It’s a shame Bridger Elementary and Harrison Park Middle schools will be so quiet this year because its students and staff would be amazed at what the streets look like outside of them.
No more mud. No more puddles. And no more weaving cautiously around drivers and cars on the walk or bike ride to school.
“To watch my students come to school with wet shoes — knowing that those are their only shoes — because they have a journey to school that involves walking through water is heartbreaking to me,” Harrison Park Middle School Assistant Principal Michael Rowell said in a Portland Bureau of Transportation statement when the project broke ground back in February. “I think it’s an assault on their basic dignity to have to live like that.”
PBOT and the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services have finished the $2.6 million project that added new pavement, speed bumps, drainage, and sidewalks to a multi-block stretch of streets on SE 80th and Mill in the Montavilla neighborhood. The project was an example of collaboration that also included Portland Public Schools and 21 nearby residential property owners, who were so tired of the unsafe, unpaved streets and seasonal flooding on “Lake Millstreet” they agreed to form a local improvement district and chipped in $758,505 to help fund the project. (You might recall our story on Amy Wren’s Portland State University transportation class project that focused on this area.)
Just one block from bustling 82nd Avenue, 80th used to be unimproved for a half-block outside Bridger school. And the block of Mill from 82nd to the school — a key route to school for many students — had no sidewalks and was often strewn with gravel and foot-deep puddles. In a 2016 video created by Rachel Kimbrow to raise awareness of conditions outside the school, one student shared that, “The street we walk on, there’s really no sidewalks and there’s a lot of cars parked on the side. We have to walk in the middle of the road and my mom’s always nervous because they don’t always pay attention.”
Now the blocks have continuous sidewalks and PBOT has widened a section of 80th near Mill while maintaining several large trees in the center median to help with traffic calming. Ironically, because the street is now paved and smooth, we’ve heard some concerns that drivers are going faster than they used to — despite this area being a neighborhood greenway with 20 mph speed limits.
While out there on Monday I spoke to a man who was walking slowly on the sidewalk with a cane. He said he feels much safer now while on foot; but that the project has also made it easier for him to drive because he no longer goes a few blocks out of his way to avoid the narrow, unpaved road.
Check out these before/after images:
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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