Category: Infrastructure

New Glisan Sidewalk Removes On-Site Parking

Update The sidewalk reconstruction is now complete, with cars parked along the new curb. The work fulfills a Portland mandated change, explains Alex Ianos, the property owner. “The city wanted me to close the driveway due to the safety of people backing up into Glisan.” 

City staff did not require the parking lot’s removal during last year’s renovations. However, recent tenant improvements for the upcoming Isamini Bar allowed Portland to apply new parking design standards at the site. “A bar is opening in the small space close to the pool hall, and that permit triggered the sidewalk work,” said Ianos.

Completed sidewalk

Original article published November 19th, 2021

This week, crews reconstructed a section of sidewalk at 7909 NE Glisan Street. The building’s new owner redeveloped the property in 2020, replacing much of the sidewalk on the corner and creating extended curbs for shorter street crossings. The new mid-block pedestrian space removes a curb cut for onsite parking and adds two additional street tree cutouts, reconnecting the block’s tree line.

This redesigned sidewalk will abandon the current four-car parking lot in front of the single-story portion of the building. However, at least three more curbside parking spaces are now available for public parking on the block. The former parking slab may become outdoor seating for a future tenant or become a shared outdoor space for the building.

The nose-in parking used at this site can be hazardous for drivers and pedestrians. It creates a long section of sidewalk where cars could cross with reduced visibility. Additionally, cars have to back out into heavy traffic on NE Glisan when leaving. This sidewalk reconstruction will bring more trees to NE Glisan and should deliver enhanced safety. Look for a better walking experience at this location soon.

Concrete forms establishing three street tree cut outs

Glisan’s New Approach to Outdoor Seating

This month, Blank Slate Bar created unique outdoor seating on NE Glisan. Unlike other covered dining spaces constructed in curbside parking spaces, this open-walled shelter spans the entire width of the sidewalk, covering the whole pedestrian space. Its design is in response to concerns around customer seating adjacent to heavy traffic.

Over the last 18 months, bars and restaurants have relied on outdoor seating to serve customers safely during the pandemic. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) expanded those spaces through special free permits, accommodating a variety of seating configurations for the service industry. Most businesses in Montavilla chose to create Parking Plazas to serve guests. That style of outdoor seating converts space previously used for curbside parking into expanded sidewalk seating while maintaining adequate space for pedestrians. As the need for outdoor seating persisted, more substantial wood structures replaced temporary configurations. Most gained covered roofs and sidewalls.

This image and cover image by Weston Ruter

Regardless of the structure’s build quality, Parking Plazas have customers seated next to moving traffic with only a thin wood divider protecting people from passing vehicles. On slower streets, that is less of an issue. However, seating placed on SE Stark Street can feel dangerously close to fast-moving trucks and cars.

Compared to Stark Street, NE Glisan traffic is more hazardous. That reality caused Kierre Van De Veere, the Blank Slate Bark’s owner, to consider design alternatives for their outdoor seating. “We chose not to do parking space seating due to the busy nature of Glisan. So we worked with PBOT and our design team to come up with this option.” In this configuration, customers on Glisan have a parking lane buffer between vehicles and the tables.

Blank Slate Bar’s covered seating area features a transparent corrugated shed roof that extends from the front of the building to the curb and runs the entire width of the bar’s shopfront. The arrangement allows for two-person seating against the windows and larger group seating close to the curb. Pedestrians can walk through the center area in an arcade-style passageway between the tables. 

In addition to its unique placement, crews constructed the shelter out of large timbers. The result is a structure that seems permanent and intentional. People seem to appreciate the design used at Blank Slate Bar, according to Van De Veere. “We have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers and neighbors, who are always supporting us in any way they can.”

Regardless of the design, Van De Veere appreciates the impact of open-air seating on places like hers. “These outdoor spaces are a lifeline to small businesses.” The new seating is available just in time for winter and built to last for many years to come. Blank Slate Bar is located at 7201 NE Glisan Street Suite C and is open Tuesday through Saturday.

