’t wait to be a part of the positive changes to come ;)

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  • gutterbunny January 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    The population density out here is just as great as that in NE (yeah I’m talking about you Mississippi and Alberta) before the gentification started. And honestly the potential for commercial developement of SE Foster far exceeds anything the above mentioned strips can do combined. It could easily rival or surpass Hawthorn even (both roughly 50 blocks), but Foster wins when one takes into account that most the East/West side streets that intersect Foster is zoned as residential and commercial for a block or two from the Foster intersection. And that unlike Hawthorn, Sellwood, Woodstock,Hollywood it’s got the room to add cycletrack to it, instead of just a few pathetic sharrows a few blocks away from the action.

    Even though I live in the South Tabor neighbor hood I head down to Foster Rd. frequently. I often shop at the Freddies there, and often get a drink or a meal at one of the Resturants in the area occasionally hit the Lents Farmers Market . And though, in all honestly improvements on Division between 82nd and 50th (or at least to 60th) would benifit me more personally. I think for the sake of the city Foster is much more important. It’s impact on increasing ridership stats would be huge, and personally have a much bigger impact than a few improvements to existing infrastucture closer in (cough cough Mult. bulvd). It would boost commercial development which is already on the rise lately, potentially increase ridership on the Green line, and improve the general conditions of all of outter SE. And it would naturally tie into the up and coming bike highway greatly improving its potenrial too,

    I really can’t think of a project recently that even comes close to what a Foster redo would give in the way of all around benifits. (Though I’ll admit Barber sucks and it needs some desperate help too).

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    • Nick Falbo January 25, 2013 at 7:30 am

      When people imagine streets like Foser Road 82nd Avenue, they think of an auto-oriented highway, but I think Jonathan hit on the untold story – These are neighborhoods filled with people.

      “”… despite how intimidating the place was for everyone outside of a car, there was actually quit a bit of street life. ”

      The neighborhoods surrounding Foster Road are traditional portland neighborhoods, every bit as dense as the houses in Clinton, Alberta or Interstate.

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      • Spiffy January 25, 2013 at 7:40 am

        they think of it as a highway because that’s what it used to be at one point… it was a nice little community int he past, but then started getting isolated… they built I-205 and increased the traffic through the area and killed Foster… sure, they brought more people, but those people didn’t stop in Lents…

        now that the area has changed back into a populated area it needs to be returned to the pedestrian mecca it once was… but change is hard for people…

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  • Champs January 24, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    If there’s a stretch of road that’s actually safer on the sidewalk than on the street, I haven’t found it.

    I’m not afraid to ride anywhere, but that’s because I don’t think people in cars are trying to kill me. I’ll take my chances being seen in the street over invisibility on the sidewalk.

    But what do I know, I’ve only been hit by a car twice, both times on or coming out of a sidewalk.

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  • Joe January 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    That jacket is awesome dude!

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  • bike me January 24, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Both Sandy and Foster can offer to bikes what they offer to motorists: a fast commute into and out of the heart of the city. We blew it with Sandy, let’s get it right with Foster.

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  • gl. January 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Coming from the east, Foster is the only straightaway that reaches the Fred Meyer on 82nd. Any other route is ridiculously complex and scattered. I don’t generally ride on sidewalks, either, but I am terrified to ride on Foster proper. Still, as you pointed out, the sidewalk is its own unnecessary gauntlet.

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  • doug b January 24, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    If a redo of Foster is done right I think it could be a game-changer for Portland, so much potential.

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  • K'Tesh January 24, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    In looking at your photo with the ped walking in the street, the problem is obvious to me…. That bush that’s taking up the sidewalk ILLEGALLY and should be pruned into compliance (better still removed). I can’t make the complaint, because I don’t know exactly where it is. But if someone who does know where that is calls 823 SAFE and explains that this is putting people in danger, perhaps something can be done.

