City, county join forces pushing for ‘safe, sound & green’ streets

Working to build citizen consensus for highway road improvements, street safety additions and increased bicycle – and a taxation system to pay for it – find out plan Sam Adams and Ted Wheeler are presenting …

Judith Huck, owner of Classique Floors, takes a look at the exhibits on display at an outer East Portland Safe & Sound Green Streets meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The tempo for promoting the new street repair and safety improvement plan is quickening. In the three weeks between the end of their second and the beginning of their third wave of transportation town hall meetings, PDOT’s boss, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, is adding a new presenting partner, Multnomah County Chair, Ted Wheeler.

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams talks with Patty Freeman about safety issues along her SE Portland street.

Says open houses used to gain local input
“We’ve invited people to put sticky notes on the project boards and maps, commenting on the projects and funding alternatives we’re considering,” Adams says. “Nobody knows safety issues of their neighborhoods better than the folks who live there.”

Jeff Cropp writes a comment at the SE Transportation Open House.

Outer East Portland folks say …
We find a wide variety of comments are written at the outer East Portland open house. They are listed, in their entirety, at the end of this article.

City/County program preview
We previewed the “Safe, Sound and Green Streets” program being put on Adams and Wheeler during their first co-presentation at Madison High School, on 82nd Avenue of Roses, on October 16.

Starting the third round of transportation open houses, Portland Commissioner Sam Adams confers with Multnomah County Commissioner Ted Wheeler before their joint presentation.

At this, the third series of transportation town hall meetings has on display maps, charts and graphs representing the program’s benefits.

With the aid of a 90-slide presentation, Adams and Wheeler throw the spotlight on Portland’s worst transportation problems – crumbling bridges, poor street condition, high-accident intersections and car vs. bicyclist conflicts.

Speaking about the county’s responsibility for bridge repair and maintenance, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler tells the group, “Ahead of all other county transportation issues is dealing with the Sellwood Bridge. It is at a crisis point. That bridge has a rating of ‘2’ on a federal sufficiency scale of 100. We need to completely rehabilitate or replace that span.”

They also pitch a plan that makes for what they call the $12.6 Million yearly “funding gap” to remedy the city’s transportation ills.

The plan they’re trying out on folks is a tax package that includes:

  • City street safety and maintenance fee of $4.50 per month;
  • Gas tax at $0.03 per gallon; and,
  • County vehicle registration fee and/or general obligation bond.

Mark Lear PDOT, director of Safe, Sound and Green Streets Project talks with Nancy Conwell at the outer East Portland meeting.

To verify the specifics, we spoke with Portland Office of Transportation’s Mark Lear, the director of the Safe, Sound and Green Streets (SS&GS) Project.

Lear confirmed that the city and county needs to generate a total revenue of 48.5 Million per year, for ten years, to meet its SS&GS goals.

Stakeholder group guides SS&GS
While the project’s literature and Adams frequently refer to the SS&GS “Stakeholder Group”, nowhere could we find information regarding this group.

“The group has grown to include 89 members,” explains Lear. “We’ve included everyone whom we think may have an interest.”

About half the members, Lear says, have a connection to business or commerce; and includes neighborhood business associations, trade groups, and those with an interest in retail traffic (like grocery stores) and freight movement.

About a quarter of the stakeholders is made up from of neighborhood association representatives. The final quarter, Lear describes as representatives of “transit users, bicycle groups, Elders in Action and pedestrian advocates.”

Greening of the project
Lear says PDOT has done significant citywide polling. “When we asked respondents about raising revenue, we found we’d have between five and nine percent greater support if the measures included ‘green elements, rewards or incentives’.”

One “green” element suggested is enhanced traffic-light timing systems designed to promote the smooth flow of traffic; thus reducing pollution and greenhouse gases. Another is increased promotion and construction of bicycle-designed routes.

Businesses located near a transit routes could get tax-reducing incentives by promote bicycle and public transit use for employees. Homeowners would save if only one car was registered to their household. “We would only move forward with incentives that have public support, and that can be easily and efficiently implemented,” Lear states.

Mark Lear PDOT, director of Safe, Sound and Green Streets Project talks with Naomi Tsurumi at the inner SE East Portland meeting.