Temporary Bus Platform Survey

In August 2020, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) began installing temporary bus platforms in Montavilla. In partnership with TriMet, they deployed two types of temporary platforms across Portland. Crews installed five asphalt-style platforms on Stark and Washington Streets east of 80th Ave. PBOT used rubber-style platforms in the central city area. The bureau is currently evaluating the trial program and is seeking user feedback through an online survey.

Temporary platforms enable PBOT to make affordable changes on city streets faster than traditional methods. The early implementations focused on transit stops, making areas less congested to walk, bike, and use TriMet. The platform designs vary to meet different needs, depending upon the location. The rubber modular temporary bus stop platform allows bikes to ride up and over the platform, permitting cyclists to continue past the stop even when in use. The curb height platform extends across the parking lane, allowing buses to stop in the traffic lane. The asphalt temporary platform does not include a space for bikes to ride through the stop but enables the bus to pick up passengers without completely pulling over to the curb. Both designs provide riders with more room away from the sidewalk while waiting for the bus.

PBOT temporary bus platforms map

A technical evaluation is also underway to examine how staff interact with these new types of infrastructure. PBOT is studying installation and maintenance needs to capture lessons learned from those who install, maintain, and interact with the platforms. Additionally, bus operators have an opportunity to provide their perspective on the efficacy of the platform design and use.

Users interested in sharing opinions about these temporary installations are encouraged to take the PBOT survey before January 3, 2022. Researchers plan to engage with technical staff over the next few months. Anticipate the release of evaluation results and recommendations in mid-2022.

Picnic Shelter’s Funding on Hold

Last month, crews removed the aging picnic shelter at Montavilla Park and prepared the ground for new grass turf. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) planned on replacing the structure with a modern 2,000 square foot open-walled shelter. However, a department-wide budgetary shortfall will postpone that work.

Preceding the demolition work, PP&R updated the Montavilla Park Picnic Shelter project webpage announcing the pending deconstruction of the structure while noting the lack of funds for its replacement. Park staff will plant grass seed on the worksite and open the space for general public use in the interim.

PP&R Public Information Officer, Mark Ross, confirmed the project’s indefinite delay. However, he emphasized that staff would continue to look for opportunities to revive this project in future budgets.

Proposed Montavilla Park Picnic Shelter, currently on hold.

Currently, PP&R has a $450 million backlog in unfunded major maintenance needs across the Parks system. Years of budget cuts and an ineffective funding structure reduced the Department’s ability to address needed repairs. “Portland Parks & Recreation has long been underfunded and has an aging but beloved parks system,” explained Ross. “PP&R is focusing our efforts on addressing the most critical repairs and identified service gaps, with equity at the forefront.”

To address the Parks department’s structural funding gaps identified in the 2019 budget process, PP&R staff worked with Portland City Council to develop the Sustainable Future Initiative. It included the directive to seek alternative funding sources to align operations with community expectations while not increasing the City’s budget. In November of 2020, voters approved a 5-year local option levy to maintain neighborhood parks, improve access and safety, provide equitable recreation programs, and proactively care for its natural areas and urban forest.

Levy funds saved many programs jeopardized by the monetary shortfall and kept park services available across the City. However, those funds had no impact on the maintenance backlog. “The Parks Local Option Levy is an operating levy, not a bond for capital projects,” explains Ross. Consequently, many projects are on hold, waiting for funding from other sources. With little money for these projects, PP&R must select projects based on specific criteria that address the most significant need. “These projects are ranked for equity, likelihood of failure, and consequence of failure,” said Ross.

With Montavilla’s decaying shelter demolished and no longer a danger, the project’s position could slip back in the queue based on the PP&R priorities. However, the project is not canceled and remains active. Funding for this project could arrive through several sources at any time. Until then, residents should not anticipate seeing significant changes at Montavilla Park, aside from the construction fences coming down and a little extra grass to enjoy.

