Council approves $34 million in projects for PBOT through ‘Build Portland’ program

Posted by on March 28th, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Changes coming to SE Stark.
(Sketch: PBOT/Red text: BikePortland)

Big winners include Outer Stark, Lombard, and NE 42nd Avenue.

Portland City Council has moved forward with the first batch of projects in the Build Portland program. The program comes from an idea hatched by Mayor Ted Wheeler to return property taxes from expiring Urban Renewal Areas to the City’s General Fund.

At their meeting yesterday, the Council gave a green light to seven projects worth $49 million. The City of Portland will issue bonds to finance the projects, which were chosen out of 25 projects submitted for consideration. The Build Portland program has been authorized to spend a total of $600 million between now and 2040; but the City has decided to phase it in slowly to minimize debt risk if the economy sours.

The Bureau of Transportation submitted nine projects for potential funding and six of them made the final cut. Here they are (with Build Portland funding in parentheses):

Outer Stark Corridor Improvements ($10 million)
PBOT will add $10 million from existing sources (gas tax, system development charges, Vision Zero) for a total investment of $20 million. The City had come under increasing pressure from Portlanders clamoring for upgrades on Outer Stark after a spate of deadly collisions over the past year. Outer Stark is designated as a “high crash corridor” for biking, walking and driving. PBOT says they’ll put $10 million toward paving from 139th – 162nd, $1 million for two signal upgrades (at 117th and 139th), $4 million for safer crossings and $5 million to “corridor safety.”

NE 42nd Ave Bridge Replacement ($3 million)
PBOT will add $14 million from other sources and spend $17 million on a new bridge and upgrades throughout the corridor from NE Killingsworth to Columbia Blvd. In notes on the project, PBOT states the bridge is a key freight connection as well as a “desired bike/ped connection from Cully to NAYA [Native American Youth and Family Center], Columbia corridor jobs, etc.” The project would also fill a gap between the Holman Street Neighborhood Greenway and the future bikeway coming to 47th Avenue. They’ll spend $12 million on the bridge, $3 million on paving, $2 million on sidewalks, crossings, and upgraded bikeways.


Lents Town Center Improvements, Phase 2 ($4 million)
PBOT will pull another $3 million from other sources to spend a total of $7 million on upgrades to the eastern half of Lents Town Center (west of I-205). Improvements will include paving on SE Foster and Woodstock, traffic signal upgrades, new sidewalks crossings, and bikeways.

Traffic Signal System Improvements ($3.5 million)
Leveraging an additional $1.5 million, this funding will help PBOT get a $5 million start on the 400 traffic signals in the city (40 percent of the total) that are worn-out and/or outdated. They’ll spread out the funding to about $500,000 per year for seven years and focus on the signals that score highest in safety risk and equity.

ADA Accessible Sidewalks ($10.5 million)
PBOT will use this money to continue upgrading sidewalks throughout the city to be fully ADA-compliant. They plan to add another $5 million to help fix the remaining 11,000 corners in Portland that are currently out of compliance.

N Lombard Main Street ($3 million)
PBOT will spend a total of $4 million to improve Lombard between St. Louis and Richmond. They’ll add curb extensions, crossings, lighting and bus stop updgrade (it’s a major transit route). The project will also upgrade traffic signals.

The one other project approved yesterday was $15 million for a renovation of the Mt. Scott Community Center.

All the projects were scored and ranked on criteria that included: equity, maintenance of existing assets, managing growth, and safety. Two notable PBOT projects that didn’t make the cut were a repaving of NW 23rd (which needs it very badly) and a project that would have built a new path along NE Cornfoot Road to connect via bicycle to NE 47th.

Before casting her “yes” vote, Commissioner Fritz said, “When Portlanders have been paying taxes into urban renewal districts to get growth going for decades, now it’s time for some of that return to go back into the things that Portlanders expect — paying for the existing infrastructure and making sure everybody has decent city services.”

We’ll keep you updated on all these projects as they move through the pipeline. As we’ve been reporting, one of the issues PBOT now faces is how to keep up with all the funding and projects that are ready to go. They’ve had troubling hiring engineers and there’s already a long list of projects in the queue.

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

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sorenDavid HampstenScott KocherShoupianmaccoinnich Recent comment authors
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Really disappointed that section of NW 23rd missed the cut. There’s tons of affordable housing communities in the vicinity, and that road is in BAAAAD shape for all road users. For such a dense area of the city with a myriad of car free households, there is an utter lack of proper bike infrastructure in the area. That area of NW should have such higher ridership than it does. The Flanders Crossing will be a big deal, but it’s still years away.


Many main roads on the westside of urban Multnomah County lack bike lanes or sidewalks for the most part like outer West Burnside, NW Miller Road, and many others.


The Flanders project is still a few years out, but there are some great projects that will be coming ahead of it, including the 18th/19th/Burnside protected intersection, the NW Front road diet, the Couch I-405 project, the NW 20th greenway, and the extension of NW 20th under Highway 30 (with protected bike lanes). All of those are funded projects that should be under construction this year or next.

Northwest has seen huge growth in recent years so it’s great to see some projects that will finally start work on making it a great place to cycle.

David Hampsten

When PBOT publishes their list of upcoming repavement projects in its budget, usually in January or February of any given year, try to campaign to get better more bike-compatible pavement markings, as they have to put them in anyway. Since repaving usually doesn’t start until temperatures are consistently over 60 degrees, you may still have time to influence this year’s marking plans.

David Hampsten

A lot of this is urban renewal money that can only be spent in certain areas of town and only within that urban renewal area (such as Lents/Foster & Lombard). Much of the funding is simply being shifted around, with the Mayor taking credit for things he never actually did, as mayors everywhere do – it’s a perk that comes with the job.

If your favorite project didn’t get funded, it usually means that there are too many other great competing projects within your district that are a much higher priority or that the money you might otherwise have is already being spent “ahead” on something else, like streetcar, more housing, fixing storefronts, etc.

Great to see the Stark project, way overdue.


Build Portland expressly _isn’t_ limited to urban renewal areas. With all of our urban renewal areas approaching the end of the lives the city is set to see a large increase in general fund revenues. Build Portland bonds against this increase, and as such can be spent anywhere in the city that the council sees fit.

David Hampsten

Urban renewal areas can be and often are extended, sometimes indefinitely, especially in poorer districts.


What does this mean in terms of the time frame for each project? Will these six projects get built as proposed or will each one of these six project have to go through a year-long lengthy public outreach process and then be delayed by a year (wink wink West Burnside Improvement)? How many of these projects can start construction in the next 2 years?

David Hampsten

The curb ramps tend to be done by PBOT maintenance crews and are usually done between other projects on an ongoing basis – so expect them immediately through the next 6 years, especially during the summer. Similarly with the signals, now through 7 years from now.

The bridge will probably 2nd to last, as they have to get ODOT & railroad approval.

Stark, the most deadly needed project, is in East Portland, so it will be designed first and built last, since they still need to redesign it several more times before building anything. Expect lots of public outreach and several more deaths before any new improvements are implemented – unless, of course, 2-3 people from East Portland are suddenly elected to city council.


And even after it is designed, the E Portland project is likely to be canceled or indefinitely delayed. Speaking of which, 6 years later the fully funded 130s neighborhood greenway still does not have a firm build date.

I’ve gotten to the point where seeing a project in “new urban” inner Portland get built quickly makes my blood boil.

Scott Kocher

Will the NE 42nd Ave project fix where the Lombard WB bike lane dead ends into the bridge footings?
After Martin Greenough died ODOT only fixed EB. Which is unbelievable.