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Big changes loom for Foster Road

by: MERRY MACKINNON - After almost a year after they began to meet, as previously reported in THE BEE, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Foster Road Stakeholder Advisory Committee will soon complete the draft update plan for streetscape improvements to improve vistas such as this one, and for reconfiguring Foster Road - possibly reducing the street to two traffic lanes and adding bike lanes.Ever since Portland wrote a plan for dressing up Foster Road some ten years ago, business owners and nearby neighborhood residents have waited for the city to help make the stretch between S.E. 50th and 90th Avenues a safer place for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.

With 1,200 car crashes, five pedestrians killed by cars, and eight car-related fatalities altogether over the last decade, S.E. Foster Road has been known more as a “high crash corridor” than for being a pleasant place to visit, which, in fact, it is.

Now, with $3.25 million of funding in hand, the city is following through on its Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan of 2003.

“After waiting ten years, progress is happening on the streetscape plan,” said Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Planning Program Manager Bob Kellett.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the 2003 plan outlined improvements for the street and sidewalk on Foster Road “to improve safety and the appearance of the street, and support the people and businesses of the surrounding community.”

Work will begin on the updated plan for Foster Road in 2014, with new trees, benches, and lighting, as well as curb extensions and improved transit, bus stops, and crossings.

Additional plans that include a reconfigured street, possibly with bike lanes and a change from four to two lanes on Foster Road between S.E. 50th and 90th Avenues, are currently being discussed with the Foster Road Stakeholder Advisory Committee as has been reported previously in THE BEE.

The committee is composed of some twenty members, including business owners and representatives from Foster Powell, Mt. Scott Arleta, Creston-Kenilworth, and Lents neighborhood associations, as well as from the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Road configuration options are posted on the Portland Bureau of Transportations website. One option features two traffic lanes on Foster Road, with bike lanes on either side. Another option would have bike lanes in the center of the road, protected by concrete barriers from traffic in single lanes on either side.

“Foster Road has a lot of potential,” remarked Kellet, who is also a member of the Advisory Committee. Since last October, when PBOT began meeting regularly with the committee, there has been discussion about how to spend the funds; Lents Urban Renewal funding makes up $2 million of the project’s money. According to Kellett, the rest is from federal grants secured through Metro's Regional Flexible Fund Allocation.

A draft plan is expected to be presented for adoption by City Council by the end of this year.

“We have not made a recommendation on all the elements yet,” said Portland Bureau of Transportation Senior Transportation Planner Mauricio Leclerc. “A lot of proposals are on the table,” he added. “We’re analyzing impacts.” The neighborhoods along Foster Road are already changing, with younger people and families moving in, Kellett observed. “And there's a lot of excitement about what’s in store for Foster Road.”

To review the various options still under consideration for reconfiguring S.E. Foster Road, go online: www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/457562