With the help of 116 property owners who agreed to pay their share, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is ready to build the long-awaited Errol Heights Street Improvement Project. First envisioned in 2008, the $9.4 million project will pave 1.2 miles of gravel and dirt roads in a neighborhood just north of the Springwater Corridor path between SE 45th and 52nd avenues.
In addition to an innovative funding plan where the city worked with residents who agreed to make financial commitments to improve streets in their neighborhood, the project will also allow PBOT to create “shared streets” with a 15 mph speed limit. Streets signed for 15 mph are extremely rare in Portland and only occur on a few short stretches of road citywide. As part of the project, PBOT will also add street traffic calming elements to keep driving speeds down, add street lights and trees, and improve stormwater management.
“Kids [could not] ride their bikes on the street outside because… they have to share the street with cars that swerve all over to avoid potholes.”
— Errol Heights resident
“As a pilot project for the city of Portland’s Neighborhood Streets Program, the project is an opportunity to highlight cost-effective designs for neighborhood streets and stormwater management, which can be used in areas that would be difficult or costly to serve,” reads the project website.
At Portland city council on Wednesday, PBOT project managers revealed that $1.64 million (or 18%) of the project’s $9.4 million tab will be paid by residents through a process known as “local improvement district” (the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Water Bureau are also funding partners on the project). To help raise money to make the changes, the City of Portland plans to assess each property owner $2.55 per square foot for an average of $14,137 per owner. PBOT will pay the fee up-front and then a lien is placed on the property which is then due when sold. (NOTE: PBOT wants to clarify that the LID has not yet been formed. The project managers will return to city council in March with an ordinance for adoption and will hold the official LID formation hearing at that time. Yesterday’s council action authorized PBOT to begin the official formation proceedings.)
When this project was first proposed in 2008, the cost for each property owner was around $80,000. PBOT worked to find as many other funding sources as possible in order to get the cost-per-property to a more manageable amount. Over 80% of property owners support the LID.
By accepting the deal, property owners will get smooth new streets where they can feel safe walking and biking.
“My kids could not learn to ride a bike outside the street,” said one Errol Heights resident who testified Wednesday. “Even my neighbor’s kids — none of them can ride their bikes on the street outside because there is no place for them to ride and they have to share the street with cars that swerve all over to avoid potholes. A paved street is something we need as a neighborhood, just to help kids be able to play safely outside on sidewalks.”
PBOT Project Manager Elizabeth Tillstrom said the shared street design will mean, “Everyone can use that space equally as pedestrians, cyclists or motor vehicles.” State law dictates that if PBOT wants to sign a street for 15 mph it must carry less than 500 cars per day (the threshold for neighborhood greenways is less than 1,000 per day) and have special shared street signage. While the majority of streets in the neighborhood will be shared, the main access streets of SE Tenino and SE Malden will be “separated streets”. PBOT says the design on these will include sidewalks to “pull pedestrians out of the roadway”.
PBOT traffic models showed that the newly paved roads could result in more cut-through traffic: “So we want to ensure that pedestrians are safe,” Tillstrom said. To do that PBOT will build new traffic calming features to keep car trips and speeds as low as possible. The new roads will be chicanes that are intentionally curvilinear and will have speed bumps.
Before voting to authorize the project yesterday, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty praised the cross-bureau collaborations and called it an “Incredible effort… in a community that has lacked sidewalks and infrastructure for so long.” “I’m really excited about this project on a personal level,” she continued, “because you are in my neck of the woods.”
The project is expected to break ground in July of this year and be completed by late summer 2022.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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