Division-Midway ‘Neighborhood Street Plan’ finalized

Find out if City officials really heard objections to some of the new ‘connections’ proposed in this planning process …

Attendees at the final PBOT Division-Midway Neighborhood Street Plan Open House examine some of the many exhibit posters placed around the room.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Members of affected outer East Portland neighborhoods were invited to the final presentation of a nearly year-long project of the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) – the Division-Midway Neighborhood Street Plan.

On the evening of June 5, about 55 attendees came to look over the 18 presentation boards that lined the David Douglas High School North Cafeteria. Some exhibits asked participants to “vote” by placing colored dot stickers on areas of interest.

This is the study area of the Division-Midway Neighborhood Street Plan. PBOT graphic

About 6:40 p.m., PBOT Senior Transportation Planner April Bertelsen began a formal presentation regarding the project, which had started earlier this year. She told of the preliminary results presented at their March 13 Open House.

After her talk, Bertelsen explained the project to East Portland News. “We are here tonight to get some final feedback recommendations for the Division Midway Neighborhood Street Plan. We have identified some future connections.”

City of Portland Bureau of Transportation Senior Transportation Planner April Bertelsen presents the methodology and preliminary result of the Division-Midway Neighborhood Street Plan.

Asked to defined “connections”, Bertelsen responded, “Connections could be a street or a pathway. It could be as simple as a sidewalk.

“We are particularly looking at the unapproved rights-of-way – whether as a gravel road or no street at all – and how could we better use that right-of-way to improve the ability for people to move around, circulate, to have better connectivity in the neighborhood.”

PBOT sees that the area has a “major lack of connectivity: Dead-end streets, some streets that don’t go through, or no streets [at all] for several blocks,” Bertelsen said.

Neighbors listen, and learn more about the potential impacts of the Division-Midway Neighborhood Street Plan.

Problems with ‘Connection Zero’
Many participants who submitted comment cards at the March open house, or sent in e-mail responses said they were grateful for the opportunity to be heard about street, sidewalk, and crossing concerns in their areas. Many made specific suggestions about their street.

Not everyone was pleased with all the proposed new “connections” – especially “Connection Zero” – shown on maps as SE 127th Avenue, from SE Madison to Market Street.

Several neighbors, many of whom said they’d just met one another at the second Open House, voiced concern about “Connection Zero”, but didn’t wish to be individually identified in our report.

Mill Park neighbor Carol Connors indicates her feelings about the Street Plan, as she deposits her comment card.

That is, except for Carol Connors, who spoke bluntly about the process and the result.

“Nobody on my street, none of my neighbors – or anyone in our Neighborhood Watch program – heard about [this Open House] until the last minute,” Connors began.

“We came to the [March} meeting and we told them that we did not want this road or ‘improved connection’ from big housing developments to our street. We believe this will create a ‘Crime Highway’. This is the last bastion of safety we have for our property values, peace of mind, and keeping our streets safe and quiet.”

Connors said she was told that no one from her neighborhood – the David Douglas High School area – was on the steering committee of the Division-Midway Neighborhood Street Plan. “At the first open house, I asked how one goes about getting on the committee. I was told they were not looking for people to be on the committee.

“We were told that when they get the plan all laid out, they’ll come back and show it to us,” Connors continued. “So, in other words, it appears they’re just going to make this plan and give it to us; they’re not really asking us, they’re telling us.”

Bertelsen said that PBOT staff and project’s the steering committee prioritized using feedback to rank those connections in the public right-of-way into three tiers of priorities.

About “Connection Zero”, Bertelsen responded, “Neighbors concerned about those connections did comment at the last open house, and by e-mail. These have weighed in to our evaluation. One of the criteria is community support.

“That [Connection] got a very low score because there were so many people who were concerned about it, in that area,” Bertelsen added. “When we evaluated and factored in the comments – as well as considering the broader connectivity benefit would be of that particular connection – it turns out that connection is ranked the lowest tier, Tier 3.”

In this case, the process did hear their concerns, Bertelsen said. “We are trying to incorporate neighbors’ comments into this plan.”

Neighbors puzzle over a map showing “Active Transportation Options” proposed for outer East Portland neighborhoods.

The City’s overall “Street Plan” project provides set of local street improvement options with rough cost estimates that will, eventually, be developed at a concept level.

According to PBOT information, “The Street Plan will inform both future public Capital Improvement Projects and private development requirements for dedication and frontage improvements.”

The Portland City Council is scheduled approve the Street Plan this summer.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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