This seems like a big deal.
In order to spur economic growth and help businesses keep and attract employees, the City of Beaverton is set to begin work on a complete rebuild of Western Avenue between 5th Street to Allen (about two-thirds of a mile). The location of the project is an industrial zone southeast of the downtown core.
In a move that might (pleasantly) surprise you, Beaverton’s update to this road will reduce the number of driving-only lanes and add lanes for bicycling and walking.
“For companies to attract new and younger talent as the Baby Boomer workforce retires,” reads the planning document that prioritized this project, “A location adjacent to bike and pedestrian facilities is a distinct competitive advantage.”
While safety concerns were part of the motivation, the project was identified as the top priority of a business-oriented plan known as the West Five Strategy. According to the City of Beaverton, the West Five Strategy (PDF) is a collaboration with existing and new major employers in the area to create more economic activity, retain and attract talent, and build a more vibrant neighborhood. In the plan the city talks about how it wants to avoid “suburban office obsolescensce.”
“The lack of pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the area, coupled with the absence of mid-block crossings, make it difficult to travel throughout the district without a car.”
— City of Beaverton
Beaverton is betting that updated transportation infrastructure will help the West Five Employment District reach its potential. The area around Western Avenue already employes 3,500 people and is close to Nike World Headquarters, Intel, and Textronix and “in the heart of Portland’s ‘Silicon Forest’,” says the city.
When the city asked businesses how best to increase economic activity within the district and position the area to respond to emerging employment trends, “Overwhelmingly, stakeholders identified the need to complete gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle networks within the District… The lack of pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the area, coupled with the absence of mid-block crossings, make it difficult to travel throughout the district without a car.”
Western Avenue is currently a four-lane road with no shoulders or dedicated bicycle access and only intermittent sidewalks. The new cross-section will be three lanes (one in each direction with a center turn lane) and lanes for biking and walking on both sides of the street separated by a buffer of grass and trees. The city also plans to improve the intersections at 5th and Allen, “to ensure safe and efficient access for pedestrians, bicyclists, freight trucks, and passenger vehicles.”
The new bikeway will also help create a connection between the Fanno Creek Trail (south of Allen Blvd) and the existing bikeway on 5th Street that leads to Beaverton’s Old Town.
It’s great to see Beaverton use a pro-commerce rationale to reduce auto lanes, and do with support from businesses. The City of Portland and the Portland Business Alliance might want to take note.
The project cost is estimated to be $4.125 million and is expected to begin in December of this year. Completion is set for October 2020.
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