One thing we do know: PBOT would struggle mightily to find a way out of constructing the Foster Streetscape Plan. At least not without pitchforks and torches being brandished on the streets.
We also know—rest assured—there’s funding in place to implement the plan, which was first adopted by the city in 2003, but fell by the wayside due to a lack of funding and, presumably, political will. A few years ago—nearly a decade later—some of that political will appeared to realign with neighborhood activists’ pleas for safety/streetscape improvements after numerous traffic accidents and pedestrian fatalities pushed things to a tipping point. It wasn’t long before the Portland Development Commission offered $2 million of urban renewal funding to get the project moving along. That led to PBOT taking over the project, securing an additional $3 mil in federal grants, and then conducting a year-long process of refreshing the original plan and ensuring neighborhood buy-in to proposed changes—a road diet and bike lanes being the most significant.
That process ended last spring; City Council voted to approve the plan in June.
So where are we now?
Without any updates made public, and little information available about the status of the project, we thought it might be a good idea to check in with PBOT.
So we did.
We were fortunate to get a prompt email response from PBOT Project Manager, Rich Newlands, who gave us an update on where things stand now, as well as a rough timeline for the project’s completion. While we were disappointed to hear that construction won’t start until June, 2016, at the earliest, it was nice to know they haven’t pushed the project aside for something more catering to nicer, more affluent and closer-in neighborhoods.
Here’s what he said:
“Right now we are gearing up to begin design engineering, which we anticipate to begin in March-April time frame. This is when we expect to have our design resources available (staffing) and to have an intergovernmental agreement in place with the Portland Development Commission for funding. If design starts in April, we anticipate to have final plans by mid-spring of next year and construction starting approximately 3 months later (June ’16)…”
In regards to utilizing available resources now and phasing in parts of the project over time as more money becomes available:
“…It’s generally difficult to ‘phase’ construction as suggested with federal funds- authorization of funding is strictly sequential- first we give you design engineering funds (which can only be used for design engineering purposes), only have the design has been approved by FHWA with the associated environmental clearances in place, and only then will we give you construction dollars. This is not to say impossible when there is another funding source (PDC) but many of the construction items are not as stand alone as you might think (by that I mean can be advanced to construction ahead of other things)…”
“…This project will provide a very dramatic change to Foster- exactly what it needs.”
This is all very exciting, though it’s tough to not be discouraged by the need for patience. We’ve been waiting a long time, and it appears we still have a couple years to go. Until then, we can look forward to the Portland Mercado’s opening, as well as a slew of other upgrades to the corridor—Foster Row, restoration of The Bob White, The Foster Window Project, Henry Higgins Bagels, storefront improvements, etc—all of which will provide their own transformative changes.