Outer Powell Blvd. road project breaks ground

At long, long last, see how officials have kicked off the ‘Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project’ …

Even a heavy rainstorm doesn’t keep people from coming to outer East Portland, specifically to the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, for a celebration of the start of highway improvements coming to Powell Boulevard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After more than 16 years of meetings, planning, and design, the first phase the “Outer Powell Transportation Safety Project, Segment #2” was kicked off by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) with a groundbreaking ceremony on the morning of April 6.

See the progress of this project covered in East Portland News: to read 2010 coverage, CLICK HERE; to see our 2015 story, CLICK HERE, or our last major update in 2018, CLICK HERE.

This ODOT illustrated map shows the segment of U.S. Highway 26, locally called SE Powell Boulevard, that will be under construction for the next two years.

The groundbreaking signaled the start of Stage 1 – making improvements to the south side of SE Powell Boulevard, from SE 122nd east to 136th Avenue.

Watch out for traffic impacts through fall of 2020, as this project moves through stages two and three.

“We’re proud of this project,” says ODOT Region 1 Area Manager Central Shelli Romero.

“We are celebrating the kickoff of construction Segment #2,” exclaimed ODOT Region 1 Area Manager Central Shelli Romero. “This will be a two-year construction project; and because of House Bill 2017, funds were secured in the amount of $110 million to design and construct all of this corridor, from Interstate 205 to SE 174th Avenue.

“Leading up to this, we had a very inclusive, multilingual community outreach process, in every phase of this project; we’re proud of it,” Romero reminded.

Longtime neighbor, and transportation activist, Jim Chasse says he likes the final design of the project.

A Powellhurst-Gilbert resident – “since before we were annexed into this City of Portland” – Jim Chasse, has been a member of several transportation planning committees, including the Outer Powell Boulevard Conceptual Design Committee. And on this day he said he’s pleased with the project.

“There have been years of ‘studies’ on this project, including one done by Metro,” Chasse recalled. “Now that we’re done with studying the studies, it’s time to build.

“I like the final alternative; in my opinion it is the best we can get with the constraints and right-of-way along the street,” Chasse told East Portland News. “And, beyond motor vehicle drivers, these improvements, when completed, will finally make it a lot safer for the pedestrians and bicyclists who use this segment of SE Powell Boulevard.”

Present to celebrate the start of the project is former Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Although current Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler – or any members of the Portland City Council – didn’t attend the groundbreaking, former Mayor Charlie Hales did come by the event.

“This is a project that has had ‘many parents’, and I’m one of them,” Hales said with his trademark smile. “This is coming about because the community, the city, and the State of Oregon have all worked together to finally make Powell a ‘Main Street’, which is what the community wanted.”

Smiling approval of this highway project, in “his” neighborhood, is Oregon State Representative Jeff Reardon, District 48 (D).

Oregon State Representative Jeff Reardon was all smiles too. “Having lived in this area since 1978, been on the David Douglas School Board, and having taught at David Douglas High School, this is definitely my home – which is one of the reasons I came this morning!

“I’m just so excited that this project is finally getting underway; it’s been a long time, and it’s super important to this neighborhood,” commented Reardon. “In addition to improving safety for all forms of travel, I believe the improvements will help transform this area; I expect to see businesses bloom and families thrive here.”

These road improvements will make a “positive difference”, agrees Multnomah County Commissioner, District 3, Jessica Vega Pederson.

“I’m here because this is in my district,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “There been so many years of planning, and advocacy, and fighting for dollars for this project; and now, it’s so great to be here today, and see it actually breaking ground to get the project started, to make a positive difference on our streets.”

ODOT Region 1 Manager Ryan Windchimeor welcomes attendees to the groundbreaking ceremony.

During the official ceremony, a parade of elected officials, contractors, and neighbors extolled the virtues of the project.

“This is been a long time coming. Today we celebrate the transportation benefits of the investment that we will make on this segment of Powell Boulevard,” remarked ODOT Region 1 Manager Ryan Windchimeor.

This ODOT diagram shows a cross-section of the affected work area along SE Powell Boulevard.

Because the project is highway work, and the event was held in the parking lot of the neighborhood Safeway store, celebratory “golden shovels” were handed out, but not used.

Be careful driving in the area during the extended construction period. For more information about the project, see its official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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