BikePortland

The contentious ‘Hawthorne Pave and Paint’ project is complete


New median island and crossing on SE Hawthorne at 23rd.
(Photo: City of Portland)

After months of sometimes contentious back and forth between activists and PBOT officials, the Hawthorne Blvd ‘Pave and Paint’ project has been completed.

The project, which targeted Southeast Hawthorne from 23rd to 50th avenues, focused on pedestrian safety and changed the four-lane cross-section to three (slightly wider) lanes (one in each direction, with a center turn lane). The construction also installed and upgraded curb ramps to assist people who use wheelchairs, mobility devices and strollers. TriMet’s Line 14 will also move faster thanks to signal timing and lane striping changes.

In total, PBOT crews repaved 28 blocks, upgraded 163 curb ramps to ADA standards, improved 10 crossings with crosswalks and/or median islands, installed 14 new streetlights, retimed 10 traffic signals, and upgraded the signal at SE César E. Chávez Boulevard.

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But people who rely on different sets of wheels, including folks who hop on one of the many Biketown stations along the street, won’t reap the same benefits. For some bicycle riders, who called upon the city to construct a bike lane on this stretch of Hawthorne, this project was a major disappointment. As BikePortland reported back in February, when the details of the project were announced, activists from the group Healthier Hawthorne struck back against the plan immediately.

PBOT left the door open to bike lanes, but didn’t feel like dedicated access for bicycle riders on one of Portland’s most important main streets was worth the risks that often accompany a bold step toward a new vision. They’ve pointed to existing greenways in the Hawthorne neighborhood as a sufficient substitute for a bike lane on this stretch of Hawthorne. While Healthier Hawthorne founder Zach Katz gives credit to the greenway system, he argues that bikers have to travel too far out of the way — north of Hawthorne several blocks to Salmon Street or south several blocks to Lincoln — to benefit from them.

He also states that, since you can’t see the businesses on Hawthorne from the neighborhood greenways, making bicycle users travel on this route would hurt local businesses. Some business owners have stated their interest in a protected bike lane on this stretch of Hawthorne, which is home to dozens of popular small businesses like thrift stores, boutiques, cafes and a popular outpost of Powell’s bookstore.

Nevertheless, the project went ahead without bike lanes, and this stretch of Hawthorne Blvd is now construction-free and open for business with some important upgrades. Have you used the street since the changes were installed? What do you think so far?

Stay tuned for more photos and my impressions of the completed project.

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