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After year of tragedies, City returns to outer Division with an apology and a plan

Posted by on February 24th, 2017 at 12:06 pm

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PBOT’s yard signs were very popular last night.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman apologized to residents of the Jade District in person last night for a spate of fatal traffic crashes on outer Division Street.

Speaking as the new commissioner-in-charge of the transportation bureau, Saltzman stood in front of a mostly Chinese-speaking crowd and said, “We’re sorry and we’re bound and determined to do something about that.”

18 months ago in the exact same room as the meeting Saltzman attended last night — the Jade/APANO Multicultural Space on the corner of 82nd and Division — the City of Portland launched their Vision Zero effort. The Bureau of Transportation didn’t plan on coming back, but since that celebratory launch five people have died and three others have suffered life-altering injuries on outer Division. When two Chinese immigrants died trying to cross the street in separate collisions within just hours of each other back in December, PBOT swung into action and has been listening and formulating plans ever since.

Last night in a meeting hosted by the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, PBOT kicked off a community process slated to end with a plan adopted by City Council this fall.

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Commissioner Saltzman apologized for the lack of safety on Division.
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PBOT Director Leah Treat faced a crowd of Jade District residents who want safer streets.

PBOT Director Leah Treat was also in attendance last night. She looked over the crowd full of women and small children and said, “I’m struck by the many of you here with kids. I have four children of my own. I want for you to be able to walk out of this door and cross the street safely — and we need your help and ideas.”

“I want for you to be able to walk out of this door and cross the street safely — and we need your help and ideas.”
— Leah Treat, PBOT Director

Last night’s meeting was a listening session — the first step in the $300,000 outreach and education funding passed by council last month as an emergency response to December’s two fatalities. While PBOT uses their nonprofit partner APANO to organize the community and spur input from people who use Division, the City’s capital projects team has queued up a suite of projects worth about $7 million that aim to tame the dangerous arterial in a five-mile stretch from 82nd to the Portland-Gresham border at 174th.

On Vision Zero letterhead, the City passed out five-step “near-term safety strategy” for Division last night. The proposed steps include:

1) Increasing multilingual and multi-cultural traffic safety education: There’s a high percentage of non-English speakers who don’t own cars and live on and around Division. This step was requested by neighborhood groups and is spelled out in the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan. It will consist of new signage, listening sessions with city agencies, working with neighborhoods for “street team” education missions, safety messages on posters in local businesses and banners on/near the street.

2) Decreasing speed through automated enforcement: PBOT has bumped up installation of speed cameras at SE 156th by seven months and hopes to start issuing citations in a matter of weeks (instead of July).

3) Decreasing speed through speed reader boards: Plans call for four to six speed reader boards (yellow signs that read, “Your Speed XX”) spaced evenly throughout the corridor.

4) Decreasing speed through lowering posted speed: On March 2nd, PBOT will likely earn permission from Council to drop the speed limit 5 mph (from 35 to 30) for 120 days via an “emergency” declaration as outlined in a rarely-used Oregon law. In those 120 days PBOT will analyze how vehicle speeds have changed. If the plan works and speeds go down, PBOT hopes it will bolster their case to the Oregon Department of Transportation that the speed should be permanently lowered.

5) Decreasing speed through street design: PBOT will accelerate timelimes for projects already funded and planned for outer Division and will expand some other projects. Among the changes coming to the street between now and 2018 are: four rapid flashing beacons at 111th, 115th, 136th and 138th; two hybrid beacons (overhead signals that flash red when activated by a button) at 124th and 158th; improved crossings with median islands; more street lighting; completion of sidewalk gaps between 102nd and 148th; “vehicle access management” a.k.a. prohibiting certain types of dangerous turning movements; and protected bike lanes for the entire stretch.

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As for those bike lanes, PBOT project manager Elizabeth Mahon said at last night’s meeting the plan is to create buffered bike lanes from 82nd east to the city limits. They’d be striped by 2018 and would include some sort of physical barrier between bicycle and auto traffic. Mahon said PBOT would create room for the bike lanes by removing on-street parking along Division – most of which she said won’t cause “a significant amount of congestion” because it’s currently under-utilized. Once PBOT finalizes its preferred protected bike lane treatment (flex posts are considered an interim measure), they’d go back and upgrade the buffered bike lanes.