Power Network Upgrades on Stark

Yesterday, DJ’s Electrical employees installed an automatic high-voltage switch on power lines along SE Stark Street. This new equipment allows PGE to manage its power system remotely. As part of this project, workers upsized one utility pole and reworked power lines on SE Stark from 80th Ave to 76th Ave. This work will strengthen the local power supply against the upcoming winter storm season and allow PGE staff to restore power faster in an outage. During construction, traffic cones blocked one lane of traffic on Stark, enabling bucket trucks to work next to the power lines.

Workers replaced power line equipment at several locations in Montavilla town on October 27th. To support new heavy equipment, crews installed a replacement utility pole near the Montavilla Farmers Market. The removed street light pole supported service lines to a local business but otherwise did not connect with the power distribution lines above. In addition to supporting new high-voltage electric switches, the taller and thicker pole is comparable in size to others on the block, adding another support point for the power lines along Stark Street.

Linemen are installing Viper® “recloser” switches along Stark street. These units “detect and interrupt faults in the power line,” explained Jonathan Hutchison, a PGE’s Communications representative. These new network-connected units operate remotely without the need to dispatch technicians to the site when restoring power. Hutchison went on to say that the central management of reclosers is essential to fast power restoration after an incident. “The ability to operate remotely allows for power to be redirected quickly, which reduces the length of outages.”

An employee of DJ’s Electrical working on this project said this team had installed similar equipment at many sites along Stark Street in the past month. As a power line professional, he is impressed with the new technology and its impact on power outage response time. Storm damage can break power lines or cause shorts that trigger an emergency shutoff of large sections in the electrical network. Crews historically had to drive out to the site and manually isolate the damaged area before power could return for most of the affected customers. This remotely controlled system will do the same isolation and re-energization work from the central office, letting linemen focus strictly on repairs.

PGE coverage map

Stark Street represents the north edge of PGE’s power grid in Montavilla, with Pacific Power operating service for the homes and businesses north of that street. Last winter’s ice storm caused prolonged outages in all areas of the city. With the current investment by PGE, they hope to reduce the impact caused by future storms on their customers. If your power outages seem shorter this season, it may be due to work taking place this Fall.

No Parking Zone Removed on Stark

Last weekthe Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) removed the No Parking zone on SE Stark Street across from SE 79th Ave. Crews installed the new signs several days before as part of the City’s effort to improve visibility at intersections. The decision to revert to one-hour parking in this area came about due to staff reevaluating the City’s criteria for visibility at “T” intersections.

Last week’s parking changes were unexpected for several business owners in the area, and the reversal seemed just as sudden. Jacob Wollner of Flipside Hats owns the building directly behind the now removed No Parking zone. He was excited to see pedestrian safety improvements on SE Stark Street but was not convinced that it was effective as implemented. “The signage placement [was] a little strange, centered not directly across on the 79th street right of way but to the west several feet.” Wollner went on to explain that visibility is not the only issue to solve on Stark “I’d say the bigger issue is the speed at which people are driving. So let’s focus on slowing down.”

Empty concrete anchors where the PBOT No Parking sign was previously mounted

Wollner and other people concerned with the No Parking zone’s placement did not have long to wait. PBOT staff quickly reconsidered this and other similar updates, adjusting their guidelines to provide a balanced approach to pedestrian safety. “As we implement our new vision clearance guidance, we have had to make a determination regarding how to treat T intersections. SE 79th/Stark is one such T intersection. While we initially started our effort by clearing the ‘back side’ of all T intersections, we have since fine-tuned our approach, and we now only clear the backsides of T intersections when there are curb ramps serving the crossing at the T intersection,” explained PBOT Communications Coordinator, Hannah Schafer.

For now, the one-hour parking will remain on the south side of Stark Street at 79th. However, Schafer said that that could change when PBOT reworks the Stark Street Crossing in this area.” Currently, there are no curb ramps serving the crossing across Stark at 79th, so per our revised approach, we are no longer clearing parking at the backside of that T until such time as curb ramps are provided in the future.” PBOT has not revealed any plans to install curb ramps here, and any updates are likely years away. For most drivers, this quick change went unnoticed, but it does indicate PBOT’s commitment to pedestrian safety while adapting to community feedback.

