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Regional Interests

Portland forms plan with Oregon to transfer 82nd Avenue to city control

A 2017 file photo shows pedestrians crossing the busy intersection of Southeast 82nd Avenue at Division Street.
A 2017 file photo shows pedestrians crossing the busy intersection of Southeast 82nd Avenue at Division Street.

Portland’s Bureau of Transportation announced an agreement Thursday with the Oregon Department of Transportation to transfer control of 82nd Avenue from the state to the city by the beginning of next year.

The decision comes after repeated community calls for intervention following deaths of two pedestrians on the roadway in April. The state-owned highway — technically Oregon Route 213 — is one of the highest crash corridors in Portland.

“The pedestrian deaths that have occurred recently are unacceptable but preventable with proper investment in safety infrastructure improvements,” Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty wrote in a statement announcing the plan. “Portland is ready to take ownership of 82nd but will need adequate state funding to get it into a state of good repair.”

The plan is contingent on funding from the state. The city and state transportation agencies wrote to the Oregon Legislature asking for $80 million for immediate safety upgrades last week. Funds would go to new lighting, sidewalk improvements and pavement repairs, among other investments. If the state provides the funding, the two transportation agencies will agree to transfer the roadway to city control by January 2022.

The plan also calls for additional investments in the roadway by both transportation agencies. ODOT has pledged $70 million while the city’s transportation bureau has pledged $35 million. That money would go toward repairing signals, lighting, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, pavement and storm-water drainage, as well as upgrading sidewalk and pedestrian crossings.

In a joint statement, ODOT Director Kris Strickler called the agreement “unparalleled,” while PBOT Director Chris Warner said it would bring the type of changes that East Portlanders have been advocating for for decades.

The two directors wrote to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means last week outlining the plan. They wrote that they were in agreement that the total cost to transfer the roadway was $185 million, but they couldn’t fund it on their own.

“We find ourselves in a unique circumstance with full agreement on what should be done on 82nd Avenue, but without complete funding to make the changes,” the letter read.

According to the letter, 16 people have died on the corridor between 2007 and 2018. Advocates have long criticized ODOT for failing to build proper safety infrastructure like sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting on the long stretch of road.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting