Matt Milletto, the owner of Water Avenue Coffee, has seen enough. The death of 41-year-old Tamar Monhait just steps away from his front door has spurred him into action.
During the monthly meeting of the Central Eastside Industrial Council last night, Milletto stepped forward during the public comment period to share his concerns about the intersection of Water Avenue and Taylor. I wasn’t there but heard from a source in the room that he spoke forcefully about the need for something to be done. I met Milletto today to hear his perspective first-hand.
“We’re tired of seeing this. A four-way stop at this intersection would have saved a life.”
— Matt Milletto, Water Avenue Coffee
“I’ve owned a business here for 13 years,” he shared, as we sat in his popular cafe. “I’ve seen this neighborhood evolve and grow. It’s sad to see our streets turn into such a crazy place.” In an email he added, “I am distraught over it as it happens in front of my business, and it’s not the first time … a few years back another cyclist was hit in the same spot, and there are a string of other accidents in this area. My goal is to make Water Avenue one of the best streets in the city. Having literally named my business after this street, I feel I have a cohesive bond to the avenue and want to be a safe place.”
Milletto said dangerous driving is common in the area. One block to the north, people exit I-5 at Yamhill and are dropped into a bustling area full of walkers and bikers. “The mentality of drivers coming off I-5 and speeding to beat the train, etc. is staggering and very visible,” he wrote in an email. Because Yamhill doesn’t go through, many people drive south on Water Avenue and swing onto Taylor to go east — the same thing the driver of a large garbage did just prior to hitting Tamar Monhait on Monday morning.
Since the crash, Milletto has been reaching out to other business owners. So far he’s gotten support from the owners of Cargo, Boke Bowl, Bunk, and several others.
“We’re tired of seeing this,” he told me today. “It could have been avoided and it’s negligent to not do something. A four-way stop at this intersection would have saved a life.”
Milletto added that because Monhait was well-known as an artist and employee in the central eastside, her death has touched a lot of people. “You look around at your employees and you wonder, who’s next? What if this was one of your employees? How outraged would you be?”
I also heard today that the Portland Bureau of Transportation already has changes in store for this intersection. Reader Greg Haun included us in an email exchange with PBOT regarding a safety request he initially made in October 2014. Haun made a formal request for crosswalks that led to PBOT doing an engineering analysis to see if they were warranted. They were. And the engineer recommended them being added to the City’s official Capital Improvement Project list. In a subsequent email from PBOT’s Eileen Dent (who tracks 823-SAFE requests), she told Haun the project is currently in design.
The City plans to install two marked crosswalks on Water Avenue. They will also build new ADA-compliant curb ramps at the corners and all three corners (the SW corner is undeveloped) will get curb extensions. New signage to remind road users about the presence of walkers is also planned. Completion of the project is expected this fall.
Reached for comment about the planned crosswalks, Milletto said, “That is good news.”
Stay tuned for more coverage of tomorrow’s vigil and my impressions of the collision based on video footage I reviewed today.
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