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PSU transportation class projects: Safer routes to Bridger School by Amy Wren

Posted by on November 30th, 2016 at 12:14 pm

SE 80th looking towards Mill, right outside an elementary school.
(Photos: Amy Wren)

(Publisher’s note: This week we’re excited to highlight a few of the projects created by students in Portland State University’s Traffic and Transportation course. As we reported in a profile earlier this year, the class has had a vast impact on Portland in numerous ways by churning out over 1,200 smart and inspired graduates since 1991. We worked with class assistant Rebecca Hamilton (a graduate herself who now works at Metro) to share three of the projects that will be presented by students in class later this week. Yesterday we shared Charles Tso’s work on parking benefit districts.)

Safer routes to Bridger Elementary School – Amy Wren

Tucked between Southeast 82nd Avenue and Mt. Tabor Park, Bridger Elementary School is surrounded by streets that lack sidewalks and that are littered with big potholes and gravel. Add in winter weather and vehicle traffic and you’ve got a recipe for danger and stress. For her project, Amy Wren (who took the PSU class after reading about it on BikePortland!) asked a simple question: Would you want your kids to bike or walk on those streets?

What’s your big idea?

Amy Wren

I would like to make what is currently Bridger’s Safe Route to School actually safe. Right now the area from SE 82nd down SE Mill to SE 80th where the school is located is a flooded mess in the winter. Many students take Trimet and it drops them off on 82nd where there is a signal to cross 82nd safely. They then walk down Mill towards the school. Mill does not have curbs or sidewalks the street is slowly deteriorating forcing kids to walk in the middle of the street to avoid large pools of standing water. This is also an area where parents drive to drop kids off from school which is a dangerous mix. Now that this is also a Neighborhood Greenway route and you have a large number of cyclists trying to navigate these large areas of standing water where you cannot see the depth or where the road ends.

To fix this issue I am proposing that SE Mill between SE 82nd and SE 80th have sewer lines installed so that sidewalks and curbs can be added. Not only does it make this area after for the children coming and going from school but in increases the safety of all pedestrians and cyclists using the Greenway.

The other part of my proposal is to close the intersection of SE 80th and SE Mill to cars and create a pocket park similar to the one PBOT has created on NE Holman and 13th. On SE 80th traveling west right before you get to the intersection of SE Mill you go through an area that is one lane. It is one lane due to large trees that constrict the street, I have wrapped my head around all sorts of ways to improve this area without closing the street and I am at a loss. So, this area gets closed to cars and the street is repaved for pedestrians and cyclists using the Greenway.

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What steps are you taking to make it happen? Have you made any progress towards your goal?

I have already been approved for a no parking area on SE 80th north of the large trees right before SE Mill. This means there are three fewer parking spots on the street but it gives kids negotiating the area a bit more space to walk when the pools of water are large. I have requested a stop sign to slow traffic down but am waiting on review. I have also requested to talk to one of the city engineers about the area and options for improving it. While I have my proposal I also know there are more than one way to improve things and am open to other ideas.

What have you learned about trying to make a change in your community? Has anything surprised you?

I have learned that so much of getting things done comes down to showing up and having a voice. It is so easy to complain about things on social media and to your friends but to make a difference sometimes all you need to do it make a phone call. My best example is how amazing the pothole hotline is (503-823-2867). With a quick phone call the city will fill a pothole within a couple of weeks, I call all the time and see the results. Many changes are just a phone or email request away.

I am also surprised that advocacy groups in the city continue to be dominated by white, educated, somewhat well-off people. I include myself in this category. I think the city is working hard to hear other voices but it feels like it is still a huge struggle to hear other voices. I don’t know how to fix this, but I do know you start by realizing that there are voices that are missing in the conversation.

This is the second post in a three-part series. Stay tuned tomorrow when student Ross Peizer shares his idea for a bikeway on Southwest Salmon. Also note that the final presentations for the Traffic & Transportation course will be shared live on Thursday from 6:40 to 8:40 pm at the Portland Building auditorium, 2nd Floor, Room C. The event is free and open to the public.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dick Button November 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I often ended up biking through the school on my way to my ex in Gresham. Always felt like a creepy interloper.

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    • todd boulanger November 30, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Don’t feel that way…its always best to have good “eyes on the street”…even if you are only passing thru.

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    • rick November 30, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      That is the only want to use the busy trail on SW Vermont Street just west of SW Oleson Road. Two massive schools, OES and Beaverton School District, have refused to build a legit trail on the public row.

