We’ve just received a response from the Oregon Department of Transportation in response to the crash Saturday night that killed Martin Greenough.
Here’s their full statement:
We are saddened by the tragic loss of a bicyclist on North Lombard Street Saturday night. Every driver has the responsibility to protect other road users by not getting behind the wheel impaired or distracted. We look forward to reviewing the findings from the crash investigation to better understand the causes of this tragic event.
ODOT makes safety improvements based on what will have the biggest and best impact on public safety. Recently, we have been at work on developing a long range plan to improve safety on Lombard and have, in fact, identified potential funding for implementing a road diet on a portion of Lombard in the current STIP update.
In addition, ODOT is currently working with our Area Commission on Transportation to allocate an additional $11 million in funding for bike, pedestrian and transit projects during the 2019-2021 STIP update. Now is the time to let ODOT know what projects are most important to implement with this limited and important funding source. People can comment at http://www.odotr1stip.org/explore-by-program/enhance/
It’s unclear why ODOT mentions a project on Lombard that isn’t near the crash location.
In a phone conversation today, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said the agency is currently crunching the traffic numbers on Lombard to analyze possible solutions.
Speaking about the history of the 42nd Avenue overpass and construction of Lombard/Highway 30, Hamilton said a lot has changed since then. “We have much greater needs than we did when the infrastructure was designed.”
The key debate about how to fix Lombard at 42nd will center around two things: Whether to reallocate the existing roadway in order to fit a bike lane on it (the “road diet” option), or to create a bike path around the bridge supports on each side of the existing roadway. The former would be potentially much cheaper and quicker, while the latter would likely take longer to become a reality. (Also consider that the road diet option would have to come with other ways of calming traffic/reducing speeds in the corridor.)
It’s still early in these conversations (“This is under study now, we don’t have the answers yet,” Hamilton told me today), but given the tragedy of Martin Greenough’s death and the context of how and when it occurred, ODOT is under a lot of public pressure to do something, anything, to show that they are serious about safety when doing so isn’t easy.
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In the meantime, it costs nothing and takes no time whatsoever to lower dangerous speed limits. And costs little to enforce them.
But considering driver awareness and habitual behavior nothing short of police enforcement will change pre existing driving habits here. The topography and layout further encourages drivers to “shoot the gap” at high speed.
If this is truly an ODOT road I say we get a horde of State Troopers down here.
That is the message I have gotten from both PBOT and ODOT, going through our speed limit change process.
Changing the limit has little effect without enforcement, and PPD claims to be stretched pretty thin.
My view was, it can’t hurt to change the speed limit.
Sure. And in the mean time place a cardboard cutout of a PPD motorcycle cop with a radar gun on the outside of the railing near the bridge pillar.
Then if you’re feeling evil follow up with a real traffic cop right past that.
That’s a good idea. But this is the agency that took down the white cutouts because they might spook drivers.
“But considering driver awareness and habitual behavior nothing short of police enforcement will change pre existing driving habits here.”
a great example is the Morrison Bridge… most people are still driving 35 mph and will honk and yell at you for going the crrent speed limit of 25 mph… I saw a cop out there once, the day after they changed it…
again, even in a car, I have to cower to the law-breakers for fear of my life… in a car!
Stay strong and flip the bird! You’re in a protective metal cage.
This section of NE Lombard has the advance warning notice to motorists that bikes have to merge with traffic at this pinch point. So the “minimum” seems to be done though it could be better and have more conspicuity (button actuated flashing warning light, additional advance warning signs, etc.) It is curious why ODoT did not lower the posted speed limit sign through this below standard roadway section.
[It will be interesting what the project file says about this internal design discussion at the time the facility was last striped / paved once the investigation is complete.]
In my experience using the button-actuated lights in the tunnels on the Oregon Coast Highway is that it produced NO CHANGE in driver behavior.
