Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Help is on the way! Maintenance and paving coming to neighborhood greenways

Posted by on May 28th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Neighborhood greenway conditions-1

PBOT has already marked areas in need of
repair on N Michigan Ave and many other neighborhood
greenways throughout the city.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

BikePortland News Editor Michael Andersen contributed reporting for this story.

Have you noticed the white paint that outlines the many cracks and potholes on your favorite neighborhood greenway? They started appearing weeks ago and I assumed something was up at the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Before I left for Europe I confirmed my hunch. It turns out that PBOT, city maintenance crews, and Mayor Hales’ office have reached an agreement that will soon bring relief to the horrible condition of our local streets — many of which have recently been turned into neighborhood greenways.

“This is good news for people who are walking and are using bikes, and especially kids who are getting to school,” PBOT spokeswoman Diane Dulken shared with us today.

PBOT and Mayor Hales have announced that City Council will consider a new “Local Street Pavement Policy” at their meeting on Wednesday. At issue is a 2009 resolution that was passed amid a tight budget year when PBOT needed to cut $4.8 million. To make that happen they decided to direct maintenance and paving funds only to “lifeline, transit and freight routes.” In other words, neighborhood streets — many of which are the lifeline of our bicycle network — would be left to deteriorate. Now, as a technicality before the City can get started on their new policy, they must officially rescind that resolution.

Since 2009, PBOT has made a significant investment (about $1 million a year) in residential streets via their neighborhood greenway program. With more people using these streets and more attention being paid to them in general, it has become clear to the Mayor and PBOT that the cracks and potholes on them are no longer acceptable.

Detail of paving priority map. Red is top priority.

“We could no longer neglect neighborhood streets where the majority of Portlanders live,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement today.

Hales has prioritized maintenance since Day One. He made it a key part of his campaign with his “back to basics” message and a City Auditor’s report that found the poor condition of many streets shows the need for “better stewardship” played right into his stump speech. According to the Mayor’s Communications Director Dana Haynes, Hales has, “pushed for this for months.” (Hales never mentioned what type of streets he would pave.)

Politics and procedure aside, this is great news for bicycling. It means that PBOT will set aside about $500,000 dollars to seal cracks and lay down asphalt patches on about 50 miles of local streets and neighborhood greenways. PBOT will also focus on 50 miles of arterials for a total street preservation strategy of 100 miles. Dulken says PBOT has a total of $9.8 million set aside for paving this fiscal year and that number could go up to $12 million next year.

What local streets will be paved first? PBOT says top priority will go to local streets on a designated neighborhood greenway that are within 1/4 mile of a public school. Here’s the detailed priority list followed by a map that shows which streets will get repaired first:

  • Priority 1: Local Street on a Neighborhood Greenway* and within 1/4 Mile of a Public School
  • Priority 2: Local Street on a Neighborhood Greenway, more than 1/4 Mile from a Public School
  • Priority 3: Local Street Not on a Neighborhood Greenway, within 1/4 Mile of a Public School
  • Priority 4: Local street Not on a Neighborhood Greenway and more than 1/4 mile from a public school

Local street pavement policy prioritization map from PBOT.
– Click to enlarge or download PDF

The only thing left is the vote in City Council on Wednesday. This is a great policy decision and I’ll be shocked if anyone votes against it. These streets are the backbone of many Portlanders’ daily mobility needs and $500,000 is the least we should invest in them.

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  • Marty May 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    So glad N Bryant St is on there. It’s so bad west of N denver

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  • Spiffy May 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    preference to “bike streets” will have OLive commenters up in arms over the injustice…

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    • Joe Adamski May 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      Regard that as a badge of honor.

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  • kittens May 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Finally! I wonder if the Lifeline rule is what made them repave perfectly good streets like Cully and 57th, as nearby streets remain gravel, curbless, no sidewalk wastelands or rapidly deteriorating paved ones. I find this whole business with proximity to schools a shameless political cover. Less someone accuse the council of only paying attention to neighborhood greenways, they can say it is “for the kids”!
    At 1/4 mi from school, kids are most likely walking anyway.

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    • ScottB May 29, 2013 at 11:39 am

      The original construction of local streets is the responsibility of adjacent property owners, not all the taxpayers of Portland.

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  • dwainedibbly May 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    But look at all of the green in those cracks!

    Seriously, though, I like the way PBOT is prioritizing for this project. The Mayor can check off the “street repair” box and it helps people on bikes, too.

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  • longgone May 28, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Portland? I thought this website was about Copenhagen?… Hum.