Million$ for bike lanes?
Bicycle transportation advocates provide nearly half of the feedback noted in the second round of transportation town halls – including those in inner SE Portland – yet PDOT statistics show bike trips account for about five percent of total trips taken citywide

We ask Lear the question so many motorized-vehicle driving folks have asked us: “How are the SS&GS funds actually dedicated?

Lear breaks it down:

  • 58% is dedicated to arterial street rehabilitation and traffic signal synchronization.
  • 29% goes for Willamette River bridges including the local match to the Sellwood Bridge.
  • 5% is for pedestrian and bike safety corridors. “On wet, dark and cold days, these corridors will run on streets with less traffic. We’ll have signalized intersections where bike riders would cross busy streets. We’re developing a network for bike riders to ride more safely.”
  • 3% is earmarked for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • 2% will be spent to reduce incidents at high-crash intersections.
  • 1% is dedicated for the “Safe Routes to Schools” Program.

“The other two-percent is for tax collection fees,” Lear adds.

Hear and be heard
Officials haven’t said whether they’ll put the program – and the new taxes – up to a vote. But, you’re invited to see the presentation by Adams and Wheeler, ask questions of PDOT and county staff members, and sound off at transportation town hall meeting.

Come to Menlo Park Elementary School at 12900 NE Glisan St. on October 22 – or Sellwood Middle School on October 30 – from 7 to 9 p.m. to get your voice heard.

Or, for more information, see their web site at

Outer East Portland residents “sound off” about “Safe and Sound Streets:

  • You need to look at pedestrian and bike traffic, increasing on outer Foster Rd.
  • At the 136th & Ramona school crossing, cars speed during school hours and when children are present. The street needs sidewalks to keep kids out of the street.
  • NE Halsey & 126th needs help!

High-crash Intersections

  • It is interesting that there are 22 [locations] east of 82nd, only 10 west of 82nd and just two west of the river.
  • How to buses stopping in travel lanes contribute to or not contribute to high-crash intersections?
  • Please paint tagging on bridge on NE 148th Ave. off Halsey, past Sumner Pl.
  • Add stop signs to intersections that do not have any for N/S or E/W traffic.
  • Cut back foliage so street signs and stop signs can easily be seen.

Family-friendly Pedestrian & Bicycle Routes

  • Bicycle boulevards should be kept low-cost and simple—signs and paint—and paid for by bicyclists with a bicycle path.
  • Please be more careful about where you put bike paths. When you have a path on I-205 do you really need one on narrow, high-traffic paths like 92nd?
  • NE Glisan between 102nd and 122nd has heavy traffic and a speeding problem with no motorized transit for support.
  • No more curb cuts for personal driveways.
  • I’m concerned about bicycle safety at Holgate & 72nd/79th.
  • Add grade separated bike lanes on busy streets that are traveled by bikes to access commercial and retail in the areas where street access is needed. An example is Foster & 92nd, 82nd & Powell, portions of 82nd near shopping and 122nd.
  • Rafael and Halsey traffic is too fast.
  • Please add pedestrian and bike crossing at 82nd & Raymond with clearly marked right of way lanes and activated signs.
  • Pedestrian islands should not be coupled with bus stops if the buses stop in vehicle travel lanes to board passengers.
  • Quit overcrowding our neighborhoods and our traffic problems will not be so bad.
  • I love the idea of moving bicycles off the main streets. Let’s make it safe for bikes and pedestrians and keep traffic moving.
  • Move bike and pedestrian crossing at 122nd & Foster. It impedes traffic.
  • Safe bike routes would be awesome (on alternate side streets or corridors).
  • I will never vote for even 1/10 of a cent tax to pay for anything Portland proposed. Quit wasting all our dollars and you will have plenty to take care of roads.
  • Family-friendly streets need public restrooms.
  • No bikes on any sidewalks.
  • Make and enforce a $292-$500 fine for bikes on sidewalks.
  • License and register all bikes and bicyclists, then use the money for bike boulevards and bike infrastructure.
  • If we are to be a truly “green” city, then cars, not pedestrians & bicyclists should be limited to certain streets.

Many people, from all over the East Portland area, came to the inner Safe and Sound Streets meetings

Bike Improvements

  • Need police enforcement for pedestrian crossings (SE Belmont east of 26th and SE Stark).
  • Motorists don’t look for pedestrians and only stop to be kind, not because it is required.
  • Involve the media—video of motorists ignoring pedestrians and bicyclists.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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