By David Krogh

The Southeast Examiner first reported on this project in April. At that time, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) solicited public input for the Pave and Paint Project to improve street crossings and safety measures for SE Hawthorne with the potential to redo existing travel lanes.

Based on the public input, PBOT has completed Part 1 of its follow up report on the Project and posted this report at its website (bit.ly/PavePaintPhase1).

It spells out project goals and summarizes existing conditions for Hawthorne including safety issues. Hawthorne, for example, is one of 30 high-crash corridors in the city.

It discusses public input received and lists a number of alternatives under consideration by PBOT.

The report concludes with an announcement that Part 2 will be released near the end of August and will include more complete findings and recommendations.

Project staff have indicated an additional series of public comment opportunities will be offered after the Part 2 release, most likely in September and October.

The purpose and goals of the project are multi-fold. Major sewer work and repaving was anticipated along Hawthorne Blvd. and it was hoped that safety elements of Vision Zero could be incorporated along with improvements to facilitate improved transit service.

In addition, crossing improvements and other features to support the main street character of Hawthorne are also desirable.

The report states up front that COVID-19 is creating impacts to the project. Because of the need for social distancing there might not be any additional in person public meetings or workshops.

Project staff are hopeful that virtual means can be used to support public involvement and comments.

Also stated is some project funding has been redirected and the full project might not be accomplished without additional funding. Present funding available is for repaving, re-striping (painting), curb and ramp improvements and some median additions to comply with ADA standards.

Other safety measures such as additional crossings, as requested by the public, and signage may lack funding unless other sources can become available.

Although Part 1 doesn’t offer a recommendation yet on what ultimate traffic lane patterns will be proposed, it does identify that the last street improvement plan for Hawthorne (in 1997) called for lane reductions west of Caesar E Chavez Blvd. to match the stretch to the east.

This would transform the street from four travel lanes down to two, with a center turning lane and bike lanes.

When The Southeast Examiner asked a PBOT representative at one of the public workshops if that was still the proposal project staff was favoring, the response was in the affirmative although the actual recommendation will not be released until Part 2.

Part 1 identifies prospective alternatives as follows:

A. Existing lane configurations, B. Reduce Hawthorne west of Chavez from four lanes to two with a center turning lane, and C. Reduce travel lanes down to two, remove center turning lane and provide bike lanes and parking on both sides.

Several unknowns are still evident. PBOT staff mentioned at the workshop the possibility of providing clear vision setbacks for sidestreets accessing Hawthorne for safety purposes.

There was discussion about the possibility of striping parking spots on Hawthorne to make on-street parking more efficient. The need for additional crosswalks was also a major issue and was discussed in Part 1. Due to project funding cuts, it is unclear to what extent new crosswalks can be provided and where.

Finally, the matter of traffic circulation and congestion does not appear to be a consideration of this project other than to improve transit movements at Hawthorne’s west end (as part of the separate Rose Lane project).

With Hawthorne functioning as a funnel in and out of the downtown core for many vehicles, reducing travel lanes and street speeds could greatly contribute to congestion.

This raises the question as to how PBOT intends to relieve congestion by attempting to reroute east/west traffic onto other arterial streets such as SE Powell or E Burnside or to ignore it for now?

The discussion of congestion is something many hope PBOT will address as part of its finalization of this project.