With monumental task ahead, 82nd Avenue Coalition holds first meeting

82nd Ave. and NE Glisan St. just steps from Montavilla Park and Community Center (Photos: Paxton Rothwell/BikePortland)

Publisher’s note: I’m happy to share our first story from Paxton Rothwell, a former engineer and volunteer activists who’s turned his attention to writing about transportation.


Oregon Walks Executive Director Ashton Simpson (striped shirt) talks to members of the 82nd Avenue Coalition in Montavilla Park.

On Wednesday July 13th, Portland-based nonprofit Oregon Walks hosted 30 people in Montavilla Park to discuss the future of 82nd Avenue. This was the first meeting of the 82nd Avenue Coalition, a still-forming group of business owners, residents and advocates who want to transform this street from a car-centered ‘orphan highway’ that divides Portland, to a community corridor that connects it.

They face a massive task ahead.

A group walk by advocates last year shined a light on the poor sidewalk conditions and unwelcoming environment along the corridor. S.K. Amaro, a community member from the Lents neighborhood, shared at the meeting last week that 82nd Avenue has the feeling of an emotional and physical wall. “You cross [82nd to the west] and you hear the birds sing and the roads are paved.”

Oregon Walks Executive Director Ashton Simpson put the effect of 82nd Avenue very plainly, “this street has always divided us as a city.”

Zachary Lauritzen (Photo: Zachary Lauritzen)

Standing in front of the group seated in a grassy part of the park, Simpson recounted the recent history of 82nd Avenue. The back-to-back pedestrian deaths in early 2021 and resulting political pressure from advocates, Rep. Kham Pham, and many others ultimately led to the agreement to transfer this ‘orphan highway’ from the state’s control to the City of Portland’s. The City is now poised to make crucial safety upgrades to 82nd Avenue. According to Zachary Lauritzen, Oregon Walks’ 82nd Avenue Coalition Manager, Rep. Pham “secured the funding [for this Coalition] in order to raise up community voice[s] as the jurisdictional transfer work goes into place.”

This transfer came with $185 million in funding for much needed safety improvements. $80 million has already been allocated for new pedestrian crossings and lighting upgrades. Some of these upgrades (like the partially built crossing at NE Pacific Street I used to get to Montavilla Park, see below) are already being constructed. 

What’s to come with the rest of the funding? “The other $105 million is [still] being programmed. I’m hearing from city staff that they want to hear from the people,” Lauritzen said. This is where the Coalition’s guidance will come in. In a followup email, Lauritzen assured me that “we will move in the direction where the voice of the people takes us.”

The Coalition has already attracted a broad range of interested members. In attendance were representatives from Verde, The Street Trust, Portland Audubon Society, the 82nd Ave Business Association, and people representing neighborhoods from Lents to Madison South. Metro Councilor Duncan Hwang was also in attendance. When asked about what planning is in the pipeline at Metro for 82nd, Hwang replied, “We’re starting the process for a new high capacity transit route.” He added that Metro is also planning for transit-oriented development along the route.

If all goes well the Coalition hopes to use this process as an example for how to transform other urban arterials and ‘orphan highways’ into people-centered community corridors. Just what type of people will be centered, is also a hot topic.

Coalition members expressed a strong interest in making sure changes to the street come with anti-displacement efforts. To honor the diversity that already exists on the 82nd Ave corridor, the Coalition suggested that each district could have its own theme.

This was the first of many meetings and remains open to new members. If you are interested in attending the next meeting, send an email to Zachary Lauritzen at Oregon Walks (zachary@oregonwalks.org).

In related news, the City of Portland just posted the volunteer application to be part of their Building a Better 82nd Avenue Community Advisory Group.

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David Hampsten
David Hampsten
29 days ago

I could have sworn there’s been an 82nd Ave coalition for over 10 years now. Is John Mulvey still involved?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  David Hampsten

You are thinking of the 82nd Ave Improvement Coalition, which, according to what Paxton has told me, is essentially retired since the jurisdictional transfer. The leader of that former group was at this meeting btw and FWIW.

RipCityBassWorks
RipCityBassWorks
29 days ago

BRT or light rail please! The 72 has long been one of the most neglected routes under TriMet, this is the perfect opportunity to change that.

Will
Will
28 days ago

Grade-separated rail on 82nd and 122nd that goes all the way to PDX would be exceptional.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
28 days ago
Reply to  Will

And crazy expensive and subject to blockages and breakdowns like the current trains. More frequent buses or long buses in dedicated lanes would be my choice.

PacificSource
PacificSource
29 days ago

How do we find out about these future meetings? I checked the Oregon walks FB page- no postings & nothing on their website. I live on 82nd and would very much like to be involved

Bill
Bill
26 days ago
Reply to  PacificSource
EP
EP
28 days ago

Oh Montavilla Park…how nice you could be. On the South side, Glisan is a 4-lane racetrack. A couple months back a landscaping pickup truck w/ trailer was headed eastbound, hit a sunken storm drain, jumped the curb, and drove through a fence and all the way into the playground, stopping right at the bottom of the slide!

Then, on the 82nd side, there’s no good access to the middle of the park from the neighborhood via NE Oregon, not even a crosswalk. You have to frogger across 82nd and then there’s a fence in the way. There are openings up/down 82nd from there, but they have the added offset fence panel that makes it a tight squeeze with a trailer or cargo bike. Narrow sidewalks along that side of the park as well.
https://goo.gl/maps/dMZCFnsvFnpniiB66

The crossing at Pacific is nice, if they ever finish adding the beacon/lights, but again you have to walk down the narrow path along 82nd and into the same narrow openings to get into the park. An added path/opening at the NW corner would be great for limiting time spent along 82nd.

I hope future changes to 82nd here make this park more welcoming to the surrounding neighborhood, and less blocked-off by high speed traffic.

EP
EP
27 days ago
Reply to  EP

Wow, I can’t even make this up. Last night someone headed westbound on Glisan drove up over the curb and stopped out front of the community center at the park to pick up their kids from the pool! Then they drove over the curb and onto 82nd northbound!!
https://imgur.com/a/QwqEdJl
This is what happens when the roads are flooded with huge “off road” and “utility” vehicles.

Michael
Michael
26 days ago
Reply to  EP

Popping that curb was probably the closest thing to offroading that vehicle has ever seen.