Outer SE Powell Blvd. paving project rolls out

By day and by night, see what workers are doing on this infrastructure project …

Contractors build forms used to construct ADA-compliant curb ramps at side streets, along outer SE Powell Boulevard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although some Powellhurst-Gilbert and Centennial neighborhood folks who attended planning sessions say they didn’t get the project they’d hoped for, some safety and accessibility improvements are taking place along outer SE Powell Boulevard this summer.

> To see coverage of the project’s open house, complete with diagrams: CLICK HERE.

Primarily a paving project, from SE 111th Avenue to just east of SE 174th Avenue, the $5.5 million Outer Powell Safety Improvements Project includes:

  • Installing high-visibility roadway striping,
  • Three new “rapid-flash” pedestrian crossing beacons at SE 119th, 141st and 156th avenues, and,
  • 64 ADA-style curb ramps connecting sidewalks with the boulevard

“These improvements are important because eight intersections along this section of outer Powell Boulevard are among the top 10% of high-crash sites in the region,” said ODOT Region 1 Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero during an East Portland News tour of the project as it got underway on July 17. “The project is focused on making strategic safety improvements.”

Curb ramp construction is a common sight, along SE Powell Boulevard this summer.

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association Public Safety Chair Tom Barnes was at many of the public involvement planning meetings and open houses before the project got underway.

“We’re a little dissatisfied, because it seems to us that they are using the $5.5 million budget for repaving. Safety funds should be spent for safety, paving the road should come from other funds.”

Barnes acknowledged that “rapid-flash” pedestrian crossing beacons were part of the improvements and non-motorized roadside lanes will be built as part of the outer East Portland project.

“What we asked for was to have the speed limit be reduced to 35 mph, and to have a raised or separated bike lane. They’re not doing that. We see people with limited mobility and on bikes on the side of the road with vehicles whizzing past them.”

Using the hood of his truck as his desk, ODOT Region 1 Project Coordinator Sean Triana checks plans at an Outer Powell Safety Improvements Project worksite.

Before paving begins, they started with improving the curb ramps, explained ODOT Region 1 Project Coordinator Sean Triana, at the intersection SE Powell and SE 153rd Avenue.

“As people in the area can see, contractors come through in several locations, and have torn out the existing concrete ramps.  Many of them were sub-standard and didn’t meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards,” Triana told East Portland News.

The ramps are constructed to exacting standards, he pointed out, including their slope, making it easier for individuals in non-powered wheelchairs to negotiate the pedestrian ramps. “And, all of the ramps will feature those yellow bumps – called truncated domes – those give tactile feedback for our blind pedestrians so they know they’re crossing from a pedestrian facility into a roadway.”

Here’s a completed curb ramp, located at SE 111th Avenue at SE Powell Boulevard. ODOT photo

Working at night in August, near SE Powell Boulevard at SE 122nd Avenue, a compact excavator digs the area that will become another new curb ramp.

Before finally paving curb ramps at major signal-controlled intersections, such as SE Powell Boulevard and SE 122nd Avenue, Triana said , they’re making hidden infrastructure improvements: New electronics and upgraded signals.

“On the back side of the traffic signals there will be a little blue LED indicator,” noted Triana. “When it lights up, it means the traffic light in the opposite direction is red. This makes it easy for a police officer to see if somebody has violated the red light. It’s important because this is a high-crash corridor.”

Most of the work is being done at night, to alleviate traffic snarls, Romero said. “Please be careful driving during construction, while we make Powell Boulevard a safer road.”

Driving along SE Powell Boulevard at night? Use caution around work areas!

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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