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City commits funds to honor history in Williams Ave project

Posted by on July 2nd, 2013 at 1:54 pm

N Williams Ave Open House-N Williams Ave Final Open House-9

Detail from a PBOT poster about
the Williams project.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

Learn more about this project in our archives and on PBOT’s website.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Allan July 2, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    There is other momentum for the traffic signal @ vancouver & cook in that multiple buildings occupancy permits are dependent on it being in place – The block south of the new new seasons and the building at the SE corner of fremont & williams

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson July 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    i bet it only took $20 to install this tribute

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  • Alain July 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks for keeping these updates on the radar Jonathan! Wish this project could be done already… tired of the speeding autos, and the M-F 3-6:30 pm jam that occurs on Williams between Alberta and Killingsworth. Otherwise, this is a good time of year. With windows open, I can hearing passing cyclists talking, singing, or the quieter whirring and buzzing of chain and gears. Much more pleasant sounds than the autos using the neighborhood as a pass-through.

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  • jim July 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    They are getting ready to screw up one more north south arterial just like they did with Interstate ave. Interstate ave used to be 4 lanes wide, now it is a rush hour parking lot forcing cars onto smaller streets that were never designed for such use. The same thing is going to happen to the area around Williams when it gets all clogged up. What they should do is fix I-5 so the Washington cars don’t have to cut through our neighborhood.

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