Khanh Pham was elected in 2020 to represent District 46, which covers much of SE Portland, from NE 32nd in Laurelhurst to SE 112th in Mill Park and Powellhurst-Gilbert. 82nd Ave runs through the length of her district.
At the beginning of the month the Oregon Department of Transportation agreed to spend $70 million on upgrading 82nd and the City of Portland agreed to spend $30 million. What kind of things will this money pay for?
This funding agreement gets us one step closer to realizing a community vision for 82nd ave that is safer and smarter. Altogether, the funds from the State Legislature/ODOT/PBOT total $185 million and pays for the cost of bringing signals, lighting, ADA ramps (total $95 million), pavement ($78 million), and stormwater ($12 million) to state of good repair, and addressing some of the most urgent deficiencies in sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. All of these improvements align with the City’s future vision for the roadway and will be implemented over the next several years.
Why is the transfer of ownership of 82nd from the state to the City of Portland important?
With this transfer from state to local control, we can realize the community vision to have these urban arterials be connecting forces for our neighborhood. There are many families, businesses, and transit along 82nd Avenue, including a high school and community centers. Destinations like the Jade District and Montavilla make 82nd Avenue a citywide attraction for restaurants, shopping, and services.
It is a regionally significant transportation corridor, hosting one of TriMet’s busiest bus lines, serving 20,000 to 30,000 vehicle trips a day.
82nd Avenue is the center line geographically in Portland, but 82nd Ave has also been a dividing line in terms of race and socio-economic class, and historically marginalized communities are unfairly impacted by dangerous streets in East Portland. This long-awaited funding will transform 82nd Avenue from a dangerous dividing line into a safe, community-focused bridge.
Who were the important people to talk to for getting this money dedicated?
For years, there was agreement over needing to transfer the road, the key hold up was who and how much to pay to facilitate this exchange. This legislative session, there was a well-timed confluence of factors that led to this breakthrough funding, a combination of outside advocates and inside the government lawmakers that would not let this moment pass. First of all, key investment dollars opening up from President Biden & Congress’s American Rescue Plan helped make this a possibility. The hard work came from advocates like Ashton Simpson from Oregon Walks, Duncan Hwang and friends at APANO, 82nd avenue safety coalition, Street Trust, and countless others folks dedicated to safe streets and East Portland, who kept the pressure on.
Each level of government at the table played their part, from Lobbyist Stacy Cowan at City of Portland, Director Chris Warner at PBOT, and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty representing PBOT to Directors Kris Strickler, Rian Windsheimer, and Lindsay Baker at ODOT. House Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Smith Warner and Senator Michael Dembrow worked on the issue for many years, and were powerful supporters. Lastly, having House Speaker Tina Kotek and her mastery of the funding process and our state budget co-chair Dan Rayfield greenlighting the project eventually. Congressman Earl Blumenauer also made this a key priority, showing unified support at every level of government.
Of all the arguments for funding 82nd, what was the most compelling for the people making the decisions?
As a community organizer, I have spent the last 5+ years working on this issue (and many advocates have been fighting for this for even longer) and this agreement is a testament to the power of community organizing and refusing to take no for an answer. In Portland, 82nd Avenue is a defining roadway, and is located in one of the most diverse areas of our state, but for too long the road was defined by how dangerous it is for people walking, biking, and driving. Tragically, 16 traffic-related deaths occurred on 82nd Avenue between 2007 and 2018. As recently as April 2021, two pedestrians were killed on 82nd Avenue last month while trying to cross the street, further pressing the need for this landmark funding.
You have been working on safety improvements on 82nd for a long time. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you first started advocating for 82nd, what would it be?
Inside-outside strategies are key. Figure out who key decision makers are and target them with advocacy, relentlessly. When you have the backing of the public, the mandate to act, and the relationships to sustain the fight, you’ve got a winning recipe.
The Portland region has lots of high speed arterials that cut through many communities that Getting There Together Coalition members are focused on. What advice would you give to coalition members who are trying to incorporate transportation justice into their agendas?
Keep building broad coalitions of different stakeholders who all care about transportation justice. From storeowners to parents of schoolchildren, to bicyclists and pedestrians, we all have a stake in building a safe and active transportation system that serves communities needs.
Words by: Kiel Johnson