Here’s PBOT’s list of projects and expected completion dates:

And a visual PBOT provided with what the changes might look like:

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Division is currently 76-feet wide and has two standard vehicles lanes and bike lanes in both directions. So far PBOT hasn’t proposed anything that would reconfigure the standard lanes and/or reduce motor vehicle capacity. That’s a sore spot with activists from BikeLoudPDX who are fighting for changes on Division. They made their feelings known when the meeting split into two workgroups (one in Chinese, the other in English).

BikeLoudPDX Co-Chair Jessica Engelman said last night during a feedback session with PBOT (that included Commissioner Saltzman and Director Treat) that she was frustated how TriMet failed to get a dedicated bus-only lane for their upcoming Division Transit Project (largely because the agency was unwilling to create a bus-only lane). “Our conversation about capacity,” she said, “Needs to be about what kind of capacity do we really want?”. In Engelman’s view, Division needs less capacity for private car drivers and more capacity for people on foot, on bikes, in buses, and in emergency vehicles.

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PBOT Capital Program Division Manager Millicent Williams (center) listens to feedback.
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Commissioner Saltzman sat in on the group feedback session.

On the other side of the room at last night’s meeting, a workgroup of Chinese speakers who live in the Jade District shared their opinions and needs. A representative of the group said they want more streetlights to illuminate crossings, potholes to be fixed, better visibility when pulling out of driveways, and more education (and even tickets if necessary) for walkers who don’t use crosswalks.


What’s happening on outer Division matters in many ways.

This process is a test of Portland’s commitment to Vision Zero and to the people who are most vulnerable to the out-of-control driving culture on Division and the many streets like it throughout the city. We regularly fault how ODOT handles arterials — can PBOT show the state how it’s done? Will Division be a template for what PBOT can do on other arterials they might inherit from ODOT in the future?

Commissioner Saltzman also sees this process as a key organizing tool to help him pass a $2.2 million general fund budget request to fund several key elements of the Vision Zero program. During his opening remarks, Saltzman told the residents that he’s relying on them to turn out and testify. “We’re going to work hard to make this city safer for everybody, but we need your help,” he said. “I hope you’ll give us ideas about what we can we do, and I want you to know we’ll need you when we have budget hearings because we’ll be asking city council to put more money into Vision Zero and safety improvements into outer Division.”

Complicating things a bit is TriMet’s Division Transit Project. The transit agency will spend $175 million to improve bus service along Division with a scheduled completion date of 2021. PBOT’s timeline for making changes to Division doesn’t fully mesh with TriMet’s and the two agencies will have to coordinate to make sure no toes are stepped on and that changes to the street are as integrated as possible.

This project matters the most to the people who live, work, and play in the Division corridor.

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Hector Dominquez and his daughter.

Hector Dominquez spoke out repeatedly in the meeting last night. He lives nearby and walks on the street regularly. He also bikes his young daughter to school on a route that includes several stressful blocks along Division. He hopes changes will make the street safer. In the end, he said, “I just want to enjoy and be proud when I walk in my neighborhood.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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rick
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rick

Will the lower 30 mph speed limit signs be installed and enforced on March 2nd?

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

Why does “traffic safety education” always seem to focus on potential victims of traffic violence, rather than on potential perpetrators?

Teaching “don’t kill” might be more effective than teaching “don’t die,” but I can only guess that because the latter doesn’t seem to work. “Be seen, be safe” can’t work without “see, be safe” directed at drivers…you can’t be seen by someone who’s not looking, and the passive voice hides that.

I’m all for traffic safety education…to those who most need it. Can we be clearer on why we think that’s always pedestrians please?

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

Do people need to start taking this Strong Towns meme with them to ever PBOT meeting?

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/11/19/if-you-need-a-giant-cat-to-tell-people-to-slow-down

Pete S.
Guest
Pete S.

This is a good start.

When can we talk about fixing 82nd?

9watts
Subscriber

It occurs to me (for the umpteenth time) that it might be wise to check with others (other countries, agencies, institutions) that have tackled Vision Zero successfully, see how they went about this. Perhaps our local representatives have done just that, but sometimes I get the feeling that we’re starting from scratch, casting about, flailing(?)

