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Metro seeks comment on projects

Gresham leaders not happy with choices

Two East Multnomah County roads in need of improvements are among 11 Portland-area road projects nominated to receive federal funds, and Metro Regional Government is now seeking the public's help to refine each project.

Residents can visit Metro's website, oregonmetro.gov or bit.ly/qxKH2t, to see a map and learn more about each project. Residents can also submit comments about how a project could be improved to better meet community needs. Residents can comment on as many projects as they wish.

The chance to comment ends at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13.

Metro expects to disperse $22.5 million for transportation projects in the city of Portland and in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties in 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.

Multnomah County will receive $1.6 million for active transportation projects that add or improve bicycling, walking and access to public transportation; and $659,000 for freight and green economy projects.

The East Multnomah County Transportation Committee in mid-August reviewed five eligible projects and selected two of them for funding: Arata Road between 223rd and 238th avenues in Wood Village, and Sandy Boulevard between 230th Avenue and 238th Drive in Fairview.

The cost of the Arata Road project is nearly $1.7 million to add sidewalks, bike lanes, lighting and landscaping along Arata Road's south side. It will also enhance a 500-foot-long path that connects Arata with Halsey Street.

Traffic- and pedestrian-heavy Arata Road - surrounded by houses, mobile home parks and the Fairview Oaks-Woods housing project - lacks adequate sidewalks, lighting and bike lanes.

The Sandy Boulevard project is seeking $659,000 to help widen the road and add an extra turn lane and sidewalks. Supporters hope that the project will improve access between Interstate 84 and the industrial properties in the area, such as the Townsend Business Park.

The committee's selection of the two projects frustrated Gresham representatives at the August meeting. Selecting the Wood Village and Fairview projects left no funding for improvements to Sandy Boulevard between 181st and 201st avenues in Gresham.

Mayor Shane Bemis said during last year's regional flexible funding cycle, Gresham 'played regionally' and waived its projects in favor of supporting neighboring cities' projects. So this year, he expected those cities to work with Gresham to support Gresham's project.

'Instead, they worked around us and had it done prior to the meeting,' Bemis said, leaving Gresham representatives out of the lobbying loop.

Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby said the committee selected both projects based on funding criteria and nothing more.

Now, Metro is preparing to pour over public feedback on each of the 11 regional projects.

That public feedback will then be given to the cities and counties that nominated the projects for those jurisdictions to consider and make any final changes. The public comments are documented in a comment report as well.

In December, a list of the projects with revisions will be sent to the Metro Council and Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee for Transportation for final approval.

Reporter Mara Stine also contributed to this article.