By Delaney Neal
(June 30, 2021) On Thursday, June 10, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) hosted a virtual open house for the public before construction began on the SW Capitol Highway project this week. PBOT Project Manager Steve Szigethy went over the background and design of the project, then opened the floor for questions. The meeting was hosted in partnership with Jen Gray-O'Connor of Lois D. Cohen Associates.
Landis & Landis Construction was present to answer questions along with representatives from PBOT, the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), the Portland Water Bureau, and TriMet. Around 67 people attended the open house. The Q&A portion of the evening was full of excitement about the transformative project, as well as some concerns about construction. Everyone’s questions were addressed by the panel, made up of staff from a range of city bureaus and agencies involved in the project.
This $27.5 million project has funding from numerous sources, including $6.6 million from Fixing Our Streets, the city’s 10-cent gas tax, and $12 million from BES. Szigethy said residents have been advocating for this project for 30 years, but that the project really started to come together once the Fixing Our Streets program was approved by voters in May 2016. Legislation also helped fund this project, with $2 million coming from Oregon Lottery funds after approval by the state legislature in 2017.
The SW Capitol Highway project was developed in collaboration with community members who sat on the Multnomah Neighborhood Association’s SW Capitol Highway subcommittee. PBOT also received feedback on the plan at open houses, community walks, and “office hours” sessions. This has been a multi-bureau effort, with PBOT, BES, the Portland Water Bureau, and TriMet at the table. Representatives from all of these bureaus and agencies were included as panelists at last week’s open house, eager to answer questions from the public about each of their roles in the project.
Currently there are no sidewalks, bike lanes, or proper stormwater management along SW Capitol Highway in the project area slated for improvement. This forces pedestrians to use a dirt “goat path” alongside the busy street, while people bicycling must bike in vehicle traffic. Meanwhile, stormwater does not adequately drain during the rainy season. With construction underway, crews will add a sidewalk and protected bike lane on the east side of SW Capitol Highway, between Brugger Street and Garden Home Road, as well as a multiuse path for pedestrians and people biking on the west side, between Taylors Ferry and Garden Home roads. Crews will also build five new pedestrian crossings, nearly all of them paired with TriMet bus stops, making it safer for pedestrians and others accessing public transit. Finally, crews will repave the entire stretch of SW Capitol Highway between Collins Street and Garden Home Road.
Capitol Highway is an essential artery connecting the Multnomah Village shopping district to nearby residential neighborhoods. This project includes a protected pedestrian and bike path on SW Multnomah Boulevard, which will make the entire area safer for pedestrians and people biking.
The plans include significant work to manage stormwater along SW Capitol Highway, spearheaded by BES. Runoff from the street and sidewalks will collect into a system of 7,000 feet of pipes that will drain this stormwater to four facilities known as “rain gardens.” These gardens collect, clean, and slow the water down before it collects in nearby creeks. The Portland Water Bureau will also upgrade the water main on a significant portion of SW Capitol Highway. Multiple bureaus coordinating their work like this means less disruption to the public.
Construction started June 14 and will continue for 18 months. Coming up, crews will work nights for some in-roadway pipe work for about a week in late July around the intersection of SW Multnomah Boulevard and 40th Avenue. In August, crews will begin detouring southbound traffic to SW Garden Home Road and 45th Drive. This includes southbound TriMet #44 and #64 bus lines. Northbound traffic will continue to use SW Capitol Highway.
At the open house, the Q&A portion was full of neighbors excited about the project. Several also asked about the detour and pedestrian safety throughout construction. Szigethy explained how PBOT already requested a lower speed limit along the detour and will put in additional pedestrian crossings. PBOT will also carefully monitor the road to see how the detour affects traffic and to see if any other steps need to be taken. PBOT Construction Manager Dan Sosnovske explained how pedestrians can still access some existing “goat paths” on SW Capitol Highway throughout construction. Katy Asher, who handles construction outreach for the Water Bureau, also addressed a question about the water main work, saying residents will be given plenty of notice about water shut offs, which will be limited to a few hours for minimal disruption.
The open house was an excellent kickoff to the SW Capitol Highway improvement project. The community was excited about the new sidewalks and bike lanes, and staff, including Steve Szigethy and other members of the panel, expressed their excitement to finally break ground after so much planning!
Sign up for email updates and read more about the project at portland.gov/transportation/capitolhwy
Contact the project team at email@example.com on our hotline at503-823-2516.
Watch the virtual open house here.
Delaney Neal is a Communications Assistant with PBOT Communications & Public Involvement and a student at Reed College in Southeast Portland.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the city’s transportation system and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage, and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more at portland.gov/transportation