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  • Spiffy November 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I am also surprised that advocacy groups in the city continue to be dominated by white, educated, somewhat well-off people. I include myself in this category. I think the city is working hard to hear other voices but it feels like it is still a huge struggle to hear other voices. I don’t know how to fix this, but I do know you start by realizing that there are voices that are missing in the conversation.

    this is a big one… so many minorities have been ignored for so long that they simply stopped speaking up… and they won’t start speaking up until we can show that they’re being heard by taking action on their needs… luckily a lot of outreach is being done… but until real action is taken to correct infrastructure in needy areas those people will feel their opinions aren’t heard…

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 1, 2016 at 10:58 am

      If you are assuming the transportation needs of racial/ethnic minorities are different than those of white people (an assumption I would view with some skepticism), how do you know what their needs are, and that they haven’t been advocating for them, perhaps in ways you are unaware of?

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  • paikiala November 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Stop signs are not installed to slow traffic, and rarely installed at T intersections. Mill already has speed bumps.
    Mill and 80th already have sewer lines – the catch basins at 82nd connect to them.

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    • Amy November 30, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      You are right Mill does have Speed bumps but they are East of 82nd the area I am talking about is West of 82nd. I agree that stop signs are rarely installed at T intersection, but due to the school and the limited visibility due to the trees I think it would be a good option in this area.

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      • B. Carfree November 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm

        Never refer to stop signs as a tool to slow down traffic. People living in reality know that this is what they do, but traffic engineers have a dogma against using them for that purpose. Find another way to word the need for stop signs or they won’t be happening.

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        • Amy November 30, 2016 at 3:36 pm

          Thank you for the advice. Honestly, I realize that funny tricks of the trade such as learning the correct language can make a HUGE difference in how you are perceived

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        • Alex Reedin November 30, 2016 at 4:14 pm

          Jeez, I do not understand this dogma. Stop signs absolutely slow (and divert/disperse) traffic and are, indeed, the most effective tool I’ve seen in many cases for too much speeding traffic in residential areas. Having moved to a street that, for some reason, has no stop signs while all the other nearby streets do, I’m sadly aware of the impact of stop signs on traffic (TONS of speeding cut through traffic on the non-stopped street. No, it’s not an emergency response route). What alternate justifications can I use? I’m convinced that stop signs are the only thing that will truly solve the problem (at least, the only thing that wouldn’t be a “new technique” that PBOT would have to study endlessly).

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          • Amy November 30, 2016 at 5:20 pm

            Start with making a phone call or emailing pbot and finding out why you don’t have them 503-823-SAFE or email while at times it takes awhile for them to get back to you, you will at least get a start on your question

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            • Alex Reedin November 30, 2016 at 7:31 pm

              Thanks, but no thanks 🙂 Having had a good deal of experience with the Clinton diverter campaign, a change of this magnitude is going to take mobilization of a good number of engaged neighbors as well as an effort to neutralize any potential opposition. There’s no way that a call to the safety hotline would cause PBOT to take the necessary steps to make my street no longer the convenient cut through route. 🙂

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              • Alex Reedin November 30, 2016 at 8:45 pm

                I think my first steps are going to have to be to engage and meet the neighbors. Unfortunately, the excessive traffic on the street (and the lack of a sidewalk – ironically, the cut-through street is the only one without a sidewalk) has had a deadening effect on neighborliness so far. I’m thinking to try to organize an intersection repair event this summer to build community among the neighbors and get people thinking about how unacceptable the street currently is. But my next bid after that will be to marshal people to ask the City to take some action. I really don’t think speed bumps will solve the problem. Turning stop signs seems like the logical response to the problem. Maybe I will ask the safety hotline, just so I know what the City’s illogical response will be and can formulate a strategy around it.

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              • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 2:02 pm

                Speed bumps are most effective at slowing traffic along a corridor.
                Local residents are responsible for completing local service streets.
                Consider an intersection repair project for community building.

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              • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 2:03 pm

                what street?

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              • Alex Reedin December 1, 2016 at 2:20 pm

                SE 103rd between Harold and Foster. The local lore is that residents requested speed bumps, and were told that they had to build sidewalks first.

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              • Alex Reedin December 1, 2016 at 2:26 pm

                An issue with speed bumps that I am worried about is that there are a lot of dump trucks on the street from the nearby industrial-zoned property near 104th & Reedway. The trucks already bang loudly as they go over small surface imperfections and I imagine would make quite the bang as they go over the speed bumps. Noise matters – it wakes up our children, and has proven health impacts.

