outer powell safety project
This story is from east Portland resident and longtime bike advocate Jim Chasse.
One of Portland’s most dangerous roads is finally getting safety upgrades that include new sidewalks, better bike lanes and upgraded crossings from SE 122nd to 136th.
Powell Blvd. improvements have been a high priority for residents since this section of southeast Portland was annexed into the city over 25 years ago… It’s great to see some new concrete on the ground!
I’ve had some time on my hands and decided to scope out the project during construction.
The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Outer Powell Safety Project aims to rebuild the dangerous arterial from I-205 to the Gresham city limits. Initial elements of the project were first proposed in 2012 with $5.5 million in state funding. Unfortunately the project’s cost soared to $11 million and no other funding was available. It was decided to apply the secured funds to repave the Outer Powell corridor from 99th to 174th and widen the pavement another 4-5 feet on either side to afford people on foot something other than gravel and potholes to walk through. Previously the pavement ended on the inside white line of the bike lanes. ODOT also built four new signalized crossings.
While the 2012 project was useful for people who along the corridor to stay out of the mud, it also generated enough pavement for automobile users to pass on the right to avoid waiting for other drivers who were stopped attempting a left turn. There are presently no left turn lanes on this portion of Powell. A dangerous, unforeseen trade-off.
Thanks to then state representative and now Secretary of State candidate Shemia Fagan, $17 million was secured in 2015 to rebuild Powell from 122nd to 136th. That’s the segment under construction now. The City of Portland also contributed another $3 million for design and engineering for this section. The HB 2017 transportation bill passed by the Oregon Legislature funneled another $110 million to Powell and the rest of the project remains in the design and engineering phase with construction to begin about 2023. (Note: As per HB 2017, once these updates are complete ODOT will transfer ownership of the road to the Portland Bureau of Transportation.)
The north-south 130s, 100s and 150s neighborhood greenways will all cross Powell Blvd. The City of Portland is still working on the 130s bikeway and we’re waiting for the crossing at Powell to be constructed to complete it. Because the 130s bikeway has been delayed for almost six years, ODOT will be constructing the crossing with their own design during the construction of the safety project so two separate crews don’t interfere with each other. The remaining bikeway crossings will also need to be addressed and coordinated for possible conflicts during construction.
One of the most exciting things about this new Outer Powell project was the inclusion of a segment of raised bike lanes on the south side from 134th to 136th. While it’s only a small portion, it may have a significant impact on bikeway design for the remaining three segments of the Outer Powell Blvd. Conceptual Design Plan. Businesses along Powell will benefit from the active transportation improvements because people will be able to walk, bike, or scoot to their destination. Families with children will also benefit because they’ll now have safe way to get their kids to school. Hopefully it reduces auto traffic in the mornings and afternoons for drop-offs and pick-ups.
Powell Blvd. Improvements have been a high priority for residents since this section of southeast Portland was annexed into the city over 25 years ago. It was one of the neighborhood association’s highest priorities for transportation improvements in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Plan approved by council in 1994. While residential infill has continued over the years, transportation infrastructure improvements have languished. It’s great to see some new concrete on the ground!
— Jim Chasse
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18 months of debate about how to provide safe bike access on a 14-block stretch of Southeast Powell Boulevard is finally coming to an end. At least the Oregon Department of Transportation hopes it is.
Saying they are now months behind schedule, ODOT wants to move forward into the final design stage of a project that will rebuild Powell between SE 122nd and 136th. With $17 million from the State Legislature and another $3 million from Metro, the latest incarnation of ODOT’s Outer Powell Safety Project will add a host of updates to this state highway (U.S. Route 26), which has one of the worst crash records of any road in Oregon. This project will bring long-awaited changes and additions to signals, sidewalks, intersections, landscaping, crosswalks, and bike lanes.
East Portland’s most prominent advocacy group is unanimously opposed to the state’s current plan for outer Powell Boulevard, its top staffer said Thursday.
“Every one of our transportation advocates — from pedestrian to bicycle to transit to overall transportation — was in disagreement with their decision and they want a separated bike lane on Powell,” said Lore Wintergreen, advocate for the East Portland Action Plan.
After an advisory group agreed that it wanted an upcoming rebuild of outer Powell Boulevard to include raised bike lanes, the Oregon Department of Transportation says they’re not practical after all.
Instead, it’s drawing the ire of some (though not all) advisory committee members by saying there won’t be any vertical protection between bike and car traffic on the busy state-run street.
is among designs being seriously debated for
SE Powell east of I-205.
Bike lanes separated by a low curb and/or Copenhagen-style raised bike lanes continue to look likely for parts of Powell Boulevard between Interstate 205 and 172nd Avenue.
At least, that’s the word from Paul Grosjean, the co-chair of the Outer Powell Community Advisory Group and a member of the Outer Powell Decision Committee, both part of the state-run Outer Powell Safety Project.
“Separation between the bike and the travel lane has been a priority of all the committees,” Grosjean, who also serves as vice chair of the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association, said in an interview Monday.
up for safer streets in east Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
It’s not the $25 million that would have been wrapped inside last month’s ill-fated bipartisan transportation bill, but Powell Boulevard is lined up for a long-awaited improvement.
The state-run road is lined up to get $17 million to add sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly crossings and bike lane upgrades — which, as we reported last month, could come in the form of protected bike lanes. Another $3 million pledged by the City of Portland Friday would bring the project’s funding to $20 million for the blocks between SE 122nd and 136th avenues.
The rebuild “will break ground in 2018,” according to Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas) a second-term legislator in a swing district who has been a dogged champion for better walking and biking in the area.
Joining Fagan in support for this funding was a chorus of other local legislators, including Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-East Portland), Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-NE Portland), Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley/East Portland), and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland).
Despite growing consensus that the main effect of widening roads is not to reduce travel times but rather to lengthen car trips, Oregon’s overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature seems to be preparing to approve a bill that would spend around $78 million to add lanes and widen several freeways in the Portland metro area.
More widening projects are also planned around the state.
HB 2281, the 73-page bill being debated in Salem today, would raise $370 million through a mix of new vehicle registration fees and a two-cent gas tax increase. About $125 million of that would go to the Portland metro region (ODOT Region 1). The bill also includes 25 earmarked projects — most of which would widen freeways to “improve safety and provide congestion relief” and allow for “freight mobility improvements.”
There’s nothing in the new bill set aside specifically for bicycling or walking, though the multimodal Connect Oregon program would continue, presumably still funded by the state lottery.
is among designs being seriously debated for
SE Powell east of I-205.
It’s looking as if the Oregon Department of Transportation might become one of the first state transportation agencies in the country to build a raised bike lane into an urban highway project.
It’s just a possibility and it’s still years away, but it’s the upshot of a meeting Monday in which several biking advocates urged the state to consider the design as part of its Outer Powell Safety Project.
David Hampsten of the East Portland Action Plan bike committee and the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee said in an email this week that he attended to urge ODOT “to consider modifying the planned 8-foot bike lanes into either raised cycle-tracks or adding barriers between the roadway and the bikeway users (bikes and mobility devices).”
If the four-mile stretch of Powell Boulevard east of Interstate 205 is completely rebuilt in a few years, it could get some of Portland’s highest-quality bike lanes.
Some advocates say a meeting this Monday evening is the best chance yet to support Dutch-style raised bike lanes on outer Southeast Portland’s most important east-west arterial.