With 40% rise in roadway deaths, activists plan to target ODOT

A man died in this collision on Saturday
on Highway 6 near Tillamook.
(Photo: Oregon State Police)

As long as roadway fatalities and injuries keep piling up, local activists plan to keep protesting.

Fresh of last week’s rally and demonstrations at City Hall, volunteers with BikeLoudPDX will continue their actions with a Death Toll Memorial event tomorrow at the headquarters of the Oregon Department of Transportation in downtown Portland.

“Several of us feel the need to publicly acknowledge that 30 people lost their lives in June on Oregon roads in preventable wrecks,” wrote event organizer Dan Kaufman. Kaufman, the same man who organized the protest on SE Powell Blvd back in May, is fed up with the loss of life and injury on our roads.

Fueling Kaufman’s outrage is an alarming uptick in Oregon traffic deaths. According to ODOT, from January 1st through June 23rd there have been 194 fatalities on Oregon roads. That’s an increase of 39.6 percent over the same time-frame last year. (And since the 23rd there have been at least six more fatalities (according to our research) bringing the total up to 199.)


While the state agency is working on various safety measures, some activists feel ODOT should do more as well as re-think their priorities. “They, and many in the state legislature, want to expand freeways while ignoring the carnage,” Kaufman says.

Last week ODOT and the legislature tried (unsuccessfully) to push through a transportation bill that included over $70 million in earmarks for highway widening projects. In a notice about an upcoming project in Washington County, ODOT claimed that widening Highway 26 with a new lane in each direction would, “improve traffic safety and relieve congestion.”

In contrast, the description for tomorrow’s event reads: “The current transportation priority is expanding our dysfunctional road system… We will not support any roadway expansion until Vision Zero is adopted and implemented statewide.”

Unlike the City of Portland, who officially adopted Vision Zero earlier this month, ODOT has yet to embrace the concept. Speaking at an event back in April, ODOT’s Traffic Safety Division manager Troy Costales said their goal is to “increase the number of zero fatality days.”

BikeLoudPDX plans to make this a monthly event that will draw attention to the ongoing death toll. They’re hoping to tell stories from the perspective of the deceased and have family members of the victims show up and speak.

The event is at 4:30 to 5:30 pm tomorrow (6/30) at ODOT Region 1 headquarters (123 NW Flanders). Learn more via Facebook.

Stay tuned for more coverage of ODOT’s traffic safety efforts. We are working on an interview with Costales to find out more about this year’s uptick in fatalities and what he’s doing to address the issue.

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