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ODOT 'expedites' 17th Avenue bike/ped lane

People who bike, walk or skateboard between Oregon City, Gladstone or Oak Grove and downtown Portland will have to wait a couple more years before Milwaukie can fix its dangerous stretch of Southeast 17th Avenue between McLoughlin Boulevard and Ochoco Street behind the Goodwill outlet store.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Engineering Director Jason Rice says current conditions on Southeast 17th Avenue show why Milwaukie feels so strongly about finishing the last mile of the multiuse path between the Trolley Trail and the Springwater Corridor.Designed to connect the Trolley Trail with the Springwater Corridor, a revised project schedule begins construction in May 2016 on 17th Avenue’s multiuse path between downtown Milwaukie and Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood.

With completion set for November 2016, the revised $3.3 million project schedule came at the insistence of local elected officials and assumes an “expedited review process” by ODOT.

Currently 17th Avenue has intermittent sidewalks and striped bike lanes only on the east side for nearly a mile. Along with these changing road features, a lack of curbs and stormwater drainage along stretches has resulted in deteriorating conditions and a hazardous environment, particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians. Inserting an off-street multiuse path along the west side will protect bikers and pedestrians from car and truck traffic along the busy roadway.

Metro selected this project for funding in 2011 because it also safely connects communities with high concentrations of low-income people (Oak Lodge/Milwaukie) to jobs and services. Biking recently to a roofing job in Portland, Oak Grove resident Eric Saloum, 42, said he “doesn’t care either way” about TriMet’s light-rail project, but he would like to see a bike/ped path on 17th Avenue as soon as possible.

“Every other stretch is fairly easy and hassle-free on a bike,” Saloum said.

Starting with the area adjacent to Pioneer Cemetery and Waverley Country Club, the initial project schedule provided by ODOT’s design consultant Harper Houf Peterson Righellis (selected this spring) showed construction starting in spring 2017 with completion by fall 2017.

Councilor Mark Gamba, who had joined the City Council in unanimously approving an intergovernmental agreement with ODOT last August, was among the many locals who balked at this proposed schedule. Feeling so strongly about finishing this “last mile” of multiuse path between the Trolley Trail and the Springwater Corridor, city officials had expected design and easement acquisitions to take just more than a year, setting them up for construction in spring of 2015, with the project completed by fall of that year. Gamba, along with city and Metro staff members, met with ODOT staff to express their distaste for ODOT’s proposed 2017 completion date.

“Five years to build a milelong bike lane was ridiculous,” Gamba said.

Metro’s flexible-funding grant will provide up to $2.97 million for the project, while the city is supplying at least $310,000.

Gamba thought part of the problem was that the bike-lane money was mostly coming out of a federal highway budget, usually for building larger, more complicated projects.

But Milwaukie Engineering Director Jason Rice said that he’s seen lots of federal projects built in Milwaukie on a much shorter timeline. He will update the City Council during a study session scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at City Hall.



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