Neighbors weigh in on Foster Road makeover

Residents from the Lents neighborhood meet with Portland Bureau of Transportation's Rich Newlands (left) to discuss a controversial project to revamp Foster Road. (KATU Photo)

A group of Southeast Portland residents from the Lents neighborhood had a face-to-face discussion with the Portland Bureau of Transportation Thursday night about a controversial project that will revamp Foster Road.

"It's not surprising that not everyone supports it," said Rich Newlands, project manager for PBOT.

The Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project has been a hot-button issue for neighbors since it was approved by Portland's City Council in 2014, and now with construction imminent, opponents are making one last-ditch effort to have their voices heard.

"If people are objected to it and there is any way of turning back the tide, I would say write your city, write your mayor, write your commissioners, tell them how you really feel," said Char Pennie of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association.

The project will reduce Foster Road from a four-lane road to a two-lane road, adding bike lanes and center left-turn lanes.

"A project like this that entails certain significant trade-offs, taking a travel lane and re-purposing it does require a big conversation with the community," Newlands said.

Since early 2016 the project has seen backlash and even protests from some neighbors, although PBOT says overall the community is in favor of the project.

"They really want a different Foster Road. Foster Road really doesn’t work for the neighborhood right now. It’s just not a particularly neighborhood-oriented street," Newlands said.

PBOT says safety is the main benefit of the project, something that even strident opponents admit is a problem in the area.

"There’s been a lot of accidents on Foster, I know that, I know that. But this, I don’t think is the perfect answer because it’s just going to impact the neighborhoods where there are children," said Pennie.

Others have concerns about increased traffic on and around a street that is already one of the busiest in all of Portland.

"I think we’re just going to see nothing but gridlock," said Bob Tousignant, who owns property along Foster Road.

"The cars are going to come into the city, people are going to own cars, I don’t know why they think that they’re all of a sudden going to stop the cars from moving about, but this is just a dumb idea, I hate to say it," said Tousignant.

PBOT has the project slated to begin at the end of 2017 or early 2018, and it expects these conversations to continue with the public up to and beyond the groundbreaking date.

"It’s good to have opportunities like this to be able to explain in a more significant way, get into those details, remind people of the safety benefits and things like that, that aren’t readily obvious when you remove a travel lane," said Newlands.

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