Those five priorities read a bit strangely. While four of the five listed points are about clamping down on speeding, the first is a bit incongruous, highlighting as it does the need for education (it is implied) of those not in cars. I see that this was requested by the neighborhood associations, but still question the prominence of it here. My sense of how other jurisdictions both in the US and beyond have gone about this does not focus on teaching the vulnerable how to better avoid the car menace.

OregonJelly
Guest
OregonJelly

It would be interesting to hear how much of the $380,000 was spent on this meeting.

soren
Guest
soren

Commissioner Saltzman also sees this process as a key organizing tool to help him pass a $2.2 million general fund budget request to fund several key elements of the Vision Zero program. During his opening remarks, Saltzman told the residents that he’s relying on them to turn out and testify.

It’s about time that dedicated funding is being discussed for a program that was passed last year. But…this is peanuts. I promise Commissioners Saltzman that I and others will turn out and ask for more.

Adam
Subscriber

PBOT project manager Elizabeth Mahon said at last night’s meeting the plan is to create buffered bike lanes from 82nd east to the city limits. They’d be striped by 2018 and would include some sort of physical barrier between bicycle and auto traffic. Mackin said PBOT would create room for the bike lanes by removing on-street parking along Division – most of which she said won’t cause “a significant amount of congestion” because it’s currently under-utilized.

Glad PBOT is finally admitting that it’s okay to reallocate parking spots that hardly anyone uses, after years of defending them (see: Foster).

…more education (and even tickets if necessary) for walkers who don’t use crosswalks

This is misguided. Many of the people killed by drivers in Portland were using the crosswalks legally. The inherent problem here is not that people need to be educated on proper street crossing, but that the street design simple is hostile to people walking. No amount of education will change that fact. I agree with Jessica, that bus-only lanes could have been a perfect solution to this problem, so I have no idea why PBOT is not pursuing this option given how poorly-performing the “Division Rapid Bus” will perform without them.

B. Carfree
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B. Carfree

Regarding point 2, decreasing speed through automated enforcement: Unless the typical speeder is going 11 mph or more over the posted speed limit, this isn’t going to actually reduce speeds. Only those excessive speeders will be cited; it’s the lame free 10 mph over the limit that will keep speeds high.

Note that PBoT clearly thinks that smaller increments of speed are important (as do I). They are going to temporarily reduce the posted speed limit by a mere 5 mph. It must be frustrating for any people at PBoT who really want to create safe streets to be constantly hamstrung by misguided state laws.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Can the temporary speed limit reduction be repeated? What’s to stop PBoT from reducing the speed limit for 90 days, returning it for a day, and repeating the reduction?

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Bob Lutz, big-time executive auto-industry honcho, says that the age of the personal motor-vehicle has about another 20 years to run. The rationale is simple.

The great preponderance of capital invested in auto-centric transportation is in the vehicles themselves, not the roads that carry them nor the factories that produce them. Plus, on average, a personal motor-vehicle sits idle more than 90% of its lifetime. Only a nation that generates great excesses of capital can afford such a system, and the US quickly is reaching diminishing returns in that respect.

So if we just hang on a while our system will inherently correct itself, and we all will live healthier, happier, longer lives.

Eventually.

curly
Subscriber
curly

Of the top 30 “High Crash Intersections” in the city of Portland, 27 of them are at, or east of 82nd Ave. according to Vision Zero statistics. 8 of the top ten are on either Division, or Powell from 82nd Ave. east. Taking active transportation, or transit means you’re relying on drivers to be aware of your presence on the roadway. A lower speed limit should help tremendously on Division from 82nd Ave. east. Nice to hear something is being done. It always takes a fatality, or two, to bring this issue to the forefront, yet again. East Portland residents continue to advocate for improvements to these very dangerous roadways, yet there is always a reason funding goes elsewhere. Baby steps are no longer acceptable to fixing the transportation issues in east Portland. Waves of funding dollars need to continue to flow east! And wouldn’t it be nice if ODOT and PBOT would work together to make these facilities safer!

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

This is heartening. I hope they follow through.

#1 should be #5, if any number at all. I don’t remember feeling hampered walking or driving around in Quebec and Montreal by not knowing French (except for “où sont les toilettes?”, “oui, oui!” and “merci!”).

