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East Portland gets $17 million for Powell Boulevard improvements

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - The intersection of Southeast Powell Boulevard and 122nd Avenue is one of the most dangerous in the state. ODOT has pledged $17 million for Powell Boulevard improvements.Improvements to outer Powell Boulevard, where crashes are ranked in Oregon’s top 10 percent, are among the projects to be added to the state transportation plan.

The Oregon Transportation Commission is scheduled to add six projects at its meeting Aug. 21 in La Grande.

Though their approval for the state plan is expected to be routine, how the projects got there and how they will be paid for are not.

The 2015 Legislature specified the addition of the six projects, which will be paid from $35 million in tax-supported general obligation bonds, instead of revenue bonds repaid from user fees that the Oregon Department of Transportation charges for vehicle registrations and driver licensing.

Normally the commission, whose five members are appointed by the governor, approves projects within a four-year state plan that is updated every couple of years.

Lawmakers put the money into a measure for state bonds after they failed to reach agreement on how to pay for road repairs and other transportation system improvements statewide. The projects were spread around Oregon.

“We need money for roads in my part of the state, and I see a lot of roads,” says Rep. Cliff Bentz of Ontario, a Republican whose House district is the state’s largest in area.

But Bentz, who raised concerns about how the money was raised from the tax-supported general fund, was among a handful of lawmakers who voted against it.

About half the total, $17 million, is earmarked for improvements on Powell Boulevard between 116th and 136th avenues in Portland. Powell Boulevard is U.S. 26.

Most of the rest of the money for the project, whose total is estimated at between $22 million and $25 million, will come from Portland.

According to ODOT, that stretch of Powell contains eight sites rated among the state’s top 10 percent for crashes – and the intersection with 122nd Avenue had the highest number and severity of crashes in 2012.

Among the planned improvements are sidewalks, buffered bicycle lanes and a center turn lane. Planning ($1.2 million) is scheduled in 2016, right-of-way acquisition ($6.5 million) in 2017 and construction ($9.3 million) in 2018.

Other projects to be added:

Highway 34 between Peoria Road and the Corvallis bypass, $3 million for rumble strips and a center median barrier.

Highway 126 between Florence and Eugene, $7 million for 6-foot shoulders and shoulder rumble strips on a 24-mile stretch, and a passing lane between Walker and Chickahominy creeks.

Interstate 5, $2.5 million for cable barriers in Southern Oregon.

U.S. 26, $1.5 million for improvements for a safety corridor to reduce traffic conflicts with bicyclists and pedestrians at the Kah-Nee-Ta junction near Warm Springs.

Interstate 84, $4 million toward a $7.3 million total for improvements in the Blue Mountains snow zone between Pendleton and La Grande, where crashes are two to three times greater than the state average for interstate highways. The improvements are aimed at slowing down traffic in winter weather that precipitates crashes.

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