Jul 7, 2023 - Politics

Pete Buttigieg will tour 82nd in an electric bus

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, wearing a blue suit, blue dotted tie and white shirt, smiles as he looks to the right of the camera.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Oregon two years ago. Photo: Moriah Ratner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will get a firsthand view of 82nd Avenue when he swings through Portland Friday.

Why it matters: The makeover of one of Portland's major arterial roads includes $80 million in federal funding for its initial safety-focused stages, but getting Buttigieg's ear now could help officials seek additional money later.

Driving the news: Buttigieg is in the Northwest to highlight local projects funded by the $1.1 trillion infrastructure spending bill, signed in 2021 with bipartisan support.

  • None of that money goes to the 82nd Avenue overhaul; the federal contribution for that comes from earlier COVID-era funding that the Oregon Legislature voted to commit to the corridor.

Flashback: Until Portland took over responsibility last year for the 7-mile stretch of 82nd that is within city limits — from NE Lombard to the Clackamas County line — it was technically a state highway, even though it is lined with stores, hotels, schools and restaurants, with homes just steps away.

Details: 82nd runs through one of Portland's most diverse neighborhoods.

  • 45% of people who live within a quarter-mile of the road are people of color and 13% have a disability, according to city data.
  • The main bus route — number 72 — has the highest ridership in the region.

Context: 82nd has also long been one of the most dangerous roads in Portland.

  • Between 2015 and 2019, there were 142 crashes that killed or seriously injured someone.

State of play: Six months ago, Portland started installing digital signs that show drivers their speed. Work to improve traffic light timing and add safety features for bikers and walkers is going on now.

  • Express buses are a likely target for future federal funding.

What they're saying: "Most people's impressions of 82nd are that it's a lot of used car dealerships and it's a pretty uninviting place," Kakumyo Lowe-Charde, the abbot of the Dharma Rain Zen Center on NE 82nd across from McDaniel High School, told Axios.

  • He hopes for more "human scale" storefronts, plus trees, sidewalks and bike paths. "Those kinds of things are going to just make it more pleasant for people to hang out there and that cuts down on crime," he said.
  • People and businesses along 82nd "need a street that is safer and easier to navigate," Rep. Earl Blumenauer told Axios. "I look forward to working with our partners, the secretary and the U.S. Department of Transportation to deliver the resources we need to make that happen."

What's next: Four community education and feedback events are planned this month.

  • Buttigieg's electric bus tour Friday will give him a view of about half of the 7-mile stretch of road within Portland.

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