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New city grant program will fund livable streets projects

Posted by on June 28th, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Creative bike racks? Intersection painting? Street seats? Get the city to pay for it!
(Photo of heart painting by Ted Timmons, others by Jonathan Maus)

Been itching to do an intersection painting in your neighborhood? Or how about a bike parking corral with a few creative flourishes?

“We’re inviting Portlanders to put their local knowledge and creativity to work to benefit their communities.”
— Dan Saltzman, PBOT commissioner

If so, you might want to look into the new Portland Bureau of Transportation grant program dubbed “Portland in the Streets” that will fund, “creative community projects to make neighborhood streets, sidewalks, and trails safer, more beautiful and open to all.” Community and neighborhood groups are eligible for up to $20,000 and a total of $100,000 is up for grabs.

“We created this program because small changes can make a big difference,” said transportation commissioner Dan Saltzman in a statement today. “We’re inviting Portlanders to put their local knowledge and creativity to work to benefit their communities.”

PBOT Director Leah Treat added, “I want to empower Portlanders with this grant program. They know best how their streets can serve them differently and better.”


The type of proposals the city hopes to fund are community-driven projects focused on infrastructure and education campaigns that promote transportation safety, equity, innovation and placemaking. Grants are also available for events in city streets and urban trails.

Examples of projects PBOT says they’ll fund include intersection paintings, creative crosswalk art, street seats, transportation-related outreach campaigns, and more.

This new “Portland in the Streets” program is part of Portland’s emerging Livable Streets Strategy, a program that, “aims to empower communities across Portland to create and activate their own spaces.”

In other words, PBOT wants to promote the idea that streets are for more than just moving cars; they are public spaces that should be enjoyed by all. It’s all part of, “Portland’s new era of open streets.”

Grant applications are due August 31st. Download the application form or learn about upcoming informational workshops at the city’s website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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

  • Middle of the Road Guy June 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    This is cool! But hopefully we won’t soon get hit with another arts tax.

    While painting an intersection is nice, I think anything going towards infrastructure should be funded first.

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    • David Hampsten June 28, 2017 at 6:59 pm

      I think the program is aimed at getting residents to take some responsibility for street maintenance and design rather than relying on PBOT to do everything. A bit like a neighborhood watch, but dealing with the pavement.

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      • SE Rider June 29, 2017 at 3:06 pm

        So passing the buck to a bunch of amateurs? What could possibly go wrong?

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  • B. Carfree June 28, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    $100k here, $100k there and pretty soon we’re talking about a full-fledged team of traffic law enforcement officers. What would enhance my experience cycling on the street more, a few painted intersections that I can’t really take in because I’m concerned about diverting my attention from the person playing with their vibrating toy while driving, or having motorists get in the habit of following the law because of rigorous traffic law enforcement?

    As that rare person who has actually lived with real traffic law enforcement in an American setting, I can assure you that it is key to making cycling something everyone can and will do.

    It’s not that I oppose such things being built, it’s just that budgets are priorities, and I would prioritize making the streets function for all modes, and particularly for the modes that we expressly claim to want more of, before I would fund other niceties.

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    • Annag June 28, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      Yes, well said ! besides speed and crosswalk enforcement, it would be great if PDOT would maintain and enhance what they already have, regular sweeping of bike lanes, repainting worn off lane markers and bike stencils and perhaps adding wands as a better buffer than just paint. Repaving the crumbling roads would probably cost too much but simple maintenance ?
      Its too bad that this blog doesn’t qualify as a community group, I’m sure we could come up with a list of projects we’d like.

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  • q June 28, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    This could backfire. The next time people get asked to vote for anything related to transportation, they’ll think, “They already are spending what they have painting flowers in intersections instead of fixing potholes, and if they get more money, they’ll spend the new money that way too”, and they’ll vote no.

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    • 9watts June 29, 2017 at 9:35 am

      “This could backfire. ”

      Hm. Interesting.

      My initial reaction was of delight: VBC’s scrappy stance of yore has made it to center stage. But of course the more cynical commenters here have a point: is this marketing or a sincere attempt at gaining ground against the automobile, or perhaps a bit of both?

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      • q June 29, 2017 at 3:21 pm

        I’d guess a bit of both. And I hate being negative about funding things that could be positive. But imagine seeing PBOT promoting a new intersection painting it just funded in the same week you’re reading about someone getting run over 5 blocks away at a location neighbors had been begging for a marked crosswalk for 5 years. People will notice those things.

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  • q June 28, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Within one block of my house, here are transportation things needing the most attention:
    1. A marked sidewalk that leads to a landscaped median, with no markings to get you from there across two lanes to the other side of the street.
    2. Median plantings that haven’t been trimmed in so long that half the sidewalk is buried, and you’re totally hidden from traffic when you step off the curb because the plantings at the curb have grown to over 6′ high.
    3. A brand new multi-use path built without meeting ADA requirements, so it’s dangerous.
    4. “No parking” signs either so faded that they’re unreadable, or missing, so that people park in the traffic lanes, in the way of pedestrians, etc.
    5. Railroad crossing warning signs that were removed for a construction project and never replaced.
    6. Poorly designed bollards on a new multi-use path that allow confused or inconsiderate drivers to drive vehicles onto the path (and they do).
    7. A public parking lot with almost no enforcement, so the ADA parking spaces are being used as private parking for days at a time.