If you want to help keep the pressure on ODOT please join us this Thurs:
A candlelight vigil for victims of traffic violence
December 17, 4:30-5:30
ODOT Region 1 Headquarters
123 NW Flanders St, Portland, OR 97209
Martin Lee Greenough was recently killed on NE Lombard St/Highway 30 Bypass in an area that residents have highlighted as being exceptionally dangerous for many years. The Oregon Department of Transportation is responsible for Lombard St and most of Portland’s high crash corridors. ODOT has consistently resisted safety improvements that would make these urban highways safer for people walking, biking, and driving.
We are holding a candlelight memorial for the 403 traffic deaths in Oregon at the ODOT Region 1 Building. Black attire is encouraged and participants may bring extra pairs of shoes that will be used to tangibly represent victims. A ghost bike and memorial will be installed during the vigil. Participants may also bring signs, messages, flowers, or other symbols of outrage and/or remembrance. Materials will be available to make signs.
Who writes these things? “We look forward to.” Wow.
I apologize that you feel that way. I’m sorry that you’re offended. etc
I’m not offended. I’m surprised by the tactless wording of the response from our government agency. Your apology should be directed to the friends and family of the person who was killed.
They should have been saddened in advance by their deadly design, not just after it kills someone.
“Now is the time to let ODOT know what projects are most important to implement with this limited and important funding source. People can comment at http://www.odotr1stip.org/explore-by-program/enhance/”
Doesn’t ODOT have engineers who can look at their highways and locate dangerous designs? Regardless of the cost, all deadly infrastructure should be repaired or mothballed.
Why is it up to the public to beg for patchwork fixes from a meager allocation of funds?
I used to work for a public agency with road authority (not ODOT) and we had hundreds of items on our list: narrow shoulders, obsolete traffic signals, absence of sidewalks, bridges posted for low loads, 50-year old culverts that were rusting out, signs that didn’t meet reflectivity standards, etc. The same is true for every agency.
There is not enough money to go around because as a society we are not willing to pay for what is needed. It’s not the engineers’ fault in failing to identify the problems.
The primary fault lies with the spineless legislators who refuse to increase taxes and user fees and voters who fail to demand that adequate funds be collected.
That is a nice line, J_R, but you are conveniently forgetting that Matt Garrett was out in front, stumping for the CRC, for years, at a time when he should have known that ODOT was broke, had mortgaged everything on future revenue that might not(did not in fact) materialize, etc. An increasing share of funds headed toward ODOT now go to interest on debt. This doesn’t do any of the things on your list, and there was no reason to spend moneywe didn’t have to widen roads we didn’t need. The financial mess ODOT is in can’t be blamed only on legislators.
Most of the money intended for the CRC was from sources NOT available for use on other projects. Money from FTA for extending MAX to Vancouver; money from FHWA earmarked for “Corridors of the Future;” money from Washington DOT for the Washington part of the project. Money from tolls to be collected from those using the bridge to pay off the bonds for the project. There was relatively little money that could be used for other projects.
It’s sort of like getting a grant or tuition waiver for attending college. You can’t simply take the money and spend it on a new car or even on food or rent.
More excuses. Where did the 200 million come from that were spent on studying the boondoggle? Why were we talking about a 30 year bond? Why did Cortright and Wheeler find this whole thing to be a financial disaster? Why are you so determined to let Garrett off the hook?
If someone offers me $1000 to buy a car that will cost me umpteen thousand over the forseeable lifetime of the car does that mean I have to take the $1000? Of course not. I don’t want or need a car and no amount of special circumstances or subsidies are going to persuade me otherwise.
Yet while these funding sources are indeed different, there is no denying the fact that ODOT & WashDOT spent tens of millions of dollars of our money and political capital to push a product which looked to be from a different era and everyone hated.
If a state-owned building were falling apart and killing the occupants, the state would fix it or shut it down. There wouldn’t even be a question about it.
If there’s not money enough to make infrastructure safe, then it should be closed as a public health hazard. Period. Vision *zero*. The problem is an engineering culture that has decided that it’s okay to trade human life for mobility.
It would take a director with some real gall to pull this off.
There’s far more than enough money. The 2013-2015 legislatively adopted odot budget was in excess of $4 BILLION. The issue here is not that citizens are not willing to pony up. The real issue is that government bureaucracies are wildly inefficient and ineffective in prioritizing and allocating the dollars it has to spend.
