As a way to spur community investment, the Portland Bureau of Transportation this month completed new updates to Cully Boulevard in Northeast Portland as part of their green street project committed to improving
historically underserved communities.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams joined other officials, area residents and business leaders to celebrate the completion of the state-of-the-art Cully rebuild from Killingsworth to Prescott streets, where they were joined by Matthew Garrett, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, to see the wide sidewalks, separated bikeway, efficient street lights, and landscaped planters along what was once a crumbling street.
“The progress that has been made in one year is jaw-dropping,” Adams said. “The green street will make Cully safer, increase property values, encourage commerce to move here, and further inspire the community to invest in itself.”
The Boulevard Green Street Project was finished in less than one year, which was two months ahead of schedule.
“We have here an example of how investing in even the most basic transportation investments – a solid street, sidewalks and bikeways – can transform an area and promote more active transportation and support local businesses,” said Garrett.
The owner of the 7-11 store at Cully and 60th Avenue, Rizwan-Haq said the improvements have drastically increased the amount of traffic in his store.
“Before sales were down,” he said. “And now my sales are increasing $20,000 per month, starting after the light was put in.”
The improvements to Cully reduce road and pedestrian conflicts and improve visibility and safety among travelers through separate sidewalks, bikeways, and street spaces and with an additional traffic signal. New street corners with curb extensions and Americans with Disabilities Act curb ramps narrow crossings and make the street wheelchair accessible.
Garrett said the project makes the neighborhood both safer and more accessible whether you travel by bike, by foot, car or bus.
Haq, whose store is located right by the new traffic light, which replaced a five stop blinking light, agrees. “The amount of car and bike accidents have also gone down,” he said. Now, however, he said there is a need for cameras with automatic sensors.”
Ubi Baldwin, 24, who rides his bike frequently, said, “It is a little less hectic now. Before it was go if you dare.”
“They made bike lanes that are pretty cool, because no cars can park in the bike lane” said his 20-year-old brother Sam Baldwin. “But the only problem is it takes forever now.”
Charlie Leggett, who has lived in the neighborhood for 24 years, said, “The only thing I don’t like is traffic is going a lot faster now.” While the roads are paved, and the bike lane is wider, he said there are more speeding cars. “I always complained because the highway seemed dangerous before, but now, they are going so fast, they just swish on through,” said Leggett.
The project received crucial early support from the Metro Council and the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, a regional body that controls federal transportation money in the Portland area. The council and JPACT approved $2.4 million in federal money for the Cully project, nearly half the project budget, starting in 2002.
“To make the most of these limited dollars, the region has focused on making our streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists,” Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder said. “It’s especially important for us to put these investments in minority and low income areas that have been overlooked by urban planners for too long.”
The Cully project cost approximately $5.4 million for design, right of way acquisition, and construction. It received approximately $1.9 million from the City of Portland’s general fund, $1.2 million of City of Portland Sewer System Development Charges, and $2.4 million in federal funds through Metro’s Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program.