The Division Transit Project (DTP), the rapid bus system that will link downtown Portland and Gresham in coming years, is picking up steam. It has completed local funding, and a local construction company has been selected as the construction manager of the general contractor team.
The Portland City Council earmarked $17.7 million in August and Gresham coughed up $500,000 a month later, leaving funding for the $175 million project in the hands of the federal government now. Construction will begin on the 15-mile corridor with 42 paired stations along it, including 30 shared bicycle and pedestrian platforms, in the fall of 2019, funding permitting, and public discussion is turning from design—even though that is still at the “refined 30 percent” stage—to construction.
Raimore Construction has been selected by TriMet to be the construction manager and general contractor for the project. The minority-owned company has been working with TriMet for 20 years, most notably on the Interstate Avenue MAX line, Raimore Construction’s Bill Bruce said at the DTP Community Advisory Committee’s Sept. 20 meeting. It is one of the larger regional construction companies, with receipts of around $20 million annually.
Bruce said the company tried hard to position itself to be hired for the project and has studied it closely already. Raimore expects to do about half of the work on the DTP itself and will hire 50 to 75 subcontractors to work along with it, many of which will have no previous experience on public works. The company also plans to bid on the city’s Outer Division Safety Improvement Project, a smaller project that will be implemented at the same time as the DTP along Division Street beyond 82nd Avenue.
The design of the project evolved over the summer to include more amenities at stops east of 82nd Avenue, making them more like MAX stations than traditional bus stops. This idea received strong support at two open houses and an “online open house” held in late June. Concerns about relocating utility lines and impinging on private property with these new stations are slowly being allayed, but safely accommodating bikers along the same roadway remains an open issue. With that in mind, a plywood mockup of a future shared bike and pedestrian platform station has been built at one of the TriMet park-and-rides, where interactions between buses, pedestrians and bicyclists can be modeled.
Current thinking is to have bicycles move in a lane that will pass between the buses and station, with signals to warn bicyclists when a bus is about to stop on an “island” adjacent to a station. The challenge will be to make sure bicyclists are paying attention, a commenter at the committee meeting noted. That placement of the lane would provide bicyclists greater protection from cars on busy Division Street, however.
Buses on the line will be 60 feet long, 20 feet longer than the ordinary TriMet bus and articulated. They will have 60 percent greater capacity than ordinary buses. Traffic signals along the route will be upgraded to prioritize their movement, cutting 20 percent off the commuting time from downtown Portland to Gresham. Stops are spaced approximately one-third of a mile apart. Currently 10,000 people travel that route daily, and that number is expected to grow as the city expands.
The project has been given a medium-high rating by the Federal Transportation Authority. If it gets the funding planners hope for, the line will go into operation in mid-2022. Buses will run every 15 minutes between Southwest Irving Street and 5th Avenue and the Cleveland Park and Ride in Gresham, with enhanced connecting service to Mt. Hood Community College. They will cross the Willamette River at Tillicum Crossing and proceed along the entire length of Division Street.