Contributing facors –
Federal transportation dollars – we need to get the federal government out of the disbursement business as it relates to transportation funding for states and cities. First, it gives the federal government too much control over state and local transportation spending. Second, it builds in a totally wasteful layer of bureaucracy to collect, grant, and push those dollars to the states where in they, too, have their own layer to receive, plan/allocate, and push out. Third, federal involvement overly restricts the use of transportation dollars as it disburses these funds in multiple increments to be used in just these ways leading states to either waste dollars simply to spend and maintain the allocation the next year or cheat.
Overall government spending – citizens cannot stand how all levels of government currently misallocate, misprioritizes or simply wastes government revenue whether it’s at the federal level (ex-im bank; cowboy poetry festivals; picking economic winners and losers through Dept of Energy loan guarantee programs) or at the local level (pbot marketing activities, diversity and inclusion offices and staff strewn throughout all city departments). It’s not unreasonable thrn to see citizens not supporting more taxes to be misallocated, misprioritized, and wasted.
Misprioritized spending – citizens are not blind. We see how the government misprioritizes spending. Huge amounts of local dollars are spent on marketing campaigns for city departments, like PBOT. Additionally, the City hires consultants that duplicate work already performed by City staffers. The City spends tons of money on diversity and inclusion offices and staff. Now, is any of this spending more important that ensuring that Portland PD can adequately address transient crime or bike theft? Adding or widening bike lanes? Improvimg cycling and pedestrian signage at specific intersections?
The dollars are there for infrastructure improvement. Just look at Obama’s shovel-ready boondoggle. States and cities across the country allocated and expended huge sums of money to plan and present supposed ready infrastructure projects to federal government bureaucrats who then expended a huge amount of time and money to review and award (this doens’t include the massive amounts of time by congressional staff trying to influence the award process) just to push these dollars to states and locals where, ooops, there were far, far fewer ready projects than proposed. Even Obama acknowledged that shovel-ready didnt live up to the billing under ARRA. Notice what we see here – a massive waste of resources at the federal level, very little infrastructure improvement and commenters here still argue that the real issue is insufficient funds because citizens refuse to properly fund government spending needs?
When was the 42nd overpass built? This part of Hwy 30 in its current config? When were bike lanes added?
there are no bike lanes or any ‘facilities’, save a sharrows marking near the actual overpass. Poor lighting, no real shoulder and a shaky place to be after dark, this overpass transitions from NE 42nd at the south end and meets the intersection of NE Columbia and 47th.
And i forgot to mention much higher speed motor traffic and a very rough roadway. I will not ride this after dark.
I see bike lanes on Streetviews, including both 8″ and 4″ white stripes on the south (eastbound) side, and at least the 8″ bike lane stripe on the north side, and bike symbols* on both lanes scattered for miles along Lombard.
From the freeway-style design of this interchange, I’m guessing it was done in the ’60s. If the overpass was done at that time, they sure were cutting corners not to make the span a little longer. I’m guessing maybe the overpass was done a bit earlier?
That 47th & Columbia intersection has a worse collision rate on Metro Crash Map, but it doesn’t feel as scary to a person on a bike.
*Bike symbols != sharrows, although the insanity of using similar symbols for such different meanings is worth considering.
The 42nd/47th Ave overpass was built way back in 1938, and was originally owned by ODOT. At some point it was transferred to PBOT ownership. It is structurally distressed, seismically vulnerable, and weight-restricted. It also doesn’t have sidewalks or bike lanes on the structure or below the structure. Given all that, the bridge should really be replaced, but that would be very very expensive, about $8 million.
How do I know all this? PBOT has an amazing guide to all its bridges publicly available: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/509199
Awesome answer, thanks! And thanks for the first-hand confirmation, Tom.
The shortcomings of the overpass change my mind about this intersection. I had thought that bypass paths outside the bridge columns would solve things for a long time. Now I’m thinking of bridge replacement, with road diet as a short-term fix. Such a hole-in-the-air reduction would be incentive for ODOT to replace it ASAP.
