Help is on the way! Maintenance and paving coming to neighborhood greenways

Help is on the way! Maintenance and paving coming to neighborhood greenways

Neighborhood greenway conditions-1

PBOT has already marked areas in need of
repair on N Michigan Ave and many other neighborhood
greenways throughout the city.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

BikePortland News Editor Michael Andersen contributed reporting for this story.

Have you noticed the white paint that outlines the many cracks and potholes on your favorite neighborhood greenway? They started appearing weeks ago and I assumed something was up at the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Before I left for Europe I confirmed my hunch. It turns out that PBOT, city maintenance crews, and Mayor Hales’ office have reached an agreement that will soon bring relief to the horrible condition of our local streets — many of which have recently been turned into neighborhood greenways.

“This is good news for people who are walking and are using bikes, and especially kids who are getting to school,” PBOT spokeswoman Diane Dulken shared with us today.

PBOT and Mayor Hales have announced that City Council will consider a new “Local Street Pavement Policy” at their meeting on Wednesday. At issue is a 2009 resolution that was passed amid a tight budget year when PBOT needed to cut $4.8 million. To make that happen they decided to direct maintenance and paving funds only to “lifeline, transit and freight routes.” In other words, neighborhood streets — many of which are the lifeline of our bicycle network — would be left to deteriorate. Now, as a technicality before the City can get started on their new policy, they must officially rescind that resolution.

Since 2009, PBOT has made a significant investment (about $1 million a year) in residential streets via their neighborhood greenway program. With more people using these streets and more attention being paid to them in general, it has become clear to the Mayor and PBOT that the cracks and potholes on them are no longer acceptable.

Detail of paving priority map. Red is top priority.

“We could no longer neglect neighborhood streets where the majority of Portlanders live,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement today.

Hales has prioritized maintenance since Day One. He made it a key part of his campaign with his “back to basics” message and a City Auditor’s report that found the poor condition of many streets shows the need for “better stewardship” played right into his stump speech. According to the Mayor’s Communications Director Dana Haynes, Hales has, “pushed for this for months.” (Hales never mentioned what type of streets he would pave.)

Politics and procedure aside, this is great news for bicycling. It means that PBOT will set aside about $500,000 dollars to seal cracks and lay down asphalt patches on about 50 miles of local streets and neighborhood greenways. PBOT will also focus on 50 miles of arterials for a total street preservation strategy of 100 miles. Dulken says PBOT has a total of $9.8 million set aside for paving this fiscal year and that number could go up to $12 million next year.

What local streets will be paved first? PBOT says top priority will go to local streets on a designated neighborhood greenway that are within 1/4 mile of a public school. Here’s the detailed priority list followed by a map that shows which streets will get repaired first:

  • Priority 1: Local Street on a Neighborhood Greenway* and within 1/4 Mile of a Public School
  • Priority 2: Local Street on a Neighborhood Greenway, more than 1/4 Mile from a Public School
  • Priority 3: Local Street Not on a Neighborhood Greenway, within 1/4 Mile of a Public School
  • Priority 4: Local street Not on a Neighborhood Greenway and more than 1/4 mile from a public school

Local street pavement policy prioritization map from PBOT.
– Click to enlarge or download PDF

The only thing left is the vote in City Council on Wednesday. This is a great policy decision and I’ll be shocked if anyone votes against it. These streets are the backbone of many Portlanders’ daily mobility needs and $500,000 is the least we should invest in them.

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