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City Council gives unanimous support to emergency speed limit decrease on Division Street

Posted by on March 2nd, 2017 at 3:48 pm

This sign (and many others like it) will be removed tomorrow.
(Photo: PBOT)

Portland City Council just voted unanimously to enact an emergency state law to drop the speed limit on outer Division Street — a road recently referred to as a “death corridor” by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

As we reported earlier this month, the move comes as the Bureau of Transportation reacts to a spate of deaths and injuries on the street. The move also comes as the latest example of PBOT flexing its Vision Zero muscles.

Since this passed as an emergency, it can go into effect immediately. PBOT crews will be out on Division Street tomorrow taking down 35 mph signs and replacing them with 30 mph signs. Once the signs are up, the new speed limit will be in place for 120 days. If all goes according to PBOT’s plan, they’ll never have to remove the signs. Upcoming changes to the street intended to slow people down are likely to reduce average speeds to an amount compatible with what the Oregon Department of Transportation prefers to see before granting an official, permanent speed limit change.

Here’s more from PBOT as shared in a press statement following today’s Council vote:

“The correlation between speed and serious injury or death is clear,” said Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “We must ensure that all streets in our city are safe for people walking, biking, rolling or driving. I am grateful to my colleagues on City Council for understanding and supporting this urgent situation.”

“I deeply appreciate City Council’s leadership on the issue of traffic safety on Outer Division and throughout East Portland,” said PBOT Director Leah Treat. “The need for this action is clear. A person walking struck by a person driving 40 mph is twice as likely to die as a person struck by someone driving at 30 mph. What is more, people walking in East Portland are 2.5 times more likely to be killed in traffic crashes than in the rest of the city. It’s time to put aside the desire to get somewhere quickly because doing so can mean the difference between life and death.”

Over 10 years, SE Division has had more crashes that caused fatalities or serious injuries to people driving than any other corridor in the city with a total of 13 deaths and 117 serious injuries. It had the fourth highest total for people walking, and the second highest total for people riding bicycles. Outer SE Division is on the designated High Crash Network due to the high rate of crashes on the street. The traffic deaths and injuries on Outer Division greatly affect the diverse communities in the Jade District, Division Midway Alliance and other communities in East Portland…

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The changes are the first step in the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Outer SE Division Near-Term Safety Strategy. The strategy was developed as part of a previous ordinance passed by City Council on December 21st, 2016 in response to the deaths of two pedestrians who were killed in Outer Division traffic crashes within hours of each other on December 7, 2016.

Each step in the plan implements an action identified in Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan while also upholding PBOT and the City of Portland’s commitment to racial equity. The steps include: increasing multilingual and multi-cultural traffic safety education; decreasing speed through automated enforcement; decreasing speed through speed reader boards; decreasing speed through lowering posted speed; and decreasing speed through street design.

In addition to the speed change, the city has also accelerated the installation of speed safety cameras on SE Division at SE 151st and on SE 122nd at SE Steele and SE Reedway. Safety cameras are proven safety tools that can reduce dangerous speeding and save lives. The cameras are mounted along High Crash Corridors and when people driving past them exceed the posted speed limit, they capture photos and video for review by Portland Police.

The speed safety cameras on SE Division and SE 122nd will be activated on Monday, March 6, 2017. The cameras will issue warnings for the first 30 days. Thereafter, people can avoid citations by traveling the posted speed limit. Any money received from the tickets pays for the program and safety improvements on the corridor.

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

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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

  • rick March 2, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Where was Amanda Fritz?

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    • Chris I March 2, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Speeding home on SW Barbur.

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    • Jeff March 3, 2017 at 6:50 am

      Busy telling cyclists to get off the sidewalk.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 3, 2017 at 10:48 am

        Jeff, would you please explain why, in the context to which you refer (i.e. downtown), cyclists should be riding on the sidewalk?