Also: what the hell is the Jade District? I hate this irritating recent phenomenon of renaming things in Portland and then throwing those terms around like, ‘oh, this is what we’ve always called it…’ It’s like kudzu, that tactic. I hate to see it work. Grumble, grumble. Just like taking pictures of your feet at the airport is ‘a Portland tradition’ (of about three years, I’d say…).

p.s…apparently we have “quadrants” now, too. Five of them. Yup. Sigh.

SD
Guest
SD

“Increasing multilingual and multi-cultural traffic safety education” sounds benign enough and really any guidance form the city should be accessible by everyone. But the contribution of not speaking English to any of the traffic fatalities in Portland is dubious. It is also a distraction from the fact that poorly designed and controlled highways are more likely to be in lower income areas where there may be less English speakers. And, the political influence to “humanize” these neighborhoods is lacking or opposed by freight and ODOT.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

South Portland is actually the name of a good-sized city in Maine, which I suspect is the reason the City of Portland (Oregon) avoids the use of “South Portland.” “East Portland” was an incorporated city in Oregon until it was annexed by the City of Portland in 1926; it’s now the Kerns and Hobsford-Abernathy neighborhoods of southeast portland. The current “East Portland” is a much more vast and somewhat less developed area between 82nd and Gresham/175th, but with more people than any other district. 20% of the city area (29 sq mi/145) and over 28% of the city’s residents.

One of the real ongoing issues of East Portland is that “there is no there, there”, to use a quote from a famous planner. Most of the 13 city-recognized EPNO neighborhoods have no real identity. Everyone knows Lents, but no one knows where it ends or begins. People who live in Argay know where it is, even if no one in the rest of the city does. The 3 largest neighborhoods in the city, all in East Portland, each have over 25,000 residents – the size of small cities – but does anyone know where Hazelwood, Centennial, and Powellhurst-Gilbert actually are? Would you know it if you rode your bike through them?

So the creation of artificial districts is a response by the city, local business groups, residents, and activists intent on creating neighborhood identity, like “Uptown”, “Goose Hollow”, or “Pearl District”. Jade District is between Lents and Montevilla – most of it is in fact in Powellhurst-Gilbert, but it only occupies a small portion of that vast neighborhood. Division-Midway is literally at the midpoint of Division, given that part of it’s length extends into Gresham. It is in 4 neighborhoods you have never heard of – Mill Park, Hazelwood, Powellhurst-Gilbert, and Centennial. Rosewood is next to the Gresham district of Rockwood, in Glenfair, Centennial, & Hazelwood. And so on.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“two standard vehicles lanes and bike lanes”

I’m sure you meant “two standard motor vehicle lanes and a bike lane”…

however, counting parking there’s 3 motor vehicle lanes… counting the center lane that’s 3.5 in each direction dedicated to motor vehicles…

Spiffy
Subscriber

the list has a lot of things that will encourage drivers to slow down but nothing that will force them to…

SD
Guest
SD

“Increasing multilingual and multi-cultural traffic safety education” sounds benign enough and really any instruction from the city should be accessible by everyone. But the contribution of not speaking English or cultural differences to any of the traffic fatalities in Portland is dubious. It is also a distraction from the fact that poorly designed and controlled highways are more likely to be in lower income areas where there may be less English speakers. And, the political influence to “humanize” these neighborhoods is lacking or opposed by freight and ODOT.

Edward
Guest
Edward

The info-graphic picture has a box that says, “safer signal timing.” I love the sound of that. “Safer” should be an improvement. But what does it actually mean and what is it they are going to do to make the signals timing “safer”?

Will they set them so traffic can only get through at 22 mph? Would that actually be safer? Or would it encourage drivers to become impatiently enraged? There must be some data on stuff on like this. Anybody?

Joe
Guest
Joe

I feel that most ppl speeding and driving wreckless have very little respect for
anything outside their bubble.

Kate
Guest
Kate

South Waterfront was a whole manufactured, new neighborhood that’s only existed a handful of years, so naming it makes a little more sense. I actually think Zidell Yards is a better name, and that’s what it was, pretty much. It claims the history, at least. I would call The Jade District simply SE 82nd (that road is known, and it has history! Claim the name! Erase the shame!). Or The Organ Grinder District.
The Pearl I would simply call The Clam. Or just, Clam.
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Total sidenote to jump in and say that I grew up off 82nd and loved the Organ Grinder as a kid. Man, what a place!