ROADS: Powell Boulevard and SE 136th improvements begin

Outer SE Powell Boulevard work is set to begin next week. And, learn when they expect to upgrade Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood’s other treacherous ‘country road’ …

ODOT’s Kevin Thelin and Shelli Romero answer questions about the Outer Powell Safety Improvement Project at a recent open house.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
More than ten years ago, representatives from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) came to a Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association meeting to discuss improving outer SE Powell Boulevard – a two-lane roadway between I-205 and Gresham.

Residents learned at that meeting that ODOT was trying to raise $250,000 to formulate a “study” on how to improve this heavily-used, but little-improved thoroughfare – not to do work, but to “study” the problem.

> See our June, 2011 story,
Neighbors’ outer Powell Blvd. Plan suggestions adopted – for now”:

This ODOT diagram shows the new cross section of outer SE Powell Boulevard. ODOT illustration

ODOT Region 1 Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero told East Portland News that a portion of improvements would take place the summer at a June 5 open house held at Ron Russell Middle School.

“It’s called the ‘Outer Powell Safety Improvement Project’,” Romero began. “We are moving forward with construction of the $5.5 million project on outer SE Powell Blvd. in mid-July.”

These finds represent a year’s worth of ODOT Region 1 safety budget, Romero added, and will include replacing six underground storm water control devices.

A neighbor learns more about “Rapid-Flash Beacons” from (far right) Gwen Linscheid of Murray Smith & Associates, Inc., a civil and environmental engineering firm.

The safety improvements installed between SE 111th and 176th Avenue are to include:

  • Three new ‘rapid-flash’ pedestrian crossing beacons at SE 119th, 141st and 156th avenues;
  • Creating a ten foot wide “walking zone” for pedestrians;
  • Adding in-pavement sensors to adjust traffic signal timing;
  • Making ADA curb/sidewalk ramp improvements; and,
  • Consistent corridor-profiled striping that clearly delineates a bicycle lane.


“During construction, we’ll be putting in photo radar, looking at drivers’ behaviors, and tracking speed,” said Romero. “We are also working with law enforcement to have work-zone traffic enforcement to protect the safety of highway workers and the public.”

Asked if this project gives neighbors and businesses along the highway what they want, Romero replied, “Nothing that we’re doing conflicts with the Outer Powell Conceptual Design Plan adopted by the Portland City Council last year.”

Look out for construction work along outer SE Powell Boulevard – in these areas. ODOT map

Because the changes will change access to some businesses, and home driveway access, “Some people may think the project that leaves something to be desired. Other people say they really like the project,” commented Romero.

Use caution while driving or biking in the area; work on this project is about to begin, and run through October.

SE 136th Avenue Project update

PBOT Capital Project Manager Ross Swanson explains details of the SE 136th Avenue Sidewalk Infill Project to a guest at the open house.

Sharing space at the ODOT open house was the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), talking about the SE 136th Avenue Sidewalk Infill Project.

“It does look like a country road, and we’re hoping to improve it,” PTOT Capital Project Manager Ross Swanson told East Portland News.

“This morning, I walked the entire stretch of road to see what people are doing,” Swanson related. “I saw many people, of all ages, using the road.”

They were at the 60% design stage of the project when we spoke, he said.

East Portland Action Plan Advocate Lore Wintergreen and Lents neighbor Ray Hites talk about the SE 136th Avenue Sidewalk Infill Project.

At that time, Swanson said the City of Portland had only enough funding for the first phase of the project, from SE Holgate to Powell Boulevard. “Phase 2 will be from SE Foster Road to Holgate Boulevard; and the last phase is from SE Powell Boulevard to Division Street.”

As most of the surveying was being done, Swanson said, they were hoping for funding to complete all three phases of the project.

This illustration shows suggested cross-section plans for the SE 136th Avenue Sidewalk Infill Project.

Near the end of the Oregon legislative session, State Representative Shemia Fagan (D) “brought home the bacon” for her district, when the Oregon Senate approved House Bill 2322.

HB 2322 contained 30 changes to State government, including provisions such as:

  • Transfers moneys from Tax Amnesty Fund to General Fund;
  • Repeals law regarding transfer of lottery ending balance to School Capital Matching Fund;
  • Increases salaries of judges and statewide elected officials;
  • Abolishes County Fair Commission; and,
  • Redirects monies allocated for specified road projects to other projects in Multnomah and Washington Counties.


Part of the last item is $3.6 million in State money, now earmarked for the SE 136th Avenue Sidewalk Infill Project, for installing a two-mile ribbon of sidewalks from SE Foster Road north to SE Division Street.

These funds, with the City’s $1.2 million dedicated to the project, also build new crosswalks and add several rapid-flashing pedestrian crossing beacons.

As much as outer East Portland neighbors want it, workers won’t turn a single shovel full of dirt until sometime next year. Although PBOT isn’t promising a specific start date, officials say this project will likely begin in spring 2014, and be completed later next year.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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