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Follow up: Fix yet to come for dangerous Burnside crossing

Posted by on February 8th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Students are Crossing - Buckman Elementary-2.jpg

The BTA’s Steph Noll on E Burnside
and 16th in 2007.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Last week a reader email spurred me to check up on a project I first wrote about in December 2007.

Reader Kevin B wrote:

“I live in the Kerns neighborhood and my kids go to Buckman Elementary. During our bike/scooter ride each morning to school I see numerous kids/families trying to cross the intersection of E Burnside and 16th. They have to play chicken to get across the road. I am confused as to why there is no pedestrian/cycling light at this intersection similar to what exists further out on E Burnside and 41st. It is listed as a Bike route street on all the cycling maps.”

Looking east on Burnside at 16th.

Great question Kevin!

Lo and behold, we highlighted that intersection back in 2007 when the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) partnered with the City of Portland’s Safe Routes to Schools program for a grassroots traffic safety action. With hand-written cardboard signs reading, “Students are Crossing,” BTA staffer Steph Noll and students stood on the corner urging people in cars to slow down.

In that story, we reported that PBOT had secured funding and was expecting to install a crossing treatment in “1-2 years.”

The project never happened, and according to Kevin B, the crossing remains dangerous.

I asked Noll about the intersection. “Crossing treatments are still needed there,” she said. Noll’s understanding was that the City decided it needrf a new traffic signal, and the $250,000 (estimated cost of a new signal) made the fix a bigger deal than they had originally thought. So, like many unfunded projects, it has been sitting on a list.

Today I learned that PBOT has tentatively allocated a total of $250,000 in their 2012-2013 budget toward bringing their first generation bicycle boulevards up to the current Neighborhood Greenway standard (NE 16th is one of their original bike boulevards). Spokesman Dan Anderson says the Burnside/16th crossing is one of several projects competing for that money. The list of project will be reviewed by the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee with a goal of making final decisions by this spring.

For Noll, the lack of funding for Safe Routes to School — both locally and in the national debate around the House transportation bill — is “tragic.” Noll points out that as the federal funding pipeline cities like Portland rely on for projects like this is becoming increasingly scarce, “We will all have to hold our leaders accountable to holding safety as the number one priority in making transportation funding decisions.”

Sorry Kevin. That’s probably not what you were hoping to hear.

UPDATE: In a comment below, a neighborhood resident named Brendon says the Kerns Neighborhood Association will discuss biking and walking issues at their meeting this coming Monday (2/13) at 7:00 pm at the Goodfoot (2845 SE Stark St).

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Leslie Carlson
Guest

I have been concerned (and voiced my concern to PBOT) about this crossing several times for exactly the reasons you mention, Jonathan. If you are trying to get to the Lloyd District from inner SE by bike, this is the bike route. When I bike with my kids at this intersection, I literally scream “faster, faster!” at them while they cross, to avoid the high-speed Burnside car traffic going both ways. It’s an accident waiting to happen, frankly.

Unit
Guest
Unit

I cross here twice a day on a bike. There are pedestrians and bicyclists queued up on both sides many days, waiting for a gap in traffic. There’s a bus stop here which people cross to/from. And for some who-knows-why reason, TriMet buses cross over to/from Sandy here, rather than 14th. It’s a challenge to cross Burnside for many reasons. Agree it’s an accident waiting to happen.

John
Guest
John

Jonathan, would it be feasible for you to start a “Change.Org” sort of petition function on your website, with signatures and comments sent to the appropriate leadership, so that we can demonstrate to folks at PBOT and other departments just how many of us are using and demanding safer crossings? I would love it if you could do something like that on bikeportland.org!

9watts
Guest
9watts

People in cars should pay for the inconvenience, danger, and ugliness they bring down on the rest of us.
I know there’s some uncertainty about the extent to which gas taxes pay for this sort of ‘upgrade,’ which is really only a small measure of undoing the asymmetric funding going to encourage, reward, and reify automobile usage of long standing. But this and many other examples to me cry out for a city or state gas tax hike. I suspect the existing gas taxes have not kept pace with inflation, much less our shift in consciousness about the total burden of our car-heavy transport system on all of us.

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

Why no one outside of urban planning circles seems to be discussing implementation of a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax right now is beyond me. When I was taking classes at PSU I was told that the eventual adoption of this sort of tax was “inevitable”.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Of course gas taxes don’t keep up, and in fact go down — by design! The people who set it up knew what they were doing when they set the rate per gallon rather than per dollar. whenever inflation raises the price of gas, the effective tax per dollar spent goes down. Of course the cost of road maintenance and construction roughly tracks with inflation, so the percentage of our road costs that are covered by gas tax is always going down. This was a conscious effort to sabotage our infrastructure by people who don’t believe in the role of government as a facilitator of our communities.