Construction Begins at Mt Tabor Park

This week, workers erected a construction fence around half of the Long Block in Mt Tabor Park. Located on SE Lincoln Street, the enclosed space will become a plant storage area. Nearby, crews will construct a new greenhouse along SE 64th Ave. These two small projects are part of a sizeable multi-phase development now underway.

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) staff started this work as part of the Mt Tabor Central Maintenance Yard Project, breaking ground on a decades-long effort to modernize the central maintenance facility at Mt Tabor Park. The facilities improvement project took form in 2014 with a patchwork of funding. However, planning began years before with the Mt Tabor Central Maintenance Yard & Nursery Master Plan, finalized in 2009. Pandemic closures and significant construction cost increases pushed back this project until now.

construction fences around the Long Block on SE Lincoln Street

The Mt Tabor Yard serves as a central dispatch for PP&R maintenance and nursery services across the city. Over 140 maintenance employees work from this location. Most of the project’s construction will occur within the existing yard’s boundaries. However, Phase 1 expands into park space that previously served the public. The Long Block is located from SE 60th to 64th Avenues, between SE Harrison and Lincoln Streets. This 600 foot-long flat grassy field, often a site for group athletic activities, is now half its original length and separated from other park amenities.

The public space lost is relatively minimal compared to the enhancements planned around the worksite. Portlanders will gain increased access to Mt Tabor Park via a new paved multimodal pathway connecting SE Division Street and SE 64th Avenue. The gravel east edge of SE 64th Ave between SE Sherman and SE Lincoln Streets will gain a new curb and sidewalk, fully connecting paved access to the park from Division Street. Around the site, PP&R will plant native landscaping with over 100 new trees. Plans also include a public art installation in partnership with the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC).

Work will progress over the next two years, with an expected completion date in the Summer of 2023. Users of this area of Mt Tabor Park should anticipate increased activity and some traffic disruption during the project’s construction. When completed, PP&R will be one step closer to having a modern maintenance facility to serve Portland’s numerous green spaces more efficiently.

PP&R illustration from the Mt Tabor Central Maintenance Yard & Nursery Master Plan

Curb Ramps on SE Mill and 76th

This week, road crews began the curb ramp installation project at SE Mill Street and 76th Ave. Workers have repositioned stormwater drains away from the new crossing paths. Next, wood forms will reshape these corners ahead of concrete work. This project expanded from its original scope to include all four corners at the intersection. Based on road markings, ramp alignment may shift north and south from some corners to account for Mill Street’s staggered crossing of 76th Ave. Expect occasional lane closures and daytime congestion on SE 76th Ave over the next several weeks.


Original article published on Febuary 25th, 2021

Two new curb ramps are coming to the intersection of SE Mill Street and 76th Ave. The improvements will provide an accessible crossing of SE 76th Ave, near Bridger School’s rear-entrance. Each corner will gain two ramps making crossing points perpendicular to the roads they cross.

No previous ramps exist on these corners. However, there is an older single ramp on the southeast corner. It is not included in this project and will remain unaltered. Mill Street does not align perfectly through the intersection, forcing one ramp’s placement further back from the corner.

The painted street markings, indicating the planned changes, only appeared this week. Actual work often follows months after surveyors mark the street. Expect to see some sidewalk closures and curbside barricades when crews begin the project later this year.

Southwest corner

Northeast corner

No Parking Zones on SE Stark

Update: Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) removed the No Parking zone on SE Stark Street across from SE 79th Ave. READ MORE

Sunday morning, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) staff converted several one-hour and two-hour street parking spaces into No Parking zones. Crews installed new signs on poles along the south side of Stark Street in two sections. The new car-free curb areas align with 78th Ave and 79th Ave. These changes are part of the City’s effort to improve visibility at intersections.

