A long-held dream of many advocates, elected officials and policymakers in the Portland region will take a major step forward this morning when the Joint Ways and Means Committee of the Oregon Legislature votes to put $80 million from federal rescue funds into 82nd Avenue.
We hinted at this earlier in the week week and State Senator Michael Dembrow announced the news in an email to constituents this morning. “I’m delighted to say that after many years of effort, the Legislature will approve the final $80 million needed to fully transfer ownership of 82nd Avenue in Portland,” Dembrow wrote.
The $80 million request was part of an historic agreement made in early June between the State of Oregon and the City of Portland to transfer ownership of the road. 82nd is an “orphan highway” — a state road (OR 213) that functions more like a city street — and everyone around the table agrees it should be managed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation instead of the Oregon Department of Transportation.
“The sense I’m getting from the community is this is something we should be pursuing. It’s going to require everyone who has an interest in that to get involved.”
— Michael Dembrow, State Senator, in 2014
The barrier to transfer has always been funding. PBOT didn’t want to inherit the hefty costs of maintenance and other infrastructure upgrades needed to bring the road up to city standards. A joint letter sent to leaders of the Ways and Means Committee on May 28th by ODOT Director Kris Strickler and PBOT Director Chris Warner, put the transfer cost at $185 million.
According to their agreement, this $80 million from the legislature will “immediately initiate” another $105 million from ODOT and PBOT. ODOT has agreed to allocate $70 million and PBOT will pump in the remaining $35 million. The funds will be used for paving and safety upgrades and could act as leverage for much larger federal grants. The two parties have committed to execute an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) by January 2022 that will formalize the transfer.
Specific projects to be built with the $80 million have not been identified, but PBOT and ODOT released a list in May (below, right) that broke out the needs into five categories: new and enhanced crossings; lighting through the corridor; intersection safety enhancements; cross-section planning and project development; and investments in sidewalk, ADA, signals and pavement quality.
The dream of PBOT control over 82nd goes back many years and Senator Dembrow (whose district includes 5.5 miles of the road between NE Prescott and SE Duke) has been leading the fight. At a town hall meeting we covered in 2014, Dembrow told a crowded room at Portland Community College on 82nd and Division that, “The sense I’m getting from the community is this is something we should be pursuing. It’s going to require everyone who has an interest in that to get involved.”
Four years after that town hall, Dembrow and former House Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer ratcheted-up their efforts. In a pointed letter sent to ODOT leadership in April 2018 (PDF), they said ODOT’s plan for 82nd, “Does not support our community vision.” “Because ODOT applies highway design standards to 82nd Avenue, ODOT has limited ability to bring 82nd Avenue to City of Portland and community standards… we seek an expedited transfer of ownership of 82nd Avenue from the State of Oregon to the City of Portland. It is critical that this process get underway as soon as possible,” read the letter.
In April 2021, following the deaths of two people on 82nd Avenue within two weeks of each other at the same intersection, Keny-Guyer’s replacement, House Rep. Khanh Pham, continued the fight with a request for $80 million in “emergency interventions.”
The legislature used funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which brought a total of $124.3 million into ODOT’s coffers. In addition to funding for 82nd Avenue, the agency received $32 million for Phase II of the Newberg Dundee Bypass, a project that will build a new highway in Yamhill County.
“I’m very pleased. Lives will be saved and livability enhanced dramatically in that area,” wrote Sen. Dembrow in an email this morning. “It’s wonderful to see these years of effort pay off.”
Other funds granted to nonprofits for 82nd Avenue today by the Ways and Means Committee include $225,000 to Oregon Walks for “82nd Avenue Transportation Justice Advocacy Grants”; $100,000 to the Coalition of Communities of Color for “Community Safety Infrastructure Investments”; and $75,000 to City Repair Project for “East Portland Community Placemaking Projects”. See the full budget document here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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