The sidewalk on 122nd Avenue is not necessarily the ideal place to hold a press conference, what with the high volume of loud car traffic zooming down the street a few feet away. But that’s exactly what made it important for U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, Commissioner Mingus Mapps and Portland Bureau of Transportation staff to meet there this morning.
Straining to hear each other talk over the noise on the street, it was clear to everyone in attendance how much this corridor needs a transformation — and they hope that change is coming thanks to $20 million in federal funding the city received at the beginning of February.
“This is a signal of everything we’ve done wrong. It’s a signal to people to speed,” Blumenauer, the longtime transportation and safe streets advocate who represents most of Portland east of the Willamette River in the U.S. House, said as he gestured to 122nd Ave behind him. “Until recently, we’ve been going the wrong way.”
Blumenauer commended the PBOT team for their work in the face of their budget woes.
“I’m really pleased about what PBOT is doing in terms of being on the cutting edge by doing a lot with few resources,” he said. “And [Commissioner Mapps], I appreciate what you and your team are doing and welcome you here.”
After Blumenauer spoke, Mapps took the podium to give his thoughts. This was one of the first opportunities to hear the commissioner speak about transportation issues publicly since he took over PBOT about six weeks ago. He seemed pleased to be in Blumenauer’s company in the same position the congressman occupied when he was a member of Portland City Council in the late 1980s and 90s.
“This [grant] is a game changer for Portland,” Mapps said. “122nd Avenue runs through some of our most diverse and dynamic neighborhoods, but it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the metro area. With this grant, that’s about to change. I want to thank Congressman Blumenauer for everything he’s done…for being an incredible champion for safe transportation.”
The grant will partially fund PBOT’s 122nd Ave plan to turn the street into a safe “civic corridor” with protected bike lanes, more tree canopy coverage, medians, lighting and more. PBOT Capital Delivery Division Manager Steve Szigethy elaborated to Blumenauer and Mapps about the project plans on a short walk on 122nd from Morrison to Stark streets. He highlighted PBOT’s desire to reduce car speeds with additional signalized crossings, speed reader boards and by redesigning the street to have fewer driving lanes and more room for people biking.
“Something I’ve learned as the commissioner in charge of PBOT is that one key things driving traffic fatalities here in Portland is the intersection of speed and people,” Mapps said.
Speaking of intersections, one of the most dangerous ones is at 122nd and Stark. This is one of Portland’s high-crash intersections and is among the most treacherous spots in Portland for people walking and biking. PBOT installed the city’s first intersection safety camera at 122nd and Stark last year, and planners think other upcoming changes to 122nd Ave will contribute to making the intersection safer.
A plan this robust will take quite some time to get underway — PBOT staff hope that after about a two-year design and engineering process, construction can begin in 2026. In the meantime, PBOT plans to construct several new signalized crossings on 122nd using money from Fixing our Streets and Metro.
“We’re going to be able to make this road safer for people who are walking, biking and taking public transit,” Mapps said. “We’re going to make this a model project for the City of Portland.”