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Upcoming traffic changes in Hillsdale cause controversy among business owners and neighbors

In 2018, Portland City Council approved a set of PBOT projects called “Rose Lanes” to get buses and streetcars out of traffic and into their own lanes.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Those who live and work in the Hillsdale neighborhood are concerned about the latest “Rose Lane Project” from Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, fearing it will negatively impact the area’s traffic patterns and ultimately harm local businesses.

Rose Lane Projects are meant to give public transit priority on the roads and make travel time quicker. The latest project will turn two lanes on Southwest Capitol Highway in Hillsdale into bus and turn-only lanes.

Those who work and live around the business district fear the project will make it harder for people to access their businesses and will increase traffic in surrounding neighborhoods as well.

“Less people will come in and our foot traffic goes down more,” said Jayesunn Krump, who opened Portland Camera Service at the start of the pandemic. “This is a step backwards, not a step forward for small businesses.”

Krump is one of the several business owners on this strip asking PBOT to delay the Rose Lane Project for another three years.

“Let everyone get their feet firmly underneath them then try some shenanigans like this out front,” Krump said.

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“A lot of the businesses are struggling still based on COVID,” agreed Traci Burnes, a manager at Paloma Clothing Market. She said sales have only returned to about 70% of what they were during pre-pandemic years. “We don’t need anything else disrupting our businesses around here.”

“I’m not pleased. I’m not pleased with this,” said Sally Greer, who lives in Hillsdale’s Park Hill neighborhood.

Greer and other Hillsdale residents fear the bus lanes will divert traffic into surrounding neighborhoods.

“They will divert onto these streets and then go around Hillsdale and avoiding the business district entirely ... it’s very frustrating,” said Don Baack, who founded Southwest Trails.

But the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) doesn't agree that the stakes with this project are so dire.

“We don’t have any anticipation to any negative impact to businesses whatsoever,” said Hannah Schafer at PBOT.

In 2018, Portland City Council approved a set of PBOT projects called Rose Lanes, to get buses and streetcars out of traffic and into their own lanes, resulting in faster public transit travel times along with meeting the city’s climate goals.

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“In order for us to get people to move to more climate-friendly transportation we got to make climate-friendly transportation as appealing as possible,” said Schafer. 

These projects focus on highly-trafficked areas, such as the intersection of Southwest Sunset and Capitol Highway in Hillsdale. 

“It’s kind of a gateway for a lot of the buses coming through Southwest Portland,” said Schafer.

During the evening commute, this project is expected to save between one and two minutes per bus trip. 

For those who ride the bus twice a day, five days a week, that can add up to saving about 20 minutes per week.

“Over the course of a year that can add up really quick,” Schafer said.

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However, this isn’t the first Rose Lane project in the city. Over on Southeast Hawthorne and 38th Avenue, a bus-only lane was added about a year ago.

“I don’t really think it’s affected us too much,” said Aly Lopez, who works the cash register at Pepino’s Mexican Grill. The lane is right in front of the restaurant. “I don’t think the bus lane has affected our business — like by us losing customers because of the bus lane.”

As for businesses in Hillsdale, PBOT promises to fix any issues that may come up. Until then, they’re greenlighting the project.

“We will not be postponing this project, we are set to move forward with installation,” said Schafer.

That installation will start later this summer. 

KGW also reached out to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who heads PBOT. She said in a statement that the Rose Lane in Hillsdale is an important piece of the puzzle to improve the region’s transit. She said she's committed to making sure the local businesses aren’t negatively impacted by the traffic changes.

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