Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy

61°F

Portland

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 62%

Wind: 7 mph

  • 2 Sep 2014

    Partly Cloudy 76°F 56°F

  • 3 Sep 2014

    Partly Cloudy 75°F 54°F


Sidewalk projects point to larger city budget struggles

How difficult is it for Mayor Charlie Hales to increase funding for street maintenance following the release of a city audit that found 40 percent of Portland streets are in poor or very poor condition? A relatively small sidewalk improvement to be considered by the City Council on Wednesday has become a symbol for the struggle.

The sidewalk project in Southwest Portland only costs $450,000, a small fraction of hundreds of millions needed to repair the city’s streets. But the project has become controversial because the Portland Bureau of Transportation has recommended postponing a similar one in Southeast Portland.

Both projects would build sidewalks along portions of streets that do not currently have them. They were authorized when Sam Adams was mayor and controlled the transportation bureau. He proposed spending $16 million in state gasoline tax funds on sidewalks in the two parts of town.

But after taking office in January, Hales asked the transportation bureau for recommendations on how to increase funding for street maintenance. The request followed the release of the audit that said the city needs to spend an additional $85 million a year on street maintenance or risk losing billions of previous infrastructure investment.

Among other things, the bureau recommended postponing a Southeast Portland sidewalk project, estimated at $1.3 million, because it is still in the early planning stages. It recommended continuing with the Southwest Portland project, estimated at $1.2 million, because it is much further along.

The recommendation to postpone the Southeast Portland project was criticized after a 5-year-old girl was struck and killed by a car while crossing Southeast 136th Avenue, near where the sidewalk was proposed. Community leaders are pressuring City Hall to continue with the project, even if it means shifting less money to street maintenance.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the council is scheduled to hear an ordinance allocating $450,000 to add sidewalks to Southwest Huber Street between Capitol Highway and 35th Avenue. It is just one section of the larger Southwest Portland sidewalk project that has been in the works for several years. The ordinance submitted by Hales says the transportation bureau worked with Southwest Neighbors Inc., the neighborhood coalition office in Southwest Portland, to prioritize locations for sidewalks.