By Don MacGillivray
82nd Avenue is growing into its new name, the Avenue of Roses, but it remains a congested, auto-centric five-lane highway to those that use it.
Pedestrians die at the rate of one a year or more, the highest in Portland. There have been 2747 reported crashes on 82nd Ave. between 1997 and 2006 with eleven fatalities.
The intersection at Powell Blvd. is the worst in Portland and the intersection at SE Division St. is nearly as bad. Five of the 82nd Ave. intersections rank among the top high-crash sites in the region.
The street is Portland’s longest commercial strip carrying 30,000 vehicles per day. It is a difficult environment to navigate for pedestrians and bicyclists and virtually impossible for disabled people because it lacks continuous sidewalks, median islands, and amenities to make the roadway safer.
There is very high public transit use with TriMet’s bus line #72 having the highest ridership of any bus line in the city and many positives about 82nd Ave. including Vestal Elementary School, Madison High School, Marshall High School, and Portland Community College.
Several senior housing facilities such as Eastport Union Manor are located on or within two blocks of 82nd Ave. and Montavilla Park and Community Center facilities are well-used .
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is nearly finished with the improvement to traffic flow and safety on the northern section and they will soon begin the project on the southern half at the intersections of E. Burnside, SE Stark, Washington, Yamhill, Mill and Division.
Improvements at six of the project intersections include: 1) replacing outdated traffic signals, 2) adding sidewalk curb ramps, and 3) installing new lighting.
Additional improvements to reduce accidents for some of the intersections will be median traffic separators, relocating bus stops, installing audible pedestrian signals, adding signal detection for bicycles and improving signal operations.
There will be $5 million in state and federal funds for design and construction. The anticipated completion of the final design is August 2015 and construction will begin in the fall of next year.
The types of desired commercial activity are illustrated by the exciting new Asian Night Market of the Jade District near the FuBon market just south of Division St. and the highly- acclaimed Cartlandia with 28 international food carts.
Eastport Plaza offers well- known stores and establishments. Welcome additions are Montavilla Farmers Market and Annual Parade of Roses.
A jurisdictional transfer of the street is on the table in the state legislature’s coming session. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is strongly in favor of the transfer as is the Oregon State Highway Department. If all the questions about responsibility and finances are worked out, it should happen over the next few years.
State money must be found to improve the street so the City of Portland will be willing to take responsibility for the road that once marked Portland’s eastern border.
A broad-based coalition of transportation interests including American Automobile Association of Oregon, TriMet, Oregon Trucking Association, and the Bicycle Transportation Association, have agreed to endorse a tax hike in combination with various other transportation initiatives.
Oregon State Senator, Michael Dembrow and his House colleagues, Alissa Keny-Guyer and Barbara Smith Warner are Oregon legislators representing the area and advocating in Salem for the resources to make the changes.
Everyone that wants 82nd Ave. to become an improved asset to Portland should write or otherwise contact their legislators in support of the jurisdictional transfer.
History of 82nd Ave.
The area was incorporated into the City of Portland beginning in 1906 and the street itself was not improved, nor continuous until the 1920’s.
By 1927, the street had been paved by Multnomah County and the State of Oregon had designated it as part of state highway Route 213.
Beginning in the 40’s, new auto-oriented strip commercial development began to replace the older streetcar shopping districts. The opening of Eastport Plaza in 1960 and the Fred Meyer shopping center in 1964 at Foster Rd. changed shopping drastically and indirectly caused the closure of neighborhood stores.
This was followed by the opening of WalMart, Mall 205, and Gateway Plaza. As shopping habits changed, traffic on the street increased and many auto-related businesses moved to 82nd Ave. giving it the character it has today.
An Improvement Coalition is forming early next year to help turn the corridor into one of Portland’s great streets.
The Coalition is made up of businesses, neighbors, neighborhood associations and institutional groups. If you are interested in more information about the organization, contact Brian Wong who is coordinating its growth.
The 82nd Avenue Project will address the diverse needs of its communities, update the avenue to modern standards, and make everyone pleased to be associated with the Avenue of Roses.