East Portland elementary school wins $1.9 million state grant for new bike lanes, sidewalks

Current conditions outside Powell Butte Elementary School.

The Oregon Department of Transportation just announced a list of 26 projects that have been awarded funding through the state’s Safe Routes to School program. A total of $32.4 million in construction projects will be spread statewide. The sole City of Portland project to make the cut was a $1.9 million plan to build sidewalks, crosswalks, and buffered bicycle lanes for Powell Butte Elementary School on SE 174th Avenue.

Region 1 (where Portland is located) received $8.5 million in this round of grants. Funding for bike lanes, sidewalks, and safer crossings are also on their way to Fairview Elementary School in east Multnomah County, as well as new lighting on a major street near Witch Hazel Elementary School in Hillsboro.

All the awards went to Title 1 schools where 40% or more of the student population is low-income. These capital construction grants are not to be confused with a separate pot of funding for Safe Routes educational programs which were announced back in June.

According to ODOT, demand for these funds far outstripped available funds: They received 83 project applications for a total requested funding amount of $80 million.

Safer routes for students on one hand, more freeway traffic on the other.

In a case of one step forward and two steps back, also today the Oregon Transportation Commission voted unanimously to approve $42.7 million in additional funding for the I-5 Rose Quarter project — despite the fact that it’s widely opposed and mired in controversy and lawsuits. With no debate or discussion, OTC members voted to amend the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program so that the I-5 Rose Quarter project budget could increase from $175,391,997 to $218,091,997. The new funding will be used for design and engineering work as project leaders tee up the first phases of construction.

These two funding announcements make ODOT’s priorities abundantly clear and they validate the growing narrative from critics that if the OTC and ODOT really cared about Oregonians and traffic safety, they would invest much more into non-freeway projects.

— Browse the complete list of Safe Routes to School grants below:

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2 months ago

It’s great that our heart is in the right place around the issue of getting kids to school safely, assuming those funds are used in ways that don’t just promote motor vehicle access.

On the other hand, the sunk cost of the Rose Quarter freeway widening project is well on the way to the original stated cost of $450,000.

2 months ago

It’s awesome to see East Portland schools receiving these investments. But if there’s anywhere thst justifies true protected bike lanes – it’s where our youngest children are biking. Buffered lines do not feel safe enough for most families, especially those who have become accustomed to the fast speeds and high danger of East Portland roads.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago

A map would have been helpful for this story. The elementary school is right across the street from the high school – both are part of the Centennial School District, 70% of whose kids live in Portland and 30% in Gresham, where the high school is. Yes, that right, 174th is the city boundary in this area between Gresham and Portland but the school district and the residents it serves is on both sides of this substandard formerly-rural road. The school itself has sidewalks, but most blocks nearby in both cities lack basic sidewalks, gutters, and storm sewers. You can see all the cars parked alongside the road, as parents drive their kids to school, since there’s nowhere safe to walk or bike. Of course, the poorest kids still have to walk…