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A Look Back: Transforming SE Foster Road from a High Crash Corridor into an accessible and friendly business district

Skateboarder using a new crosswalk on Foster Road

A skateboarder crosses at the intersection of SE 72nd Avenue and Foster Road using a new and improved crosswalk from the Foster Transportation and Streetscape project (Photo by Pierre Haou, PBOT)

Welcome to our second installment of “A Look Back,” a series of stories about Fixing Our Streets projects built by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Fixing Our Streets was the first local funding source dedicated exclusively to the city’s transportation needs. This series highlights the goals of specific projects and checks in with the community to see how they are feeling about them now that they are complete. In this installment we’re looking at a massive undertaking in terms of scale and impact, the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project. 

Fixing Our Streets Logo

(Dec. 20, 2019) With the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project in Southeast Portland, PBOT transformed nearly 40 city blocks from an unsafe, high-crash corridor to a walkable and bikeable commercial main street for Portlanders of all ages to enjoy. The project extended from SE 50th Avenue to the western edge of the Lents Town Center at SE 90th Avenue. Most noticeably, PBOT changed the design of the street, transforming SE Foster Road from a high-speed, auto-oriented corridor into a safer, more balanced street for pedestrians as well as people biking, taking transit, and driving. This new design supports a growing mix of businesses and residences in the neighborhood.

"Since the completion of the streetscape project we've seen a great increase in pedestrian and cycling traffic on Foster, making it easier for customers to visit our district... The streetscape has made our businesses more accessible to customers and has contributed toward our goal of making Foster a destination for people throughout Portland." Allen Rowand, president of the Foster Area Business Association

At the ribbon cutting ceremony in early June, Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, PBOT Director Chris Warner, and businesses and neighborhood representatives spoke directly to the positive impact these street improvements were already having and would continue to have heading into summer and fall.  

“This is a street that will support a vibrant commercial district, that will add to the quality of life in this neighborhood, and that people – whether they are walking, biking, rolling or driving – will want to use every day,” said Director Warner. “To me, that is the power of what we do. We don’t just make Portland a better place to get around, we make it a better place to live.”

Shea Flaherty Betin, director of the Portland Mercado, said at the ribbon cutting this past summer, "As we celebrate our new streetscape on Foster, we celebrate the potential for equitable neighborhood growth, we envision increased economic opportunity along Foster for small businesses, for POC entrepreneurs, and for the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem we have here at the Mercado. I’m excited to see more families biking to our massive festivals and events, or to see more folks walking on our new sidewalks to grab an empanada, or some coffee, or a sangria in the evening."

Foster Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, PBOT Director Chris Warner, and businesses and neighborhood representatives cut ceremony ribbon at the Foster Transportation and Streetscape ribbon cutting ceremony (Photo by Stacy Brewster, PBOT)

Today SE Foster Road is a bustling center of activity, with people walking, rolling, biking, and running safely through the corridor. This past week, we saw Portlanders biking and skateboarding over to the Portland Mercado, undoubtedly attracted by the smells of delicious Latin American dishes wafting from the vibrantly colored food carts.

Further down Foster, safely pedaling down Foster’s new bike lanes, people were taking a nice afternoon ride. Nearby, a couple of Portland elders were using a redesigned crosswalk to safely cross Foster to access Laurelwood Park. We hope the redesigned street continues to raise the quality of life for residents and businesses in these simple ways.

“More neighbors are walking to support local businesses now that SE Foster is safer and easier to cross.  We know that the positive effects of the Streetscape will be enjoyed for years to come." Eric Furlong, Chair of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association

In a recent PBOT survey, when asked “Have you been walking, biking, or accessing transit more on Foster Road?” roughly 66% of respondents said “they have, and they’re excited to do more of it.” In a separate survey, a majority of respondents agreed they could access businesses on Foster more easily now and that they were more likely to walk, bike, or take transit on or through Foster Road. In the same survey, 74% of respondents also reported feeling very safe or somewhat safe getting around on Foster Road.

"Since the completion of the streetscape project we've seen a great increase in pedestrian and cycling traffic on Foster, making it easier for customers to visit our district”, said Allen Rowand, president of the Foster Area Business Association."Many have commented that the new crosswalks and bike lanes make them more likely to come to Foster as they can travel safely. The lowered speed limit not only increases safety for those on foot and cyclists, but makes it easier to enter and exit parking spaces along the road. The streetscape has made our businesses more accessible to customers and has contributed toward our goal of making Foster a destination for people throughout Portland."

Cyclist on Foster Road

A person rides their bicycle on the new bike lane constructed by the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project (Photo by Pierre Haou, PBOT)

"Upon completion and implementation of the SE Foster Streetscape, the neighborhood has seen an increased vibrancy in the central business district,” said Eric Furlong, Chair of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association. “More neighbors are walking to support local businesses now that SE Foster is safer and easier to cross. We know that the positive effects of the Streetscape will be enjoyed for years to come."

Cycling event on Foster Road

A group of cyclists gather on SE Foster Road during a PBOT "Portland by Cycle" ride this past summer (Photo by PBOT)

“Its been much easier to cross the road” said Gretchen, an East Portland resident who lives very close to SE Foster Road, “Foster is now much nicer, much more pleasant”.

“People are stoked about the two lanes,” said Dimitriy, owner of NW Pro Gear, “I see a lot more bicycles on the street, which helps me [and my shop].” 

Cyclist on Foster Road

A person enjoys a relaxed ride using a new bike lane on SE Foster Road (Photo by Pierre Haou, PBOT)

Funding for the $9 million Foster Transportation and Streetscape Project came from Fixing Our Streets as well as the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal District, city Transportation System Development Charges, and a federal grant.

Fixing Our Streets, otherwise known as Measure 26-173, was a voter-approved four-year 10-cent gas tax for restoring our streets and making them safer. When this measure passed in May 2016, it became the first local funding source in the city’s history dedicated exclusively to the city’s transportation needs. Fixing Our Streets projects span across all of Portland.

To learn more about Fixing Our Streets projects, visit our webpage.

Fixing Our Streets Banner

This blog post was written by Pierre Haou, Portland Bureau of Transportation