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First look at raised bike lanes and sidewalks on outer SE Powell Blvd

Posted by on May 1st, 2020 at 9:48 am

You love to see it.
(Photos: Jim Chasse)

This story is from east Portland resident and longtime bike advocate Jim Chasse.

One of Portland’s most dangerous roads is finally getting safety upgrades that include new sidewalks, better bike lanes and upgraded crossings from SE 122nd to 136th.

Powell Blvd. improvements have been a high priority for residents since this section of southeast Portland was annexed into the city over 25 years ago… It’s great to see some new concrete on the ground!

I’ve had some time on my hands and decided to scope out the project during construction.

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Outer Powell Safety Project aims to rebuild the dangerous arterial from I-205 to the Gresham city limits. Initial elements of the project were first proposed in 2012 with $5.5 million in state funding. Unfortunately the project’s cost soared to $11 million and no other funding was available. It was decided to apply the secured funds to repave the Outer Powell corridor from 99th to 174th and widen the pavement another 4-5 feet on either side to afford people on foot something other than gravel and potholes to walk through. Previously the pavement ended on the inside white line of the bike lanes. ODOT also built four new signalized crossings.

While the 2012 project was useful for people who along the corridor to stay out of the mud, it also generated enough pavement for automobile users to pass on the right to avoid waiting for other drivers who were stopped attempting a left turn. There are presently no left turn lanes on this portion of Powell. A dangerous, unforeseen trade-off.

Looking west at the start of the eastbound raised bike lane.

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North side sidewalks and bike lane (concrete). Stormwater management/planter in between.

Thanks to then state representative and now Secretary of State candidate Shemia Fagan, $17 million was secured in 2015 to rebuild Powell from 122nd to 136th. That’s the segment under construction now. The City of Portland also contributed another $3 million for design and engineering for this section. The HB 2017 transportation bill passed by the Oregon Legislature funneled another $110 million to Powell and the rest of the project remains in the design and engineering phase with construction to begin about 2023. (Note: As per HB 2017, once these updates are complete ODOT will transfer ownership of the road to the Portland Bureau of Transportation.)

The north-south 130s, 100s and 150s neighborhood greenways will all cross Powell Blvd. The City of Portland is still working on the 130s bikeway and we’re waiting for the crossing at Powell to be constructed to complete it. Because the 130s bikeway has been delayed for almost six years, ODOT will be constructing the crossing with their own design during the construction of the safety project so two separate crews don’t interfere with each other. The remaining bikeway crossings will also need to be addressed and coordinated for possible conflicts during construction.

Jim Chasse.
(Photo: Michael Andersen)

One of the most exciting things about this new Outer Powell project was the inclusion of a segment of raised bike lanes on the south side from 134th to 136th. While it’s only a small portion, it may have a significant impact on bikeway design for the remaining three segments of the Outer Powell Blvd. Conceptual Design Plan. Businesses along Powell will benefit from the active transportation improvements because people will be able to walk, bike, or scoot to their destination. Families with children will also benefit because they’ll now have safe way to get their kids to school. Hopefully it reduces auto traffic in the mornings and afternoons for drop-offs and pick-ups.

Powell Blvd. Improvements have been a high priority for residents since this section of southeast Portland was annexed into the city over 25 years ago. It was one of the neighborhood association’s highest priorities for transportation improvements in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Plan approved by council in 1994. While residential infill has continued over the years, transportation infrastructure improvements have languished. It’s great to see some new concrete on the ground!

— Jim Chasse
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Skidwas carlessZoltronD'Andre MuhammedMatt S. Recent comment authors
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Adam
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Adam

Why only two blocks of raised bikelanes, in one direction? What was it about that section, in that direction, that warranted them?

It seems a little… random. More context would be great.

PTB
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PTB

Every little bit helps out here! Portland doesn’t stop at 205!

David Hampsten
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Jim, I see from the plans that they are going to put in curb separators between the bike lane and the traffic lanes, in addition to painted buffers and cycletracks. Did you see any out there?

Matt
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Matt

I also like it, but now I’m wondering how much skateboarders and scooterers will like it.

Doug Hecker
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Doug Hecker

Yikes, this reminds me of the wasteland, yes wasteland that I see on outer Foster. Raise and protect they say but not having anything or one out there to provide maintenance means that taking the car lane may be the best option. I’ll take a photo of what I’m referring to and send it to you later on. But, building infrastructure with tools to sweep and clean this flashy new toys seems odd to me. I especially love calling the late night PBOT street sweeping manager who somehow thinks his team works miracles at a mere 3-4 week turnaround time to clean streets and yes, they will go out of their way to dispute what cyclists claim to be dirty and tell you it isn’t. More reasons why I am voting no on the gas tax.

Doug Hecker
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Doug Hecker

David Hampsten
A small reminder, but this an ODOT project that used your state gas taxes, none of the city gas taxes (though there was other city money involved.) As for street sweeping, PBOT does in fact have a narrow street sweeper specifically designed to handle these narrow spaces, which they offered to let ODOT borrow and ODOT has already accepted the offer.Recommended 0

The city owns 2 of those. You think that deep SE is going to see one of those rolling around? I think you know better than that. I did go by the elevated bike lane on Foster tonight and it looks like I thought it would with a nicely added tire cover. Simplicity and some sort of normalcy in East county and I would add anything below SE Woodstock from 52-82nd doesn’t need quirky and odd concepts but rather something that is common. The city and state can save that stuff for north portland, which seemingly has more money to waste.

Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

Glad to see curb separation here. It’s a bit scary to know that drivers are going to swerve into the bike lane at the first sight of somebody stopping to turn left (north). I’ve had several close encounters in this area.

Matt S.
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Matt S.

Boy, it’s rough along this section of Powell. Wouldn’t want to ride past dusk.

D'Andre Muhammed
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D'Andre Muhammed

This is awesome! It had to be painful for the city to spend the resources on this part of town. They seem to like spending the $$$ only on what they can show off in travel brochures. Peace.

Zoltron
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Zoltron

I wish every bike lane in the city were like this, from day one. Most of the bike lanes in Berlin, Germany are raised/separated similarly. It’s a tremendous improvement over painted lines.

was carless
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was carless

So let me get this straight:

$11 million cost estimate in 2012 to add bike lanes between SE 111th and 174th (63 blocks)
=$174k per block

Instead we get $17 million for bike lanes between SE 122 and 1336th (14 blocks)
=$1.2 million per block

Do I have that right? So again, Portland fails in building out comprehensive infrastructure but instead takes decades-long to roll out piecemeal, 1/2 mile sections at a time. Awesome!

Skid
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Skid

So no concerns about a raised bikeway looking like a sidewalk, and therefore reinforcing the errant idea that bikes belong on the sidewalk….

This is right up there with putting the bike lane on the left side of a one way street, when bike are almost always to the right of traffic.