The proposed Powell-Division Transit and Development Project creates a rapid bus line traveling 15 miles along Southeast Powell Boulevard, starting at Portland State University and Oregon Health and Sciences University in the west and terminating at Mt. Hood Community College in the east.
The public and a 21-member steering committee of officials and community representatives are leaning heavily toward Southeast 82nd Avenue as the point at which the proposed rapid bus line would switch over from Southeast Powell Boulevard to Southeast Division Street on its journey into Gresham.
After reviewing more than 1, 500 online comments from the public about the rapid route, the steering committee removed two crossover options from the table at its March 16 meeting: Cesar Chavez Avenue and Southeast 92nd Avenue. However, the committee left two other options open: Southeast 50th and 52nd Avenues. “The committee is very supportive of using 82nd as the transition, the crossover option, and the public support is largely there, too,” said Dana Lucero, public involvement specialist for Metro.
However, Lucero said 82nd Avenue might prove a difficult choice because “it’s a quick-moving street. There’s a lot of people using it and so there are going to be some challenges or work to figure out what it would mean to put bus rapid transit there. So the committee left 50th and 52nd Avenues [in order to have] more options to look at when we weigh what could happen in that section. But there’s overwhelming support to endeavor to make 82nd work.”
Based on public comments, the committee also determined that the rapid bus should cross the Willamette River on the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge, near Southeast Caruthers Street, rather than the Ross Island Bridge. This decision was made in part because Tilikum Crossing carries light rail, streetcars, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but no private cars or trucks.
Another question directed at the public in an online questionnaire last month was whether the rapid line should end at the Gresham Transit Center or continue on, concluding its route at Mt. Hood Community College.
“Both public support and steering committee support was overwhelming, pointing us toward making the connection to Mt. Hood Community College,” Lucero said. Therefore, the committee removed the option of only stopping at the transit center. Additionally, they canceled the option to loop along Southeast Powell Boulevard, just south of downtown Gresham.
“There’s a commitment to serve downtown Gresham, just not necessarily along Powell,” Lucero said. “That would take far too long.”
Another dropped option was the proposal to connect to Mt. Hood Community College by traveling north from Southeast Division Street along Kane Road to Southeast Stark Street. Instead, the committee decided the route should connect to Southeast Stark Street from Southeast Division Street by either Eastman Parkway, Cleveland Street or Hogan Road.
Deciding which of those three roads to use, as well as whether to use 82nd Avenue, entails more community conversations, talks with residents and business owners along those streets and technical studies about the impact of a rapid transit route on cars on those roads. Planners will also weigh how long a bus ride would take on each proposed street.
At its April 16 meeting, the steering committee heard testimony from student youth organizers who had canvassed Gresham businesses for opinions about the route. Liaisons from the Tongan, Latino, Russian-speaking and Vietnamese communities reported what their members wanted to see along the new route. “People talked about affordable housing, and gathering spaces was one of the most common themes,” Lucero said. “People want public places where they can come together with their friends and family.”
Those spaces would be within walking distance of the rapid transit route. In addition, the public is asking for more infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes, “things that make it easier and safer to get to transit and to get around their communities,” Lucero said.
Metro plans to re-open its web page for online comments from the public in late April or early May, once studies are completed on the narrowed-down route options. People can review previous comments by accessing the website at www.oregonmetro.gov/powelldivision.
The community and technical studies, as well as the additional public online comments, will be presented to the steering committee at its next meeting, June 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at an as yet undetermined location. The steering committee allows public comments at the beginning of the meeting.
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