President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), passed last year, has given Portland an opportunity to fund several key projects.
While this funding will be competitive – many other agencies across the country are lining up to fix their neglected infrastructure – the Portland Bureau of Transportation thinks we stand a chance to receive funding for several projects.
“We’ve had our sleeves rolled up for a while in Portland, and we’ve developed some really good projects that we think can move forward,” PBOT Analyst Mark Lear said at Wednesday’s Portland City Council meeting. “We think we’re in a strong position.”
On Wednesday, Portland City Council agreed to send off applications for up to $47 million in federal funding, distributed between the following projects:
- ‘Safe Systems on 122nd Avenue’ plan to address safety needs on east Portland’s 122nd Ave via the 122nd Avenue Plan. PBOT will ask for $20 million in federal Safe Streets for All funds with a $5 local match from Fixing Our Streets funds to make it safer to walk, bike and use transit on 122nd Ave via a variety of proposed projects.
- Burgard Bridge Replacement – $16 million from the federal Railroad Crossing Elimination Program (RCEP) with a local match of $4 million to replace the Burgard Bridge in north Portland. According to PBOT, bridge is “a critical link in the transportation network in North Portland, particularly for heavy freight movement, and is in very poor condition and seismically vulnerable,” making it a high priority for funding.
- Central Eastside Railroad Crossing Elimination Study – $1-1.5 million from the RCEP to “study in detail the persistent and growing issue of long freight train blockages of multiple at-grade railroad crossings in the Central Eastside and identify projects and strategies to address these issues.” The city will provide a $400k in-kind match from already-budgeted General Transportation Revenue in the planning division budget. (Check out our recent story on this issue.)
PBOT says that if these grants are awarded, the resourced projects wouldn’t change PBOTs current budget allocations.
In addition to these three Portland-initiated projects, City Council also officially gave their support to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s $100 million grant application to the federal Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. This program provides $1 billion in funding over the next 5 years to mitigate some of the damage urban highways have caused to many places in America (as detailed visually in the NY Times this week).
This $100 million grant would give the state, city and its community partner, Albina Vision Trust (AVT), an initial investment to construct I-5 freeway caps over the new Rose Quarter expansion to “reconnect” the lower Albina neighborhood.
PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty demonstrated strong support for this project at Wednesday’s Council meeting, appearing relieved that the city, state and AVT could finally come to an agreement on the I-5 freeway expansion. (Those who are more wary of ODOT’s intentions with the freeway expansion, however, are unlikely to be satisfied by the agreement.)
“If you’d have told me a year or a year and a half ago that we would be here in partnership with ODOT, Albina Vision Trust and PBOT, I would have told you that you were out of your mind,” Hardesty said. “But the reality is that the Rose Quarter project is now in a place where we have the potential to get significant federal resources to help reimagine how we reconnect the community that was torn apart by previous freeway expansion projects.”
Albina Vision Trust members will return to Council before the October deadline for this grant and provide more information about their plan for this grant funding, as well as their plans to apply for a planning grant for what to do with the freeway caps once they’re constructed.
According to PBOT, these won’t be the only opportunities for the city to get federal funds through the IIJA over the next five years. We’ll keep you posted on how these projects move forward.