The plan to turn 82nd Avenue— currently one of the city's most dangerous arterials— into a safe, pleasant city street is starting to materialize. On Wednesday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) revealed design drawings for the 82nd Avenue Critical Fixes: Major Maintenance project, a significant component of the city's larger plan to redesign the busy east Portland street. PBOT is now seeking public input to finalize the project design, and plans to begin construction this summer.  

PBOT says the "major maintenance" project, funded with $55 million in federal dollars from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, will bring safety improvements and “transformative maintenance upgrades” to a 2.5 mile stretch of 82nd Avenue. Planned changes include new pavement and sidewalks, traffic signal and street marking upgrades, and landscaped medians that give trees “more space to grow and thrive.” The bureau plans to plant 250 new trees along the corridor, bringing greenery and tree canopy to a part of Portland currently dominated by concrete. 

Up until 2022, 82nd Avenue was a state highway operated by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). As Portland expanded east, the street began to function not as a state highway but as a city street, serving people traveling to the many businesses and residences along the corridor. Now under city control, PBOT wants to change the design of 82nd Avenue to better reflect its current use. 

PBOT's plan for major maintenance along 82nd Avenue was developed over the better part of the last year, with the bureau conducting substantial public outreach and research about the urgent safety improvements people want to see. But the plan to reshape 82nd Avenue has in fact been much longer in the making.

Transportation safety advocates and east Portland residents have called for change on 82nd Avenue for years, incensed by the danger the street's car-oriented design poses to road users, especially those walking, biking, or taking transit. Now that a plan to redesign the street is in place— and a significant amount of money has been allocated to the plan— it has become one of the most highly anticipated transportation projects in the city, notable enough that U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined local transportation planners and advocates on a tour of the street last summer

The map of the major maintenance project. pbot

The major maintenance phase of the 82nd Avenue plan will focus on two separate segments of the street, from Northeast Fremont to Northeast Schuyler streets and from Southeast Mill Street to Southeast Foster Road. According to PBOT, these two segments were selected in part for their proximity to major destinations and neighborhood centers, such as the Jade District, Lents Town Center, the Eastport Shopping Center, and McDaniel High School. 

According to the project's current draft concept design, PBOT plans to add center medians to nearly every block of those two street segments: A significant visual difference compared to the street's current design. The medians will narrow the roadway for car traffic to encourage slower speeds and give people crossing the street a refuge in the middle of the road— a benefit for safety and accessibility. The medians also provide physical separation between north and southbound car traffic, reducing the risk of serious crashes. 

Another rendering of the future 82nd Avenue. pbot

In addition to the changes planned for 82nd Avenue itself, the plan also includes new designs for intersecting streets to accommodate people traveling east-west across east Portland. The proposed changes include buffered bike lanes on NE Fremont Street on both sides of 82nd Avenue, painted bike boxes on NE Tillamook Street on either side of 82nd, and sidewalk infill on SE Division Street east of 82nd.

"When we invest in PBOT, we invest in the safety and livability of our community and grow the economy by contracting with local construction companies to perform the work," PBOT Director Millicent Williams said in a press release. "Our staff have been working for months to ensure this major maintenance project will be responsive to community needs. We are bringing wider sidewalks, crossing improvements, street trees and more to a corridor where people have disproportionately been affected by climate impacts and unsafe pedestrian conditions." 

This project is only one of several included in the $185 million plan to overhaul 82nd Avenue. For the next three years, PBOT will focus on the "critical fixes" component of the plan, which is funded with American Rescue Plan Act money that must be spent by 2026. The "critical fixes" plan will bring changes to other stretches of 82nd Avenue, including rebuilding pedestrian crossing signals at several intersections and adding additional street lighting along the entire corridor. PBOT hopes the initial changes to 82nd Avenue, which is currently located on the city's list of high crash corridors, will better prepare the street and its users for a bigger makeover down the line. 

Eventually, PBOT wants 82nd Avenue to be a "civic corridor," a street that easily accommodates multimodal traffic and is pleasant to live along, with landscaping and mid-rise development lining the street. Transit planners from TriMet and Metro are currently looking into options for high-capacity transit on 82nd Avenue, most likely in the form of bus rapid transit. As conditions improve along the corridor, planners also want to make sure its current residents won't be displaced, and are looking to create "community stabilization" on the street to reduce potential gentrification. 

Street safety advocates hope PBOT's work on 82nd Avenue will help trigger other multimodal street redesigns  in Portland and beyond, especially on state-owned highways (known as "orphan highways").

"[82nd Avenue] is no longer just an orphan highway with used car lots that people want to rush through. It's now a destination where people want to gather...but even amidst this revitalization, every year in my community we have had to mourn at least one person who died on 82nd Avenue," Oregon Representative Khanh Pham, a longtime advocate for East Portland transportation safety, said during Buttigieg's tour of 82nd Avenue last summer.  "I really hope this could be a model for other orphan highways across the state and across the country...At the end of this, we'll have cleaner air, more shade, and more affordable housing to make sure that the immigrants and diverse communities that made this city so vibrant get to stay." 

The current design draft for the 82nd Avenue "major maintenance" project is available here. PBOT will accept community input on the plan until March 31, via an online open house or several in-person events