                Thanks for engaging with this forum and not taking our whining too personally, paikiala. I am well aware that the frustrations we face stem from resourcing and political decisions first and foremost and that the PBOT staff is extremely dedicated.

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              • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm

                103rd is a Neighborhood Collector. Traffic calming exists all over on streets without curbs.

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              • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 2:55 pm

                the 2007 counts found:
                85th of 29-32 mph
                1200-1800 daily trips.

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              • Alex Reedin December 2, 2016 at 9:04 am

                That’s good info, thanks! Given that the City’s safety target for shared pedestrian/motor vehicle environments is 20 mph per the application to ODOT for an alternate speed zone process, I’d hope that 15% of motor vehicle traffic traveling at 29-32 mph or greater would warrant some traffic calming.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. November 30, 2016 at 7:43 pm

            Yep. The street I live on has zero stop signs between the collector streets. Speeding is rampant and I can’t even cross the street during peak hours. There’s only a single crosswalk for a half mile and it’s blocks out of my way. But PBOT classifies the street as a “local service” street — supossedly a low-traffic neighborhood street — even though daily motor volume exceeds 6,000.

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            • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

              What street?
              Traffic volume does not define classification, if it did you would not be living on a local service street.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. December 1, 2016 at 2:07 pm

                SE 52nd between Division and Powell. The street is striped like a collector with bike lanes and a solid double-yellow midline, but PBOT officially classifies it as a “local service” street.

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              • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 3:03 pm

                It also has signals at both ends. Station 25, north of Holgate also uses it to go north to Division to head east. Double yellow centerline is recommended based on traffic volume and topographic features, not street classification.
                Is it still posted for 30 mph? the 2010 counts measured 85ths of 29-32 mph.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. December 1, 2016 at 3:16 pm

                I believe it is still 30. I just find it odd that a residential street next to a school has such high volume and is striped as such. Especially since the actual collector street is two blocks to the west. It is my hope that PBOT would take steps to lower the speeds and volumes, rather than engineering for current conditions.

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          • Dan A December 1, 2016 at 8:14 am

            Washington County has a brochure to discourage people from asking for stop signs.


            Here’s the important bit:

            STOP signs are effective in helping drivers and pedestrians
            decide who has the right-of-way at an intersection. Many
            people also believe that they are an easy solution to
            neighborhood speeding and other traffic problems.
            Unfortunately, studies and experience show that using stop
            signs for these purposes does not work. Unwarranted stop
            signs can actually result in increased accidents. They also
            increase noise and pollution levels.

            Because they can only be used at intersections and not at
            mid-block locations, STOP signs are not effective speed
            reduction devices. Studies show that drivers accelerate
            rapidly after a stop. Within 100 feet of a STOP sign they
            approach their top operating speeds, which can be just as
            high (and sometimes higher) than the speeds at
            uncontrolled intersections.

            Properly placed STOP signs can greatly reduce the risk of
            traffic accidents. However, where STOP signs are installed
            as “speed breakers”, there is a high incidence of violation
            or running the STOP sign. Most drivers are reasonable and
            prudent with no intention of purposely violating traffic
            regulations. However, when an unreasonable restriction is
            imposed, it can result in flagrant violations. In these cases,
            the STOP sign creates a false sense of security in
            pedestrians and motorists. The result can be an increase in
            serious accidents

            Anticipating how a new stop sign will affect nearby roads
            is a difficult aspect of traffic engineering. Experience
            shows that a STOP sign in one location affects nearby
            traffic patterns. Drivers may seek new routes to avoid the
            obstacle. Traffic engineers try to ensure that they don’t
            solve one problem by creating another.

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      • paikiala November 30, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        Go back and visit, or take a look at street view.
        Are you saying the two bumps west of 82nd have been removed?

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        • David Hampsten December 1, 2016 at 3:17 am

          I lived in East Portland for 8 years and used this route frequently. The section of Mill WEST of 82nd is rough, but it has never had speed humps. They added speed humps between 82nd and 92nd a few years ago, but never between 82nd & 80th.

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          • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 11:59 am

            Contrary to what street view shows?
            They were installed in 2010.

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    • J_R November 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      “Stop signs are not installed to slow traffic, and are rarely installed at T intersection.”

