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Coalition of legislators scores $17 million to rebuild 14 blocks of Outer Powell

SE 136th Press Conference-7
State Rep. Shemia Fagan has stepped
up for safer streets in east Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s not the $25 million that would have been wrapped inside last month’s ill-fated bipartisan transportation bill, but Powell Boulevard is lined up for a long-awaited improvement.

The state-run road is lined up to get $17 million to add sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly crossings and bike lane upgrades — which, as we reported last month, could come in the form of protected bike lanes. Another $3 million pledged by the City of Portland Friday would bring the project’s funding to $20 million for the blocks between SE 122nd and 136th avenues.

The rebuild “will break ground in 2018,” according to Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas) a second-term legislator in a swing district who has been a dogged champion for better walking and biking in the area.

Joining Fagan in support for this funding was a chorus of other local legislators, including Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-East Portland), Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-NE Portland), Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley/East Portland), and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland).

A rendering of a recommended design for Outer Powell.
Today, the street lacks complete sidewalks.
(Source: Outer Powell Conceptual Design Plan)

As reported by Willamette Week, the upgrade will include one of the most dangerous intersections in the state: SE Powell and 122nd, the site of 220 reported injuries between 2004 and 2013, four of them of people biking. (Willamette Week said state officials call it the single most dangerous intersection in Oregon, but it’s not clear how they were counting; several intersections had more injuries in the decade.)

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Four “key elements” of a protected intersection.
(Image: ProtectedIntersection.com)

Powell and 122nd also happens to be one of two intersections that were used by Portland resident Nick Falbo as a model for a groundbreaking video that itemized the characteristics of a “protected intersection” that could prevent most bike-car turning conflicts. That concept has since led to working models being approved in Austin, Davis, Salt Lake City and Boston. Last month, one member of the advisory committee for the state’s Outer Powell project told us she thought the design would be possible there.

In a comment on BikePortland last month, the Oregon Department of Transportation project manager for Powell said the current process “will not preclude” raised bike lanes as part of the plan.

Meanwhile the planning process that’ll determine how this and future money will be spent on Powell continues. The next meeting of the “decision committee” for Outer Powell is set for the fall. On Saturday, Aug. 1, project staff will lead a bike ride for people who use Powell to talk about possibilities for improving the street.

You can also submit a site-specific or general comment on the project website.

Correction 7/7: An earlier version of this post listed the wrong date for the next meeting of the Outer Powell decision committee.

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