Construction finally set to begin on $7.8 million investment in Brentwood-Darlington

Brentwood-Darlington resident Meesa Long lobbied for this project at Metro in 2016. (Photo: Metro)

Maria Schur loves the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood just fine the way it is; but even she was excited last week when the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) announced they’d finally break ground on a project that’s been eight years in the making.

“I’m biased. I think it’s a very special neighborhood. That’s maybe because I’ve lived here for 20 years,” Schur shared in a phone call Thursday. “But yes, I’m thrilled.”

Schur said walking to the store on SE Flavel and having to choose between mud and overgrown blackberries, or the street, makes the area feel like “The wild west… err, the wild south!”

The Brentwood-Darlington Multimodal Improvements project will spend $7.8 million ($4.6 from a federal grant awarded by Metro in 2017 and $3.2 from local Transportation System Development Charge funds) to fill gaps in sidewalks on both sides of SE Duke and SE Flavel streets between 52nd and 82nd avenues. The project will also build a new neighborhood greenway on SE Knapp and SE Ogden between 52nd and 87th, including a new signalized crossing of SE 82nd Avenue at SE Knapp and an enhanced crossing of 72nd Avenue at SE Ogden. According to a PBOT map of improvements coming to this neighborhood on Portland’s southern border that’s cradled by the Springwater Corridor path, a total of nine new crosswalks will complement the new greenway and sidewalks.

Lesley McKinley, Chelsea Powers, and Meesa Long receiving a Weston Award from Oregon Walks in 2017. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
The $7 million map.

When a group of women — led by Lesley McKinley, Chelsea Powers, and Meesa Long (above) — stood up in 2016 to demand their neighborhood get the investment it deserves, I recall being shocked at the map they circulated. The map listed all sidewalks with red lines in a section of Portland’s southeast quadrant, and there was one striking, red-free rectangle. “That rectangle is Brentwood-Darlington, we are lacking in infrastructure,” Long said during a 2016 public hearing at Metro.

For the city’s part, the neighborhood wasn’t annexed into Portland until 1986, so several of the streets remain unpaved and the sidewalk network is a “complete hodge-podge” (to use Schur’s term). Because PBOT relies on developers to build new sidewalks with new houses; one house will have one, but the house next door will not (see photo below).

But for folks who live in the area, thirty years was long enough to wait for basic infrastructure. And when Long and her fellow activists came along, their persuasive testimonies earned the neighborhood a multi-million dollar federal grant, and was recognized with an advocacy award from Oregon Walks in 2017.

It has taken seven years to break ground in part because the City of Portland had to acquire property rights to build some of the sidewalks. Now they’re ready to get started.

For Schur, who leads “Hill Killer” rides in the neighborhood and is planning an alley-cat race this summer to share its charms, one of the most exciting parts of the project is the planned crossing of SE 82nd between Knapp and Ogden. It’s an offset intersection that requires bike riders to cross five lanes of high-speed traffic on an state-managed orphan highway.

“The scary part of that you have to play Frogger [to get across 82nd], which is nowhere near as fun as the video game version,” says Schur. “It’s just it’s too many lanes of traffic, and you end up waiting for a long time.”

At least we don’t have to wait longer for changes to finally arrive. PBOT says work is expected to start in the next month or two, and will continue through 2024.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Phillip Barron
3 months ago

several of the streets remain unpaved and the sidewalk network is a “complete hodge-podge” (to use Schur’s term).

So it’s like living in Hillsdale, or Fulton Park, or Multnomah Village, or Marshall Park, or Burlingame, or Arnold Creek, or Ash Creek, or Bridlemile, or Crestwood, or any neighborhood in Southwest once you leave downtown. 

Congrats to the Brentwood-Darlington residents for sticking with the process and finally reaping its rewards. 

Jeff S
Jeff S
3 months ago
Reply to  Phillip Barron

Except I think there’s more of a complete street grid than most of SW.

dw
dw
3 months ago
Reply to  Phillip Barron

Or everything east of 205

Nick
Nick
3 months ago
Reply to  dw

Don’t forget Cully and Roseway

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Phillip Barron

Happily, there are GIS maps which show sidewalk coverage in Portland. It helps to look at one every once in a while, I think.

comment image

What I see is that inner east Portland, and downtown, have complete coverage. Not so much everywhere else. I think what might happen with folks east of 205 is that they mainly compare themselves with the inner east, and conclude that everywhere in Portland is like that–it’s not.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

Good for these three ladies, but it’s hilarious to see the square in SE with no sidewalks. If you did a map like that of SW Portland, practically THE ENTIRE THING would be a big blank area! We have almost no sidewalks, anywhere – they are the exception, not the rule.

Didn’t someone just complain in another forum about how outer SE gets no infrastructure investment? Funny.

disgruntled
disgruntled
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Didn’t someone just complain in another forum about how outer SE gets no infrastructure investment?

If an upwardly mobile youngish person rarely walks/bikes/buses outside of the “hygge” confines of inner PDX their empathy for historically-neglected parts of Portland is very likely to be lacking.

A corollary of this is that if an upwardly mobile youngish person has few friends/acquaintances in lower socioeconomic-status communities they will often lack empathy for the long history of inequitable funding, resources, and development for these communities.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
3 months ago

As a BD resident, I applaud what Chelsea did for the neighborhood. I can’t say I’ve been excited for the transportation lead from years ago who has become the current NA chair. Those above can complain about whatever SW PDX but we can rest assure that they have better amenities than we do. They probably have better houses as well and a whole lot less rv’s dumping around them. But like them, this project will add to the hodge podge, band aid approach to our city. I would guess that Cully doesn’t have as many unimproved roads as we do. Best we can do when we don’t get a few sidewalk fill ins would be those cheapy “alternative walkways” on our old clack county streets that haven’t had any upgrade since the 60’s. I don’t see the “SE Rising” changing us much. Anywho, tip of the cap for finally “breaking ground” as I thought this project was done by now. That what I get for throwing in the towel on the NA Meetings.

nuovorecord
nuovorecord
3 months ago

Kudos to the B-D neighborhood for showing up and getting involved with the Regional Flexible Funds process. If I’m not mistaken, Metro is scheduled to kick off another funding cycle in 2024 so it would be good to start lobbying Portland and other local jurisdictions right now for projects you want to see funded in your neighborhoods.