The new owners of 82nd Avenue came to inspect their property on Tuesday and began to lay out a vision for how a major injection of funding will impact the street. Known as Portland’s “Avenue of the Roses,” 82nd hasn’t been able to reach full bloom under the ownership of the Oregon Department of Transportation. That’s because ODOT manages 82nd like a highway where cars and their drivers get priority over everything else. Negligent stewardship by ODOT has led to countless traumas on 82nd and it ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in the city for everyone who uses it — whether they’re in a car, on foot, or on a bicycle.
The future outlook for 82nd changed dramatically last week when the Oregon Legislature agreed to invest $80 million in federal funds as a kickstart to a jurisdictional transfer where ODOT will hand over the keys to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).
PBOT held a press conference to welcome the news and begin 82nd’s new narrative on the corner of 82nd and Glisan Tuesday.
“This investment will transform 82nd Avenue from a dividing line in the city to a roadway that brings communities together.”
— Khanh Pham, state rep
“This long-awaited investment will transform 82nd Avenue from a dividing line in the city to a roadway that brings communities together,” said State Representative Khanh Pham. “Our work begins to bring to life a vision for East Portland that is safe, easy, and convenient for residents to live and go where they need to go. This road has the potential to be a connecting force in the geographic heart of Portland.”
The press conference marked a high point a high point in Pham’s new career as a politician was especially salient after years fighting for east Portland as a community organizer in the Jade District — a cultural area along 82nd Avenue.
Also at the event were State Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, Senator Michael Dembrow (who has been an outspoken advocate for the transfer for many years), Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, ODOT Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer, Oregon Walks Executive Director Ashton Simpson, and PBOT Director Chris Warner.
As part of an agreement made in early June, the $80 million from the legislature triggers ironclad commitments from PBOT and ODOT to cough up another $105 million ($35 and $70 million respectively) which will be used to bring 82nd up to a “state of good repair” as required by City of Portland standards.
“We’re going to get to work immediately to deliver on our promise to East Portland.”
— Chris Warner, PBOT
In addition to state funding, ODOT has pledged $70 million and PBOT has committed $35 million. Together the $185 million will deliver upgraded signals, lighting, ADA ramps, pavement, and stormwater facilities. The funding will also allow PBOT and ODOT to accomplish the most urgent sidewalk and pedestrian crossing improvements in the next four years.
In a statement about the funding, former Portland City Commissioner and now U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer called 82nd Avenue a “new main street” and hinted that it might be in line for more federal funding and become a model for other highways that run through cities across America. “There are 82nd Avenues all over the country that, instead of building neighborhoods up, are dragging them down. I look forward to supporting this investment with funding we are working to secure as part of the federal infrastructure package.”
PBOT Director Chris Warner said his agency won’t waste any time changing 82nd’s image: “We’re going to get to work immediately to deliver on our promise to East Portland.”
Warner and PBOT say the bulk of changes will take place in the next four years. But other infrastructure changes will be seen before that. Specifically, new crossing treatments are set to be built within the next 1-2 years at NE Alberta (where two people died trying to cross in two weeks in April), Beech, Pacific, Davis, Ash, Mitchell, Ogden and Knapp. New street lighting will also be prioritized north of Sandy and south of Division.
“Our community has been voicing concern over 82nd Avenue for many years and now we are heading in the right direction,” said Oregon Walks leader Ashton Simpson. “We have seen so many lives lost or permanently damaged on this road and this is our opportunity to reimagine a better 82nd Avenue.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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