The Powell-Division Transit and Development Project – an effort to create faster, more reliable transit in one of the region's busiest transportation corridors – will explore some significant choices at a September 29 meeting of the project steering committee.
At that meeting, the steering committee could eliminate some potential alignments and transit types from further consideration for the project.
They will also begin reviewing a new concept: selecting "station opportunity areas" in the corridor where planners will focus efforts to promote economic development.
Last week, project staff sent the steering committee's 22 members a report outlining their analysis of options and the results of public feedback they have received throughout the summer.
The report shares findings regarding the transit vehicle type and routes on a spectrum of "more promising" and "less promising," which steering committee members will consider as they discuss what to study further.
Read materials for the Sept. 29 steering committee meeting
Bus over rail, Powell then Division
The report describes two high-capacity bus options for the corridor – either "frequent service plus" or "dedicated busway" – as "more promising" than rail options like streetcar and light rail.
For alignment, the report calls a route from downtown Portland that would cross the new Tilikum Crossing bridge, and go up inner Powell Boulevard before transitioning north to Division Street at 50th, 52nd, 82nd or 92nd Avenue "more promising" than alternatives like crossing the Ross Island Bridge or using inner Division for its route.
"The steering committee will make decisions about how to proceed," said project manager Brian Monberg. "Based on initial analysis and the public feedback we've received, it does look like some options hold more promise than others."
The summary report also notes the "more promising" alignment and focus on high-capacity bus options could create the biggest benefits for equity, reduced project impacts and other key areas of concern in the corridor. Bus options could likely be built much sooner than rail, the report states.
Project staff participated in over 40 events in the summer, ranging from traditional open houses and neighborhood association meetings to tabling at powwows, night markets and farmers markets. The last open house was held Sept. 24 at Ron Russell Middle School in Portland. An online survey that closed last Friday attracted over 700 responses.
All told, project staff reported hearing from over 2000 people this spring and summer about their priorities and hopes for transportation between Portland and Gresham. Reflecting the diversity of the area, the project has conducted engagement in multiple languages.
"We thought it was really important to meet people where they are, instead of expecting them to come to us,” Monberg. "What we heard really informed our analysis of the community's priorities for this corridor."
Station opportunity areas: a focus on inclusion
On September 29, the steering committee will also review a new concept for the Powell-Division project: "station opportunity areas" where planners will develop action plans to ensure that better transit service and related development help create the changes people want in their neighborhoods while limiting the changes they don’t want.
The project staff worked with partners at the cities of Portland and Gresham to analyze eight potential opportunity areas for further study over the winter. These include the intersection of Southeast Powell and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Division Street and 182nd Avenue and the employment areas around Stark Street and 242nd Drive in Gresham, near the Gresham Vista Business Park and Mount Hood Community College.
Learn about the eight proposed station opportunity areas (pdf)
Brian Martin, a Gresham planner, said the opportunity areas in Gresham were deliberately selected to represent several neighborhood types where stations might be located. The plans developed for each area could then guide policies around stations in similar neighborhoods throughout the corridor. "That way the whole corridor benefits," he said.
Martin added that the opportunity area studies will build on local desires, informed by real estate analysis and urban design work to see what is possible when future fast transit arrives. “It’s very exciting, because it gives the people who live and work in these areas today a chance to play a big role in guiding their future,” he said.
In a corridor with hundreds of businesses seeking to attract customers and employees, tens of thousands of daily travelers and over 100,000 residents, any change in transit and development could really affect how people get around.
Project manager Monberg said the team's goal from the start has been to work with residents, travelers and business owners in the corridor to understand what changes are most desirable – and what the impacts will be.
The steering committee's choices on September 29 will help shape further design, Monberg said, including exploring how the project can support local transit service and fit into the road network, developing station area plans and examining safety and access throughout the corridor for people walking and bicycling.
“This project is an opportunity to provide things we’ve been hearing from the community – connect places where people want to go, improve transit service and make walking safer in the neighborhoods," Monberg said.
The steering committee meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29 at St. Philip Neri, Carvlin Hall, 2408 SE 16th Avenue in Portland. The meeting will begin with public comment and be followed by an open house from 6 to 7 p.m.
Learn more about the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project