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    • wsbob March 3, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      The motion passed, unanimously. No mention in the story that Comm Fritz was absent, and if she was, it likely wouldn’t have caused the motion to fail, even had she voted against it. Why are you asking that question?

      It’s a good move for the city to have decisively acted to bring down the speed limit on this major city thoroughfare. Keeping traffic moving at safe and slow mph speeds is much more important in the city than allowing excessively high thoroughfare speeds whose main gain may be just a five to ten minute trip reduction time from Downtown to outer Portland.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 3, 2017 at 3:03 pm

        She was absent. There is every reason to believe she supported the lowering of the speed limit. Haters gonna hate.

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        • wsbob March 5, 2017 at 6:24 pm

          Now I kind of remember, from having browsed over the O today…maybe she was in Arizona with her staff for that workshop.

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  • rick March 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Would huge bike parties help lower the speed limits when ODOT is conducting their tests for the 85th percentile? When will those tests take place ?

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  • Lars Skaug March 3, 2017 at 8:32 am

    This seems like a token effort to me with no improvement in safety for vulnerable road users. I would, however, expect PBOT to argue that they did something when in fact they did nothing material.

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    • alankessler March 3, 2017 at 9:14 am

      I think you’re only partially correct. If nothing else is done, these speed limit signs will do bubkis to make us safer. That is true.

      BUT, the fact that 4 of our commissioners are willing to stick out their necks and tell motorists to drive slower could be a sign of progress.

      This isn’t a normal speed limit adjustment, PBOT is getting their authority from a previously-unused (as far as I’m aware) emergency provision of the statute, to do something that ODOT normally wouldn’t let them. If they follow this up with the proper treatments to bring the design speed down and, more importantly, use this momentum to change state law to give the city speed limit authority, it could be a great first step.

      It may not seem like it, but for our City Council in recent years, this was a very brave action.

      I was extremely impressed with Commissioner Eudaly’s statement about being no friend of speed. I was also impressed with the Mayor’s statement that he would support a city-wide speed limit. Vision Zero seems to have 4 allies on our City Council and I think it’s time to make hay.

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      • rick March 3, 2017 at 10:34 am

        What about Fritz?

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        • alankessler March 3, 2017 at 10:36 am

          Indeed so.

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  • Ted Buehler March 3, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Congrats to all the neighborhood activists, bicyclists, street safety folks, BTA/TST, 823-SAFE callers, etc. who have pestered the city over the years and got them thinking about street safety reducing speed limits.

    & a big thanks to Commissioner Saltzman for carrying the torch on this one.

    Folks, if you want to see more speed limit reductions, now is a great time to check in with Commissioner Saltzman on the issue. If they get lots of positive responses on this one they’ll be more enthusiastic about replicating it elsewhere.

    I’d recommend a “thank you” note for starters

    Ted Buehler

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  • wsbob March 5, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Further out than the section of Division St in question, but this morning, there was another person on foot that died in a collision with someone driving, out in the “…19000 block of Southeast Division Street at 1 a.m. …”.

    Very slim on info story in the O:


    Given the time of morning, thought that comes to mind is that the collision may have been alcohol related, but then the story reports as follows:

    “…According to police, the driver of the vehicle that struck the pedestrian stayed at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. Police say that drugs, alcohol and speed don’t appear to be factors in the accident. …”

    In a comment to that story, a reader points out that the reduction in posted speed limit for Division, approved by city council last week, does not extend to the section of the road where this morning’s collision occurred.

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  • SE March 9, 2017 at 10:18 am

    >>In addition to the speed change, the city has also accelerated the installation of speed safety cameras on SE Division at SE 151st and on SE 122nd at SE Steele and SE Reedway.

    They’d best get their sh1t together before activating these.

    I drove thru there yesterday. The first radar “your speed is..” display said “28mph” , looked down and speedo said 29. OK.
    Then drove past the camera that flashed at me. it’s a 35 mph zone.

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