City Council votes 4-0 in favor of 50s Bikeway project

Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor
Sam Adams listening to testimony on
the 50s Bikeway project today.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Portland City Council voted in unanimous support of the 50s Bikeway project today (Commissioner Saltzman was not present).

The $1.5 million, federally funded project will fill a 4.3 mile gap in the north-south bikeway along 52nd and 53rd Avenues from SE Woodstock to NE Thompson. A mix of bike lanes and bike boulevards, along with crossing improvements at eight major arterial streets, will connect the nearly 20,000 nearby residents and 12 schools within a half-mile of the route with a low-stress biking experience.

One of the people who testified
in opposition of the project.

39 people signed up to testify to commissioners and Mayor Adams today. The majority were in favor of the project. People in opposition to the proposed semi-diverter at SE 52nd and Division — which I shared more about earlier today — showed up and made their case known. However, they weren’t as numerous or organized as some people thought they’d be.

John Mulvey, a citizen who has followed this project closely, said the opposition was, “Hardly the pitchfork-wielding mob we thought we might see.”

Almost every person who showed up to oppose the diverter said they support the overall project.

One woman, a resident of SE 54th (one of the streets some fear diverted traffic will flow), told council that she was opposed to putting the diverter in and then evaluating the impacts. “You don’t first build a dam and then decide where water will go,” she said.

The BTA added to the love for
the project with these stickers.

Another woman (who lives on SE 53rd) said 52nd Avenue is the “safest and least stressful” way to get to her driveway. She was concerned about the “cumulative impact” of the diverter “throughout the neighborhood.” “Most especially,” she said, “the City’s plan is silent about the impact of forcing hundreds of more cars onto an undersized thoroughfare like Division Street.”

Bruce Treat, former president of the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association, said that residents who oppose the diverter should just “be good neighbors and absorb some of the traffic.”

Another local resident testified that she also drives on SE 52nd and that the proposed diverter would be a hassle. But, she added, “This inconvenience is something I’m willing to accept in order to see the safety of all enhanced.”

Opposition to the diverter wasn’t persuasive enough to stop PBOT’s plans; but it did cause Council to take note of the considerable neighborhood displeasure it has drummed up.

On that note, Commissioner Amanda Fritz proposed an amendment to have PBOT develop a report that will be given to Council and to surrounding neighborhoods within one year. The report will provide full analysis of traffic counts, crash data, and other traffic impacts. The amendment passed and it served to re-affirm what PBOT had already planned to do — move forward but analyze the impacts and react to them if necessary.

Commissioner Nick Fish told those in opposition to the diverter that they shouldn’t consider today’s vote a failure. “Don’t consider it a loss,” he said, “You’ve helped make a record of your issue and have had the City make a commitment to testing.”

Commissioner Randy Leonard, who knows what it’s like to ride in this area, wasn’t as diplomatic with his comments. He said issues like this are all about balance and that it’s the City’s job not to “myopically look at the impacts of 51st, 53rd and 54th… But to look at the more broader analysis” to see if the project meets its goals of improving bike safety conditions.

It’s a solid win for Mayor Adams to get this large project through with minimal controversy.

“I’m really pleased we can move forward on this major north-south safety improvement,” he said at the end of today’s meeting.

PBOT says they hope to have design engineering and federally required environmental work completed before the end of 2012, with construction to follow shortly after that.

— Learn more about what’s in store for this new project by downloading a PDF of a report by the PBOT project team to City Council. I’ll update this post when I hear back about a construction timeline.

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