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.
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.
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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