Despite protest, Foster Road improvement project a go-ahead

A group protests the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project on Tuesday at Southeast 67th Avenue and Foster. (KATU Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Despite protests, the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project will continue on schedule. Construction is expected to begin next year.

Passed unanimously by Portland's City Council in 2014, the project prioritizes safety and streetscape elements to transform the Foster Road corridor into centers of vibrant and unique neighborhoods.

Foster Road will be converted from a four lane thoroughfare to a three-lane low-speed corridor. Traffic will be restricted to one lane each direction with a center turn lane. Bike lanes on each side of the street will be added. The project calls for several crosswalks to be installed. The improvements will extend from Southeast 50th Avenue to the western edge of the Lents Town Center at Southeast 90th Avenue.

"For driving, walking and for biking, it's going to be so much safer," Dan Campbell said. "This is something that we've been working on for a long time and finally it's going to happen, where this neighborhood is going to actually be a usable, functional, livable street."

Campbell lives in the Foster-Powell neighborhood. He is a small business owner and commutes on Foster Road.

"With the open lanes, it's too easy to drive fast," he said. "To me, it's just making a safer Foster."

Currently, Southeast Foster Road is designated a High Crash Corridor with over 1,200 crashes and eight fatalities reported in the last 10 years. Five of the eight deaths were pedestrians.

The Foster Area Business Association voted unanimously to support the Foster streetscape. At the hearing before City Council passed the plan, not a single business owner testified against it.

On Tuesday night, Campbell joined Commissioner Steve Novick, business owners and neighbors for a show-and-tell walk on Foster Road. At Southeast 67th Avenue and Foster, supporters collided into dozens of protesters.

"Keep Foster four lanes! Keep Foster four lanes!" protester Bob Tousignant chanted.

Tousignant, a Foster Road property owner, says he wants to see safety improvements to the road, but does not approve of the planned configuration.

"The city has let us know what their agenda is, they want this to be pedestrian and bike friendly only," he said. "I think they've been fed a bunch of bologna!"

Tousignant doesn't believe businesses will be affected, but he says traffic will, and many drivers will avoid using Foster Road or spill onto small neighborhood streets.

PBOT believes commute times on Foster Road will increase about three minutes.

"I think if you ask people, would you be willing to volunteer three minutes a day for a project that makes it possible for kids to walk safely to school, people would say yes," Novick said in an interview Tuesday night.

A protester came face-to-face with Novick in front of EuroClassic Furniture, now decorated in bright neon colored signs. Novick addressed the crowd saying the project will go on as planned.

According to the project website, the project is the result of a 16 month planning process that has demonstrated strong community support from businesses, neighborhoods, local schools, local organizations and hundreds of residents. PBOT held five open houses with over 450 people attending. In addition, over 430 people filled out a survey with 80 percent supporting the plan.

Design engineering of the project has begun. 100 percent plans are anticipated by the fall of 2016, with construction to begin in early of 2017.

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