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    • Spiffy January 25, 2013 at 7:29 am

      http://goo.gl/maps/ieNTm

      it’s the bush in front of the white car… overgrown since the Google street view image…

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      • K'Tesh January 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        Thanks for tracking that down for me Spiffy… Using the streetview, I was able to track down a former owner, who told me of the person he sold it to, who then sold it to another person. I’ve attempted to contact him, and have also contacted Safety and Livability. (503) 823 SAFE (safe@portlandoregon.gov)

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    • Spiffy January 25, 2013 at 7:31 am

      is it illegal for just anybody to come by with some clippers and shear it off along the sidewalk edge?

      I was thinking of keeping some hand-shears with me for such things…

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      • Terry D January 25, 2013 at 7:59 am

        It is perfectly legal to prune over grown plants which create a pedestrian hazard, in the public ROW. I know cyclists that carry pruners in their bags for blackberry canes hanging over bike lane….As long as it is not a public park or on private property.

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  • John Lascurettes January 25, 2013 at 12:09 am

    The telephone pole taking up half a narrow sidewalk is a common occurrence around Portland. See the sidewalks on the north side of NE Prescott between NE 37th and 42nd as another example.

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    • Spiffy January 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

      http://goo.gl/maps/2jOir

      and it looks like they had plenty of space to make the sidewalks wider… although that would have encroached on the resident’s free parking, even though very few of the houses face that street, and most have driveways…

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      • John Lascurettes January 25, 2013 at 10:00 am

        I used to live in that ‘hood. Very few park their cars at the curb on Prescott on that stretch, very few. Yes, there would be ample room to widen the sidewalks there (and put one in for the block where it drops completely just east of 37th.

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      • BURR January 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

        Most likely the sidewalks were wider at some point in the past and they narrowed them to add capacity in the ROW for motor vehicles. Historic photos clearly show this to be the case on SE Hawthorne and other east side arterials.

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        • John Lascurettes January 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

          Oddly enough, they are wider west of NE 33rd. This is mainly because the parking is only on one side of the street. Both sidewalks are plenty wide for poles and pedestrians.

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  • Cora Potter January 25, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Nick, I think it’s important to include the reasons why folks in Lents are skeptical about the benefits of removing lanes- particularly if they’re only removed on the portions West of 87th. The first and main concern is the potential aggregate increase in travel time that would disproportionately effect people that live East of 82nd, who are generally less affluent and more diverse. The second is creating a situation where the first /last opportunity to pass occurs inside the Lents Town Center pedestrian district, which means a potential increase in aggressive driving and conflict points exactly where they should be the lowest.

    These are legitimate concerns- and because the traffic counts and lack of parallel streets bring the actual utility or benefit if lane reduction into question in the first place, it is constructive and positive to insist that four lane options that focus on neck downs/curb extensions and alternative placement of bike facilities be considered.

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    • Nick Falbo January 25, 2013 at 8:23 am

      I understand the skepticism, and the 4 lane option is on the table. I just worry about the hard line “less than 4 lanes would be devastating to Lents” talk, even though no analysis has been done.

      Between 87th and 82nd, Lents has more to gain than anyone from a lane reduction. If the transition is the concern, take another lane away through to 92nd. :)

      Foster is going to be congested in the future, whether it is 3 lanes, 4 lanes, or 5 lanes. By shaving off some of that space for bicyclists and pedestrians today, you’ve basically maintained some slice of this street for yourself and your neighbors long into the future, even when 90% of the cars are coming from Happy Valley and Damascus.

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      • davemess January 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

        Agree 100% Nick. I mean seriously, when was the last time you saw “gridlock” on Foster. Even during “rush hours” it’s still moving very smoothly. Switching to two lanes might change that, but it also might push people to take Powell, which is what many of them should be doing already, as it is a dedicated highway.

        I just don’t think many people are thinking big picture here and getting what this could mean. You lose a lane or two, you slow down the street, you make it safer. Yes you may add a couple of minutes to your commute, but you also get a great new neighborhood area, that’s full of life and a place that people want to hang around. Now you can walk with your family to eat at a local restaurant, or take a quick bike ride to the grocery store. Yes you lose a little bit of auto convenience, but you gain so much more for the community.

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    • spare_wheel January 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

      “potential aggregate increase in travel time”
      some evidence to support this claim would be nice.

      “that would disproportionately effect people that live East of 82nd, who are generally less affluent and more diverse”
      once some evidence (any!) would be nice.

