Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) staffers are waking up to excellent news this morning as the Biden Administration has awarded them a $20 million grant. The award was one of two U.S Department of Transportation awards announced today that could lead to safer streets and a transformation of 122nd Avenue. Metro was also awarded a planning grant that will fund their ongoing work to achieve “vision zero” with a focus on pedestrian safety in underserved communities.
The awards are part of the USDOT’s Safe Streets and Roads for All program, which is part of their National Roadway Safety Strategy we praised when it came out in January 2022. Today’s awards amount to an $800 million investment in 510 projects nationwide that seek to reverse the rise in traffic deaths and injuries. The grant awards were split into 473 “action plan” grants and 37 “implementation” grants.
Our regional planning authority, Metro, has won $2.4 million for a project titled, Getting to Vision Zero 2035 – Advancing Equity Outcomes and Pedestrian Safety in the Greater Portland Metropolitan Region. We are working to get the application to learn more details about what Metro will do with the funds; but we already know that planners at the agency have worked for years to analyze and understand why people are killed in traffic crashes at higher rates depending on who they are and where they live. Metro has become a national leader in understanding how equity is related to safety outcomes and in 2018 they included a Transportation Equity Analysis in their Regional Transportation Plan (see map below).
With their grant award, PBOT will receive a massive boost for their 122nd Avenue Plan. We took a closer look at PBOT’s efforts to re-imagine this notoriously unsafe arterial back in September 2021. They’ll be able to hit the ground running with these new funds because they’ve already completed a major planning and public outreach effort. The project will help them install safer street designs on a 5.5 mile stretch of 122nd Ave between SE Foster and NE Sandy. PBOT will add this $20 million to their war chest for 122nd. In March 2022 they received $4.5 million from Metro to install crosswalks, curb ramps, and better lighting on a northern portion of the street.
PBOT’s goal is to transform 122nd Ave from a high-speed, high-crash thoroughfare into a “civic corridor” that encourages more walking and biking and reduces dangerous driving behaviors. Specifically, PBOT plans to employ their “safe systems” approach (to clarify, “vision zero” is the goal, “safe systems” is how they plan to reach it) on 122nd. According to PBOT, 122nd Ave is in the top 5% of metro Portland’s most deadly and injurious streets. Plans for the funding include: add street lighting where gaps currently exist; install four miles of protected bike lanes; update traffic signals with a focus on bicycle users and walkers; alter the cross-section to reduce the amount of driving lanes; build new crossings; add 11 raised medians; plant street trees; build curb extensions for bus islands; buy speed reader boards with automated enforcement, and build a new roundabout (likely at SE Harold).
In a statement this morning, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer said, “The people who travel on 122nd Avenue every day to get to work, school, and home will benefit greatly from these improvements… It’s also a vote of confidence for community action and the importance of including community members in the decision-making process to meet their priorities.”
This is excellent news! Well done Metro and PBOT!
Stay tuned while I track down the specific grant applications so we can delve into more detail about what to expect in the coming months as these projects are deployed.