Improvements on Foster: Conversation Continues Between PBOT, the Mayor’s Office, and the Neighborhood

When representatives from the Mayor’s Office and the Portland Bureau of Transportation met with members of the Foster-Powell and Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Associations last Tuesday, differing views on how and when to improve Foster Road became evident.  While all were able to agree that a refresh of the original Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan are in order, although opinions to what extent vary, it wasn’t as easy to decide when such improvements should take place.

Despite numerous pedestrian and traffic fatalities on Foster, PBOT, who represents the lead on the project, has established a timeline that puts groundbreaking sometime in 2014, early 2015.  On the other hand, Mayor Sam Adams, after considering neighborhood outreach and repeated calls for change, has tasked his Transportation Policy Manager, Katja Dillman, with expediting the process and implementing some of the safety improvements before he leaves office.  While PBOT staff acknowledge that certain safety improvements could be implemented in the near term, they made it clear that any costs incurred now would come out of future funding for fuller-scale construction, which could hinder us down the road.

As of now, the Portland Development Commission has set aside $2 mil for the Foster Streetscape Plan, and the project has received an additional $1.25 mil in federal funds.  However, this money has been earmarked for use no earlier than 2013, so improvements made now would be borrowed against future moneys and taken from the larger pot.  So while we push for near term improvements, we’re also forced to potentially limit ourselves in the long term.

Back to the conversation last week in the Mayor’s Office, PBOT made it clear they’re working on a refresh, and consultants have already begun focusing their attention on the plan.  They feel that in order to get the most bang for the buck, proper research, outreach, and engineering must take place first.  Although most would agree, it must also be noted that all of the above took place 10 years ago when the original plan was crafted.  But now that the neighborhood has changed, and such elements as bike lanes, bioswales, and a potential streetcar are being considered, the plan must be revisited before implementation.

But how long are we to wait?

That’s the question being played out within the neighborhood, the Mayor’s Office, PBOT, and the PDC.  And between them all, we’re still waiting for answers.  One thing’s for sure, though: Mayor Adams appears intent on adding safety measures before he leaves office.  So while PBOT begins the planning process for eventual architectural studies, engineering, and neighborhood outreach, they’re also accepting the reality that something (anything) must be done now…or at least before their two- to four- year time frame.

So what’s being considered?

Theoretically, everything’s on the table at this point.  However, funding is tight and any improvements would require using money that’s nearly nonexistent.  This narrows the near term options to a few easier/cheaper options.  And when you consider what options must fit in with, or at least not impede, future streetscape and transportation improvements, the list narrows even more.  For example, a “rapid flash beacon” (like at SE 80th and Foster) would make more financial sense and require less planning and engineering than, say, reconfiguring lanes or adding street lights and traffic signals.

By pushing for such measures now, we also put ourselves in the precarious position of accepting short term fixes at the expense of long term solutions…or so we’re being told.  But anything helps, right?  Indeed, so how do we make the most out of our opportunities?

This is where you, the reader, the resident, chime in.  Let us know what you think.  What should our neighborhood association know about your opinions?  What should they be conveying to the city?  How much longer are you willing to wait?  What do you want?

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5 Responses to Improvements on Foster: Conversation Continues Between PBOT, the Mayor’s Office, and the Neighborhood

  1. David says:

    I personally think Foster has plenty of traffic lights. I think Foster carries traffic at the right pace, not too slow or too fast. More crosswalks with flashers would be useful. Islands with street trees would help make the cross across Foster seem less daunting. What really needs to happen on Foster is lots of street trees, both on the sides and in the middle — it would make the stretch seem less like a concrete wasteland and more like a neighborhood.

    • I don’t think anyone here will argue with the need for more trees. Not only are they aesthetically and naturally pleasing, they’d have a calming effect and help change the corridor’s character.

      I imagine there will be differing views about speeds on Foster. Because of the various uses for the busy thoroughfare, it’ll be important to find a balance between adequate speeds for people traveling through the neighborhood and for those who live in the neighborhood and want to walk, bike, and do business here.

      As for crosswalks, yes, flashers will be the key. We currently have crosswalks, they just don’t always feel safe to use, and having more visibility will help.

      Thanks for commenting. Crossing my fingers we get those trees.

  2. Jed says:

    I’m not interested in band-aids, and flashers fall into that category. The street needs to be reconfigured and the speed limit dropped to 30 or 25. We shouldn’t borrow against that ultimate goal.

    Is the 2014-2015 groundbreaking contingent on the Streetscape Plan refresh running its course? If so, I think the pressure we should be applying focuses on preventing that process from dragging on — which it already seems to be.

    • MizVerde says:

      Agreed…I feel this has been put off for so long (2003!!!) that we shouldn’t settle now.

      And the refuge islands we have now, flashers or not, probably do not feel safe for pedestrians, but I KNOW they are awkward for drivers, too. Cars in the right lane sometimes do not alter their straight course around them! And on many days, in the case of islands with no lights, I can barely see the person waiting to cross until it is too late to stop safely.

  3. Good feedback, everyone. These are the opinions the city needs to hear. Right now, the battle is between quick and easy improvements versus long term, real and effective changes.

    As for the eventual groundbreaking, this is PBOT’s project, and they are determined to do a refresh first. I’m not sure what that process entails, but I imagine there will be a couple rounds of neighborhood outreach, mixed with engineering and feasibility studies. Again, this process played out once before. Despite that, the current plan calls for a refresh timeline that lasts into Spring 2013. That would then be followed by a design phase which has a stated year-long timeframe. Construction, then, would commence between Summer 2014 and early 2015. And that’s barring no setbacks.

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