    Why not fix these types of problems? I don’t other neighborhood situations are much different than ours. Or should I apply for a grant from this program to fix these basic problems?

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    • paikiala July 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      1. Huh? a marked sidewalk?
      2. Median plants that block sidewalk? maintenance of plants near sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner. There is a form to request citing nuisance issues.
      3. where? is it finished? did you request service to correct it?
      4. 823-1700 is the number for maintenance. Traffic lanes are usually for vehicles.
      5. see #3
      6. see #3
      7. 823-SAFE is the number to call for corrections and enforcement.

      New to Portland?

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      • q July 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm

        What’s with the condescending attitude, especially your, “new to Portland?” comment? Ironically, its the same attitude I sometimes (fortunately not always) get when I contact PBOT or other agencies. I’m simply, politely pointing out valid concerns (to them and here) then getting condescending or dismissive reactions.

        1. Yes, it’s a marked sidewalk with a signal from the sidewalk to the island, then no markings or signal from the island to the other side of the street.

        2. The sidewalk is on the island. The property owner is ODOT on at least part of the sidewalk, and either the City or ODOT on the rest.

        3. The path is the new path between the Sellwood Bridge and Willamette Park. It has been finished for about a year, except for the lack of ADA compliance. I did request it to be fixed, months ago. It took me a month of phone calls to get someone at the City to bother to respond. When he did, he claimed that the reason the ADA regulations were not met was that the regulations were different when the bridge project was started years ago. When I told him the trail construction documents weren’t done six years ago, and that the requirements they failed to meet involved things that have been standard for decades, he gave me a curt “thank you for your concern” reply. He also would not agree to fix them in any timely fashion. That was several months ago, and nothing has been done.

        4. I talked to a PBOT project manager involved with the signage about two years ago, with no response after his promise to get a new sign installed. So I called PBOT maintenance over a month ago, with a promise to look into it, but no action yet. Why did you write, “Traffic lanes are usually for vehicles?” Do you think we all don’t know that? That’s condescending. It’s a street without sidewalks or shoulders, and it’s also a designated City pedestrian route, so yes, people walk in the traffic lane.

        5. On the rail r.o.w. by Willamette Park. Yes, I’ve reported it to Parks, the trolley, and the Consortium that owns the r.o.w. Nothing done yet. Trolley is running through as people cross. Last night, about 500-1000 people crossed in the dark there.

        6. At Commissioner Fritz’s suggestion, I contacted a member of her staff to set up a meeting at the site. She said that’s the route she’d like me to take. I’ve been trying for a month now to get that meeting, and her staff hasn’t yet even agreed to meet. Given the response I got from Parks to my similar issue (3 above) I’m not looking forward to getting another run-around.

        7. It’s a Parks parking lot. I’ve reported the problem in writing about 20 times over the last year or more. I reported it again today. I include photos and license plates. Maybe this 21st time will be the one they respond to.

        Again, “New to Portland”???? Shame on you for saying that.

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      • q July 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        Another thing, in regard to reporting concerns….it’s one thing to expect to have to report something like a damaged or faded sign. That’s legitimate, since PBOT (or ODOT or whomever) can’t be expected to know about every problem without public reports.

        But personally, I’m tired of having to report things that agencies should have noticed on their own. For instance, the overgrown sidewalk I mentioned above—nobody has trimmed that vegetation for at least a couple years! Shouldn’t the agency have a maintenance schedule that entails trimming before half the sidewalk is covered, or before the bushes get 7′ tall that you step out from when you cross the street? There was even recent work on that island, and it was crawling with public agency staff and inspectors from at least ODOT and the County, and perhaps PBOT, yet nobody noticed the overgrown vegetation, or bothered to get the message to maintenance staff.

        Even more crazily, what about the situation I mentioned (same location as above) where the marked crosswalk goes to the center island, then doesn’t continue to the other sidewalk? How many people were involved designing that intersection, then reviewing the design, building it, and inspecting it? Several? Several dozen? Yet none of them noticed the obvious safety issue. That’s not the type of thing that citizens should have to report. That’s just sloppy design and management on the part of the agency.

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        • 9watts July 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm

          same thing I wondered aloud about on the 101 shoulder repaving fiasco. We pay the salaries of these clowns. We should expect *much* better oversight from them.

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth June 29, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Actually, what I’d like to see in my neighborhood and city-wide is a change in the law/practice that allows utility/construction projects to dig a trench in the middle of the street and to replace just the bit they dug up. In my street alone there is a patchwork of concrete and asphalt that makes biking a lot less comfortable. I think that if Comcast, CenturyLink, Rose City Water or whoever is digging up the street, guess what? They have to replace the pavement for the whole block, with new asphalt and make it up to the appropriate codes. In San Diego, I believe that each street is only allowed to be opened once every two years, and they notify all interested parties so that they have to work together to get all their stuff done at the same time.