Allan Folz
Guest
Allan Folz

Safe Routes to Schools, Sarah Gilbert’s article on Tri-met, the deplorable state of many school lunch programs, unsustainable energy policy, spiraling national debt… It’s all linked.

Actions speak louder than words and the value our society shows towards the next generation is as utterly and completely shameful as it undeniable.

But hey, Congress and the 1% got theirs, so no changes, only lip-service.

Joseph E
Guest

“he City decided it needed a new traffic signal, and the $250,000 (estimated cost of a new signal) made the fix a bigger deal than they had originally thought”

A stop sign would cost far less then $250,000. Put in stop signs and paint crosswalks tomorrow. Then when the money becomes available, put in the signal.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I like it. I have a feeling people in cars would find a way to fund a signaled crossing if they had to always stop there because of a stop sign.

That is a rather harry crossing that I’ve made with my son when biking him to Buckman Elementary two blocks away. It’s easier to get across Broadway, Weidler, and Sandy than it is to cross Burnside on the way to school.

Allan Folz
Guest
Allan Folz

Hahaha. Maybe while the cars are stopped at the stop sign someone can ask them to chip-in a dollar or five to fund a new stoplight. I’m sure there is a traffic count showing how many cars go through there on an average day. Shouldn’t be too hard to figure an average “donation” amount.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

You mean like this? Looks like about 20 days at $1/car would pay for that light.

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

Second hand info often misses the mark. The crossing does not need a signal, it’s just that some people in PBOT think it should have one.

Susan Peithman
Guest
Susan Peithman

Yesterday I witnessed a teenage girl get hit by a man driving a truck in the (unmarked) crosswalk at 22nd and East Burnside. She was a victim of the “multiple threat” in which on a four-lane road one motorist stops to allow the pedestrian to cross and a second motorist traveling in the same direction does not stop and hits a pedestrian.

While I don’t know the extent of the girl’s injuries, I would assume they are severe but not life-threatening. I can only hope that the gift of youth will provide her with a speedy recovery and she does not live a life traumatized by the horrific event.

Thankfully in my nearly decade experience advocating for bicycle and pedestrian issues I have never had to call 911 because of a crash like the one yesterday. This was my first and I pray it will be my last. However situations like yesterdays shake me to my core.

I do not want to play the game of determining blame to the participants in the specific crash but pull back and really assess how we get to the situation in the first place. Our priorities are so wrong. We have made and are making decisions that result in putting our most vulnerable road users in danger. Our current priorities are more than skewed but completely irresponsible when we create a system where someone is not able to cross a street lest be run down by a truck.

We must do better.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

This is why cyclists should never let a motorist cede their right of way.

are
Guest

yes, but it is also why a motorist should never pass a stopped vehicle at a marked or unmarked crosswalk, to paraphrase ORS 811.020

SteelSchwinnster54
Guest
SteelSchwinnster54

Im with Allan, except how about getting the fire dept to step-up and do a boot donation along with hand held stop signs.

Steve B
Guest

How about a flashing beacon to start? Going rate is $22,000 per install. Considering bikes didn’t really get a very much out of the $18 mil Burnside/Couch Couplet project, improvements to 16th ave crossing should be prioritized.

Joseph E
Guest

That horrible couplet cost how many $millions? What a crappy design.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

The WORST thing about the new couplet is that all the car traffic now uses Ankeny and Davis ) both bikey streets) instead to avoid waiting at the lights.

Awful design all round.

Gregg
Guest

So much bad news lately Jonathan with the injuries of cyclists and pedestrians, the defunding of Safe Routes, the failure of Williams, etc.
Let’s get some suprising great news soon!

Jolly Dodger
Guest

If a pedestrian/cyclist were hit and killed there (God forbid), would the family have a case against the city/state since they knew this was a previously reported danger spot they had let go unfixed due to budget shortfalls? How much would an ODOT approved solution be in comparison to a multi-million dollar wrongful death suit?

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

No. Discretionary immunity shield government from liability when a choice must be made between funding project A or project B. Since there is not enough money to do everything, no foul is called if money is spent on B and bad things happen at A, as long as it can be shown there was a rational process for the decision.

Jeremy Cohen
Guest
Jeremy Cohen

I would even like to see a painted crosswalk with some signage. That can’t cost $20,000. In smaller towns I have seen great success with a set of orange flags that “live” on both sides of the busy “through town” 4 lane roadway. When you want to cross, grab a flag, wave it vigorously as you cautiously cross all the lanes, then deposit it on the other side. You need about 10 flags, some paint and two flag holders. Come on Portland!

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

Striped markings only won’t do on a four-lane arterial. About as unsafe as it gets.

It needs a raised concrete island halfway across, to 1) enable folks to complete the crossing in two steps, and 2) prevent motorists from careening into pedestrians and cyclists as they are halfway across stranded in the middle of the highway waiting to complete the other leg of the crossing.

