Upgrading Powell Boulevard


Hot on the heels of the Foster Road streetscape planning is a proposed transit improvement project on another neighborhood main street. Called the Powell/Division Transit and Development Project, the plan aims to identify "robust" transit improvements between Portland and Gresham along a Powell Boulevard/Division Street alignment.

All signs are pointing to this being a relatively small transit upgrade. While theoretically, light rail, dedicated bus lanes and other major changes are on the table for discussion, the project is seeking upgrades "that can be built in five to seven years."  This short time frame indicates that major upgrades involving lane reconfiguration, curb adjustment, or installing rail are extremely unlikely.

Even so, if your vision of a future Powell Blvd involves light rail, parking, protected bike lanes or dedicated bus lanes then this is the time to let them know it.

TONIGHT: Steering committee and community gathering

Feb. 27, 6 to 7:30 p.m., PCC Southeast Center

Get to know the steering committee members and each other by joining us at the first gathering for the Powell-Division project.

There are three main questions to answer:


Initial concepts indicate a route would travel along Powell Boulevard to 82nd, go north to Division and resume eastbound travel from there. But this isn't set in stone. 82nd is a congested, constrained street - would it be easier to travel to Division in the vicinity of I-205? Is it better to shift to Division farther west, around 50th?

Station Areas and Redevelopment

Where should new development go to support these transit upgrades? Are those parking lots along Powell (leftover parcels from the original Mt. Hood Freeway proposal) potential sites for new commercial or mixed use development?

Transit Type

While major transit projects in Portland tend to be Light Rail. The insiders are pointing to Bus Rapid Transit (basically, an upgraded bus line) being the preferred option for the Powell/Division project.

If BRT is selected the degree to which the line gets priority treatments like a dedicated bus lane are to be determined.

 Download the Project Fact Sheet to learn more.

Summit Recap – Foster’s Built Environment: Streets, Sidewalks and Beyond

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.

* * *

fostersummit_348The 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.


The Other Half of the Streetscape Plan

You may have seen the flyer in your mailbox: The 5th Foster Road Open House is happening this Thursday evening.

According to the planners, this should the last one. The first 4 open houses were focused on gathering community input, sharing ideas and hearing responses and concerns. This open house is about what the city came up with. They’ll be taking comments I’m sure, but unless there is a torch and pitchfork mob in attendance they are only expecting to make small changes to the proposal before this goes to council. Think of it as an early warning of sorts – When you see the construction crews out on the ground over the coming years, this is what they are working on. (more…)

PDC Disbands Lents Citizen Advisory Committee

A few weeks ago, the PDC quietly disbanded the Urban Renewal Advisory Committees –the citizen committees that advise the agency in its urban renewal areas. That includes the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Advisory Committee, which has guided our 9-neighborhood, $245 million urban renewal area since 1998.

According to the PDC, the URACs are intended “to involve citizens, urban renewal area (URA) stakeholders and/or project partners more directly in planning, program development and decision making.” Agency policy is that the PDC “believes that meaningful, timely, effective public participation is essential to successfully implement PDC policies and projects.”

pdc_2PDC staffer Justin Douglas talked to me about what led up to the change in policy.

“PDC has been undergoing significant downsizing as an agency. We’re just as committed to public participation as we were before –but due to financial constraints, the URAC system just isn’t a sustainable model for us.” He said that due to budget cuts, the five full-time public participation staffers the agency had a few years ago are now down to one.

I also spoke with John Notis, the now-former Chair of the LTCURAC. He told me that the URAC has become ineffectual and that it “just doesn’t do what it used to do, for many reasons.”

Former Foster-Powell Chair Tracy Gratto has represented Fo-po on the URAC for the last three years. She agreed that the PDC has rendered URAC participation a largely meaningless exercise. “They haven’t asked us to make a decision in months,” she says.

I asked Tracy how she was notified of the change in policy, and she said that due to a recent illness she was unable to attend the June URAC meeting. Although she had an inkling that a change in PDC’s policy on public participation was being discussed, she had no idea such a drastic change was imminent. (more…)

Don’t Forget the Po!

With so much energy and attention on Foster Road these days, it’s easy to forget that there are other streets in the neighborhood in need of some attention and advocacy.

Powell Boulevard (the Po in FoPo) is one of the most challenging streets to work with due to it’s official ownership by the State of Oregon, but that won’t stop people from trying.

Powell (and Foster, and 82nd) is considered a High Crash Corridor … that is, a street that have more traffic collisions than similar streets in the region. Why are there more crashes here thank elsewhere? What are the challenges for people using the street? That’s what the City wants to find out.

The City is holding an Open House this week to talk about Powell Boulevard (the area from the Ross Island bridge to 92nd Ave.) This covers the full length of Foster-Powell neighborhood, and about half a mile along Lents.



