Neighbors say city ignored concerns about Portland Ave. project

Neighbors are at odds with the City of Richfield over a road reconstruction project on Portland Avenue that started last summer.

A group of people living on Portland Avenue say the project they originally approved of has changed composition too many times and is taking more private land than proposed. Now, they say their concerns have fallen on deaf ears at city hall.

“We were basically told it was going to happen whether we liked it or not,” Larae Schwen said. “One of things they said was all Portland [Avenue] residents are for this. No, nobody we’ve talked to is for this.”

The City of Richfield says due to deteriorating road beds and aging underground utilities, tearing up the street was unavoidable. As for the new composition of the street, city officials said it is in hopes of increasing livability and making the corridor safer.

“The whole genesis of the Portland Avenue project is to slow down Portland Avenue,” City manager Steve Devich said.

But, neighbors like Schwenn and Steve McKeown said the new street composition will only make the heavily traveled thoroughfare more dangerous.

“It’s not going to be wide enough for two vehicles to get around safely, so they’re going to veer into the bike path,” Schwenn said, referencing cars trying to get around the public buses that stop on the street. “It’s going to cause safety problems for anyone on the bike path.”

Renderings show a reduction of lane size from 13-foot wide lanes in the original two-lane layout to 11-foot wide single lanes separated in some areas by a raised median.

“It looks nice on that paper they give you,” McKeown said. “They don’t show the big semi barreling right next to the bicycle that might jump the curb.”

Devich, along with Mayor Debbie Goettel, said Sunday was the first they heard of neighbor’s complaints. Devich told Fox 9 he is working on a hosting a meeting with city planners, engineers and neighbors so concerns can be addressed.

The Portland Avenue project is funded by federal, county and city money and carries a price tag of $8.9 million.