Southeast Powell Boulevard is one of Portland’s most dangerous streets. The entirety of Powell is on the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s High Crash Network map, but the easternmost section of the road has been home to its highest crash rates. With subpar bike lanes, cracked or missing sidewalks and poor visibility for people walking and biking, using active transportation on Powell is currently not a task for the faint of heart.
The $105 million Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project is set to bring much-needed changes to the dangerous arterial in the form of physically protected bike lanes, beefed up street lighting, sidewalk infill and enhanced pedestrian crossings with flashing beacons. The first part of this project was completed back in 2020, when the stretch from 122nd to 136th avenues debuted a makeover. But that was only a preview of the changes we should see on outer Powell in the coming years. Next month, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will start making moves on the next phase, which will tackle the segments from SE 99th to 122nd and 136th to 174th Aves.
Outer Powell is another one of those roads in the Portland area that’s owned by the state instead of the City of Portland. Like other ODOT-owned roads in the area, Powell is technically a state highway, but as Portland residents has moved east and the city landscape has changed, it functions more like a local access corridor than a regional highway.
But there is hope ODOT’s safety project will be fruitful – not only because of the design changes it will bring, but because the City of Portland is set to take Powell over once the project is complete (similar to the recent jurisdictional transfer of 82nd Ave).
Of course, even after ODOT tackles outer Powell, there will be more work to do. As we wrote about earlier this summer, people who live east of 99th have felt neglected by road agencies who’ve promised safety changes that haven’t come to fruition.
Combined with the Division Transit Project which is well on its way to completion, as well as plans on the books for north-south corridors like 82nd, 122nd and 162nd, this part of the city is set for a much-needed transformation. East Portland is one of the most diverse areas in Portland, and it’s largely low-income compared to other parts of town. It has historically been light on accessible transit and safe routes for people to bike and walk, so these changes are really important for fully integrating east Portland into the rest of the city.
Stay tuned for updates as ODOT begins work on this project.