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Fate of traffic calming on Lincoln-Harrison hangs in balance at open house tonight

This is what PBOT wants to install on both sides of SE Lincoln at 50th.

I’m sensing a disturbance in the Force. Various respected sources and a general feeling of uneasiness in my bones tells me that tonight’s open house for the City of Portland’s Lincoln-Harrison Neighborhood Greenway Enhancement project will be very consequential.

In other words, there’s auto traffic diversion on the table — specifically a duo of semi-diverters on Lincoln on both sides of 50th — and a lot of very loud and very angry people are opposed to them. Yes, there are lots of people who support the diverters at 50th, but from what I’ve heard the nos have it.

As we reported last month, the Mt Tabor Neighborhood Association voted 45-5 against the diverters at 50th. And that opposition has continued. Yesterday someone went door-to-door and passed out this flyer:

Flyer drafted by Molly Cliff Hilts, Mt Tabor N’hood Association traffic committee chair.

As you can see, people are afraid. They think the diverters will unleash havoc in their neighborhood and they just can’t fathom being told they can’t drive in certain directions on certain streets.

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Regardless of how you feel about how the project and claims being made in that flyer, the fact remains that PBOT is hearing this opposition loud and clear. And even though we might wish that PBOT could simply lean on one of their many adopted policies that support the diverter at 50th, the reality is that politics matters. And in Portland, the loudest voices often shape the politics. City hall and PBOT staffers have memories like elephants when it comes to controversy and anger from neighborhoods. That’s partly why they are so fearful of making major changes to the automobile-dominated status quo: Because it brings back fraught memories of angry people yelling at them at council meetings and open houses. When there’s opposition from a neighborhood that’s not counter-balanced by support, PBOT can’t present the project to City Council with the all-important “supported by the community” stamp-of-approval.

We need to fix that political/PBOT dynamic, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Right now, if you think the diverters at 50th are important and you want to see them in the final design, you should make your presence known at tonight’s open house.

There’s also an open house for the Sullivan’s Crossing project tonight. Since that one is earlier, BikeLoudPDX is leading a ride that will leave Metro HQ on NE Grand at 6:00 for the five mile trek to the Lincoln-Harrison open house which takes place at Atkinson Elementary School at SE 58th and Division.

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

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