Approximately 60 people attended an open house January 11 at the Jade/APANO center—the former Banner Furniture store—on Southeast Division Street off 82nd Avenue. The purpose of the open house was to obtain public comments on the proposed 82nd Avenue rapid bus transit crossover route between Northeast Powell and Division streets before an expected decision by TriMet. The plans range broadly from minimal to maximal cost and impact, effectively bookending an array of options available to the crossover decision makers.
The potential impacts of this short half-mile crossover are huge. New and established and recently renovated businesses may be shuttered. Bicyclists may have to detour to 7000- or 9000-block bike path alignments to the west or east of 82nd Avenue. Construction costs may increase by orders of magnitude.
On the other hand, greater permeability (better access), capacity (space), accommodation (sociability and other aesthetics) and greenness (ecology) may increase patronage of surviving businesses and general user-friendliness along the future Avenue of Roses (“82nd Avenue forum held” MCM November 2015).
Real people, livelihoods, groups, budgets and interests within a major east Portland neighborhood will be impacted for the indefinite future.
The goal of Bus Rapid Transit is through, not to, this already busy 82nd Avenue corridor, which is mostly business traffic. High speed and high capacity for moving people from downtown Portland to Gresham along the busiest mass transit corridor in Portland are the broadcast goals, not convenience, security nor improved access for those businesses and their owners and employees already invested in the 82nd Avenue corridor.
Vongdeuane Soutavong, who owns and operates at-risk Thai Fresh Restaurant at 8409 SE Division St., attended the open house. Soutavong asked the first brave question of Elizabeth Mros-O’Hara, Powell-Division Transit and Development Project Manager, about the impact of the decision on the Jade district supported by contract with Portland Development Commission since 2013 by Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. Mros-O’Hara punted the question to Jade District manager Todd Struble who in turn passed it to the TriMet team in the corner, surrounded by artist’s renderings of chamfered, or angled inside-corner stations, articulated buses and yellow and white plats showing on two otherwise-identical bird’s eye views of the minimum (four) and maximum (27) “building” (read: business) targets subject to “purchase” (read: condemnation).
“It scares me. I thought Jade was something different,” said Soutavong. Early on, Soutavong was excited and proud to be involved in Jade and to help establish in Portland a “new Chinatown or international district.”
Soutavong’s Thai restaurant is one of 27 buildings targeted by the maximum impact changes that may be made along Southeast 82nd Avenue between Powell and Division streets.
But Soutavong doubts anyone at the meeting Monday night was there to listen to public input.
“Makes you feel like, oh wow, they are listening! [But then later you realize the decision is] already made,” said Soutavong. The open house is just “a feel good thing. [Their plan could take] away my business, our mom-and-pop restaurant of eight years.”
TriMet’s David Aulwez explained the basic chamfered inside corner design intended to avoid congestion while allowing placement of each station as near the street corner as possible. The chamfers provide two successive wide-radius 45-degree right turns through articulated-bus dedicated lanes at Powell and Division streets where they cross Southeast 82nd Avenue at approximately 90 degrees. Aulwez admits that Business Access and Transit lanes the so-called BAT lanes that include these chamfers are elsewhere mixed use, since vehicles must turn across them to gain access to businesses along 82nd Avenue, but that such cross traffic is limited to legitimate car and truck crossover use of the crossover bus lane. Aulwez agreed that the differences between the minimum impact plan and the maximum impact plan are big, but he defended the bookend approach and admitted the probability of a plan that finds middle ground.
The cost differential between the minimum-impact plan and the maximum-impact plan is not quantified, since all projections are preliminary. Indeed, the charts presented by Metro refer to approximate cost of the minimum-impact plan as “$$$”, compared to the approximate cost of the maximum-impact plan as “$$$$$.”
The main differences between the plans are inclusion in accordance with the maximum-impact plan of bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks (requiring deeper building setbacks and thus requiring that 23 additional businesses be condemned).
The main similarity between the maximum-impact and minimum-impact plans is that transit time along the busy half-mile 82nd Avenue crossover would be significantly reduced from approximately 12 minutes (if nothing is done) to approximately five minutes (if either plan is adopted or if middle ground is found).
Richard Alhadoff, hands-on owner of 10-year old Tik Tok Restaurant & Bar at 3330 S.E. 82nd Ave., attended the open house with his son, Shawn. “They do pretty much what they want to do,” said Richard Alhadoff, noting that he would not have even known about the open house if it weren’t for a story he happened to see on television the day before.
Alhadoff worries that he might lose not only his real estate but also all the time and money he and his family and employees have invested in the business, building and property infrastructure, to say nothing of its customers and its good name.
Moreover, Alhadoff understands that Tik Tok’s condemnation would not even come close to his obtaining fair market value for Tik Tok.
So the clock is ticking on Alhadoff’s Tik Tok restaurant, another one of 27 buildings that would be condemned by the City of Portland if the broadest changes are implemented along the proposed 82nd Avenue crossover.
Dana Lucero of Metro said via email that targeted businesses were all direct mailed and that numerous other broadcast open house notice efforts occurred in December 2015.
The charts presented at the open house didn’t address where the money for this crossover project—at any cost—would come from.
Design and engineering is slated for 2016-2017, construction will extend from 2018 to 2020 and Bus Rapid Transit service is expected to begin in the fall of 2020.
A final crossover decision is expected by a March 28 meeting to be held from 4–6:30 p.m. at a location to be determined. Stay tuned.
The early part of each meeting is reserved for public input.
For more information, contact Dana Lucero at email@example.com or call her at 503-797-1755.