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Sidewalk projects on the horizon


After years of waiting, neighborhood street improvements, even new sidewalk construction is coming to east Portland.
East Portland in Motion reads like a list of most of the mobility aids that Portland east of 82nd needs and does not have: sidewalks, safe street crossings, bikeways, trails and usable roads. In short, it sounds like the sort of compilation contained in the East Portland Action Plan and many documents before it.

The difference is that EPIM is not just a wish list or even a to-do list. Its five-year strategy is a program city officials believe they have the money to create in this period.

“There are 20 sidewalk projects, 56 crossing improvements, 10 neighborhood greenways (bicycle boulevards combined with storm water runoff facilities), and a host of other things, such as trails and bikeways,” Project Manager Ellen Vanderslice told the Memo. In addition, all of this was assembled from a much larger list constituting a 20-year transportation improvement program for the area.

“We had so many worthy candidates it was a real challenge to pick the top ones,” Vanderslice says.

Where did all this come from? It began more than a year ago when Portland Bureau of Transportation planners began work on an updated citywide Bicycle Master Plan. “We were directed to work with our east Portland community partners,” Vanderslice says. “At the same time the city had access to one-time funding for building sidewalks, and it only made sense to combine the two efforts. In doing outreach, we found that access to transit was critical to this area. We took a whole universe of plans already adopted, and things identified by neighborhoods, school districts and the East Portland Action Plan's Transportation Committee. We talked to people at a variety of venues.”

Students from a Portland State University graduate school class aided them in urban planning. The class interviewed people outside the “usual suspects” who regularly show up at neighborhood meetings and hearings: Somali, Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Spanish and Bhutanese refugees, the elderly, and people using the Eastminster Church family shelter. “We asked, 'Where will we get the greatest return for our money and time? Tell us if we got this right,'” Vanderslice says.

So far, she says, there has been strong support for the program. “Even people who don't like bikes, like the back-street solution of encouraging riders to use routes off major streets,” Vanderslice says.

What exactly is the five-year budget? “If I tell you I have to shoot you,” Vanderslice says (we assume facetiously). “We don't want people to focus on the budget numbers.” Whatever it is, it is based on “funding we believe will be available - with a whole lot of caveats,” she says.

Where did the money come from? About $8 million was diverted from funding for a new Sellwood Bridge as part of a complex city-county deal. The city budgeted $300,000 for sidewalk construction citywide, and EPIM received one-third of this. Other sources are the statewide gas tax, utility fees and federal funds distributed through Metro.

To make sure PBOT has it right (from the citizen point of view), they have put the plan and strategy on their web site ( and welcome feedback through October 31. The final recommendations will be presented to Portland City Council “Januaryish,” Vanderslice says.
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