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


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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