SE Powell High Crash Corridor — 1st Open House
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
6:30-8:30 p.m., with optional 7 p.m. presentation
Creston School Cafeteria
4701 SE Bush St, Portland, OR 97206
Bus lines #9, 14, 71 (more…)

Public Comment Period Now Open – Metro Holds Public Hearing on Regional Flexible Funds

Last night, Metro held a public hearing that could have a big impact on funding for the long-delayed Streetscape improvements to Foster Road.


The 90-minute meeting of JPACT –the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation –was held to hear from the public on a proposed list of projects being considered for the upcoming round of federal transportation dollars –a.k.a the “Regional Flexible Funds” for fiscal years 2016-18. (more…)

Bus Riders Unite! calls 82nd & Foster one of the Worst Bus Stops in Portland

Last week, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Bus Riders Unite! led the final meeting of their East Portland Bus Stop Prioritization project. The result was a list of the three worst bus stops in the City –a short list that includes one busy and chronically bad stop at 82nd and Foster.

portlands_worst_bus_atop_1The two-year long project involved an extensive public process, described as “Survivor-style” by the seriously great portlandafoot.org blog. The end result was that a broad group of transit users identified the East Portland bus stops in most need of upgrades.

On that short list: the sliver of sidewalk on the north side of Foster where hundreds of riders get on or off every weekday.

BRU! activist Eavan Moore told me that the stop’s heavy usage easily justifies a shelter, but there isn’t space to accomodate one given the narrow sidewalk there.

“Widening that sidewalk, by extending it into the street and/or by extending it into the adjacent parking lot, is a critical first step to making other improvements,” she says. Eavan would also like to see a garbage can, a posted schedule and better lighting too, but everything hinges on finding a way to create more space in the substandard sidewalk.

Purchasing part of the Wells Fargo parking lot to expand the sidewalk and bus stop is possible, but acquiring privately-owned right-of-way can be expensive, and hasn’t been something that’s been discussed so far by PBOT’s Foster Streetscape committee.

That’s not surprising, given the meager resources the City has allocated to that 2+ mile project.

Similarly, there’s a lot of competition for space within the existing roadway — making expansion there problematic too. The current configuration includes four auto through-lanes plus a center turn lane. The City’s 2010 Bike Plan anticipates bike lanes being added to the mix, and the 2009 Streetcar Plan includes a future Streetcar line here as well. So far, the Lents Neighborhood Association has opposed any reduction in auto lanes in the area.

It’s possible that the ongoing Foster Streetscape project could take these improvements on, but time is running short. None of the eight different possible street profiles considered by PBOT and the Streetscape committee for this area have included plans for expansion of these sidewalks beyond the current 5-foot width. (See http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/425424 at pp.9-11)

Other options could include requesting funds for improvements from Tri-Met or the PDC, but either of those paths could take years to see results on the ground.

But the activists working on the East Portland Bus Stop Prioritization Project expect to be involved for the long haul.


OPAL Executive Director Jonathan Oster told me that the project is intended as a first step, enabling “the people who actually ride the buses in East Portland to identify, assess and prioritize the most important bus stops that warrant improvements in terms of amenities and infrastructure.” He says that the project screened more than 150 bus stops to identify 20 for further assessment. Of those, riders from the community chose the top 3 in need of immediate help.

The other two stops on the “3 Worst” list are both on SE Powell Boulevard: One is at 122nd and the other is at 127th. Both of those locations have similar issues to Foster and 82nd: inadequate space, poor lighting and amenities and terrible access for people with disabilities.

People looking to get involved in the movement for better bus stops or other aspects of advocacy for transit riders should get in touch with Bus Riders Unite! here.

Could Your Alley Be This Awesome?

AA_onBlackFor the last few months, PSU grad students have been working hand-in-hand with Foster area neighbors in Lents, Mt. Scott-Arleta and Foster-Powell to learn about the struggles and benefits of living next to an alleyway. They’ve gathered your stories, concerns and ideas, and explored what opportunities existed to build on the strengths and overcome the problems. What they’ve come up with might knock your socks off. Check out some of the ‘visions’ they’ve created as inspiration: (more…)

The Rise of 82nd Avenue

Advocates and neighbors are gearing up to talk about 82nd avenue this Saturday, and if you live with/love/hate all that is 82nd, you should think about coming. The 82nd Community Forum will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in the Madison High School cafeteria, 2735 N.E. 82nd Ave. It’s free and open to the public but registration is required due to space constraints.

82ndStreet (more…)

Better Bus Stops for Lents

I ride the #14 bus a lot. I’m on one of the “end of the line” stops on Foster, and after cruising through inner SE portland you can’t but see the stark contrast in the need and conditions of our built environment.

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 5.59.35 AMThe Bus stop at 82nd & Foster pictured here,  is one of the highest volume stops on the #14, and it is also one of the ugliest, and potentially dangerous stops on the whole street. Further east on Foster, the stop at 85th pinches neighbors between a chain link fence on one side, and fast moving traffic on the other. There is no bench here, because there is physically no room. (more…)