Whether or not you’re good with change, you’re about to see a whole lot of it. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has created an extensive laundry list of action items for the streets of Gateway in east Portland as part of its Gateway to Opportunity Project. At present, the plan involves 11 action items slated for construction between now and 2021 to reduce potent crash rates, improve pedestrian walking conditions and add to the overall security of a few handpicked streets. The projects enjoy a cornucopia of funding sources, including Fixing our Streets, Prosper Portland, the City of Portland General Fund, Transportation System Development Charges and the Oregon Department of Transportation. As expected, budgets and timeframes range and are subject to change.
In this article, we get into the nitty-gritty of what you can look for with some of these prospective projects with input from Dylan Rivera, PBOT’s public information officer, as well as Timur Ender, the Gateway to Opportunity project manager.
“These are things east Portlanders have asked for, and now we’re delivering,” says Ender. “A lot of these projects are the result of years of advocacy from the East Portland Action Plan. In the late 2000s, they were successful in getting funding from City Council. With a lot of these projects, we’re connecting to transit safety on arterials and improved crossings. Somebody in east Portland is twice as likely to get hit by a car while they’re walking than somebody west of 82nd [Avenue].”
Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Project
You might remember this one. As the Mid-county Memo previously reported (“Portland gas tax pays for N.E. Halsey Street repaving,” MCM January 2018), PBOT has its sights set on Northeast Halsey Street. Currently, two projects are slated to work side by side along Halsey from roughly summer 2018 through winter 2019.
The Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Project, partially funded by Prosper Portland, will add protected bike lanes from Northeast 102nd to Northeast 114th avenues along Halsey Street. It will improve sidewalks and lighting, as well as pedestrian crossings. The impetus for the project coincides with the hard truth that Halsey possesses two high-crash intersections. The project will cost an estimated $3 million.
Alongside the Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Project, the Fixing Our Streets Program––funded by the Measure 26-173 gas tax––will shell out $2,240,000 to fund a three-inch grind and overlay paving along the intersection of Northeast 102nd Avenue and Weidler Street (yes, this is what you’re paying for at the pumps!). Additionally, there will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-approved ramps for all curbs around the paving area.
I-205 Underpass and Overpass Improvements
On Halsey Street, there will be notable shifts near the opening of the I-205. Some will be coming sooner rather than later. With a total budget of $3 million, construction on the I-205 overpass could be delivered this year once the Oregon Department of Transportation gives the final stamp of approval. “Currently, there’s a fork on the sidewalk on the north side, and this would construct a two-way bike facility on the southern half of the existing bridge,” says Ender.
A finishing touch, with a fall 2021 timeline, is the construction of a potential I-205 undercrossing would connect the brand-spanking-new Gateway Green park to neighborhoods from the west for pedestrian usage. Ender notes that planning for the undercrossing is no piece of cake, so don’t be surprised if you see delays. “There’s a railroad under the undercrossing, so it’s fairly complex.”
The overpass would be funded by the Fixing Our Streets program, while the undercrossing would likely be funded by the state.
122nd Avenue Plan
Ever wish the Line 73 bus would come around the corner more often? You’re in luck.
“One of the things City Council heard from east Portlanders is that they want more frequent bus service on 122nd [Avenue], so City Council worked with TriMet and asked, ‘What would it take to improve bus service on 122nd?’ with the understanding that the city doesn’t run the bus system,” says Ender. “TriMet said that if we [PBOT] can make safer crossings and sidewalks, we can justify improving bus service on 122nd. It’s been a strong and successful partnership, and we’ve already delivered sidewalk infill on Prescott near Parkrose High School.”
Both City Council funds, as well as money generated through the Fixing Our Streets program, has allowed for money to be set aside for 122nd Avenue and improve infrastructure and the safety of crossings, as well as access to transit. In response, TriMet is mobilizing and slowly increasing Line 73, which spans from about the Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center to the Lents Town Center/Southeast Foster stop. “Currently, there is a planning effort to look at the entire 122nd [Avenue] corridor,” adds Ender. “That planning effort should wrap up in December 2018, which will translate into a project next year.”
