Residents hope for major improvements on 82nd Avenue

Transferring the busy road to local control paves the way for a host of urgent safety improvements and, residents hope, a wider transformation of the corridor.

PORTLAND, Ore. — After years of effort, including community rallies and state legislation, the Portland City Council gave final approval Thursday to transfer 82nd Avenue to city jurisdiction, taking over management of the Oregon Department’s “Orphan Highway” corridor. Transportation.

The milestone drew widespread cheers from elected officials and nearby residents, mingled with reminders of the urgency of safety improvements and the massive scale of improvements needed along the 7-mile corridor.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation plans to spend $80 million on 82nd Avenue over the next four years to address its notoriously dangerous reputation. The corridor saw nearly 2,000 accidents from 2015 to 2019, according to PBOT director Chris Warner, and 76 people were killed or seriously injured in the same period, most of whom were pedestrians.

“A lot of people worked on it for decades to clean up 82nd, so I feel like we’re now in the right direction,” said Heidi Schultz, whose son attends Leodis V. McDaniel High School. northeast of 82nd. Street.

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Schultz is part of a group of parents in the school’s parent-teacher-student association who have formed a safety committee to draw attention to concerns about traffic hazards, shootings and criminal activity along the 82nd Avenue corridor.

“There’s a lot of speeding, a lot of red lights on,” she said. “I mean, the scope of the security issues on the 82nd is obviously beyond the jurisdiction of the PBOT, but some of the issues that have been raised are the shootings that occur frequently and in front of the school or near the school during class hours. There’s a question, could we put cameras on a traffic light north of the school? Could we do things that somehow deter this kind of behavior? »

Parents would also like to see a 20-mile-per-hour school speed zone put in place on 82nd Avenue next to the school, she said, like the one put in place by Vestal Elementary School, which is located a little further south along 82nd Avenue.

McDaniel reopened in September after being closed for a two-year renovation project, and the current school year has been an uncomfortable eye-opener for many parents and students about the dangers of the hallway.

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Schultz’s son Dawson, who is attending the remodeled McDaniel for his second year after a year of distance learning, said he had to watch the speed of traffic while walking along 82nd Avenue to take snacks at lunch.

“It’s dangerous, you just have to be on alert,” he said. “Most of my friends, they all know you never cross that street, you never cross it even though it looks empty because you never know when someone might be coming at full speed.”

Many who provided guest or public testimony at Thursday’s meeting recounted the years of traffic tragedies and close calls in the hallway, and noted that the mismatched lane has become a symbol of neglect for residents. from East Portland.

“82nd Avenue has been such a dividing line for so many years, both in terms of race, class and health impacts, and as we know, it is one of the areas most our state’s most racially diverse with countless stores, small immigrant-owned businesses. businesses, schools, restaurants,” said State Representative Khanh Pham, whose district includes much of Portland’s southeast portion of the corridor. “And that’s been really dangerous for so many people who are just crossing the street or cycling across the street, especially our young people, our elders and people with disabilities, and immigrants.”

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Ashton Simpson, Association Director Walks in Oregonurged the council to prioritize safety improvements, but also ensure that residents who live, work and travel along 82nd Avenue are at the center of thinking about how it should be redesigned.

“Now that we have ownership as a city on the corridor, it will be up to us to decide what this road will look like and how it will work for the community,” he said. “This effort needs to be led by centering the voices of the community and highlighting how they would like to see this corridor work for them.”

Kiel Johnson of the advocacy group PDX strong bike also urged the council not to stop at 82nd, but to work to gain control of other state-owned roads like Barbur and Powell Boulevards.

“The work is far from over. One of the reasons we are here is that ODOT and PBOT have very different missions,” he said. “For so many other parts of our city to succeed, we need to be the city that controls our streets.”