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East County road projects vie for federal funding

by: Jim Clark D.J. Johnson walks on the roadside of Northeast 223rd Avenue, south of the railroad bridge. The county is looking to improve safety for residents who bike and walk along the gravel shoulders.

A few East Multnomah County roads in great need of improvements for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are on a shortlist of projects eligible for up to $2.3 million in federal funds.

The East Multnomah County Transportation Committee, which consists of elected officials from East County, will review five proposed projects at its Monday afternoon meeting, Aug. 15, at Gresham City Hall and decide which ones should be forwarded to Metro Regional Government.

Metro expects to disperse $22.5 million in federal funds for local transportation projects to the city of Portland and to Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Known as regional flexible funds, the money can be spent on a greater variety of transportation projects than can most federal transportation funds, according to Metro.

About $16.7 million, or 75 percent, is for active transportation projects that add or improve bicycling, walking and access to public transportation. About $5.6 million, or 25 percent, is for freight and green economy projects, which improve access to industrial lands, business and rail facilities and help 'green' the economy.

From that $22.5 million, Multnomah County will receive $1.6 million for active transportation, which is determined based on its percentage of the regional population; and $659,000 for freight projects, based on acres of industrial land and on miles of the regional freight system.

Jane McFarland, principal planner with Multnomah County Land Use and Transportation Program, said there is not enough money to cover all five projects. She said the meeting is open to the public and will have time for public comment on the proposed projects.

Three area roads proposed for funding

Five candidate projects, identified by city and county staff and committees as well as by public feedback through letters and open houses, are up for consideration by the transportation committee:

• Arata Road between 223rd and 238th avenues. Multnomah County will build sidewalks and bike lanes and add landscaping and drainage along both sides of the two-lane Arata Road. The county also wants to improve a 500-foot-long path connecting Arata Road with Halsey Street. Residents in nearby housing complexes including mobile home parks and the Fairview Oaks-Woods Apartments, one of the region's largest subsidized-housing projects, use the road to get to school and area businesses. The county is seeking almost $1.7 million in active transportation funds.

• 223rd Avenue between Halsey Street and the Union Pacific Railroad underpass. Multnomah County will work with Fairview to improve this 3,000-foot road, which runs through Old Town Fairview. The county is seeking $225,000 to help develop the project.

• Sandy Boulevard between 181st to 201st avenues. Gresham's design plan includes two new left-turn lanes, a new trail, bike lanes and the replacement of a traffic signal at 181st Avenue as well as trees and streetlights. Gresham is requesting more than $1.3 million from active transportation and $527,000 from freight and green economy funds.

• Sandy Boulevard between 230th Avenue and 238th Drive. This is the first phase of a Multnomah County project to improve Sandy Boulevard, making it easier for transportation and development of its industrial properties. The county is seeking $659,000 in freight and green economy funds.

• Sandy Boulevard between 223rd Avenue and 238th Drive. Multnomah County is seeking $298,000 in freight and green economy funds to develop a plan for improving Sandy Boulevard, making it marketable to businesses to relocate to the industrial land. The design will include bike lanes, sidewalks, lighting and better transit stops and crossings.

Next steps

McFarland said once the transportation committee selects the projects, formal applications will be sent to Metro by Aug. 29.

McFarland said a regional public comment period on all the projects will take place in September and October. Afterward, Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation and the Metro Council will take action on the fund allocations in December.

Metro expects to receive $70.7 million in federal Surface Transportation Program and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds for the Portland region in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Some of these funds have already been dedicated to construction of rail transit projects or will fund other transportation programs.

If you go

The East Multnomah Transportation Committee will meet from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, in the Oregon Trail Room at Gresham City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

Visit oregonmetro.gov or multco.us for more information on regional flexible funds and on the proposed projects.