‘Transformed’: SE 136th Ave now has new pavement, sidewalk and protected bike lanes

The new and improved SE 136th Ave. (Photos: PBOT)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced today that they have “transformed” a 1.8 mile stretch of SE 136th Avenue between SE Division and Foster. After 18 months of construction and a $6.7 million investment, the road has gone from a crack-and-pothole filled mess with on-street parking on both sides, to a much more complete street.

Here’s what PBOT has done:

– 1.8 miles of street repaving
– 1.8 miles of continuous sidewalk on the west side of the street
– 3.6 miles of new protected bike lanes (1.8 mi in each direction)
– 48 new or upgraded ADA curb ramps
– 52 new street trees
– 6 new bioswales
– 1 rebuilt traffic signal (SE Division St. and SE 136th Ave)
– 1.8 miles of upgraded street lighting

The changes not only improve the experience of using 136th and open it up to safer cycling, they also help people connect to many destinations including three elementary schools and numerous parks. Bus users will also benefit from safer crossings to reach the Line 17 and 10 routes.

The bike only lanes are five-feet wide with a three-foot buffer. They are adjacent to 10-foot wide general purpose lanes.

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136th and its relation to other bikeways. (Map via PBOT)

PBOT has also added to connections to other parts of the network from the new bike lanes on 136th. The two new bikeways are protected bike lanes on SE Holgate from 136th to 130th to connect to the 130s Neighborhood Greenway, and a series of sharrows and signage on SE Center to connect to the 150s Neighborhood Greenway.

PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty (an east Portland resident who wasn’t on council when the project was first designed and funded), said this project is another example of how the agency is directing investment toward the, “Historically neglected streets of East Portland.” Another part of the project Hardesty is excited about is that the prime contractor was a woman-owned firm and seven of the 11 subcontractors used are state-certified disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned, emerging small businesses.

I plan to roll out to see this project myself soon. I’m curious how they look and feel in real life. One reader shared with us via Twitter this morning that the bike lanes are filled with leaves and garbage bins and illegally parked cars. This is common across Portland when these curbside bike lanes are installed, but the problems typically improve over time.

Have you used 136th recently? What was your experience?

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FunFella13
FunFella13
7 months ago

I walked the stretch between Powell and Division a couple of weekends ago.. still no chance I’d ride out there. Too disconnected and too much speeding to trust the sporadic curbs.

PTB
PTB
7 months ago

I run from the house to Powell Butte and cross 136th multiple times a week. This all looks pretty nice to me. They still need to keep hammering people who feel they can park in the bike lanes (a lot of folks out this way sure seem to own a ton of cars). I’m glad the city did all this work even though I’ve yet to see anyone use any of this.

jonno
jonno
7 months ago

I rode it last night – bike lanes were filled with leaves and garbage bins 🙂

Rode it last Sunday – bike lanes were filled with leaves, garbage bins and illegally parked cars.

Otherwise it’s an improvement over what was there before. I’ve only used it to go from the Springwater to Holgate to access Powell Butte trails.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago

18 months? Where did that figure come from? The project has been on the books for over 25 years. Some of the improvements were built in 2010 such as the Bush crossing, some later in 2012-14 such as the retaining walls. It’s taken 11 years to construct it, not 18 months. And the price tag is closer to $18 million over that time.

pixie
pixie
7 months ago

3.6 miles of new protected bike lanes (1.8 mi in each direction)
1.8 miles of street repaving
1.8 miles of upgraded street lighting

Are the above statistics direct from PBOT? Doubling up the miles of protected bike lanes leaves a bad impression on how data is presented.

Was the street repaved in only one direction? Was the upgraded street lighting only in one direction?

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
7 months ago
Reply to  pixie

Pixie…In response to your comment “Doubling up the miles of protected bike lanes leaves a bad impression on how data is presented.” This measurement used is very common in the transportation planning and engineering field as it help to communicate the true facility size of a project. Image the alternative, the old CRC project could have been say a “~2 mile long project” vs. a ~24+ lane mile project…

eawriste
eawriste
7 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I think this is why using miles of PBLs alone can be a misleading number. A better metric would be miles of connected PBL network, in which case Portland has very few. Is 136th good? Sure. Is it connected to a safe network? Not even close. Is there a plan to prioritize a network at PBOT? I see no evidence of that.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
7 months ago

I don’t understand. Where are delivery vehicles and friends supposed to park while visiting the homes along this road? I don’t live there, but this is becoming a serious issue in my neighborhood, NoPo, for a different reason – businesses and infill created without parking.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago

“The best way to deal with these issues is to drive less and use other ways of getting around”

Do tell us about those other ways JM. Tell us about the incredible bike facilities, sidewalk network and TriMet transit links in East Portland and how they conveniently connect people to local super markets, to their jobs in the Columbia Corridor, or even to parking on nearby side streets that don’t yet have sidewalks (and probably never will.)

