“The power of transportation isn’t just in getting people from place-to-place. When we get transportation right, we can accomplish so much more.
— Chloe Eudaly, Commissioner
Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly officially became in charge of the transportation bureau less than one week ago. But that didn’t stop her from showing up at a ribbon-cutting event this morning in east Portland. In a brief speech to mark the completion of the first phase of the 122nd Avenue Plan, Eudaly made it clear this oft-neglected part of our city would be a priority for her office. She also coined the phrase, “Transportation done right,” while listing several ways great streets can make a positive impact on Portland.
Eudaly was joined this morning by PBOT Interim Director Chris Warner, TriMet Chief Operating Officer Maurice Henderson, Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, and former City Commissioner Steve Novick.
The occasion was a host of updates to a six-mile stretch of 122nd Avenue between SE Foster and NE Marine Drive. The project began as a handshake agreement in 2015 between PBOT and TriMet to improve transit service on Line 73. TriMet agreed to increase bus service if PBOT would make it easier and safer to access the stops. In total, PBOT spent $4.7 million on sidewalks and new crossing treatments. And as of last Sunday, TriMet added nearly 80 weekly trips on Line 73. With a bus coming every 15 minutes or less, it’s now the easternmost frequent service bus line in Portland.
122nd Avenue is a key north-south corridor. It’s also very unsafe due to its wide cross-section and driving-oriented design that encourages speeding and unsafe behaviors.
“We are not here by chance,” Eudaly said during her first official remarks as PBOT Commissioner:
“122nd Avenue is one of our city’s deadliest streets. Last year, three Portlanders lost their lives on 122nd, and this year there have been two fatalities. Sadly, this is not uncommon. residents who live in east Portland are two times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in traffic crashes than Portlanders in other parts of the city. Disparities like this are unacceptable. This is especially true in Portland at a time when we are striving to remedy historic inequities. And especially in a city that has adopted vision zero as a citywide initiative. And we’re not willing to accept them. That’s why we’re here.”
Eudaly and her colleagues also got to cut a ribbon this morning because former commissioner Steve Novick stepped up years ago and made this project a priority. When he penned a letter to Santa in 2013, better transit on 122nd was on his list. Out of respect for his work, Eudaly invited him to speak this morning. Novick did not disappoint.
“You hear a lot of talk about politicians wasting money on pet projects… Well, this was my pet project!” he exclaimed. “And I’m darn proud of it! And I defy anyone to tell the people of east Portland the money was wasted!”
Beyond this project, Eudaly used her time at the mic to share her values and outlook on transportation*:
“The power of transportation isn’t just in getting people from place-to-place. When we get transportation right, we can accomplish so much more. When you get transportation right, you open doors for our fellow Portlanders. Transportation done right helps people get to jobs and schools faster and easier. Transportation done right allows our businesses to get their goods to market, it contributes directly to the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Transportation done right improves public health and combats climate change. Such positive change is especially important to deliver in east Portland — an area we’ve neglected for too long. It’s an area that’s now facing new pressures as Portlanders have been displaced from the central city move in. As your transportation commissioner, I pledge that we’re going to do better. I want to champion catalytic investments like the one we’re celebrating today.”
(*I also thought it was notable that Eudaly took time to mention and thank east Portland advocacy groups like East Portland Action Plan and OPAL Environmental Justice. She also stressed how contracting on the project prioritized minority and women-owned construction firms.)
While new sidewalks, crossings and more frequent buses are a step in the right direction, it will take much more to tame the wide and fast 122nd Avenue. Even with the crowds and cameras at the newly updated NE Stanton intersection this morning, I still saw close calls and aggressive driving.
PBOT isn’t done with 122nd. They’ve set aside a total of $8 million and they want input on what to build next. Help them decide by attending the open house on November 7th at Midland Library (805 SE 122nd) from 5:30 to 7:30. Check out their project page for more information.
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