As we reported last March, the City of Portland has about $1.5 million to spend on the North Williams Traffic Safey & Operations project. That’s enough money to build all recommendations put forward by the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) in April 2012.
However, PBOT was in a tricky spot when they found out the state grant that’s funding the project ($1.3 million of the total) could not be used for one small but crucial piece: the “Honoring History Streetscape”. That element of the project is a $100,000 piece of public art that will, “honor N Williams Avenue’s importance in local African-American history.”
Given their extremely tight transportation budget, PBOT had to decide how to move forward with the project after realizing they’d need to come up with an additional $100,000. Instead of starting the project without a firm commitment to fund the Honoring History Streetscape, last week PBOT project manager Rich Newlands announced they’ve decided to fund it with bureau funds. Here’s more from an email Newlands sent to stakeholders last week:
“… the grant program did not allow for this type of improvement. Given its importance to the overall project… the Bureau of Transportation will commit to funding this element with PBOT funds.”
In addition to making that decision, Newlands offered an update on the project. The City will begin the design engineering phase of the project in mid-late August. That process will take about eight months and will result in detailed, finalized plans for the new street design along with detailed technical specifications and cost estimates. Newlands says they intend to start construction of the project next summer (2014) with hopes of wrapping up the considerable amount of new lane striping before the fall and winter rains.
In addition to the work on Williams, PBOT will begin design engineering work on a new neighborhood greenway on N. Rodney, which was identified as a priority by the SAC.
Once the design plans are about 30% complete, PBOT will host an open house for the SAC to allow them to review the draft plans and ask questions. (Keep in mind, due to the controversial and high-profile context of this project, PBOT is doing a much higher than usual level of interaction with the SAC.) “The intent of the open house,” writes Newlands in the email, “is to allow members to confirm that the design plans adequately reflect the improvements identified in the recommendations adopted by the committee last year. The intent is not to provide another opportunity to revisit design decisions we have already made and that are established in the recommendations of the final report, unless necessary in the event we have found a serious design issue.”
Another development in this project is that a group of local property owners are working with the City to establish a Local Improvement District (LID) that would fund a new traffic signal at N Cook and Vancouver. PBOT has already budgeted for a new signal at N Cook and Williams, hence the momentum for a complementary signal at Vancouver.