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


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.

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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 jonathan@bikeportland.org

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