ODOT removing more than 500 trees for Powell Blvd. safety improvements

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 6:20 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Pedestrian and bike-friendly safety improvements are underway on Southeast Powell Boulevard.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says these changes will help reduce the frequency and severity of crashes on the major Portland thoroughfare.

ODOT says they’re going to be adding sidewalks and sidewalk-level bike lanes between Southeast 99th Avenue and Southeast 174th Avenue. In order to do that though, they’ll need to cut down hundreds of trees to make room for the project.

Officials with ODOT say they’ve talked with thousands of neighbors over the last decade about what they want to see.

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Soon to be along the stretch of road: 10 new crosswalks with signals to alert drivers, new traffic lights paths for pedestrians, new traffic lights and side-walk level bike lanes.

These are all improvements Bayleigh Connors says will make things safer as someone who walks along Powell often.

“I don’t want my fear of how things are to stop me from living my life, but I’ve definitely had some instances on this road where it’s made me not even want to travel down Powell,” Connors says.

And a big concern for some neighbors is the amount of trees ODOT has to cut down to make room for the project. Dozens of tree stumps already line the road where they once stood.

ODOT says more than 570 will be removed, some of which were in Benjamin Richardson’s front yard.

“I’ve lived here for three years, and I’ll be honest, one of my biggest points for loving this place was the trees -- they’re just beautiful, they provided shade,” Richardson says. “It kept distance between us and the street and people. Now I have people walking through the yard and I don’t know -- it’s a little less comfortable.”

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He says he understands the need for safer roads but thinks rush hour traffic will still prevent pedestrians and bikers from using the new lanes.

“The traffic is not being addressed,” Richardson says. “Like, me and my wife do walk and bike, but we don’t walk or bike here. This isn’t a great walking or biking part ever. Even if you put bike lanes, it won’t be good for walking or biking.”

ODOT says they only take out trees where absolutely necessary and say more than 120 will be replanted along Powell Boulevard.