Rivera adds that a PBOT open house will be occurring later this spring for public input. “The open house will be following up on [already implemented] sidewalks on Northeast Prescott [Street]. That was a project that included sidewalks and a couple safer crossings on 122nd [Avenue], and there were some sidewalks put in down Foster [Street] as well. Those sidewalks allowed TriMet to reconfigure a new line or bus service that was happening across east Portland from Sandy [Boulevard] and Prescott to 122nd and Foster. This has improved service already. If we continue this partnership with more PBOT improvements, we can get more transit improvements from TriMet.”
PBOT can only speak for its own allotted funds in aiding TriMet through its decision-making process. Routing and busing decisions are outside of PBOT’s scope of control. “We would defer to TriMet,” says Rivera. “We are hopeful that in the future, there will be more ‘frequent-service’ or 15-minute headways on the map.”
102nd Avenue and Northeast Weidler Street to Fremont Street Reconfiguration
You may have heard that as of April 1, Portland’s residential city speed limit will be reduced to 20 miles per hour. This move is part of PBOT’s Vision Zero, which also calls for some changes west of the 100s Neighborhood Greenway along the high-crash corridor of 102nd Avenue from Northeast Weidler to Fremont streets. A proposed “street reconfiguration” would shift this five-lane arterial to a three-lane cross section with buffered bike zones.
“The double threat is when a pedestrian is crossing the street. If you have a five-lane arterial, one lane may stop, but the second may not. The pedestrian is facing a double threat from cars going the same direction,” explains Ender. “Injuries go down if pedestrians are exposed to fewer lanes. From the Bureau’s perspective, we feel comfortable going to a three-lane cross section with a significant benefit to motorist and pedestrian safety.”
The project is funded through Fixing Our Streets, and it’s slated for fall 2019.
East Glisan Street Update (102nd Avenue to city limits)
“Between 102nd [Avenue] and the eastern city border at 162nd [Avenue], we’re currently doing traffic modeling and looking at potential safety improvements,” says Ender. “We’re looking at it with an eye toward redesign, so the street will have three lanes.”
According to Ender, somebody dies on Glisan every other year, and in the past decade there have been an average of 46 people who have “suffered debilitating injuries along the corridor.” On a darker note, Glisan has been found to be the fourth most dangerous street in PBOT’s high-injury network whereby 57 percent of crashes happen on 8 percent of streets with major arterials like the ones located on Glisan. They’re responsible for a disproportionate number of fatalities. “We don’t have the capacity to do the entire segment we want, so we’re breaking it up into three chunks: 102nd to 122nd [avenues], 122nd to 148th [avenues] and 148th [Avenue] east to Gresham at 162nd [Avenue] and Glisan [Street],” adds Ender. “Our hope is that we can do one of those three segments in 2018 and the remaining two in 2019. We can’t do the whole corridor at the same time.”
Oregon state law states that if there’s a job larger than $125,000, PBOT must contract the job out, which inevitably takes more time. The East Glisan Street Update is being paid for by developers through Transportation System Development Charges. Have no idea what those are? They’re one-time fees paid for by developers to the city.
“[Transportation System Development Charges are] an important funding source for city bureaus and parks,” explains Rivera. “It’s a way to have new development offset the cost of growth. We’ve had so much apartment construction and new apartment buildings replacing a couple of houses, and this adds to the transportation costs in the area. The charges can legally only be spent to add capacity to the city, and we try to be strategic about the use of those funds. We try to use those funds so we’re adding to the capacity of the system to help people access public transit, walking and biking in a safer way.”
