Today, three elected officials toured SE 82nd Ave to highlight proposed safety investments coming to the roadway. Thanks to United States Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the recently passed US House infrastructure package contains $5 million for 82nd Ave safety improvements. These federal dollars will join $185 million in State and City funds previously committed to 82nd Ave improvements as part of the jurisdictional transfer of the State-owned highway to the City of Portland.
State Representative Khanh Pham and Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty joined Rep. Blumenauer on the July 9th walk from SE Hawthorne Blvd to the APANO offices on SE Division Street. Positioned on the sidewalks of 82nd Ave, members of the procession observed the failing infrastructure and talked about future repairs.
Along the journey, Comm. Hardesty and others address the concern that gentrification often follows transit improvement projects. The group agreed that 82nd Ave projects need to consider their impact on existing residents and businesses to minimize displacement. Preventing community upheaval was a concern echoed later by Rep. Blumenauer at the press conference that followed today’s tour. “There is a significant amount of wealth to be generated by doing it right, but we have to do it… so it doesn’t displace and drive people away.” He called for projects to “reinforce the elements of community” and kickstart developments that serve all income levels.
At the press conference, the speakers celebrated the infrastructure improvements coming to the roadway. Better lighting and enhanced crosswalks will provide residents near this street the same safety other Portlanders have within their neighborhoods. These upgrades join public transportation developments designed to make living along 82nd Ave feasible.
These infrastructure improvements make the area suitable for more density housing projects that use the untaped real estate above commercial spaces. Rep. Pham expressed dismay at the number of “Mega Storage Units” being created along the roadway. Rep. Blumenauer agreed that those facilities negatively affect community-building efforts. He explained that Self Storage businesses allow companies to hold onto land and generate some profit while they wait for the value of the property to rise, creating “black holes in the community.”
Rep. Blumenauer is a longtime believer in East Portland’s potential. Years ago, he aggressively pressed for PCC’s to expand into the Southeast, with the desire to create social destinations. Much of 82nd Ave’s transportation move people through the area instead of bringing people in. “82nd Ave is the highest volume of transit in the city [and] it has been a lost opportunity for as long as I remember,” Rep. Blumenauer recalled. Fortunately, investments coming to the highway will create the safe spaces people need to live, walk, and build their community.
Early next year, 82nd Ave will become part of Portland’s network of roads and begin receiving upgrades to make the street safe and modern. Last month, the Oregon legislature approved $80 million in funds that will partially pay for 82nd Ave’s transfer to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It was one of the last obstacles to overcome ahead of next year’s jurisdictional transfer.
Rep. Blumenauer praised the work of Rep. Pham and Comm. Hardesty on their efforts to move the decades-long transfer process near completion. It required countless hours of negotiations before State and City staff agreed to the terms of transfer. However, the agreement would have stalled if not for an influx of federal recovery funding. Years of work needed to coincide with the right timing for infrastructure investments. Today’s events represented an acknowledgment that supporters won the fight for change on 82nd Ave. Now, efforts will shift to enacting projects that build up the community without pushing people out.