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

On a street like Burnside, you don’t mark a crossing without adding something else. PBOT has looked at refuge islands, rapid flash beacons and a hybrid beacon like at 41st. The national standard is NCHRP 562, for those who want to look it up.

mh
Guest
mh

I whined and wailed about this crossing while they were working on the couplet, and was told that other signals were too close and that the traffic volume didn’t support an additional signal at 16th. At very least, PBOT needs to do some more traffic counts here. It’s difficult in the morning, and usually miserable in evening rush hour.

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

Signals are for cars. PBOT uses them where there is a problem that can be fixed with a signal. The problem at 16th is pedestrian crossings. The best solution is median islands and rapid flash beacons.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Situations like this is why the concept of sovereign immunity must be purged from our “justice” system so that governments that place citizens in danger because of not wanting to spend money on necessities can be sued when someone dies from that decision. In the UK they have a law that makes such a crime called “Corporate Manslaughter”. I don’t know the penalties involved, because while corporations are “people” it’s darned hard to put one in jail, and a minor fine would just be paid and ignored…

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

Then you better be prepared to fork over a lot more taxes to pay for all those ‘necessities’ out there.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

Oh my god, I was JUST thinking about this project this week! I ride my bike across this intersection daily, and the stop-gap time is insanely long. I once had to wait about four minutes to cross the street. That’s how long it takes for there to be even a tiny break in traffic.

I remember going to an open house years ago (or, perhaps, 2007, according to this article) and somebody from PBOT saying that this was going to be one of their capital improvement projects. It was slated to go ahead, but then they had some competing sewer work that needed to get done first or something.

I don’t see why it needs a signal. E Burnside & 24th just has a crosswalk, & that works great. It clearly has EXACTLY the same capacity volume as E Burnside & 16th.

Let’s just get our asses in gear, & get a crosswalk there stat. Preferably before somebody dies.

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

Doesn’t Burnside and 24th also have an island?

Kevin Wagoner
Guest
Kevin Wagoner

Our priorities are messed up. We will continue to build new roads and implement dangerous designs…..but we can’t afford to make things safe.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Just a reminder —

For this intersection and any others where you feel unsafe, see dangerous behavior by others, etc., the city requests that you report it to them. Call or email it in, throw in some details, and ask them to make it safer.

http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=47144&a=319727

“In Portland city limits, contact the Bureau of Transportation for help with street maintenance and traffic safety issues on City-maintained streets.”

“503-823-SAFE (7233)
report a traffic safety issue”
(or email safe@portlandoregon.gov)

You can bet that if 50 people had called this intersection in over the last couple years, that $250K wouldn’t seem to be too much to spend on it…

& if enough other intersections are called in, the repair budget will be increased. Or, not cut as deeply…

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Ted Buehler

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

Thanks ted…
I have a few pet peeve intersections that I will call about…

Ted Buehler
Guest

Yes — do it!

Ted Buehler

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

Isn’t it PBOT’s MO now to wait until there are multiple fatalities at an intersection before they move to make it safer? At least, that’s how it is out on Foster and Powell.. It’s bad design, period. If they won’t put up signals and/or an actual crosswalk, they should alter the bike route to an intersection that is safe (or possible) at which to cross. Or perhaps a sign warning pedestrians they are taking their lives into their own hands here?

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

I definitely agree that they can sometimes appear very reactionary. It is very frustrating, and I’m sure, insulting to people who have lost loved ones to car crashes. It is a shame, as I know they do some good work, with very limited moolah.

ScottB
Guest
ScottB

Lies don’t help the conversation.

Brendon
Guest
Brendon

A committee of the Kerns Neighborhood Association will meet on Monday 2/13 to discuss bicycle and pedestrian issues in the neighborhood. Join us at 7:00PM at the Good Foot!

Loran
Guest
Loran

Thank you Jonathan (and Brendon) for this update! I’m in the neighborhood and will attend the Kerns meeting. (Great venue! I with Buckman met there!)

Tim
Guest
Tim

I saw that England uses a system where one speeding car results in a red light for everyone. I understand driver behavior actually changed. I see how this system could work for dangerous crossings. You get a green light as soon as someone exceeds a safe speed. Shouldn’t be much of a wait.

Angela
Guest
Angela

About a year ago, I put together a petition regarding this very issue. Initially, I encouraged a bunch of people to call 823-SAFE and due to an overwhelming response the city suggested I put together a petition. I shared the results with the various people at PBOT, but still no action.

If you have not signed it yet, please do! I have made a few attempts to talk about this project with PBOT, but I get the usual “no funding” response.

Petition link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/crossing-eburnside/

If you are interested in joining forces with Kerns Neighborhood Association, please see Brendon’s post above about a meeting next Monday, February 13.

Andyc
Guest
Andyc

Road Diet. Burnside at 14th all the way to at least 60th.

Andyc
Guest
Andyc

But more like all the way to at least 82nd