HOP Neighborhood Greenway
These days, neighborhood greenways are all the rage. “Neighborhood greenways” connect long stretches of road––schools, businesses, parks, neighborhoods and commercial centers––through added bike lanes and pavement markings, wayfinding signage, speed bumps, trees and improved crossings. The HOP Neighborhood Greenway (which stands for the streets of Holladay, Oregon and Pacific) will run parallel to the high-traffic Halsey and Glisan street corridors between the I-205 Gateway area and 128th Avenue. “It’s basically crossing improvements that will connect people from east of 122nd [Avenue] to Gateway Transit Center,” says Ender. “If you’re walking and biking, it will provide a safer connection to the Gateway Transit Center without getting on the busy arterials.”
Ender claims that while he purposefully promises quicker timelines on PBOT’s website than reality can often appease, he confirms that “we’re fully ready to begin construction in 2019 and finish in 2019.”
A similar expansion to the 100s Neighborhood Greenway is set to occur. The 100s Neighborhood Greenway is a five-mile family-friendly biking and walking route from Parkrose Heights to the Springwater Corridor. Route extensions will connect major destinations like Gateway Discovery Park to the Kelly Butte Natural Area and Mall 205 and the Division-Midway district. Expect these changes in spring 2020.
Outer Halsey Corridor Improvements (Northeast 114th Avenue to City Limits)
PBOT sees outer Halsey Street as a freeway. They claim to have heard from an outpouring of denizens that its wide streets with few signals make for unpleasant walking and biking destinations. “One of the highest priorities we’ve heard from residents is sidewalk infill and ADA access, as well as safer crossings,” says Ender. “This project aims to respond to those concerns, so there will be street safety improvements from 114th [Avenue] where the Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Project leaves off to the city border. We expect these elements in 2019, but there may be other elements in 2020.”
The project is currently under design. Funding comes from the former Mayor Charlie Hales, who allotted $1 million to the high-crash zones in east Portland. PBOT thought of Halsey Street as the best candidate. There are currently $2 million total designated to outer Halsey Street based on general funds, which are created through state property and business taxes.
“It’s not common for City Council to fund projects from the General Fund,” says Ender. “With the growing economy here in Portland, the General Fund has had more money than expected for several years now. Every spring and fall, we [PBOT] notify City Council of how much money is coming in, so transportation safety and infrastructure improvements have been high priorities. Half of all General Funds will be used toward major maintenance funds. In this case, City Council wanted to fund the Vision Zero Safety Project, and those are the origins of the outer Halsey project.”
PBOT is invested in citizen input, but it’s also dedicated to educating the community about its streets. The “Gateway drug” that PBOT uses to educate residents of east Portland is its Sunday Parkways program, which occurs around five times a year.
Sunday Parkways look something like this: an eight-mile walking and biking loop that’s car-free that transforms eight miles of everyday streets into eight miles of parks. “You can walk, ride, rollerblade and enjoy car-free streets,” says Ender. “There are flaggers at arterials to help people, and it allows people to experience the neighborhood. When people travel to Sunday Parkways, they can better see and understand the existing crossings and infrastructure in the neighborhood.”
In 2017, PBOT brought Sunday Parkways to Gateway for the first time. 13,000 people attended the event, according to PBOT, which from the bureau’s perspective was a grand slam. There will be one this year located in outer Northeast Portland on August 19 with new attractions, parks and marketplaces. The route will begin at Gateway Green and will span 6.4 miles from Northeast Knott and Holladay streets and will debut Gateway Discovery Park. “This is how we introduce people to safe biking and walking paths for the first time. Every day can be Sunday Parkways when you walk and bike in a neighborhood greenway on a Monday through Friday to get to school or work,” says Rivera.
To learn more about the Gateway to Opportunity project and Sunday Parkways, visit PBOT’s website. For the Gateway to Opportunity project, visit portlandoregon.gov/transportation/73453, and for Sunday Parkways updates, head to portlandoregon.gov/transportation/58929. Two upcoming PBOT-led open houses will appear at the Midland Library (805 S.E. 122nd Ave.) on May 16 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and at the Rosewood Initiative (16126 S.E. Stark St.) from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 5.