Harvest Century September 22nd

UPDATED: ‘Outer Powell’ project gets $4.9 million for street safety improvements

Posted by on August 1st, 2013 at 9:08 am

People walking - SE Powell at 93rd-1

Walking on SE Powell Blvd is set to get easier thanks to funding recently approved by the Oregon Legislature.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

SE 136th Press Conference-7

State Rep. Shemia Fagan has put state money where her mouth is when it comes to east Portland.

In a significant show of state support for safety and walkability on Powell Boulevard in East Portland, Oregon’s legislature has voted to devote $4.9 million to sidewalks, crosswalks, and wider bike lanes on Southeast Powell Boulevard between 111th and 174th avenues.

It’s the work of State Rep. Shemia Fagan, who back in June memorably described her constituents’ infrastructure needs as “sidewalks, sidewalks, sidewalks.” After the death this spring of five-year-old East Portlander Morgan Cook, Fagan promised to pursue funding to improve safety on nearby streets.

She’s about to get it. The money will be awarded to the Oregon Department of Transportation in the annual “Christmas Tree” bill approved by both legislative houses and currently awaits an expected signature from Gov. John Kitzhaber. It’s part of the same passage that will, with additional funding from the City of Portland, put sidewalks and crosswalks on Southeast 136th Avenue by next fall.

The Powell improvements will be a down payment on the Outer Powell Boulevard Design Plan, approved by Portland City Council last year, which aims to eventually add 12-foot sidewalks, a center median and 8-foot buffered bike lanes to the state highway from Interstate 204 to the city limits at 174th.

Here’s what the corridor looks like now, for example at 150th Avenue:

View Larger Map

“This money allows ODOT to begin planning actual projects,” Fagan’s legislative aide Eric Franz wrote in an email. “The timeline will be a little longer than 136th, but it’s real money going to a real project, not just planning.”

It’s heartening to see this money start to improve the scene on a highway that’s sometimes used as a cautionary example of the sort of road Portland doesn’t want any more of.

How much money is $4.9 million? Well, for context, it’s:

Update 1 p.m.: ODOT spokeswoman Shelli Romero writes with some more details on what exactly this will pay for: “The funding will be applied toward project development which means public involvement, alternatives analysis and environmental work. The corridor is complex and the amount secured is not the full amount needed to get us to full design and to the point where the project would be ‘construction-ready.’ ODOT estimates that it will likely take about $10m to design the entire Outer Powell corridor from I-205 East to SE 176th so that it will be construction ready. The $4.9m gets us started, but it does not get it finished.”

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    9watts August 1, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Promising. I’d have preferred to spend the earmarked funds on the bike and pedestrian improvements and skip the balance (tens of millions) that goes toward making things better for those in cars. But we’ll take what we can get, right?

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      Paulie August 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

      I live near 148th and Powell, and I can say that a center turn lane will improve things for cyclists. The bike lane is currently used by autos to pass left-turning vehicles, and is also a de-facto sidewalk since there is nowhere else to walk.

      This makes me glad I voted for Rep. Fagan.

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    Dwainedibbly August 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    We could do 500 of these for the price of one CRC! I’d settle for 250 of them, I think.

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    CaptainKarma August 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I really do wish they’d do something about those rampant motor vehicle incursions onto the bike path/sidewalk. A curb maybe? Way too many walking kids and moms with baby strollers have to use that space. Throw in the wrong- way salmon and TriMet stops…it gets to be a three-ring circus.

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    TOM August 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    The improvements are from 111th to 174th on Powell , but the lead pic is of of 96th & Powell , looking the wrong direction.

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    Doug Klotz August 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    It would be nice if the center median occurred at busy intersections to provide a pedestrian refuge, but the way planning for this has gone so far, the center median becomes a center turn lane at intersections (signalized or not), so it is only useful for a pedestrian refuge between intersections.

    It also still suffers from being an ODOT facility, with through traffic being the primary interest, so pedestrian crossings must be far apart. No on-street parking is allowed, whether behind cycle tracks or in front of them so it is less likely that any sort of storefront retail will develop, etc. It is also less likely they’ll do innovative stuff like cycle tracks, instead of standard bike lanes. Maybe they’ll allow a painted “buffer”, as long as it allows “errant vehicles” to swerve all over the roadway before their path gets back to normal. Trees near the curb are severely limited by ODOT’s new tree standards: nowhere within 150′ of any corner or driveway, essentially. But maybe I’ll be proven wrong!

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