By Don MacGillivray
82nd Avenue, the Avenue of Roses, has many changes ahead to realize the vision of local business people and neighbors.
Community advocates have worked diligently to improve this roadway, but the Oregon State Highway Division and the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation have jurisdictional issues that complicate any future vision.
A meeting was held in October to bring interested parties together to update the community about plans for improving 82nd Ave.
Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, staff person from Senator Michael Dembrow’s office, and representatives of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as well as the Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT) were on hand to discuss issues and answer questions from the audience.
The meeting was sponsored by SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition and chaired by the 82nd Avenue Improvement Coalition. Work to improve the livability and functionality of 82nd Ave. has been underway for eight years and while much work has been completed, there is still a long way to go.
The two big questions are who can do the job and who will pay the bill.
Until 1900, 82nd Ave. was a dirt road. It became a four lane state highway in the 1930s after much city growth as the automobile became the dominant form of transportation. At that time, it was the eastern edge of the city and much of the surrounding area was undeveloped.
Its heyday occurred in the 1950s and ‘60s when automobile was king. Businesses spread out in a long ribbon of commercial activity with many car lots and light industrial sites.
The city’s further growth and expansion over the last 30 years has changed everything. 82nd Ave. retains much of its historic strip commercial character, but it is now a central corridor within the city. Much of the north-south traffic now uses Interstate 205 and 122nd Ave.
There is a great desire to develop housing and pedestrian friendly businesses along many parts of 82nd Ave., but there’s too many driveways and cross streets; it is no longer used as a boundary highway, and progressive changes in land use require a state of the art transportation corridor.
The roadway is in need of traffic calming, safety improvements for both cars and pedestrians, sidewalks, bike-lanes, islands, landscaping, and appropriate curb cuts for easy access to businesses.
Current plans for 82nd Ave. include repairing seven miles of roadway from NE Killingsworth to the Multnomah County line. SE 82nd Ave. has been a “hot potato” for years. Not everyone likes its appearance and it is a dangerous roadway.
It has been designated as a high crash corridor, so improving the safety of the roadway is the greatest concern.
From 1995 to 2004, 82nd Ave. had the highest number of traffic accidents with both fatalities and injures in Portland. This section has a large pedestrian population, the busiest bus line in the City of Portland, and many businesses and customers that speak English as a second language.
Additional transit is important for the future as the current buses are overcrowded. Great new developments have taken place, but aging thoroughfares keep businesses from making private investments here because design is yet to be determined.
ODOT has been spent $7.7 million on improvements in the last seven years. $21.4 million in projects are under construction or planned over the next five years. Since ODOT owns the roadway, state and federal constraints limit the scope from what PDOT might do if the funding was available.
The community is concerned the work will not include improvements desired by highway users and surrounding businesses.
The City of Portland would like to do the work in a manner consistent with what they are doing all over the city, but the ownership of the road must change and the state should be responsible to improve it since it has deteriorated under their ownership.
The 82nd Avenue Improvement Coalition is committed to advocating for the transfer of ownership of 82nd Ave. to the City of Portland in order to transform the corridor into a more livable, functional and prosperous area using “complete neighborhood concepts.”
An orphan highway within the state system, the city does not want to accept a substandard roadway and they would like the state to provide the means to improve and upgrade it. The Oregon legislature must approve the transfer of the roadways to local jurisdictions and costs to bring the roadway up to a modern standards must be part of the transaction. Talk about an inter-jurisdictional transfer has gone on for the last five years. The new 2019 session of the Oregon legislature beginning in February is the next opportunity to address this issue.
Legislation to support a jurisdictional transfer of 82nd Ave. to Portland from the State of Oregon has been introduced by Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer and supported by Senator Michael Dembrow. These two legislators have been working on this issue for more than five years. The legislation would allow the street to be transferred as well as other similar streets in various Oregon communities.
A great concern of the existing businesses along 82nd is that changes will affect their viability and they may need to move elsewhere to stay in business.
There needs to be give and take on many issues before a satisfactory compromise is reached, but one person at the meeting suggested, “We are close to cracking this nut.”
For more information see tinyurl.com/y9yhe89y.