      “the first /last opportunity to pass”
      this is laughably trivial, imo.

      “neck downs/curb extensions”
      so…cora, how often do you bike for transportation? and doesn’t your employer have an interest in the efficient movement of large vehicles?

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      • BURR January 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

        Curb extensions stink for cyclists. They are an obstruction and a hazard and they permanently preserve curbside parking in a part of the street cross-section that could be dedicated to bicycle infrastructure rather than motor vehicle storage.

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        • davemess January 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

          True that. The curb extensions (and crosswalk islands) they have added on Foster have made it even worse for cyclists, as now you’re completely pinched into the bike lane. Curb extensions might work if there is room left for the bike lane flow through unimpeded. But as they usually used, they just create a choke point where bikes have to get over and into the traffic lane.

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          • davemess January 25, 2013 at 4:11 pm

            Sorry, I meant forced into the car lane. Clearly there are no bike lanes on Foster, which is one of the reasons we’re having this discussion.

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      • Cora Potter February 1, 2013 at 10:39 am

        1. It’s a potential increase, and yes the potential exists. The data that will document the probability/delay times/change in LOS for autos, diversion etc. is currently being modeled.

        2. 2010 census, American Community survey, geography, distance of roadway traveled over Foster required to reach home – you know statistical science stuff! (science is awesome).

        3. It is not trivial. I witness the effects of this sort of configuration at the intersection of 92nd and Holgate daily. And that intersection doesn’t involve a freeway interchange. It will be worse on the couplet if there are no passing opportunities for the entire span of Foster to the west.

        4. Accessible vehicles are no larger than standard autos or large trucks. Most are the size of minivans. What I have an interest in is ensure that vulnerable pedestrians (including older adults and people with disabilities) are able to cross the street. The only equipment specific concerns I have regarding accessible vehicles is making sure that cycle tracks do not prevent accessible vehicles from accessing the sidewalk curb to allow people to alight.

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  • Brett January 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

    It seems like you stopped your Foster Road tour at 82nd (?)… which means you saw the most challenging part of Foster Road. Although I’d love to see some sort of a bike facility all the way from SE 50th to I-205, the stretch from 82nd to I-205 will be a difficult fit within the limited right-of-way. To the (North-) West of this intersection there is a wide right of way and huge sidewalks… great potential for a cycle track or separated bikeway. There is also a lot of parking space in this stretch of road which is largely underutilized and could potentially be reallocated to one side to create more space for non-motorist purposes. Thanks for taking a look at the area.

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    • davemess January 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

      Brett, some of us attending the SAC meetings are going to make sure that it is known that many people want a CONTINUOUS bike route on Foster, for the entire length of the segments being debated. It really makes little sense to have bike facilities that randomly stop, forcing people to figure out where the heck they are supposed to go next.
      So rest assured.

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      • Brett January 25, 2013 at 11:46 am

        I agree. I attend the meetings as well and will be supporting bike access all the way to I-205 on Foster Road. I just know it will be a technical challenge, not to mention a political one. Foster Road would (will) be a great, direct bike gateway from SE to the I-205 and Springwater Paths.

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  • Terry D January 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Whatever the locally preferred alternative is for the Foster bikeway (and there REALLY needs to be one), a few conductivity issues should be worked out with the future greenway network in the area. This neighborhood could become one of the best bicycling areas of the city for very little cost once Foster is redone. Here is what it could look like (turn on the bicycling option and be warned, for some reason google chrome maps google maps look AWFUL).

    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=217379782128468346794.0004d41f9d5fca0f14acb&msa=0&ll=45.488659,-122.593946&spn=0.038149,0.08935

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    • Terry D January 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      I have noticed a large number of views. If anyone is interested in the larger maps from which this is drawn from, we have started a Facebook group advocating for an in integrated Greenway half-mile grid network plan, similar to “east Portland in Motion” for the Central city. We have defined for our purposes the area of the city bounded by 82′nd, the Willamette, the Springwater connections and the residential edge north at Columbia Boulevard/ the tracks.

