Suddenly, city trucks are out grading dirt streets. Here's what the new program provides...

DAVID F. ASHTON - PBOT demonstrated their new Gravel and Grade Service plan for Portlands many unpaved streets on this stretch of deeply-potholed S.E. Harney Street.  Residents expressed concern when heavy road-building equipment arrived in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood early on January 7, and began excavating an unpaved section of S.E. Harney Street, between 60th and 62nd Avenues.

Neighbor Hank Jacobs looked on, as the road grader's huge steel teeth tore into the mud, dirt, and gravel as deep as two feet, creating deep furrows in the road.

"See that big pothole [the implement] just tore through?" Jacobs pointed out to THE BEE. "That one's damaged my truck; and, one of my neighbors broke an axle in it, even though she was driving very slowly," he said, seeming amazed to see that his rutty street was getting attention.

To the relief of neighbors, this wasn't an unannounced "Local Improvement District" for which they would be charged. Instead, it was a new program of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) called the "Gravel Streets Service" – provided at no cost to those who live on Portland's 60+ miles of unpaved roads.

Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association Chair Chelsea Powers told THE BEE, with a sunny smile, "We are thrilled; this is a long time coming. It's a significant first step by the city to bring up the level of infrastructure in our historically under-served neighborhood!"

This new program had already manifested itself on roads at the west end of Linn Street and Ochoco Street in Sellwood, and in two unpaved blocks of S.E. 18th in north Westmoreland; and, as it moved into Brentwood-Darlington, the city chose to unveil the program and reveal what it consists of.

This new service goes far beyond just shoveling dirt into potholes, assured PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera. "During the winter months, when we're not rebuilding roads, our crews are using their equipment and expertise to dig down – deep enough to be underneath the potholes, and even these large 'street craters' that people know all too well in these neighborhoods!"

A PBOT road engineer said the reason potholes really can't be addressed just by filling them in with gravel and dirt is because of the resulting different levels of roadway material compaction. Vehicle tires kick out the gravel – and deepen the hole. "Whereas, when we dig it all up, grade it all level, and then roll it out before topping it with gravel – the roadway all has the same level of compaction, which tends to keep the street in better condition for a longer period of time."

DAVID F. ASHTON - Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly extolled the citys new Gravel and Grade Service program, as it began work on unpaved streets in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood. Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees PBOT, was present in Brentwood-Darlington to tell the assembled group that, in a planned three-year cycle, this program will continue to improve the miles of unpaved streets in Portland.

"I just like to say that it comes as much a surprise to me as anyone else that I am really loving working with our Transportation Bureau," Eudaly announced. "When I heard about this gravel-and-grade project, I became really excited about it – who knew how exciting gravel could be?" she chuckled.

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