Here’s an idea for one of your video expeditions: tell us about your entire trip from your home (with edits) on your electric bike to 136th and all the other routes and diversions you had to take in between on not-so-great streets that everyone else has to use. You can even use current bike boulevards and/or Powell.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago

JM, you are a journalist who has taken a press release from PBOT and written it up as a story without first investigating if all of the PBOT statements are actually true or not. Then you add insult to injury by blaming local residents, most of whom are poor, for driving and parking their cars, without actually interviewing any of them. I’d say you aren’t doing your job very well.

soren
soren
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Then you add insult to injury by blaming local residents, most of whom are poor, for driving and parking their cars, without actually interviewing any of them.

In my experience, many mostly-white active transportation activists have little interest in the lived experience of car-dependent poor people and often behave in a reactive and classist manner when their disinterest is challenged. As a tenant who lives in deeply-substandard housing and as a tenant organizer who has many years of direct experience with how our market housing system dehumanizes poor people, I care far more about what poor car drivers want than I care about what well-off, mostly-white, low-car people want.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
7 months ago

Soren is clearly smart, but I’ve given up on trying to understand their anti-private-housing-construction-but-pro-tenant angle, and I’ve tired of the consistent suggestion that everyone who disagrees with their idiosyncratic views is stupid and/or greedy.

soren
soren
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

the consistent suggestion that everyone who disagrees with their idiosyncratic views is stupid

This is a fabrication. I eschew ableist language:

absurd/ridiculous instead of crazy/nuts
incorrect/inaccurate instead of stupid/dumb

My position on greed is also far more nuanced. I don’t think a loanowner/homeowner who believes in trickle-down voodoo housing markets is greedy in the way a developer/speculator is greedy. However, I do believe that those who benefit from our housing market status quo have the privilege of being sanguine about continuing injustice and this can be seen in the willingness to see rearranging deck chairs on the housing crisis titanic as “progress”.

Jason Skelton
Jason Skelton
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Do you care about poor people when it doesn’t align with your concern trolling about cars?

bbcc
bbcc
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

If you agree that

1. reduced VMT is important for safety & climate goals
2. bicycling is a potential means to replace car trips & reduce VMT
3. a protected bicycling network is a necessary condition for increased bicycling

then I wonder why you seem so indignant? Are you having a bad day?

This is a good, incremental step towards a protected bicycling network, the lack of which you point to as a reason why East Portlanders remain car dependent. Are you upset that PBOT did not simply build the entire network at once?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  bbcc

PBOT and the city took over this area partly in the 60s (as part of Pleasant Valley) and entirely since 1991. They have had 30 years to improve East Portland in general, and specifically 136th and the area around it. So yes, I am a bit “upset that PBOT did not simply build the entire network at once”, particularly as Multnomah County has found that this area pays a higher rate per unit of value than inner Portland, even though it is much poorer.

bbcc definition: “at once” = 30 years.

bbcc
bbcc
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

So you’re siding with someone complaining about parking as PBOT tries to build that network now? That’s akin to someone who has been starving for years refusing a meal on the grounds that it took so long to arrive. Eat, man! Would placing the interests of parking over bike infrastructure have gotten that network built sooner?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  bbcc

Tell me, how many of the neighbors on 136th bicycle?

bbcc
bbcc
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I’m seeing an estimated 17-45 bicycle commuters in the census tract immediately west of 136th according to the 2017 ACS.

I believe a) those commuters should have access to safe facilities b) with safer facilities, that number will grow.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago

A typical smug JM remark about the poorest areas of Portland, be it in EP Cully, or NoPo. 136th is in the center of one of a HUD Qualified Census Tract (over 60% of households below the median Portland income), where nearly all public school children in the area qualify for free lunches, and one of the most racially diverse, with poor infrastructure connectivity – how else did you figure they got the funding to rebuild the street? Out of the goodness of PBOT’s heart? And then we get a really dumb set of remarks from an ignorant JM who has probably never willingly explored this area.

JM, people drive in these areas because they have no other reasonable choices – even with these improvements on 136th, local residents still cannot connect with other safe facilities to get where they want or need to go, and transit service is not only poor and infrequent, but it is not designed to get them where they want to go – almost no local residents work downtown.

soren
soren
7 months ago

Maybe plan ahead and give yourself time to park away from your destination and take a scooter or walk the last mile. These kind of planning inconveniences are common for people without cars, so I think it’s totally reasonable that the tables are turned more often.”