SE 78th and 79th Avenues do not continue straight across Stark Street. Southbound 79th ends at this intersection and does not return to the city street grid until after SE Division Street. SE 78th Ave continues south beyond Stark Street but shifts 70 feet east. Both T-intersections had previously allowed parking across from the ending street, creating a problematic crossing point for pedestrians. With the south side of the road full of parked vehicles, people crossing southbound at those intersections would have difficulty finding a path to the sidewalk between parked cars. A greater danger occurred when northbound pedestrians would enter traffic lanes from behind parked vehicles a the intersection, surprising motorists driving on Stark.

The expanded curbside visibility will make 78th and 79th more appealing for pedestrians to cross. However, the City does not intend to increase crossing infrastructure at these locations. “There are no plans to install marked crosswalks at this time, but Oregon law states that every intersection is a crosswalk,” said Hannah Schafer, a Communications Coordinator with PBOT.

No Parking zone in front of 7850 SE Stark

Although these changes are positive safety improvements, several businesses now have reduced access to curbside parking near their business. Parking along SE Stark Street can become limited at times, particularly with many spaces used for outdoor dining. Some business owners and customers are likely to be disappointed with these changes. However, according to Schafer, removing parking to improve visibility is a national best practice and needed on a busy commercial street like Stark. “Neighborhood business districts are some of the busiest places for pedestrian activity. People love to walk from shop to shop… We want them to feel safe as they walk or use a mobility device.”

The No Parking zones are already in effect. Expect to see more people crossing Stark at 78th and 79th Avenues as they discover the safety created by removing parked cars from the intersection’s edges.


Portland Maps image showing approximate no parking zones

The Barrier to Green Medians

SE Division Street is undergoing significant updates from 80th Ave towards 174th Ave. In addition to numerous safety enhancements, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) will replace a continuous painted center turn-lane with a raised center median. Adding these dividers to busy streets provides substantial public benefit. They restrict left turn traffic to predictable places, protect crossing pedestrians, and provide space for added street trees. Perhaps more than the other benefits, community members enthusiastically awaited the expanded green spaces proposed for the center of this project. Unfortunately, PBOT is unable to provide most of the trees intended for SE Division Street.

Adding trees between multiple lanes of opposing traffic has several advantages. Visually it reduces the width of a road and can help reduce speeds by changing the character of a street. Additionally, generations of road designers have valued the sunshade and wind-breaking benefits that median trees provide. Consequential, PBOT staff intended to incorporate large numbers of trees into the Division Street redesign. However, decades of city infrastructure buried underground derailed plans to add them to the center of the road. “We originally planned on adding trees in all of the center medians coming to SE Division. However, during the design phase, we learned that the majority of proposed tree locations would be in conflict with an underground major water transmission line and also sewer infrastructure in certain areas.” Explained John Brady, Communications Director with PBOT.

Image courtesy of PBOT

PBOT will not forgo all center medians trees on SE Division. In total, crews will plant twenty new trees in the middle of the road at locations that do not conflict with underground utility lines. Montavilla will have a small cluster of trees between SE 84th and 85th Avenues. Crews will start construction on that segment of median in the coming weeks.

SE Division looking west towards 82nd Ave

Because PBOT cannot provide the expected number of trees in this project, Brady said they are shifting that portion of the work out to neighboring streets. “Since we are not able to plant as many trees as originally planned on SE Division, we will be working with the City’s Urban Forestry division to fund a planting project on adjacent side streets north and south of SE Division.” That project will add over 200 street trees within the public right-of-way. Tree planting work will occur in 2022 and 2023. Brady concedes that this is a compromise to PBOT’s original vision. “We recognize this won’t have the same effect as adding trees directly on SE Division Street, but it will help with overall air quality, stormwater management, and combating the heat sink in this part of East Portland.”

The twenty new street trees on SE Division will not be alone forever. As properties redevelop along the roadway, the City will require the construction of wider sidewalks with street trees. This approach will take decades to achieve the same green-scape initially imagined for the busy street’s renovation. However, it is the best option available at the moment. Perhaps as City engineers plan new utility line projects, they will consider shifting infrastructure away from the center, allowing for future planting of greenery between the vast expanses of pavement.