Plans for separate bike and pedestrian paths and a new signalized crossing on NE Sandy Boulevard at 72nd have been whittled away as the Cully Connector project goes through yet another iteration.
The Cully Connector is the one-mile stretch of the larger 70s Greenway that will eventually connect the Rose City Park neighborhood to Brentwood Darlington and the Springwater Corridor.
While the initial plan for this project was to build a separated, “biking and walking parkway” on the wide Roseway Parkway median in the middle of 72nd Ave, PBOT scrapped that back in 2019. In its latest iteration, the Cully Connector will have a narrower, less expensive greenway design.
Here’s the news from PBOT:
Instead of separated biking and walking facilities between NE Prescott and Sumner streets, PBOT will construct a multi-use path. The early project concept included a sidewalk and separate bicycle-only facility between NE Prescott Street and NE Sumner Street (where available right of way is wider). To reduce cost, we have changed 3.5 blocks of this separated facility to a multi-use path, meaning that pedestrians and people biking will share the 12 foot-wide space. The multi-use path will still be physically separated from motor vehicle traffic. North of NE Sumner Street, the plan already included a multi-use path since available right-of-way is narrower.
Metro supplemented PBOT with $2.2 million in funding for this project from Regional Flexible Funds, which gave planners a total budget of $5.4 million. PBOT now says they aren’t able to stretch that figure to cover everything they’d originally wanted to include and new plans trim $1.5 million off the price tag.
“At my house it is just going to be a curb and probably a bunch of ugly wands instead of the grade-separated bike path we were promised.”
In an email update this week, PBOT blamed the cutbacks on, “rapidly changing pricing conditions due to supply chain challenges and increasing labor costs.”
“The design team went back to the drawing board and looked for places to reduce cost while still retaining the original goals and spirit of the project,” the statement reads. “We wanted to keep the overall length of the project (NE Sandy Boulevard to NE Lombard Street) intact to avoid any gaps in the route.”
The other major cut is a signalized crossing at NE Sandy Blvd near the western leg of NE 72nd Ave. It’s currently a puzzle to figure out how to cross at the Sandy/72nd/Fremont intersection, and an added crossing would have given people another option for safely getting across Sandy. PBOT says they’ll still implement turn restrictions at that intersection to reduce conflicts.
Beyond budget constraints, this project has also faced some hurdles as a result of neighborhood contention. As we covered last year, some people in the Roseway Neighborhood weren’t excited about potential car traffic diversion changing their neighborhood. It’s unclear if the latest changes were influenced by that controversy.
One person who lives in the area reached out to express their disappointment with the new plans. “They have slashed more off what the project will provide. At my house it is just going to be a curb and probably a bunch of ugly wands instead of the grade-separated bike path we were promised. Very frustrating, and with 2 more years of inflation I expect further cuts.”
PBOT initial told the neighborhood it would be built in 2021 but now it’s not “anticipated” until 2024. The city also says the scope could continue to evolve up until that point.