East Portland in Motion: Spreading the Active Transportation Love
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is developing a five-year implementation strategy for active transportation projects east of 82nd Avenue. Entitled East Portland in Motion, the strategy will identify and prioritize pedestrian, bicycle and access-to-transit projects that are most beneficial from a safety and accessibility standpoint, are supported by the community, and can be feasibly built over the next five years with available funding.
East Portland Needs Help
While much of inner Portland could be considered “active transportation utopia,” most would agree that this is not the case east of 82nd Avenue, home to more than 160,000 people and nearly 40% of the city’s children. Even with three light rail lines, two regional multi-use trails and more bike lanes than the remainder of the city, East Portland remains quite difficult to navigate as a pedestrian, bicyclist or transit rider. Five-lane arterial roads – many with spotty sidewalk coverage – are the primary corridors of activity of East Portland, interspersed with residential streets that are often poorly connected and sometimes unpaved. Perhaps due to these deficiencies, use of active modes of transportation is lower in East Portland than in the city as a whole. Still, many people who depend on active travel – lower income families, immigrants, those without cars – choose to live in East Portland for its lower housing costs, and bravely walk, bike or wait for the bus in substandard conditions.
These challenges have been well documented in recent planning documents, news stories and community forums. But until now, there has not been a single, overarching strategy to guide PBOT in prioritizing transportation investments in East Portland (the City’s Transportation System Plan was last updated in 2007, prior to the East Portland Action Plan and Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030). East Portland in Motion builds on the momentum of recent planning work and community dialogue, channeling identified projects (as well as newly identified ones) into a one-stop source for implementation guidance.
Types of Projects
PBOT has developed lists and maps of potential active transportation projects in East Portland from a variety of sources, including:
· Requests from the neighborhood associations and school districts of East Portland, compiled and organized by the East Portland Neighborhood Office Land Use and Transportation Committee.
· East Portland Action Plan (Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, 2009)
· 122nd Avenue Pilot Project (Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, 2010)
· Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 (PBOT, 2010)
· Transportation System Plan (PBOT, 2007)
· TriMet Pedestrian Network Analysis (2011)
· Safe Routes to School engineering reports (PBOT, 2008-2010)
· Traffic safety requests to 823-SAFE.
Projects focus primarily on sidewalk infill, crossing improvements on busy streets, and neighborhood greenways.
After some initial filtering (such as focusing only on PBOT-controlled streets), PBOT identified more than 50 potential sidewalk infill projects in East Portland. Soon, a distinction emerged: Many candidate projects are on streets where curb already exists, allowing for easier and more cost-efficient construction. Other projects are on streets that just have gravel shoulders and no curb, necessitating a costly rebuild of the entire street profile or some other creative solution. We classified the sidewalk candidate projects accordingly:
· Type 1 Sidewalk Candidate Projects fill in missing sidewalks on streets with existing curb. Many of these projects are on busy, 5-lane roadways like SE Division Street, SE 122nd Avenue and NE Halsey Street. On these roadways there is typically seven feet from curb to property line, leaving room for a six-foot, curb-tight sidewalk. While not perfect, these projects are relatively economical – about $1 million per mile – because curbs and stormwater facilities are already installed. PBOT recently built this type of sidewalk on NE Glisan Street between 122nd and 148th Avenues using federal stimulus dollars (picture below).
· Type 2 Sidewalk Candidate Projects build new sidewalks on streets without curbs. These streets have gravel shoulders or sometimes just dirt, grass or other vegetation. Examples include SE 136th Avenue and NE Prescott Street. These projects are relatively expensive – about $5-7 million per mile – because in most cases the street must be completely rebuilt due to substandard pavement and road base, in addition to adding sidewalks, curbs, bike lanes and stormwater facilities. An example of an existing Type 2 sidewalk is SE 92nd Avenue between Holgate and Powell (pictured below)
Crossing improvements are another critical component of the pedestrian network and particularly important on East Portland’s busy, five-lane arterial streets. On some stretches of busy streets like Division (shown below), there are literally thousands of feet between safe crossing locations. PBOT has identified nearly 100 potential crossing improvement locations that would help fill these gaps. We are currently prioritizing crossing candidates based on nearby transit patronage, surrounding land uses and crash data. Resulting crossings may range from median refuge islands to full traffic signals.
Bicycle improvements in East Portland will focus on establishing neighborhood greenways – low traffic, low speed streets where cyclists and pedestrians are given priority, safety is improved, and the natural environment is enhanced, all while maintaining automobile access to all properties. Efforts were made to identify routes that connect schools and parks, and are parallel to East Portland’s busy, wide streets, offering lower-stress alternatives to access businesses. Two neighborhood greenways projects have received significant support from the community and will likely be among the first “out the door”:
- The 130’s Greenway (pictured below), a north-south spine along 128th, 129th, 130th and 132nd Avenues, extending from the Russell neighborhood (near the Western States Chiropractic College) southward to the Springwater Corridor and Foster Road in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.
- The Market/Mill/Main Greenway, an east-west route through the heart of East Portland that will complete a greenway route all the way from Gresham to the Willamette River.
PBOT has been collaborating with the community on East Portland in Motion for about one year, including close coordination with the East Portland Neighborhood Office Land Use and Transportation Committee, the East Portland Action Plan Bike Subcommittee and other community stakeholders. PBOT has also held several public workshops on the project. To maximize attendance, workshops have “piggybacked” on larger events including the Mayor’s Transportation Safety Summit, a Portland Plan open house, and the Outer Powell Conceptual Design Plan open house. Participants conversed with PBOT staff, voted for their favorite sidewalk projects and completed surveys (which are also available online).
Public input will continue into May, with appearances at the Parkrose Farmers Market on Sunday, May 7, from 9am to 3pm, the Gateway Fun-o-Rama on Saturday, May 21 from 1 to 4pm, and at the East Portland Sunday Parkways on Sunday, May 22.
PBOT hopes to have a first draft of the East Portland in Motion report by the end of June, with City Council approval during the summer.
In the mean time, please visit the East Portland in Motion website, where you can download maps, take the survey and hear about upcoming events. For questions about the project, feel free to contact me or Ellen Vanderslice at the contact information below.
Community Service Aide
Portland Bureau of Transportation
Portland Bureau of Transportation