North Portlanders are tired of waiting for the City or advocacy groups to save them from the deadly streets in their front yards. They’re taking matters into their own hands by elevating voices of vulnerable road users and demanding attention for their concerns.
Two events in the coming week — one from the Arbor Lodge and Overlook neighborhood associations and one from the St. Johns Neighborhood Association — will focus on dangerous streets where motor vehicle users cause daily environmental, safety and public health problems.
This Friday (10/20) a group of St. Johns residents calling themselves Citizens for a Safe and Attractive Fessenden/St Louis will hold a rally to demand that the Portland Bureau of Transportation follow through with promises. Fessenden/St.Louis is a neighborhood collector street between Columbia Boulevard (to the north) and Lombard (to the south). Residents PBOT to fully implement the St. Johns Truck Strategy Phase II project that was approved after a 17 month public process in 2013 (as part of the St. Johns Truck Strategy adopted by City Council in 2001).
Initial impetus for the plan was to stop large semi-truck operators from using Fessenden as a cut-through. With that accomplished, residents say it’s still way too dangerous to walk and bike across the street. Phase II of the plan includes a host of projects aimed at making crossings safer. The St. Johns Neighborhood Association said in a letter to PBOT last month (PDF) that the streets, “continue to have an increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe barrier for people on foot.”
At a meeting about the project in June, PBOT stoked local ire by announcing that three of the promised crossing treatments would not be built in the expected timeframe. “The neighborhood,” states the letter, “led by local resident representatives of the Phase II planning stakeholder committee, responded with rightful frustration and disappointment, advocating for the complete funding and implementation of the HAWK and RRFB signals during the 2018 construction season.”
“The population that will be served by these signals is highly vulnerable and includes seniors, children, and people with disabilities.”
— Donna Cohen, rally organizer
Donna Cohen, a St. Johns resident organizing Friday’s rally, says, “The population that will be served by these signals is highly vulnerable and includes seniors, children, and people with disabilities.” Cohen also wants a commitment from PBOT that the signals will be installed in 2018 along with other improvements.
Asked to respond to these concerns, a PBOT spokesperson told us this morning via email that the agency is, “Fully committed to installing these crossing treatments, and we have expressed this commitment to the community on multiple occasions.” But PBOT also says that because the project is federally funded they aren’t able install these crossing treatments in this first phase of the project (we’ll seek to clarify, but assume this is because ODOT/feds don’t feel the crossings are warranted and/or they’ve been deemed beyond the scope of the original project). PBOT tells us they’ll install the new crossings in a second phase and reiterated that commitment by writing: “Bottom line: the promised pedestrian signals will be installed.”
For more details on tomorrow’s event, check out the listing on our calendar.
And next Wednesday (10/25), residents of the Arbor Lodge and Overlook neighborhoods will host an open house to raise awareness of dangerous conditions on and around North Greeley Avenue. Similar to Fessenden, Greeley is a major collector street that has seen an increase in cut-through traffic in recent years and residents are fed-up with the dangerous conditions.
“Arbor Lodge NA has heard numerous complaints of people feeling unsafe walking, riding a bike, or driving a car on or on streets near N Greeley,” wrote local resident Christopher Jones. “In most cases, this is during morning or evening commute times, as unsafe drivers attempt to get around congestion on Greeley by driving on parallel streets.”
Jones said their goal with Wednesday’s open house is to collect stories in hopes of creating urgency for safety upgrades. “In the past year or so,” he shared, “our neighborhood has seen two deaths and a paralysis on or near Greeley, and those things have happened to people walking, riding a bike, and driving a car. We all use the streets, and we all want to be safe.”
This isn’t the first time Arbor Lodge residents have had to organize for safer streets. Last year they held a rally and vigil following a spate of fatal and injury collisions.
If you can’t make it to the open house, the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association has posted an online survey where you can share your concerns.
PBOT just repaved N Greeley from Interstate to Lombard and had intended to build a physically protected bikeway between Interstate and Greeley. Unfortunately that project has been postponed until at least this coming spring.
See the calendar listing for more information on this event.
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