SW Portland’s top priority, $26 million project clears final hurdle

Note the different treatments on the east (right) and west (left) sides.

(Existing conditions on the left, future conditions on the right.)

It’s not every day a project that’s a top priority for an entire quadrant gets authorized for construction — much less one that local activists have been pushing on for 30 years. That’s why Portland City Council’s support of the Southwest Capitol Highway project yesterday was such a big deal.

You might recall how we took a closer look at this project in 2015. SW Neighborhoods Inc (SWNI, the local neighborhood coalition) volunteer Roger Averbeck and I rode in unpaved shoulders as drivers flew by us with just inches to spare. “Here in southwest,” Averbeck shared. “You can walk your dog around the block, but people aren’t able to actually get to any destinations. So we’re trying to fix that.”

After decades of promises, the City of Portland finally has the funding and plans assembled to rebuild about one mile of SW Capitol Highway between Multnomah Village and Taylors Ferry Road. A major reason for the delay were the cost-prohibitive stormwater management, topography, and right-of-way challenges that plague many infrastructure projects in southwest Portland. To get this project across the finish line the Portland Bureau of Transportation had to visit 60 property owners and negotiate 90 right-of-way easements and property acquisitions.

Another reason for the delay was the need to cobble funding from many sources including three different city bureaus. In the end, the $26.1 million budget is split between the bureaus of transportation ($11.5 million split between Fixing Our Streets program and system development charges), environmental services ($10.6 million), and water ($2 million). An additional $2 million comes from Oregon Lottery funds.

Here are the highlights of what will be built with this money:
– A six-foot wide sidewalk and six-foot wide, raised, curb-protected bike lane on the east side of Capitol Highway.
– A 12-foot wide multi-use path on the west side with a six-foot bike path.
– A 300-foot long, 10-foot wide multi-use path on north side of SW Multnomah west of 40th.
– A protected bikeway and walkway on both sides of Multnomah between 40th and 45th avenues.
– Reconstruction of all four corners of Multnomah and 40th.
– Four major stormwater treatment and retention basins that will manage runoff from a 50-acre area.
– Four new crossing updates that will line up with consolidated bus stop locations.


Plan drawings for Multnomah west of 40th.

When completed, the new SW Capitol Highway will have 27-feet of space for walking and rolling and 24-feet of space for driving.

In an email on Monday, Multnomah Neighborhood Association SW Capitol Highway Subcommittee Chair Chris Lyons encouraged local residents to contact City Hall to support the project in its entirety. “Building the entire project is vital to this corridor. [We] do not want to see any scope reductions,” read a list of suggested talking points. “The neighborhood has been waiting for this project for nearly three decades and has been deeply involved in the planning process. We are thrilled that the project is almost a reality and so excited to see it completed.”

Before introducing the construction ordinance at the Council meeting Wednesday, PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly recognized neighborhood activists like Lyons who stepped up in 2017 when Oregon Governor Kate Brown threatened to veto $2 million of project funding. Brown thankfully reversed her decision six days later.

It was just another hurdle cleared for the many dedicated people who’ve worked on this project over the years. Thank you!

If all goes according to plan construction will begin in February of 2021 and be completed by mid-2022.

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