Last Thursday, Mayor Sam Adams, and representatives from his office and the Bureau of Transportation, opened their doors to concerned members of the Foster-Powell and Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Associations. The goal was to discuss safety, but more importantly, the intention was to get a commitment from the mayor to make safety concerns along Foster Road a priority as he prepares to leave office in the next several months.
Present in the meeting were Catherine Ciarlo, the Mayor’s Office Transportation Director, as well as PBOT staff, Mauricio Leclerc and April Bertelsen. Joining them, and invited by the mayor’s office, were residents of the neighborhoods straddling Foster Road west of SE 82nd, where several pedestrians have been killed trying to cross the busy thoroughfare. The theme was safety, but the intent was action. With promises being made for several years, the neighborhood and the city both realize the time is now to prevent further traffic fatalities on Foster Road. It was acknowledged, too, that Foster Road, and the businesses that make it home, or someday hope to, will never be allowed to thrive without a comprehensive plan for the street, including safety and aesthetic improvements.
The NA members presented Mayor Adams a list of issues they want addressed on Foster, accompanied by a proposed list of solutions, most of which centered on reducing speeds and altering the street’s configuration to allow the possibility of more pedestrian and bike use. More importantly, however, was the determination expressed to see such resolution made sooner than later.
According to plans outlined by PBOT, the Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan, which was officially adopted by the city in 2003, would need to be refreshed before any improvements could be made. This time frame puts the “refresh’s” conclusion in Spring, 2013. And since funding that’s already been earmarked for the Streetscape Plan won’t be accessible until the fiscal year 2013/14 ($1 mil from PDC) and 2014/15 ($1 mil from PDC; $1.25 federal funds), construction would have an estimated commencement in in the summer of 2014.
All parties involved agreed this timeline is too long to address the safety concerns presented on Foster, and Mayor Adams assured us he’d look at creative options for making money available sooner than later. The caveat, though, is that money is scarce, and other city projects are stalled in the pipeline, too. So whatever funding the mayor can secure, most likely, would be less than the total earmarked for the project, and borrowed against the future amount. Realistically, then, the Streetscape Plan would not be implemented in its entirety, rather bit by bit as the money comes in. Faced with having to wait until 2014 for improvements, the mayor’s proposal was much more amenable than the alternative.
Some of the more immediate, cost-effective improvements suggested in the interim were:
- more (visible) crosswalks
- better timed traffic lights
- a new stop light in the “Heart of Foster,” between SE 63 and 67th
- road diets through portions of the thoroughfare
- street trees for calming affects, as well as to create a neighborhood-scale landscape
With a refresh of the Streetscape Plan, all of these ideas are already being considered, as well as the potential for more bike use, lane reconfiguration, curb pullouts, etc. However, with money scarce and time somewhat limited for immediate improvements, the goal was to establish an interim game plan that would present the “most bang for the buck,” so to speak.
Mayor Adams ended the meeting with a promise of commitment, and stated he would take two weeks to gather more information and research creative funding options. After those two weeks, which would take us to next Monday, April 16, the mayor stated he would email the respective Neighborhood Associations with his near-term proposal for improving safety conditions on Foster. All agreed and understood this would most likely be a minor fix, at least until more funding becomes available, and probably restricted to the portions of Foster that see the most pedestrian activity. However, it was a score for the neighborhood, and provided a dose of optimism for an area hoping to become safer and more livable. We’ll see what is proposed, but the neighborhood can certainly be appreciative of the mayor’s commitment to expediting the process. Ideally, we’ll soon have a safer, multi-modal Foster corridor…one in which the residents, businesses, and passersby, can thrive and enjoy.