      Right. Except for the entirely unnecessary installation of stop signs at the center of Ladd’s Addition. They are clearly there as a means of discouraging through traffic and slowing traffic. And, they are installed at an intersection of a two-way street with a one-way street, which makes them even less necessary than for a T-intersection of two-way streets.

      And, by the way, I stop at the stop signs. Every. F@*#ing. Time. They are completely unnecessary. It’s just about time for another stop sign enforcement action to penalize cyclists.

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  • Terry D-M November 30, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I like the Pocket Park idea, I proposed it a few years back but the rumour mill said a few neighbors were highly opposed. After my recent North Tabor experience I would do major outreach… in talking to every neighbor within a block. Getting signatures is critical.

    Personally, I would be happy with some pothole filling and a DIVERTER in between the Firs on 80 th. This is along the 70s Bikeway which is theoretically funded……so assuming the background activism and support is there, it could be built as part of the project.

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    • Amy November 30, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Hi Terry, I am 99% sure I came across the area you were looking to put in the diverter on Oregon St. I agree getting the neighbors on board will take some effort. But, I am optimistic, it seems like cut through traffic from 82nd is only increasing so folks might desire the diverter. I would be interested in hearing from you what the push back was.

      I figure this is a long project that will take many years to get off the ground(money/planning/public comment etc.) but since it is a daily headache for me I am willing to put in the effort, I am also heartened that other folks have tried to improve this area before(I came across some of it while researching options for this area)so there is a coalition to be built. I am also heartened by the Montavilla neighborhood association and the Jade district for really being open and doing lots of good work to make change happen in this neighborhood.

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      • David Hampsten December 1, 2016 at 3:26 am

        I think your project is a really good one and all, but…

        1. The neighbors really like having those big trees in the middle of the right-of-way, and

        2. According to Portland Maps, the owner of 1838 SE 80th still owns half of the right-of-way, effectively blocking improvements on 80th.

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      • Terry D-M December 2, 2016 at 12:10 am

        Feel free to contact me, we can hit the bipartisan and chat. Terry.Dublinski at Gmail

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  • Hopeful November 30, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I LOVE the pocket park at 13th and Holman and I wish we had many more throughout the city. Thanks for taking the class and coming up with your project. I hope it gets built out!

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    • rick November 30, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      It is a great gathering place.

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  • Eric Porter November 30, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    I used to live just up 13th from the Pocket Park at Holman. It was a good little spot for people in the neighborhood to hang out. It definitely made things a whole lot nicer for the neighbors. Other than some minor driving inconveniences, why would the neighbors oppose one?

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    • Amy November 30, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      Reading about the Pocket Park at Holman blew my mind. The fact that EVERYONE in the neighborhood pretty much supported the idea is amazing.

      I think in general the idea of closing a “road” to cars which people associate with being used only for cars is a big deal to them. If you only use it in your car the idea of change is hard to stomach. But I believe and hope that once you figure out a way to communicate how it is beneficial to them and focus on how closing a road might be better for them you might get some support. At least I hope that is what my plan is for talking to the neighbors

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    • paikiala November 30, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      Look at a map.
      Holman/13th has alternate paths to the main system.
      If you’re south of Mill and west of 80th, it’s a superblock of travel to get back east.

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      • Alex Reedin November 30, 2016 at 8:59 pm

        What’s expected of the goose should be expected of the gander. I travel out of direction to SE Lincoln in order to go from one destination on Hawthorne to another comfortably by bike. It takes an extra 2 minutes per google maps. Someone going from SE 80th & Mill to SE 82nd & Division by car would take… An extra two minutes per Google Maps if SE 80th were closed to car traffic at Mill!

        I have a deal for you. I’ll close SE 80th at Mill, and PBOT can reopen it once my cycle track on Hawthorne is open.

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        • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

          you choose that path, it is not forced upon you.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. December 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm

            I beg to differ. If I am choosing my path based on lack of motor traffic (i.e. safer and more comfortable) then it is the motor traffic that is forcing me to take that route.

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          • Alex Reedin December 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm

            Biking uphill on Hawthorne is something that 99% of the population will go to great lengths to avoid. It’s like providing a heavily rutted, lengthy dirt track to a person with a 2WD passenger car and saying a detour around it isn’t required. Yes, most people could in all likelihood traverse it safely by taking it at 5mph or less and carefully going around obstacles, but it would be less safe – and less comfortable, and way less likely to actually be driven – than a road that was actually suited to their vehicle. It’s pretty darn close to a hard obstacle in terms of its effects.

