The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is moving forward the West Portland Town Center Plan even though the Southwest Corridor Light Rail project — which was integral to the Town Center design — recently suffered a severe blow when the Metro funding measure was voted down.
The West Portland Town Center sits astride an area known as “The Crossroads” about five-and-a-half miles southwest of Portland City Hall where I-5, SW Barbur Blvd and SW Capitol Highway meet in a starburst pattern. As you can see in the image, the Crossroads is currently low-density, car-centric landscape. Realizing the plan’s vision would require extensive land-use changes including up-zoning within an area riddled with infrastructure deficiencies. As the Open House notes, “Fewer than 13% of the streets in the town center have sidewalks. Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to walk in the roadway or on narrow shoulders or use major streets with faster traffic and more frequent collisions.”
The Town Center plan is considered a bold vision for a growing and diverse community. In addition to infrastructure changes, the plan aims to hasten development of housing options while greatly increasing the residential and commercial density of the area. Planners also hope to boost walking and bicycling facilities in the area which would lead to easier access to nearby businesses, parks, schools and public transportation.
The current lack of sidewalks and stormwater management systems extends deep into the surrounding neighborhoods, which also lack bike lanes, full service bus lines, and in some places, paved roads. This infrastructure deficit is a source of concern for some current residents and transportation advocates. They point out that the transportation improvements are unfunded and won’t automatically accompany the zoning changes. Their fear is a tenfold increase in density without the improvements needed to support it. (Note: The $26.1 million SW Capitol Hwy project, which is set to begin construction soon, connects with the West Portland Town Center just north of the Crossroads.)
The online open house for the project includes plans for a “Green Ring” route around the center as part of its “Circulation Growth Concept” (pictured). BPS says the Green Ring, “combines increasing access to natural areas with greater pedestrian and mobility safety for walkers, rollers, and cyclists of all ages.”
If you live, ride or work in this area, make your voice heard. BPS is accepting feedback on the project through an online survey which closes this Thursday, December 3rd.
— Lisa Caballero, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Lisa Caballero has lived in SW Portland for 20 years. She is on the Transportation Committee of her neighborhood association, the Southwest Hills Residential League (SWHRL) and can be reached at email@example.com.