Almost exactly a year after Portland City Council unanimously supported an emergency speed limit reduction on outer Southeast Division street, they are now poised to take the same extraordinary measure on outer Stark.
Shaina Hobbs, a policy director for City Commissioner Dan Saltzman confirmed with us this morning that an emergency ordinance (view it below) will be proposed at City Council on April 11th. The ordinance would lower the speed limit on Southeast Stark from 35 mph to 30 mph for a period of 120 days. “Commissioner Saltzman has pushed for this ordinance to come to Council on an accelerated timeline,” Hobbs shared via email this morning.
The ordinance stipulates that the new speed limit would apply to the section of Stark from SE 109th to 162nd and would be effective as soon as new signs are installed.
Similar to the approach the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) took on SE Division, the ordinance refers to Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 810.180 (9) which states: “a road authority may establish an emergency speed on any highway under the jurisdiction of the road authority that is different from the existing speed on the highway.” The ORS defines an “emergency” as a, “human created or natural event or circumstance that causes or threatens widespread loss of life, property, injury to person or property, human suffering or financial loss, related to, among other things, transportation emergencies.” As added justification for the move, the ordinance refers to the Comprehensive Plan and the Vision Zero Action Plan — both of which make the safety of vulnerable people using our streets a top priority.
[A copy of the ordinance]
Pressure on the PBOT and city commissioners to do something to stem the tide of traffic violence on SE Stark near 148th has been building rapidly since 53-year-old Yelena Loukas was killed by a driver on February 1st. Loukas was the third person to die while walking on that section of Stark in less than a year.
“Unsafe streets are a political issue not an inevitable part of our lives.”
— Jenny Glass, Rosewood Initiative
In a statement following Loukas’ death, Jenny Glass of the community development group Rosewood Initiative said, “East Portland streets were designed to move large quantities of cars quickly. The problem is, these roads are not highways, they are our neighborhood streets.” Rosewood Initiative joined hands with Oregon Walks to make several demands on the City of Portland aimed at making Stark safer.
If City Council passes this emergency speed reduction, all three of their demands will have been met.
Last week we reported that Mayor Ted Wheeler’s ‘Build Portland’ initiative — that will issue bonds for infrastructure projects based on future proceeds from expiring Urban Renewal Areas — approved $10 million for safety upgrades on outer Stark. The project will focus investment between SE 117th and 162nd and will include paving, signal upgrades, safer crossings and “corridor safety” improvements.
The Rosewood Initiative updated its members and supporters about their work on Stark in an email yesterday. “The Rosewood Initiative and Oregon Walks have been working feverishly to bring public awareness to the issue,” they wrote, “as well as the needed changes to make our streets safe for everyone.” The email urged people to sign and share their Make Outer Stark Safe for Everyone petition (which has 600 signatures so far) and reminded people that, “Unsafe streets are a political issue not an inevitable part of our lives.”
Advocates say they’re grateful for the attention from City Hall and are currently arranging a meeting with PBOT to look at how to make sure coming changes reflect the community’s needs.
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