I am not sure when the overpass was built, but I remember riding on Lombard from St Johns to Parkrose in 1954 and it was there. I think it had direct access as well like 33rd still has.
Not one of the Enhance applications is for a project that will fix Lombard. So I’m not sure what ODOT is trying to tell the public here, unless it’s wait for the next STIP Enhance round.
Or, maybe because the FAST Act means ODOT will be getting more money than are basing their projections on, they’re sending a signal that they’re going to put some of it into fixing Lombard/42nd?
Also: however harshly the law comes down upon DUII in regards to marijuana it should apply equally to alcohol AND prescription drugs.
People should not get a free pass for being bombed out of their gourd on prescription narcotics or any other prescription drug.
The marijuana angle will play well in yellow journalism but the real problem is DUII regardless of how it is achieved.
After the last pedestrian was killed on Lombard (night of Oct 31) I have several emails with Senator Chip Shields about road design and got cross sections of the road diet that ODOT is planning on Lombard, but it is nowhere near this location, it is slated for the Kenton/Arbor Lodge n’hoods.
Allow me to translate the engineer/spokesperson speak:
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of a bicyclist on North Lombard Street Saturday night.” – Please don’t sue us for poor road design like that family in California did (and they won!), that idea scares us.
“Every driver has the responsibility to protect other road users by not getting behind the wheel impaired or distracted.” – Lets float a blame balloon and see if anyone follows it from the real reason for this accident: our standard road cross sections suck because bike and pedestrian infrastructure is just glued on versus baked in. Complete streets? NACTO standards? That’s commie talk there!
“We look forward to reviewing the findings from the crash investigation to better understand the causes of this tragic event.” – We are trying figure out if we can come up for a reason that isn’t our fault.
Hard to argue with that. Thanks for the translation.
This is political PR speak; don’t tar and feather engineers with that toxic waste.
The first rule of engineering is that if something isn’t working, find a different solution. I know, I do environmental and stormwater engineering.
The spokesperson at ODOT (and really every DOT in the country, let’s be fair here) might be spewing political platitudes out their mouth, but its a bunch of engineers at ODOT (and again, let’s be fair, every state) who come across a situation like this and go, “We have to keep that car lane x feet wide no matter what”. And in doing so, killing people by the thousands.
Chuck Marahn of Strong Towns (also a fellow engineer) said it better than I could: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/6/8/just-an-accident
A road diet for the entirety of Lombard would be safer for all users.
This is actually a similar situation to Barbur, in terms of traffic impacts. Because this location is pretty far from any signalized intersections (there are very few intersections at all), there isn’t really much need for all that lane capacity. Delay and congestion mostly happens at signals, so a short road diet here would only cause a small amount of delay as people merge into one lane and back again.
Is Amanda Fritz’s husband’s case any different than this one? In both cases there is a dangerous situation which ODOT was aware of before the fatality occurred (and honestly, the “bike infrastructure” there is a joke). In both cases, there was driver error. So, does this mean that ODOT is financially liable in this case as well?
It takes a jury to determine that. I hope very much that Greenough finds an excellent tort lawyer and goes after the state.
You mean to say that you hope the victim’s family sues the state and wins a jury award that will be paid for by taxpayers?
Precisely. It’s one of the few mechanisms that effects change.
Can’t you take your Randian garbage to oregonlive?
Wow, personal attack much?
Im curious why you think large jury awards to be paid by the state effects change or is even an effective way to initiate change.
Yes it does and under the same statutes as Fritz sued and was awarded also.
Fritz did not sue the state. The state settled with Fritz because of the counter suit by the driver of the truck.
This is gonna sound like a cr-ppy thing to say, but if you want government to do anything in relation to correcting their unsafe, dangerous road design, wait for a politician’s loved-one to get severely injured/killed by it. That’s what I always thing about Barbur and the constant, unrelenting inaction… ‘Let’s just wait until a family member/friend of someone in city hall or salem has something happen to them biking/driving on it… technically it’s bound to happen SOMETIME, even if it’s 232 years from now.’
