By David Krogh

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is undertaking a project which will impact SE Hawthorne Blvd from SE 24th Ave to SE 50th Ave.

The SE Hawthorne Blvd Pave and Paint Project will involve repaving, restriping and curb reconstructions to comply with ADA standards.

PBOT staff have indicated the Project will likely involve lane reductions to Hawthorne Blvd. west of Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. (SE 39th) to the extent that it would have the same configuration as Hawthorne does east of Cesar Chavez (two travel lanes with a center turning lane).

The Project is expected to add new crosswalks in gap areas as with other streets involved with Vision Zero upgrades.

Southeast Hawthorne Blvd. was identified as one of 30 “high crash corridors” within Portland by PBOT’s Vision Zero program. It is also one of the streets under consideration as part of the Rose Lane Project (see our January issue, Painting the Streets Red).

The Pave and Paint Project commenced in the fall of 2019 with PBOT identifying existing conditions within this corridor.

Potential improvements with alternatives are being identified through September 2020. Engineering will begin then continue through the end of 2020 with actual road work scheduled for Spring and Summer of 2021, coinciding with sewer repair work along a portion of Hawthorne prior to the paving.

Three public workshops have occurred thus far: a business oriented workshop and two citizen workshops. No further workshops are scheduled at this time, however, PDOT staff told The Southeast Examiner that additional public meetings will be held once alternative plans have been established.

The Southeast Examiner attended two of the three workshops and talked with PBOT staff about several issues. A list of questions was provided to project staff and was responded to by PBOT communications coordinator Hannah Schafer.

The Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association (HBBA) was approached with questions and responses were received from William Levesque, HBBA president, and Roger Jones, HBBA treasurer.

Hawthorne went through a design process in 1997 which resulted in a multi-alternative design plan. That plan was never fully implemented, although PBOT now favors the alternative which reduces Hawthorne from four travel lanes to two travel lanes with a center turning lane.

Besides showcasing that alternative, the workshops asked attendees to comment on several other potential improvements including bike corrals, wider sidewalks for both pedestrian ease and sidewalk restaurant use, new crosswalks for gap areas, bicycle lanes and additional greenery.

According to PBOT staff, nothing has been set in stone yet and citizen comments are currently posted on the project website for public viewing.

William Levesque commented that HBBA is cooperating with PBOT in order to make this project work for both the public and business community.

He stated, “Pedestrian safety is a priority concern. Hawthorne is a busy street with many visitors walking and enjoying our restaurants and shops. There has been feedback to make crossings safer and enhance Hawthorne as a pedestrian neighborhood.”

Roger Jones added that HBBA has a “no net loss of parking” policy that has been in place since the 1997 street plan was developed.

They are encouraging PBOT to follow that policy as part of this project. Jones added, “It could probably go unsaid, but removing customer access to a vibrant business community, even for several months often has unintended consequences. Constraining customer access should be avoided at all times.”

Public comments at the workshops were varied. There were those who wanted traffic congestion reduced, parking protected and bus access improved. Others wanted to see bicycles banned from Hawthorne completely because of the need to maintain traffic flows both into and out of downtown via the Hawthorne Bridge.

Clear vision problems at intersections were also identified as a major problem due to how busy Hawthorne is when cars and bicycles attempt to access from side streets.

A suggestion was offered, which PBOT staff said they would look into, for striping of parking spaces both along Hawthorne and at clear vision areas for more efficient parking and to maintain visible separations at corners.

According to Hannah Schafer with PBOT, “Our next step in the process will be to take the ideas and needs we’ve heard from people in the community, and from them, develop a set of design alternatives that could feasibly be implemented through the repaving project.

“We will then do a technical evaluation of the options and report on the effects we would expect to see with each alternative.”

PBOT intends to hold another series of public meetings regarding specific design alternatives, possibly in May, depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves.

Schafer added, “Following round two of meetings/workshops, we will share the results. PBOT will then develop a recommended design to be implemented through the SE Hawthorne Pave and Paint Project. We will also document ideas/investments that come out of this process but which are outside the scope of the repaving project.”

The Southeast Examiner questioned PBOT on potential project impacts to Hawthorne and adjacent streets such as an increase in traffic congestion via lane reductions.

The response was that PBOT will be looking at this through modeling as part of their analysis of alternatives.

Schafer concluded, “Our team is putting together a report of the results from the workshops, other meetings and the online survey. We will make an announcement when the results are posted via our project email list.”

The public can sign up for updates at portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/751359.