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    • David Hampsten June 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      The city already charges for the privilege – it’s called the Utility License Fee or ULF. The city collects about $70 million annually on it. Originally (in 1988) 100% of it was supposed to go to PBOT for street maintenance, but is was cut, then cut again, etc. PBOT now gets 2% of it, the general fund (police, fire, parks, etc) get the other 98%.

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      • Matthew in Portsmouth June 29, 2017 at 1:59 pm

        The ULF is a tax levied on certain businesses, it is not a charge to make roads/sidewalks good when you hack into them. What I want is if you cut through a concrete roadway to lay a sewer pipe or electric or whatever, you have to repave that block. Most of the time they patch the bit they cut through with whatever is the cheapest thing that they can get away with. In my street we’ve got slabs of concrete and stretches of asphalt, all of which move separately when the earth moves and makes for a very uneven road surface. This is replicated throughout the city. If the utilities were required to remake the road on a block every time they cut through it, they would very quickly coordinate to ensure that their costs are minimized. If we don’t make them responsible they won’t take responsibility.

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        • Dave June 30, 2017 at 8:35 am

          According to the PBOT inspector on my current project, any permits issued after Jan 1, 2017 will require developers (not sure about utilities) to do just that- if there’s a patch within 20′ (i think) of our work, we need to extend the scope of our patch back. Not sure where that would end – the next closest intersection? Obviously this could add considerable cost to that scope of work.

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  • J_R June 29, 2017 at 8:58 am

    A speed bump about 4 inches high and 12 inches across, like those used in parking lots, would make my street much more livable. I’d put it right where the stop bar is located so motorists would be encouraged to stop at the STOP sign (they seldom do). I’d even be willing to pay for it and paint it nice bright colors.

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    • paikiala July 5, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Ever actually driven over such bumps? The faster you go, the less effect they have.

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  • betts grady June 29, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Or we could reimburse homeowners who actually aren’t wealthy for all the taxes we impose on them for the programs everybody uses. But then again, they’ll get to enjoy the creative crosswalk art… so its all good

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  • SE June 29, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    A speed bump about 4 inches high and 12 inches across, like those used in parking lots, would make my street much more livable. I’d put it right where the stop bar is located so motorists would be encouraged to stop at the STOP sign (they seldom do). I’d even be willing to pay for it and paint it nice bright colors.
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    I live on the 142nd block of SE Main. It’s become a racetrack for the trumpet Hondas/Acuras.

    A while back i asked the city about either a stop sign or speed bumps.

    Their answer ? We would need a Federal Safety study to warrant a sign and besides
    nobody has ever been killed there. Nope.

    Speed bump ? $800 please. 🙁

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    • B. Carfree June 30, 2017 at 11:59 am

      I just hate the traffic engineering excuse/standard of using deaths and reported crashes as their standard for safety improvements. Since people aren’t so stupid, on the whole, as to continue cycling and walking in environments that are noticeably dangerous, this engineering standard serves to significantly reduce active transportation. We literally have to die to get any changes.

      By their way of thinking, freeways must be fantastically safe places to walk and cycle since there are so few pedestrian and cyclist fatalities on them.

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      • q June 30, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        That last sentence is really cynical, but unfortunately I saw that exact way of thinking by ODOT a couple years ago. ODOT proposed closing a bunch of businesses’ driveways on SW Macadam (ODOT’s Highway 43). Their reasoning was it would make their highway safer. The cars (several hundred per day) would have been redirected onto a tiny, substandard local street, which is also a designated City pedestrian route (but without sidewalks) and next to a rail crossing, on which they’d make their way back to the same highway.

        When I pointed out to ODOT staff that making their highway slightly safer would make the adjacent street substantially less safe (to say nothing of livability impacts and disruption to businesses) they simply didn’t care. They said that street was not their concern because it was a City street, not under ODOT’s jurisdiction.

        So I asked them why they didn’t just close ALL the driveways on Macadam and direct ALL those vehicles out the sides or backs of properties and onto small neighborhood streets, which would make their highway REALLY safe, since that was their logic. They became angry.

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      • paikiala July 5, 2017 at 12:42 pm

        What standard would you use, specifically? And please use something measurable so clear outcomes can be determined.
        An 85th speed of 32 in a 25 mph zone is a clear problem, but there has not been a traffic calming program for 10 (?) years. Some would envy your 1100-ish daily trips.
        Your street is also mostly T intersections, so compliance at such all-way stop signs would be low, and another thing to complain to the City about.
        Legal speed bumps (the kind that don’t expose you to liability) cost $2,000 each.

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  • ben June 30, 2017 at 1:31 am

    “Get the city to pay for it!”
    Um, where does the city’s money come from???

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