Street and Stormwater Improvements in Errol Heights

This is a brief update residents on the advocacy work that BDNA has been doing with the City around the proposed street and storm water improvements in the Errol Heights portion of our neighborhood. For folks who don’t know, this area is almost entirely unpaved and suffers from flooding due to “streets that turn into creeks” when it rains.

After leading a walking tour of the area with Commissioner Fish in April 2015, we learned that the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) allocated funding to conducting an engineering analysis to inform options about how storm water might be managed in the neighborhood. Commissioner Fish, who oversees BES, also informed residents and BDNA that he was committed to working with Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick, who oversees transportation, on finding ways to make storm water and street improvements in Errol Heights more affordable than they might typically cost. Recently, we were pleased to learn that the Errol Heights project has been prioritized for funding by the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) Street by Street Program, which the Mayor and City Council have allocated $1M/year for to help pave unimproved roads throughout Portland. These funds would not cover all of the costs for a project in Errol Heights, but they could help to significantly reduce costs for homeowners. Additionally, BES had $1M funding for a storm water project downstream in Johnson Creek, but is now planning to use those resources to literally “go upstream” and look at how they can solve the problems at their source-in Errol Heights.

While storm water engineering designs are still underway, BDNA met with PBOT on Sept. 23, 2015 and received this update. Right now, storm water designs should be completed in early November, and at that point PBOT will then start to draw up preliminary designs for streets. After this, PBOT and BES will have a more firm understanding of the project’s expected costs. When those designs are finished in early 2016, PBOT and BES plan to host meetings with residents to explore the designs, and talk about real costs to homeowners, financing options, and city subsidies for the first time. They will also talk about resources that other City bureaus, like Parks and Recreation, will contribute to the project. At some point in the spring, neighbors in the area would have to determine whether or not they support the project. If it moves forward, final designs would probably take place throughout ’16 and construction would likely occur during the summer of ’17. If it doesn’t move forward, we assume the PBOT’s Street by Street funding would likely go to the many other projects waiting for funding around the City, and BES funding would go back down to a project in Johnson Creek.

While we wait for designs, BDNA is actively advocating with the City to find ways to make this project more affordable for homeowners. We are very pleased to learn that this project will be supported through the Street by Streets program, and that BES is also reallocating resources to this project to more effectively manage storm water problems at their source. We will be working hard to see if we can bring costs down further, and want to thank Mayor Hales, Commissioners Fish and Novick, and staff at BES and PBOT for working across bureaus to try and come up with creative solutions to these persistent problems. To residents in the area, good luck navigating the streets that turn into creeks this winter, and don’t forget to send photos of flooding to your elected officials!

– Jacob Sherman
BDNA Board Member