On April 24, 2013, the Portland City Council voted to adopt the Babur Concept Plan after hearing support from numerous community members and stakeholders. A subset of Metro’s larger Southwest Corridor Plan, the concept plan aspires to transform Barbur from a major transportation route to a destination place that better serves the needs of the people who live, work, shop or go to school along the corridor.
George Vranas, who resides in the Far Southwest area testified that, "The plan offers a vision for Southwest Portland that will allow it to prosper and grow in harmony with its natural endowment."
The concept plan includes a number of recommended improvements to increase safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who travel on the boulevard. Don Baack, chair of SW Trails PDX, noted Barbur's importance and untapped potential as Southwest Portland's spine for active transportation. "Taylors Ferry, Capitol Highway, Multnomah and Terwilliger boulevards all feed into it," he stated.
In addition to serving the residents of Southwest, a number of major institutions located along the corridor, including PCC Sylvania, the National College of Natural Medicine, PSU, and OHSU, rely on Barbur to serve employees, students and patients.
"[OHSU] provides significant financial incentives to our employees to bike, walk and take transit to work, but ultimately our incentives only work if the infrastructure is in place to support them," noted Michael Harrison, OHSU Government Relations Office, at the hearing.
Roger Averbeck, a Community Working Group member, stressed that partnerships with other agencies were crucial to get some of these recommendations implemented sooner rather than later. "The city and its partners really must work to fund and implement more marked crosswalks, complete the sidewalk and bike lane gaps, improve the transit stops and connections to them," he urged council.
While the bulk of the testimony supported the plan's recommendations and praised the process, the community expressed some concern about forthcoming decisions related to potential high capacity transit (HCT) alignments. Ariane Holzhauer was one of about 115 neighbors that signed a petition opposing siting HCT on local residential streets, suggesting that keeping the alignment on Barbur provides more benefits without affecting the neighbors of Lesser Park.
Commissioner Fritz noted the importance of being involved early in the SW Corridor planning process so that all interests and concerns are weighed. "This is a good conversation as to how we look at equity and affordable housing and greenspaces within Portland."
Commissioner Fish advocated for affordable housing and urged the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to, "… come back with some very specific recommendations for how we might accomplish our affordable housing goals through changes in the zoning code. … Setting some hard numbers may allow us to capitalize on this unique opportunity to solve some affordable housing in new transit-oriented development."
Mayor Charlie Hales summarized the hearing and future direction for the SW Corridor planning process by proclaiming, "We are the best in the country at doing [high capacity transit]. That's why when we are careful and thoughtful and thorough when we do these kinds of planning processes, and queue up a project for federal funding, we have an unbroken track record.”
While praising staff for the strong community support for the plan, Mayor Hales said, “We have to be bold enough to pick the right mode choice and then carry it forward. We do need to be inclusive and thoughtful but also know that there needs to be a moment of decision. And, hopefully, people will agree with it and Portland so far has an unbroken record of getting it right. This [plan] is a great example."