Portland has a total of 59 miles of unpaved streets, and the Southwest part of the city has its fair share of them. Here is an example:These unpaved streets are reminiscent of times when there were fewer houses here and life was lived at a slower pace. Home builders and buyers saved money by leaving the streets unimproved, and no one ever got around to paving them. As density and traffic increased over time, so have the problems caused by gravel streets. Even when fresh gravel is applied, these streets quickly become rutted again during our long rainy season.They are dusty in the summer and muddy in the winter. They create barriers for parents pushing strollers and those with mobility issues. The ruts and potholes can increase the response time for emergency vehicles. And the hilly terrain here in the Southwest part of the city makes unpaved roads especially difficult to navigate. This one I saw in the Markham Neighborhood last winter had a quiet, woodsy feel.
But when I turned around and looked in the opposite direction, it looked nearly impassable.Near my house, there is a short street that is not a City-owned street but is privately owned by the seven homeowners with adjacent property, and they are responsible for maintaining it. It dead-ends at a steep slope. Last week I took this picture of the street looking East,and this one looking West:Karin, who lives there, told me this story:
Caryn and Sue folded their arms and said – WE HAVE TO FIX OUR STREET! And Karl and I agreed. We all met at Sue’s house for dinner in June and planned the project. Sue and I worked with each neighbor to gain their agreement and collect the money. Caryn found the contractor and worked with a lawyer to work up a legal agreement that all the neighbors signed. Even the kind neighbors on the corners who have property that abuts the street contributed. City regulations say that all property owners with property abutting a private road are responsible for road maintenance and must also give permission for road repair. So that is what everyone did. (A link to those City regs is here – enjoy the appendices!)
So last week construction began. Karin sent an email to the large neighborhood watch group here, letting us know that there would be construction machinery and possibly traffic congestion in the area. The people who live along the street could not drive on it during construction, so several other neighbors offered to let them use their driveways and parking strips for a few days.For two days our streets were lined with construction trucks and trailers, and little machines buzzed back and forth in front of my house.Workers removed the old crumbling asphalt.And replaced it with a smooth new surface.Karin told me:
It was a true act of goodness and responsibility on the part of everyone. By the way, Jade Smith Paving was our contractor and we are very happy with their work. Jade stayed in close email contact with us before, during, and after the work was done. The crew led by Rob and Jason worked tirelessly and steadily from early morning until nighttime to get the job done in two days.
I like this story because of the way neighbors worked cooperatively to improve their situation. Any of them could have declined to help fund the project, but everyone contributed. Karin communicated with the larger neighborhood to warn people about what was happening so they could save time by avoiding the construction zone for a couple days. Other neighbors offered their parking spots for those who needed it. Nicely done.