PBOT ‘unlikely to advance proposal’ for 9th Avenue diverters after heated meeting

PBOT got an earful from concerned residents of the King Neighborhood in north Portland at a meeting on July 25th.

The City of Portland is once again headed back to the drawing board for their Lloyd-to-Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project. Back in March, the bureau of transportation dropped a proposal that would have used 7th Avenue as the main, low-stress bicycling connection between the forthcoming carfree bridge in the Lloyd District and the ever-growing Woodlawn neighborhood. Saying they, “Underestimated the role [7th Avenue] plays in the hearts and minds of Portland’s black community,” PBOT switched their proposal to 9th Avenue.

Now, after a meeting with residents of the King Neighborhood on July 25th, PBOT says even their latest proposal for 9th lacks support and won’t be advanced until changes are made.

In an email sent to meeting attendees on July 31st, PBOT wrote: “It is clear that we missed the mark with the proposal and that there is little support in the community for the traffic pattern changes as proposed. Given the response last week it is unlikely we will be advancing the proposal we developed… PBOT is committed to working with neighbors to identify changes that can improve safety for everyone, and to do so in a way that is less disruptive for the community.”

Detail of proposal for 9th Avenue released in March showing two diverters between Alberta and Killingsworth.

This “disruption” seems to hinge on two diverters planned between Alberta and Killingsworth that would reduce access for auto users and make 9th a “family-friendly, low-stress” place for walkers and bikers. I was not at the meeting last month, but there appears to have been vehement opposition to those diverters (and other aspects of the project) based on PBOT’s email, subsequent statements from the agency, and accounts from people who were in attendance.


PBOT Project Manager Nick Falbo (sleeves rolled up in foreground) on a walking tour before the July 25th meeting.

“A whole bunch of people in this room are insisting, ‘This is not good for me!’ But you’re insisting, ‘But this is for the betterment of you,’ when I’m telling you it’s not good for me.”
— Meeting attendee

In their email, PBOT acknowledged several concerns they heard: “Concerns about the planning process and wanting an opportunity to shape the project; Concerns from residents on nearby streets about accessing homes and streets; Desire to continue to use NE 9th Ave by car to reach NE Killingsworth St; A general sentiment that the changes were too dramatic given the scale and goals of the project.”

I’ve seen videos of the meeting where attendees are shouting at PBOT staff. In one of the videos, a woman says, “A whole bunch of people in this room are insisting, ‘This is not good for me!’ But you’re insisting, ‘But this is for the betterment of you,’ when I’m telling you it’s not good for me. And I’ve got a whole lot of other people saying the same thing. But you’re insisting it’s for the betterment of me because in the long run I will see that it is, Instead of asking me.”

A heated exchange during the July 25th meeting.

In another video a man and a woman claim PBOT failed to notify them about the project. “We got one note, then we had to inform a school because they didn’t even know [about the project],” a woman said. A different clip showed a tense exchange with a PBOT staffer where a woman said with exasperation, “We don’t need another bike path in northeast!”

The project was slated to begin construction next year. Asked if that timeline still holds following the meeting, PBOT said, “We are definitely not starting over or putting things on hold.”

PBOT Communications Coordinator Hannah Schafer claims the emotional disagreements at the meeting were only focused on a small segment of the project (Alberta to Killingsworth) and that, “This is just part of the standard design refinement process.” As for the segment between Alberta and Killingsworth that’s causing the most concern, Schafer said, “Our traffic engineer is reexamining this segment to see if there may be an alternative proposal that can support the greenway and also respond to what we’ve been hearing from neighbors.”

While diverters claimed most of the attention, PBOT says neighbors expressed support for speed bumps and safer crossings on busy streets.

“We have more work to do,” PBOT wrote in their email, “and we will be hosting additional meetings to listen to neighbors, share more about the project and discuss potential alternative design concepts.”

It’s hard to watch this unfold and not think of the emotions and dialogue around racism and gentrification PBOT faced eight years ago during the North Williams Avenue project. Did PBOT learn anything from that experience?

Were you at the July 25th meeting? If so, let us know your impressions. And stay tuned for notice of future meetings.

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

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