with ODOT’s new regional manager about safety
improvements on Barbur.
(Photo via Oregon Legislature)
When the Oregon Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday that it had decided to change course and formally consider a road diet on Southwest Barbur, its news release included two words that hadn’t been associated with the issue before:
The state representative appointed last year to represent much of Southwest Portland and her hometown of Lake Oswego, Lininger was quoted by ODOT itself as favoring “improving safety for all users on this crucial roadway.”
Though she’s only one of many people who’ve contacted ODOT in support of low-cost, short-term improvements to Southwest Barbur — multiple sources said that U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has expressed his opinion, not to mention Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and hundreds of local residents and organizations — Lininger is one of a few who’ve done so from a position few people have: direct authority over ODOT, thanks to her seat in the state legislature.
“People in the Portland part of the district have expressed a lot of interest in improving safety for bikes and pedestrians. I think it’s really important for us to do this.”
— Ann Lininger, Oregon State Representative
Lininger and others, in turn, credited ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer with both the suggestion and the final decision to conduct a road safety audit of Barbur that would include consideration of a road diet. Windsheimer, like Lininger, came into his current job last year — in his case being promoted to replace the departed Region 1 Manager Jason Tell.
Previously a Clackamas County Commissioner for four years, the Lininger, a Democrat, was appointed to the legislature in January 2014 to replace resigning legislator Chris Garrett. Last November, she was elected without opposition to a full second term.
And somewhere along the way, Lininger said in an interview this week, she developed a clear sense of the transportational desires of Southwest Portlanders.
“People in the Portland part of the district have expressed a lot of interest in improving safety for bikes and pedestrians,” Lininger said. “I think it’s really important for us to do this, and part of the community where people walk and bike a lot.”
After Windsheimer became ODOT’s Portland interim regional manager last August, Lininger (who had previously served with him a Metro policy committee) called him up to discuss active transportation improvements in Southwest Portland.
“I’m going to have to hand it to Rian — his team did a great job of identifying the project. They came up with this suggestion.”
— state Rep. Ann Lininger on ODOT regional manager Rian Windsheimer
It was the first of “a number of conversations,” Lininger said. Those culminated in a sit-down meeting in Salem on April 22 between Lininger and Windsheimer, also including staffers from the offices of state Sen. Richard Devlin and state Rep. Margaret Doherty, whose districts sit just southwest on Barbur.
The idea of a Barbur road safety audit came in part out of those conversations, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said this week.
“Certainly we always listen when legislators start describing things that they hear that are wrong on the roads,” Hamilton said.
Lininger praised Windsheimer and his colleagues for trying to find “a cost-efficient way we can get to making bike and pedestrian improvements.”
“I’m going to have to hand it to Rian — his team did a great job of identifying the project,” she said. “Short of doing something that requires hundreds of millions of dollars today, what are the things we could do today, this year, to start improving safety? … They came up with this suggestion.”
The safety audit will open the door to possible safety improvements not just on the much-discussed wooded section of Barbur just south of downtown Portland but on the commercial section to its south as far southeast as its intersection with Capitol Highway.
“I’m hoping that it will be a conversation about a huge chunk of Barbur and not just limited to a part that has received a lot of attention in the past,” Lininger said.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.