      We are looking for neighborhood input and for supports to network throughout the city and build grass root support.

      https://www.facebook.com/COPINGWithBikes

      as in: “Center of Portland Integrating Neighborhood Greenways” with Bikes

      Let us know what you think!

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      • Alan 1.0 January 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm

        Very good! On both this SE map and on the one you posted about proposed downtown bikeways* in the Golden Opportunity thread, I was concerned about all the dead-end spurs which need to connect into a larger grid. I was going to say something about that but you are way ahead of me. Have you and your group site-checked your proposed routes on the ground?

        * https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=217379782128468346794.0004d3434ba2ff4beefbb&msa=0&ll=45.527757,-122.682009&spn=0.037641,0.08935

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        • Terry D January 26, 2013 at 9:16 am

          The downtown was map thrown together working under the assumption that there would have to be a block here or there that would have one lane of auto traffic taken away for two-way bike traffic, since it is on a one-way grid.

          Now, in answer to the larger maps of “Central Portland.” Yes, we have ridden every route at least once, and some of them multiple times. The southern routes of Raymond-Mitchel and Bybee-Ogdon we have checked out several times, at day and night, and specifically at commute time to see what type of auto traffic there is. Also to look at crosswalk placement.

          An example is coming out of Westmoreland heading east from the future Bybee Max station, we could have chosen Ogdon, Rural or Knapp. We Chose Ogdon not only for its directness, but because the site lines on the hill make it MUCH safer than the other two crossings.

          Raymond-Mitchel works really well. Starting from Lents park (ignoring the crosswalk work at 82nd and 72nd) once you get to Mitchel Court it is a nice relaxing ride to Kenilworth Park. That intersection of 33rd/34th and Holgate needs a redo, but then it is a straight shot bikeway to Lauralhurst park. The “Three Park Hop” is an easy half-hour ride and it only needs some sharrows and a few minor intersection improvements to make work.

          Our goals were NOT to have any dead-ends if possible, include as many parks and schools, remove as little parking as possible, have as few uncontrolled crossings of roads more than two travel lanes as possible and mark each of them as needing a solution, to stick with routes as close to the “half-mile rule” in any direction as much as we could…and do it as cheaply as we can assuming that the expensive upgrades can happen later.

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  • Joe January 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    JONATHAN – What’s the new bike? I’m shopping around and am curious what you the bikeportland dude is riding.

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  • jd January 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you very much for seeing Foster’s potential and sharing the FLIP link!

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  • Steve B January 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Great reporting Jonathan. Glad we’re taking the time to get Foster Rd right for all modes through the new FLIP process.

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  • Rebecca Hamilton January 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I’m as excited about the re-thinking of the Foster streetscape as I am about the Reptile Expo on January 26th. Can we get a close-up of that hot pink sign?

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  • Dan V January 25, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I know one of the issues facing the I-205 to 82nd stretch is its use as a route to get semis from I-205 to SE 82nd and into downtown via Foster. I agree the best option might be to continue the road diet all the way past I-205 to push that traffic onto Powell. I would think that the Lents Town Center would be better served by a reduction in traffic as well, making it more livable (at least to those people who live there, versus just driving through from Clackamas.

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  • Justin Carinci January 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for the visit and the posts! My neighborhood, Foster-Powell, has the honor of being named for two roads that, as you learned, are virtually unbikeable. Of the two, Foster has the most promise, the most life, and is the more integrated into the neighborhoods.

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  • jim January 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    It’s ironic how when you get to the neighborhoods where people are poor and rely on walking and biking that there isn’t infrastructure for either. The streets in the photo are in bad shape also thanks to Adams not taking care of them like he should have.
    I look forward to your updates on this as it evolves. Safety is job #1

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  • Meghan Humphreys March 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    The next meeting about the Foster Streetscape Plan (which would address a lot of the issues raised in this article) is tomorrow — I’m serving as a (late-replacement) rep for the BTA on this project.

    Here are the details: “The sixth Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting will be held Thursday, March 21at 6:00 PM at SE Works, 7916 SE Foster Road, Suite 104 (TriMet bus line 14, bus line 72, or bus line 10).”

    The agenda for this meeting is online at: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/440625

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