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    • Paula F November 30, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      I live around the corner from there on Harrison. Ride that section every day on my commute to NE 132nd. Part of me likes the roughness because it is, in and of itself, a way that has kept speeds lower, along with it being, essentially, a one car at a time pass through.

      The worse traffic times are school drop off and pick up – parents park all over the place; Sundays when the Slavic church lets out (they open the back gate and there are drivers going all directions). There is definitely cut through traffic – 82nd getting to Division and vice versa.

      Some opposition is due to some improvements get passed back to the property owners and many don’t like that – e.g., PCC SE improvements and a lot of road improvement issues. While inconvenient, having to drive a longer block may not be an issue for everyone, especially if the trade-off is fewer cut-through traffic – some who think the stretch from 76th/77th to 80th is a drag strip.

      Along Mill you will likely encounter the parking issue. With no sidewalks, several houses use up what would be sidewalk/parking strip to pack more cars in by head-in parking.

      I, personally, would love to see a pocket park, especially since those evergreens are there.

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      • Amy November 30, 2016 at 5:28 pm

        Hi Paula, I think you are one of the many folks who delicate time to my neighborhood so a BIG THANK YOU.
        I totally agree if the road was any wider or in better shape I think it would become a HUGE cut through, and I would rather it stay how it is than see it become a place for folks to quickly cut down to 76th. I can’t believe how many cars use SE 76th.
        I live around SE 85th and SE Hawthorne which is it’s own little enclave that is cut off due to roads not going though all the way or unimproved roads not being drivable and while it means that we have to go a couple blocks out of the way to get get to 82nd I could careless since it means we have NO cut through traffic. I *hope* this would be enough to sell folks on the idea but who knows.

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        • Paula F November 30, 2016 at 5:31 pm

          I try 🙂 – thanks. Yep, we exchanged via the MNA email list.

          I think much will be meeting with them and find out what their “hot topic” items are. If the project can address those, some of the compromises are easier to get through.

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    • Terry D-M December 2, 2016 at 12:15 am

      In my neighborhood it was the most controversial issue in years. Not only would cars have to drive a WHOLE block or two out of the way, but …gasp…..a park might attract homeless people! …. sigh…..

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  • Amy November 30, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Go back and visit, or take a look at street view.
    Are you saying the two bumps west of 82nd have been removed?
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    You are totally right. I just went down the street on my way home and there are two speed bumps. I am astonished that I have missed them all this time. Maybe because of all the other stuff going on on this stretch I have not noticed but I stand corrected. They seem lower than most(this might just be my imagination) and I wonder if they are a lower shape due to this being an emergency vehicle route?

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    • David Hampsten December 1, 2016 at 3:30 am

      Given how rough the street is, it’s likely most folks regard them as badly built pavement patches.

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    • paikiala December 1, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      It is not an emergency route.

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  • Champs December 1, 2016 at 8:13 am

    If you’re looking for people of color and/or modest means, they’re probably at work cleaning offices and preparing food for professional whites who are off of work.

    I know that weekend meetings could interfere with travel plans, but weeknights are not free time for everybody—especially people who can ill afford time off.

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  • Kate Walker December 1, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Amy, thanks for your work on this issue. This stretch is a nightmare, especially when it’s dark…cars, bikes, pedestrians all have trouble navigating. I hope improvements happen soon!

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  • GutterBunnyBikes December 4, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I’m extremely familiar with this area. In never particularly liked the cities proposed 70’s bike path because it is slated to go through this stretch, but from the best I can ever tell, it never addressed the road conditions of 80’th from Mill to Sherman.

    Something needs to be done through here, but the Parkette idea I don’t care for, and quite frankly I think would be extremely detrimental to the traffic flows through the neighborhood there. Despite it poor conditions, it is the main access for the dozens of apartments through this stretch on the East side of 80th, not including the back exit of the Slavic Church which gets enough auto traffic during is services and events that it often also fills the PCC parking to the south of it.

    Blocking the traffic completely through this stretch will dramatically increase the traffic on the other east-west streets like (especially) Stephens (the current east-west Greenway from 80th to Mt. Tabor Park) all the way to 76th.

    Though I know it probably isn’t a very popular option, dropping that tree at 80th and Mill and just paving it for both cars and bicycles would keep the volumes of traffic from the apartments and the Church to quickly filter out of the neighborhood and reduce potential conflicts between users at that intersection.

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