Glimpse revealed of outer Powell Blvd. upgrade plan

Find out when, and where, the long-awaited improvements will come, to this well-used outer East Portland road. And, find out about their upcoming Open House; or, how you can comment online …

Midway Business Association president Dr. David Day of Day Chiropractic starts the organization’s monthly meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

At the August meeting of the Midway Business Association, held at the Pizza Baron restaurant on August 11, members and guests were informed about area events coming up, and learned more about the Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project.

After self-introductions, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Region 1 Senior Project Manager Mike W. Mason stepped up to speak about the progress of that project.

ODOT Region 1 Senior Project Manage Mike W. Mason shows an illustrated poster of the Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project.

Mason began by speaking of the need for the upgrade.

“Outer SE Powell Boulevard – from SE 99th Avenue out to SE 174th Avenue, about four miles of roadway – is as diverse as the neighborhood through which it passes. It is a State highway serving truck transportation, ‘through travelers’, commuters, and local neighborhood travel.

“There are no sidewalks or buffered lanes along most of the corridor, and rear-end collisions between vehicles are common,” Mason said. “It’s a narrow two-lane road, used by motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists at the same time – which increases the risk of collisions.”

The intersection of SE 122nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard is the “Oregon’s #1 Crash Site”, in terms of quantity and severity of collisions, Mason pointed out.

This is the next step, in what has been and will continue to be a lengthy process, says Project Manage Mike W. Mason.

Plans to upgrade the thoroughfare that carries a great deal of traffic through the Powellhurst-Gilbert and Centennial neighborhoods have been “in the works” for more than a decade, starting with a proposed ODOT “study about how to study” the situation, which was first floated in 2003.

A “Citizens Advisory Committee” created the Outer Powell Conceptual Design Plan, adopted by the Portland City Council in 2012.

> To see the East Portland News story: “Neighbors’ outer Powell Blvd. Plan suggestions adopted – for now” a story with links to earlier articles: CLICK HERE.

Midway Business Association members and guests study exhibits illustrating the Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project.

ODOT’s Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project, started in late 2014, is an environmental planning process, Mason observed.

“The goal is to examine the corridor, its possible improvements, and do all of the environmental research and reports required,” Mason explained.

“It appears as if we’ll get funding from the state legislature to – not yet build anything – but to do planning work to get the corridor ready to be built, once funds are made available for construction.

“And when I talk about ‘environmental planning’,” Mason continued, “this means the natural environment, like the birds and the trees and the grass, and rivers, and wetlands, anything that’s growing out there. But also included is the man-made environment. That is the impact to houses and businesses, as well as the utilities that serve them, along the corridor.”

Although right-turn lanes will be added at major intersections, this ODOT cross section shows how the additional roadway width will be distributed for various types of transportation.

A fact that raised a few eyebrows at the business organization’s meeting was the revelation that Powell Boulevard will remain a two-lane road for motor vehicles in that section. This is all about safety,” Mason said. “This is not road-widening to increase motor vehicle capacity.”

The typical cross section will provide a 12-foot-wide sidewalk, including planted areas, on either side of the road, as well as 8-foot-wide bike lanes. They’ll be adding a 14-foot-wide median turn lane. These, with two 11-foot-wide motor vehicle traffic lanes, add up to a 76-foot cross-section for the typical plan.

Asked why a wider roadway is not being considered, to increase vehicle capacity, Mason replied, “It is a really constrained corridor. The State does not own a lot of property along it. Having to buy property to obtain the right-of-way makes the price tag high.”

Handed-out charts and graphs tell about the need for, and process involved in, this project.

There are both benefits and drawbacks for businesses along the corridor, Mason suggested. “On the downside, there’s a potential for loss of frontage and increased difficulty in accessing the business.

“The positive is that businesses will be on a road that works and looks a lot better,” Mason continued. “We tend to see property values rise when you put in that [sort of] infrastructure.”

They should wrap up the study in fall of 2016, Mason said, bringing them to what he called the “30% Design” stage. They expect to break ground in 2018 – or, more likely, in early 2019.

“To build out the whole corridor, the cost estimate is about $90 million,” Mason said. “The state legislature has earmarked $17 million to build a segment of Powell – from SE 122nd out to 136th Avenue. The City of Portland has indicated it will also kick in 3 million, so we’ll have $20 million.”

Project Manage Mike W. Mason invites everyone to the project open house on September 16.

Interested in learning more, or commenting on the project? They’re holding a project open house on September 16, 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. at Ron Russell Middle School.

At this event, you can share your ideas about on several topics, including:

  • Potential bike treatment options and considerations;
  • Overall project footprint and proposed cross sections;
  • Proposed bus stop locations;
  • Funding to construct approximately SE 122nd Avenue to 136th Avenue;
  • Project timeline; and,
  • Driveway access approaches.


Go prepared! CLICK HERE to open their project-specific website. The open house is being held at in the Commons of Ron Russell Middle School, 3955 SE 112th Avenue.

If you are unable to attend the Open House, you can always submit comments online through their interactive map [CLICK HERE] or online comment form [CLICK HERE].

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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