It was a lovely spring morning and a perfect time for a walk down 82nd Avenue. The Oregon Department of Transportation had invited people to meet at Cartlandia, on Southeast 82nd Avenue just south of Flavel Street, to do just that. “Walk and talk with us about 82nd Avenue. Tell us how to make 82nd Avenue safer for everyone and start thinking about what gets built or developed along 82nd Avenue,” it offered.
About a dozen people showed up for the walk, one of four being held that Saturday and the next one as part of the Outreach and Analysis stage of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Implementation Plan, a project that began in 2015 to “identify projects to improve safety for people walking, biking, using mobility devices, taking transit and driving on 82nd Avenue.”
Four areas of concentration along 82nd Avenue have been identified by the project: south of Bybee Street near the border of Clackamas County, the Jade District, and the Roseway and Montavilla neighborhoods. City and State are collaborating on the project after Portland received a grant from Metro to work with ODOT.
Most of the walkers were from community groups with an interest in the area, although one exception was Matthew Cramer, 28, a manager at Mercy Corps who grew up near the area and has family nearby. “I’m glad to see something being done,” he said.
Cramer recalled names for the area like “Felony Flats” and described 82nd Avenue as “a place to pass through.” It was easy to see why as the group proceeded along a four-block route from the cart park past Johnson Creek. The sidewalks were uneven and sometimes narrow and lined with litter. The banks of the creek were strewn with garbage. Street crossings were rare in the whole area—far fewer than the standard quarter-mile spacing of them—and there were many fast-moving cars.
The problems walkers saw were not just cosmetic. Pedestrians risk their lives crossing 82nd Avenue in a high-crash corridor, and TriMet is forced to place more stops on the avenue than is standard to make up for their difficulties, consultant project manager Kristin Hull noted. The rough sidewalks are “mobility device hell,” as someone quipped. In places, most notably along the 82nd Market just beyond Johnson Creek, they are also dangerously narrow. Many businesses along the avenue have large parking lots with very wide driveways—greater than the 150-inch standard—that are also hazardous for the lack of control they allow over traffic flow.
Those problems are not simple. While ODOT owns the street, it does not own the sidewalk (although the city or county does), and inconveniently placed buildings remaining from times before the sidewalk was installed are grandfathered in and must be purchased to be removed, Hull continued.
A few hours later, a larger crowd gathered at the JADE/APANO Cultural Space to take a four-block tour of the Jade District. The avenue is cleaner here and the businesses lining it are denser, but the same problems are seen: crowded sidewalks, huge driveways and widely spaced crossings.
Bus stops could be lighted and crossings with flashing lights—that stayed on for enough time to cross—could be added to the street, walker Zane Ingersoll said. He observed “subtle signals that stop people from getting out of their cars” and concluded that conditions for pedestrians are “scary.”
The outreach and analysis will help determine where new crossings will be, Tara Lingley, ODOT transportation planner and project manager, said in an e-mail. No funds have been allocated yet, although the city of Portland has $700,000 from the gas tax to spend on crosswalks on the avenue.
Mid-block crossings with flashing lights are expensive. According to a handout prepared for the project, each one can cost $100,000–150,000. Sidewalk costs $10–15 per square foot—up to $1,800 for a 10-foot stretch; widening the sidewalk at an intersection, the need for which was critically evident in the Jade District, can cost $55,000–100,000. Work on the roadway runs $750,000–3 million per block.
Although 82nd Avenue has been described as the worst place to bike in the entire city, dedicated biking facilities are not being considered, since the city of Portland has applied to ODOT for a $2.5 million grant to develop a “seventies bikeway” to run parallel to the avenue.
There is a steering committee, made up of an ODOT representative, a city commissioner, two state legislators and the general manager of TriMet, to guide the Implementation Plan. It will meet three times and make final recommendations for the project. There are also technical and community advisory committees.
The project is looking for short- to medium-term (5–10 year) projects for the target areas. The next step in the process will be evaluation and prioritization, which will take place over the summer. A final plan will be made in the fall or winter. Besides redevelopment of the avenue (which is also Oregon Highway 213), the project is looking at the potential impact of transferring it from ODOT to the city of Portland without making a recommendation on that question.
The public is welcome to attend community advisory committee meetings. To be placed on the project’s mailing list, call 503-731-8230.