1. Background

CHAPTER ONE: BACKGROUND

HISTORY OF TAYLORS FERRY ROAD

Taylors Ferry Road was originally built as a wagon road over the West Hills to connect loggers, farmers and dairies in the west hills and the Tualatin Valley with the Willamette River and Portland. According to historian Eugene Snyder the road led to a ferry across the Tualatin River. The ferry was on the property of, and operated by, John A. Taylor, an Oregon pioneer of 1852. That year he took up a Donation Land Claim along the Tualatin River about ten miles southwest of Portland. Taylor was born in New York State in 1825. For a time he was a County Judge of Washington County1. No one knows when the road was paved. After World War II suburbanization brought a wave of home building throughout Portland. Two highway projects cut through Taylors Ferry Road. The first time was in the 1933 when Barbur Blvd was built. Then again when the Interstate 5 freeway was built in the 1960s. Cars dominated suburban development and streets were typically built without curbs, gutters or sidewalks. Taylors Ferry Road reflects this legacy. It remains a paved country road with ditches on the side.

TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGES IN SOUTHWEST PORTLAND

Southwest Portland is topographically challenged. It’s hilly. Much of the area was developed when sidewalks were either not required or seen as impractical or unnecessary. A high percentage of streets in Southwest have no sidewalks and no bike lanes. Many of Southwest’s inter-neighborhood routes do not even have shoulders wide enough for safe walking. Many streets are unpaved. The hilly terrain and stormwater management costs make street improvements in Southwest expensive. Housing density in Southwest is lower compared to other parts of the city. When Metro allocates money for transportation projects in the region projects located in areas with higher density typically score more points. This is not unreasonable. But this keeps Southwest at a disadvantage. In addition, re-development monies are often applied to transportation projects in urban renewal areas. Again, Southwest cannot qualify for these funding sources. In recent years most new development in Southwest has occurred on vacant lots scattered throughout established neighborhoods. The City often requires developers to install full street improvements at the site. The result is in a patchwork of well-done but isolated street improvements. We believe full City standards are not always applicable, cost effective, or practical for many Southwest streets. An approach must be found which gives some flexibility to street design standards in Southwest Portland. The goal is to see Southwest transportation projects go further in order to link the community and make it more walkable, more livable.

CITY TRANSPORTATION PLANNING

Portland’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted by ordinance October 1980 and last revised July 2004, calls for better pedestrian facilities throughout the city. Policy 6.22 of the Transportation Element of the Plan states: “Plan and complete a pedestrian network that increases the opportunities for walking to shopping and services, schools and parks, employment, and transit.” The complete Comprehensive Plan is available online at the City’s Web site: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/70936. The State-mandated Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) implements statewide Planning Goal 12: Transportation. The TPR requires State, regional, and local jurisdictions to develop Transportation System Plans (TSPs) that comply with TPR provisions. These provisions include reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita by 10 percent over the next 20 years, improving the modal share of pedestrian travel, reducing parking spaces per capita, and improving opportunities for alternatives to the automobile. Objectives include providing direct pedestrian facility connections between residential development and transit service, neighborhood activity centers, schools and parks. The City of Portland’s Transportation System Plan (TSP), adopted in 2002, is the long-range plan to guide transportation investments in Portland. The TSP meets State and regional planning requirements and addresses local transportation needs for cost-effective street, transit, freight, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements. The TSP calls for a balanced transportation system to support neighborhood livability and economic development. The complete TSP is available online at the City’s Web site: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/67263. The TSP categorizes all streets throughout the city under seven different service categories: Traffic, Transit, Bicycle, Pedestrian, Freight, Emergency and Street Design. The big problem is that transportation projects are severely underfunded. Many of the reasons for inadequate funding, such as the gas tax, are outside the City’s control. Suffice it to say PDOT has never had enough money to adequately maintain the existing system, let alone build new facilities such as improvements to Taylors Ferry Road. The City develops two-year budgets. Given the competition for capital dollars, it seems unlikely that the TFR project will get funded anytime soon.

FORMATION OF JOINT NEIGHBORHOOD TASK FORCE

In 2003 members of the Ashcreek Neighborhood Association became aware that the City of Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) was requiring the developer of a new flag-lot house to install a full street improvement of sidewalks, curbs and bicycle lanes in front of the existing house on Taylors Ferry Road. While the NA supported this requirement, members were concerned that without a plan piecemeal improvements like this one would result in a patchwork of features that might not fit together as a whole for years to come. They thought it would make better sense if a plan was in place to coordinate infrastructure development on TFR as it occurred over time. The developer asked the City to modify its requirement and instead let him build a simple asphalt bike and pedestrian path as interim an improvement until such time as full street improvements along a significant portion of TFR is possible. The NA supported this proposal as did the City. This experience led to the formation of a joint neighborhood committee to explore other interim options that could be done to improve conditions on TFR. The committee expects that by developing a Taylors Ferry Road Vision Plan it might become a prototype for other neighborhoods in Southwest with similar R-O-W conditions. Crestwood Neighborhood Association, Ashcreek’s neighbor to the south, was also interested in participating. A joint neighborhood task force was formed, led by chairperson Patty Lee. The first meeting was held on February 23, 2004.

TASK FORCE GOALS FOR TAYLORS FERRY ROAD

  • Improve Pedestrian/bicycle access: Provide safe and comfortable facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Improve Safety: Create a safer transportation network for all users of Taylors Ferry Road from Capitol Highway to the City/County line.

  • Phased Implementation: Establish a creative strategy for implementation that explores phasing options, funding sources, partnerships, and cost saving measures.

  • Traffic-Calming: Create a strategy for implementing speed control measures along this section of Taylors Ferry Road.

  • Ped Crossings: Create safe crossings for pedestrians, particularly at 55th and 62nd.

  • Washington County Traffic: Discourage use of Taylors Ferry Road as a thoroughfare for Washington County drivers. TFR is a Neighborhood Collector, not a District Collector.