When the McLoughlin Area Plan Implementation Team or MAP-IT was formed in the fall of 2012, the 15-member group divided into committees to tackle the 52 programs and projects that had been identified in the four-year long community visioning process known as the Mcloughin Area Plan or MAP.
The Streetscape Committee consisted of three members that had professional experience in designing public places and transportation projects. The Committee reviewed the 52 items identified in the MAP and then proposed a charter for the committee that focused on those items that were unique to McLoughlin Boulevard, also designated as State Highway 99E.
Perhaps the most popular item among the entire MAP-IT membership was the installation of a continuous string of streetlights from the city of Gladstone in the south to the city of Milwaukie in the north, some six miles of 100-foot wide right-of-way with only intermittent street lighting, mostly at signaled intersections and Tri-Met bus stops.
Redevelopment projects yielded a few more streetlights during the intervening years as the committee began meeting with county staff on streetlighting issue. When the committee was unable to make headway with county staff, the committee approached the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) directly, and while there was sympathy and agreement as to the need, the committee was again denied their request due to lack of funds.
Undeterred, the MAP-IT Streetscape sub-committee kept up the pressure. When they learned that PGE and the county were negotiating a swap that would save the county money in ongoing operations by switching to the new LED fixtures and would also net over a half million dollars in capital reserve, the committee ramped up its lobbying. With the addition of an award from Energy Trust for the switch to LED fixtures for another $200,000, suddenly it appeared that there was money for streetlights on McLoughlin. In response to the groundswell of support, county engineering went to work but eventually discovered that there was a gap in projected project cost and the amount in the capital reserve.
However the gap was such that the county eventually agreed to help MAP-IT launch a petition to bring the entire corridor into the Clackamas County Special District #5, the streetlighting arm of the county. The Streetscape Sub-Committee continued to meet with county staff to craft a plan that met the needs of the community, the county, PGE and ODOT, which has final authority on activity in the 100-foot wide right-of-way. Even though the process seemed to bog down many times, the committee members patiently called, met or emailed on a regular basis to nudge the process along until plans were issued and numbers were crunched.
In the meantime, the Streetscape Committee had been folded with the other committees formed at the beginning of MAP-IT into what was known as the Working Group, with the exception of the Design Committee which was tasked with another seemingly insurmountable accomplishment, a public process to establish a redevelopment overlay zone for the new light rail station on Park Avenue. The working group also included some of the local business owners that had originally formed under the aegis of the McLoughlin Area Business Alliance or MABA, which had five seats on MAP-IT. The Working Group came to the conclusion that the MABA members would be the best emissaries to the other business and property owners for the petition drive because they could make the case that better lighting would be worth the additional annual cost that would show up on the property tax statement.
To the surprise of county staff, instincts proved accurate when the MABA team achieved over 60 percent approval from the property owners along 99E in short order. Finally, in 2015 the BCC approved moving forward and final numbers were generated, indicating an even larger funding gap than before. However, by tapping into a substantial capital reserve fund and ongoing savings, as well as negotiating some concessions from the other partners, the county moved to fund the project and the final details began to be worked out. That took another year and a half because ODOT and PGE continued to line up roadblocks in design requirements, implementation procedures and available internal resources.
Finally, on May 5, the first of 60-plus new LED lights was installed at the north end of the project area in front of MS Glass and the Castle mall. The community staged a celebration to recognize the project members on May 10 in front of the Elk's Lodge.
Terry John Gibson is McLoughlin Area Plan Implementation Team vice chair and Streetscape Sub-Committee chair.