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Safety improvement project mostly paid for by Portland's Cannabis Tax proceeds

Road work that will last two weeks began Saturday in the West Portland Park neighborhood on a project to redesign a major Southwest Portland thoroughfare in the name of safety. Warning signs, flaggers, informational posters on telephone poles, spray-painted lanes and neon-clad work crews have arrived. The initial work will be along the eastern side of Capitol Highway from Huber Street south.

Drivers who travel Southwest Capitol Highway between PCC Sylvania and the so-called "Crossroads" should expect some construction-related delays for the next couple of weeks.

The one-mile stretch of Capitol Highway getting a safety makeover runs south from the SW Huber Street McDonalds past Markham School, the Capitol Hill Library, Holly Farm Park, a strip mall, several businesses and a lot of multi-family housing on its way to Kerr Parkway and the Lake Oswego border.

Along some stretches of the highway, two lanes of traffic will be reduced to one. Eventually, Capitol Highway will have one lane in each direction and a center turn lane for this entire segment. When all the work is done, PBOT will petition the Oregon Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit from 35 to 30 MPH.

Hannah Schafer, with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), says the project involves a large grinder removing existing lane markings followed by a striper that paints in new lines. Those new lines mean "one automobile lane in each direction with a center turn lane between SW Alfred Street and SW Stephenson Street," according to a PBOT news release. That stretch of Capitol Highway passes Markham Elementary School.

"Since they will be working on one lane at a time, there should still be enough space for people to get around without a significant delay. We do recommend adding a few additional minutes to your commute for your travel in the area during construction. Construction is expected to conclude before PCC's start date on September 23rd" said Schafer.

Safer crosswalks will be installed for pedestrians and bicyclists will benefit from wider bike lanes on both sides of Capitol Highway. To put some distance between motor vehicles and bicyclists, four-foot high plastic posts called bollards will be installed.

This is a two-phase project that's called a "safety upgrade" by PBOT. The budget for both phases is $275,000. Phase two, which is set to start "later this fall," will include installling better lighting and safer crosswalks.

More than half of the projected budget - $150,000 of the $275,000 - will come from taxes paid by cannabis consumers in the city of Portland. PBOT is using proceeds from the Cannabis Tax on a number of projects to achieve the Vision Zero goal of eliminating deadly and serious injuries from Portland's streets.

A much more expensive and ambitious project to transform Capitol Highway from the south end of Multnomah Village to the Crossroads is expected to begin in Spring 2020.

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