…it’s important to remind folks that more of us need to drive less as much as possible

Could it be that you are projecting your insecurities (as an economically-comfortable person living in fantastically transportation rich inner portland) on poor people who have no other option than driving? Perhaps selling the minivan and “reminding” your low-car friends who drive might be a better way to embody change than “reminding” people in the numbers that they should “plan ahead” and/or “take a scooter” on high-crash network arterials to daycare/school, to the grocery store, or to a clinic.

soren
soren
7 months ago

active transportation activists probably have little interest in car-dependent people, poor or not.

continuing to make excuses for people to continue driving at the same rates they currently do, only cements the current status quo of car supremacy – and its myriad negative externalities for lower-income people – even further.

The belief that transportation activists should be disinterested in car-dependent poor people because they have little to learn from them or because the have already determined what poor people need (based on upper class/college-educated “knowledge” of transportation systems) is the epitome of class- and race-based caricature.

My goal was to be provocative not because I want to troll you but because many car-dependent poor people do want better transportation alternatives (and not only sidewalks, better lighting, and marked crosswalks). They also want more of what inner Portlanders have in abundance — the safety, comfort, and dignity that comes from living in a neighborhood with abundant resources near their homes. One of the things I’ve learned as a white tenant organizer is that grocery stores, corner ships, preschools, drug stores, clinics etc. are transportation infrastructure. We can build all the bike lanes in East Portland we want, but without better access to basic resources most people will still drive by default (and I don’t blame them at all).

To provide some personal “narrative” color to the above critique: I still vividly remember when a fellow tenant cut short my “getting rid of parking helps poor people rhetoric” by explaining to me that parking was important to her family not because it was a convenience but because she was afraid to walk long distances to her home. Instead of categorically dismissing the resistance of poor people to more bike lanes or to more road diets it might be useful to better understand, and even directly address, the socio-economic roots of this distrust.

PS: The claim that you don’t believe ownership of a car is something to criticize while using language like “the current status quo of car supremacy” or, elsewhere, “the war on cars” is simply not credible. I think one of the huge cultural divides in this terminally dysfunctional society is that college educated white liberals have lost the ability to understand how they sound to people who aren’t in their epistemically-closed “education” class.

soren
soren
7 months ago

and you mention my assumed wealth

I did not mention wealth at all. I assumed that you are a loan owner with government-funded rent control (e.g. housing security) and that you do not struggle to afford basic necessities (e.g. utilities and food).

Jason Skelton
Jason Skelton
7 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Jonathan is not the villain. You are being unkind to him because he cares and he will respond to you. PBOT, presumably, does not. Cars are wildly expensive. Poor people would have an easier life if they did not need to rely on them so much.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
7 months ago

Thank you for all the responses. Some very good points were made. I am just trying to assimilate your vision of the future with fewer cars. I always make a point of commuting by bicycle when I can, but it seems like there are a lot of instances when that just doesn’t work. For instance, my wife and I are from big families. When we host a holiday feast many carloads come with their families from all over the surrounding area e.g. Longview and Cornelius, bearing gifts and hot dishes that could not all possibly be cooked in our oven at the same time or carried on public transportation. Also many are elderly and can’t walk very far. If all the on street parking is taken up for miles around by bike paths and the cars of residents of all the new buildings built without parking, where are our guests to park? I have to add that I don’t believe we will ever get rid of personal vehicles. They will all just go electric. They allow us to feel a freedom to drive to the coast range for a hike or visit a friend on a whim, for example. That we’re not just inmates in a work camp confined to our routes to work or school and back.

PTB
PTB
7 months ago
Reply to  TakeTheLane

“””If all the on street parking is taken up for miles around by bike paths and the cars of residents of all the new buildings built without parking, where are our guests to park? “””

Stop. This is not the scenario anywhere in Portland. I live very close to 136th. There is *no shortage* of on street parking anywhere out this way. Will someone have to walk a block to get to a house on 136th now? Maybe. Miles? No, never. Stop.

Steve C
Steve C
7 months ago
Reply to  TakeTheLane

Take a look at google maps and street view. There was already no one parking along this stretch of 136th. I also see every house or apartment has a driveway with multiple spots and there are tons of side streets with ample street parking. If the area lacked parking before, this project didn’t make it worse in any way. If anything, legally allows delivery drivers to park in the bike lane, as they do all over, and make their delivery.

Jason Skelton
Jason Skelton
7 months ago
Reply to  TakeTheLane

If one’s home is on a major roadway you should not expect on street parking in front of your house. People live on Cesar Chavez and 82nd don’t have parking in front of their homes.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago

The map is bizarre. It excludes the Springwater MUP, the PBLs (122nd to 136th) and BLs on Powell, and the TriMet upgrades on Division. Presumably it only includes PBOT projects.

SERider
SERider
7 months ago

No way those bike lanes are standard width. The buffer is nice, but they look to be about 3-4 ft max in many spots. They can’t even fit the bicycle symbol in them without getting in the gutter/curb.