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  • q`Tzal May 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    If PBOT wants to reduce the maintenance costs for the neighborhood Greenways by over 95% they should ban automotive travel on those roads.

    It has been over 25 years since the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl and all the roads in the nearby evacuated city of Prypiat are in seemingly perfect condition, unchanged since people were forced to abandon the town.
    Remove the automobiles from the roads and the only road damaging forces are frost heave and root upheaval.

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    • ScottB May 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Always the rational one.

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      • q`Tzal June 1, 2013 at 11:45 pm

        Awww… How sweet, you noticed!

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  • Jessica Roberts
    Jessica Roberts May 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Have you sent your thank you note to Mayor Hales yet? Do it now! (mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov) Short is better than perfect, if it gits er done…

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  • Joseph E May 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    This is a nice start, but it’s mainly patches, not full repaving. And $0.5 million is only 5% of the paving budget for all of the local streets. If bike are supposed to reach 25% of trips in the city, per the stated goals, shouldn’t there be $2.5 million for repaving neighborhood greenways?

    The fact is, even if the whole $10 million a year were spent on fully repaving all the neighborhood streets, there are almost 3000 lane-miles of streets in all 4 categories listed on that map. With street repaving costing almost $0.5 million per lane-mile, it would take over 100 years to repave all the streets on the list. And there are another 3000 or 4000 lane-miles of city streets not listed which will all need repaving sooner than 100 years from now.

    PBOT needs new funding, if they are going to keep neighborhood streets from reverting to gravel in the decades to come, let alone pave the dirt streets in the eastern parts of the city.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 29, 2013 at 4:40 am

    It is interesting that almost all of the streets in the higher categories are on the east side. Is that because the west side streets are newer, are in better condition, include fewer greenways, or some other reason?

    Just curious. I’m glad to see this initiative.

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  • Terry D May 29, 2013 at 7:22 am

    We noticed these paint circles a few weeks back and knew that Hales/PBOT was up to this with his “Back to basics pavement preservation”……and I am happy that my thoughts on this were exactly correct!

    Now we need some real funding sources. We are never going to move past this paving versus bikes debate until there is not some real investment the lower income neighborhoods with gravel roads and no sidewalks.

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  • Dan V May 29, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Start biking the “lifeline, transit, and freight” streets. If that’s what they want to maintain, that’s what we should use…

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  • AndyC of Linnton May 29, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Good to hear. This is why when the “greenways” concept was implemented, I was not terribly impressed. The poor condition of a lot of the roads was and is a deterrent. I knew that, for example, sometimes one block over there was an equally calm neighborhood street with less bumpy roadway and just used the “greenway” as a kind of guidepost. Now with the 20 mph signs, and a little better asphalt, it will make it a lot nicer. And now to remove all through motor vehicles…

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  • Rachel May 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    John, quick question before I go on: Does this mean that unpaved streets in categories high up on the list will eventually get some sort of attention from PBOT, such as grading or paving?

    My first instinct when reading this was “hooray!” But the more I think about this, the more frustration sets in.

    I’m glad they’re prioritizing bikeways, if only for the fact that bicycles, as a smaller vehicle with smaller tires, feel the cracks and potholes more than your average car or truck. However, I wish prioritization would be based on condition of the road surface and level of bicycle traffic, so that the most benefit would be provided to the greatest number of people.

    I also agree with what Kittens points out: if you’re within a quarter mile of a school, it’s a five-minute walk. Easy. So what about schools that aren’t on a greenway, or students that live further afield? When our daughter is old enough to attend, she’ll be over three miles from her elementary school. If she ever wanted to bike there, she’d cross over two major arterials and an interstate, primarily using roads that carry a substantial amount of vehicle traffic going 30+ miles/hour and having no bike lanes or sidewalks. It seems to me they should be looking at this on a district-by-district basis and trying to ensure that there are safe routes from residential neighborhoods to the schools that serve them (which aren’t necessarily the schools closest to them – we have five public elementary schools closer to us than the one we’re assigned to).

    Also: schools aren’t the only place people go, and kids aren’t the only people traveling by foot or bicycle. This does seem like a cynical move on Hales’ part, intended to garner support. While I’m all for starting kids early, it’s important to recognize that everybody’s safety is worth protecting. Part of creating safe, livable neighborhoods is making it easy for people, young and old, to reach basic services without hopping in a car. Not just schools, but grocery stores, parks, libraries, etc. I think part of this lies in eliminating “desert” neighborhoods that don’t currently have these attractions, but also in providing safe routes to those that do.

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  • jim May 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    This is the legacy Sam Adams has left us after diverting money from maintenance to his other favorite projects.

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