By way of follow-up to February 15th’s Foster Summit event, we’ve asked a couple of the attendees to share a summary of topics and ideas from the breakout session they attended. We will publish these, along with the ‘butcher paper’ notes in the weeks to come.
Today we’ve asked Mike Caputo, who facilitated our discussion of transportation infrastructure, to contribute his thoughts on the discussion that took place. Mike is a founder of the innovative company What Would You Like to See?, which uses crowdsourcing to bring the public into the process of creating the next generation of our built environment.
Were you were there? What did Mike miss? Even if you couldn’t attend the event, we hope you’ll share your take on these important community issues.
The built environment is something that impacts us all in a myriad of ways. Buildings, streets, and sidewalks do not change often – careful consideration should go into their creation, because they will impact an area for decades or more.
In the Foster-Powell, Lents and Mt. Scott-Arleta areas, pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists all have a number of issues that the community is trying to address together. These are issues that have accumulated over a long period of time; and though they will take time and energy to address, the communities involved are prepared to roll up their proverbial sleeves and take action to improve their surroundings.
It can be difficult to define an entire area by a single street corridor, but Foster Road is a central component of this area of Southeast Portland. Intersecting with the major streets of Powell Blvd, Holgate Blvd, SE 82nd Ave, and Woodstock Blvd, Foster is a defining feature that connects these sometimes disconnected regions. Over the years, a great deal of planning has been done to help improve safety and economic development in the area. Through the efforts of the Portland Development Commission (PDC), neighborhood associations, and other entities, bold visions and venerable planning documents have been generated to guide the region toward prosperity. Some of these efforts have already come to fruition, or are underway: sidewalk improvements have recently been completed in Lents, and the Foster Streetscape plan – despite years of delay – is now being implemented.
Yet other planning efforts have not yet yielded results. 82nd Avenue is a major thoroughfare; with it comes great opportunity for fruitful development, but also a number of challenges due to the legacy of its built environment. A confluence of factors – including city planning, changes in older Portland neighborhoods, and new preferences for auto-related businesses – led to 82nd Avenue developing and maturing as a major auto-centric street in the 1950s and 60s. While this allowed for easy transportation along this north-south corridor, it disrupted existing neighborhoods and failed to address pedestrian safety. The safety issues are myriad: on Foster, east of 82nd Avenue, the sidewalks are very narrow; there are a lack of safety medians and pedestrian crossings along 82nd Avenue; the intersection of 82nd and Foster is a snarl of auto activity, bounded by parking lots and automobile uses on all four corners; and along 82nd Avenue, there are multiple private driveways that are unmarked, creating additional motorist confusion and safety issues for pedestrians.
But despite these challenges, there is tremendous energy and ambition among the communities to take further action. The city of Portland, Trimet, and the PDC have taken the lead with a few larger capital projects such as the streetscape improvements in Lents and along Foster – but there is a strong desire to follow up with locally-led action. It is hoped that businesses can build from the existing momentum and carry the torch. The initial wave of government-led effort brought new sidewalks, trees, and bioswales – but community- and business-led efforts can bring further enhancements, such as bicycle parking, planters, and sidewalk seating. Potentially, businesses could utilize fundraisers or donation jars to raise money for these types of pedestrian-use upgrades.
All of these additional amenities not only boost the sense of community in an area, but they also communicate to motorists that the area is used by pedestrians and transit users, improving safety and slowing motor traffic. There are efforts to work with small property owners and help them put their un- or under-utilized commercial space to use; a systematic plan to do this could potentially be very valuable. New businesses can be recruited thanks to these streetscape enhancements, and areas such as Lents are learning to better market their excellent infrastructure amenities, such as easy access to I-205, proximity to the Green Line MAX, the pedestrian and bicycle uses of the I-205 Multi-Use Path and the Springwater Corridor Trail, and a stock of affordable single-family homes.
Walkability and livability are highly influenced by the built environment. The communities along Foster Road are working hard to guide new investments in infrastructure to better serve their communities today and into the years to come, reorienting the landscape toward pedestrian use and a human-scale environment to be utilized and enjoyed by everyone.
- – Butcher Paper Notes – -
- Donation jars for street trees at businesses
– Important to have plans in place to guide investments in infrastructure
– Ped Safety on Ellis is a concern
– Convenient to I-205
– Narrow sidewalks on Foster east of 82nd
– Too many curb cuts (driveways) on 82nd – need access control
– Protection from the elements, Awnings
– Street Trees to slow down traffic
– Individual property owners don’t make rational decisions
– Pedestrians are afraid
– $4.25 Million coming for Foster
– Businesses take a lead
– “Streetscape” is a long process
– Safety Medians on 82nd
– 82nd & Foster Intersection