What does “crippy” mean?
It’s another way to say sh*tty, or po*py.
The ODOT release (1) should come from ODOT’s Director, (2) should use person-first language, and (3) is not an appropriate place to blame the driver, “look forward” to anything, or solicit input on upcoming projects for funding.
Well said, Scott.
I personally think it should also be immediately followed by the resignation of said director.
Why doesn’t ODOT put very urban road they control on a road diet? Not just in Portland or after someone diies.
Because drivers will scream bloody murder and this frightens bureaucrats.
Actually for most of ODOT’s older 4 lane (2+2) urban arterials, converting to a 3 lane road diet (1+CTL+1) would actually improve vehicle throughput where there are a lot of driveways. Plus safety goes way up. Usually the commercial and residential property owners are very supportive of these changes as they get improved property access and safety.
The agency needs to rebuild local infrastructure to prove to the voters it is able to administer programs which make their lives demonstrably better. Things which are high vis like repainting the Fremont BR or redesigning highways which pass through urban areas.
Spending $3M to raise a bridge on 205 18″ and focusing so heavily on I-5 is probably not the path to success. Who are the primary beneficiaries of these improvements? Mostly freight. That is not a very populous constituency and they will never be satisfied.
(repainting a bridge is not perhaps the highest use of limited funds but it would certainly give the impression that ODOT has things under control and cares about protecting our collective investments)
Any chance the cops will throw some speed cameras up and a bunch of signs warning motorists that they’re there? I imagine surveillance could at least encourage them to pay attention in that particular area.
Sadly, unmanned speed cameras are not legal on Lombard. We need to change the law so that speed cameras can be installed on any road.
please from all about Oregon, we need to stop this dis-connect in bike lane, I see it on Hall and lotta places, cars don’t or don’t want to understand, it not eazy to ride. taking the lane yes..
Yep, in Beaverton, the approach on Lombard to Allen just sees the bike Lane disappear just as it does on Hall at Allen. And the bike lane is missing as you cross the intersections at both Lombard and Hall roads at Allen picking up a hundred yards down the road. Hall is the worst given the traffic volume at that intersection.
Agreed, the disconnect on Hall is outrageous. For a while I used to take to the sidewalk through the stretch, but started to recognize too many conflict risks. More recently I detour quite a few blocks out of my way to use Erickson for the Allen crossing, which I did just this past weekend.
Personally, I see the only appology needed from ODOT that might be acceptable for everyone would be, at a minimum. Routing the bike lane at the pinchpoint behind the bridge posts. It is only recent history that the area behind the “FOG LINES” were designated as “BIKE LANES”. The speed limits in this stretch have not been changed since the 50’s Before that HWY 30 was considered a major highway (or freeway) much like what is not the scenic highway in the gorge. I came to Portland before 84 was built. Just a lot more and bigger cars now.
Sadly Lombard (or is it North East Portland Highway?) is an outdated facility that fails because it is trying to be too many things at once…a street (with adjoining residential homes with on street parking), a limited access highway (striped median), a truck route, a commercial zone, and a bikeway…and sometimes and ADA pedestrian way (in the those few sections with complete sidewalks and crosswalks). Thus by serving too many masters in a limited ROW then it fails to serve any single user well (and safely).
[This is an old lesson, repeated frequently throughout Portland on City and state roadways…SE Hawthorne, etc.]
So is it a limited access “highway” or a [in]complete ” street”? It might work well for Reeses Peanut Butter Cups but not roadways…
This is no more apparent right in the zone where the crash and death occurred…per Google, it changes name between street and highway.
Dismayed to read about the eminently preventable Lombard fatality. No doubt ODOT bears a heavy responsibility for the stupid vanishing bike lane, but there is another agency that SHOULD be involved, if only after the fact.
Happened to run across a little discussed aspect of ongoing bike injuries and deaths – the abdication of the NTSB of its role in investigating and preventing more of the same.
Have a read at: https://systemicfailure.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/vision-zero-policy-needed-at-the-ntsb/
If everyone here who commented wrote a physical letter to odots director and to the governor, things would change.