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Let’s help Kate Walker slow down drivers on Montavilla’s main street – UPDATED

Posted by on May 4th, 2018 at 10:15 am

SE Stark through the Montavilla commercial district.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Kate Walker lives in the Montavilla neighborhood and wants to make its main commercial street safer. Her focus: Reduce the speed limit on SE Stark from 30 to 20 miles per hour.

Kate Walker sharing her project at a recent Bike Loud PDX meeting.

We first heard about Kate’s efforts at a meeting of Bike Loud PDX last month; but she’s been working on this issue since last year. Kate is a former staffer at The Street Trust how now works at local carbon bicycle repair company Ruckus Composites.

To help strengthen the case, Kate made this issue the focus of her project when she took the 10-week Traffic and Transportation Course at Portland State University (for more on that excellent course, see our 2016 profile).

According to Kate’s research and presentation, fast driving is a big problem on Stark between SE 76th and 82nd — the bustling core of the Montavilla Business District. “People who live and work in the area complain about speeding and unsafe intersections,” she says, “I’m suggesting to ODOT that they consider reducing the speed limit.”

Stark in this stretch has a five-lane, one-way (westbound) cross-section. There are two standard lanes, an unprotected bicycle lane, and two curbside lanes used for parking cars.

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(Graphic: Kate Walker)

As she learned in the PSU class, Kate has already taken the right steps to make this happen. While the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) sets speed limits statewide, a request to change them must originate from the local jurisdiction — which in this case is the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). And she’s done her homework. “My big idea isn’t that big; in fact, it’s entirely achievable and necessary.” Kate has learned that to qualify for a 20 mph speed limit, a street must be legally “in a business district”. This stretch of Stark straddles two such districts and according to PBOT it is indeed eligible for a speed limit reduction.

To get the process started, Kate submitted a request through the 823-SAFE system. She included the percentage of street frontage used for business and the latest crash data. And then there’s the public pressure aspect. Kate will pen a formal letter to PBOT Director Leah Treat and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman asking for the change. She’s started an online petition to garner as many names of support as she can in hopes of adding them to her letter. Kate has also curried support from local neighborhood and business associations.

This weekend Kate will put together her support letters and other documentation and send it all into PBOT. Then it will be time to wait for a response.

If you want safer streets in your neighborhood, “The best way to make change is to show up, do a little research, and be persistent,” Kate says. “Also,” she adds, “everything takes more time than you think it should.”

Thanks for sharing Kate! Good luck and let us know what you hear back.

In the meantime folks, please add your name to the petition to increase Kate’s chances of hearing good news.

UPDATE, June 9th: She did it! Congrats to Kate and the City of Portland.

— 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

54 Comments
  • 9watts May 4, 2018 at 10:59 am

    I’m unclear why ODOT is the relevant authority. Surely Stark here is a PBOT controlled piece of transportation infrastructure, no? I thought PBOT had already gotten a blanket approval from ODOT to reduce speed limits here in town.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 4, 2018 at 11:12 am

      It’s sort of complicated 9watts because PBOT has been so effectively chipping away at ODOT’s authority over speed in the past few years. First PBOT got Greenways down to 20 mph (thanks Sam Adams!). Then PBOT got ability to use a different methodology in setting speeds. Then we got the blanket “residential district” 20 mph stuff. So, while PBOT has gotten more authority over the years, the buck still largely stops with ODOT. Here’s more on PBOT’s site – https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/594740

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    • paikiala May 4, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      9,

      The new law only applies to Federal Functional Classification Collector streets and lower. Stark is a Minor Arterial in this area.

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  • Alex Reedin May 4, 2018 at 11:47 am

    If we had a bolder, more progressive Commissioner in charge of PBOT, PBOT would be doing this proactively on every stretch of street that counts as a “business district.” This is the perfect time to do it – with local-street speed limits going to 20 mph citywide, motorists’ awareness of the new local-street limit (which is mostly unsigned) could be increased by seeing a bunch of more-visible 20 mph sections going in on bigger streets.

    Vote for Julia DeGraw! We will not get that kind of bold leadership from Nick Fish.

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    • paikiala May 4, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      Alex,
      You presume this is not already taking place.
      Recent pending/completed:
      N Lombard St
      NE Alberta St
      SE Woodstock
      SE 13th Ave
      SE Hawthorne Blvd
      N Williams Ave
      SE Stark St, W/15th
      SE Stark St, E/76th

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      • Alex Reedin May 4, 2018 at 4:23 pm

        Woohoo! That’s great news! Thankful email pending. Anywhere in East Portland? Is it hard to meet the “business district” bar out here?

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        • Eric Leifsdad May 4, 2018 at 11:08 pm

          SW Multnomah 30th-45th, BH-Hwy through Hillsdale and parts around 45th, Taylor’s Ferry west of Capitol Hwy, most of Barbur Blvd should be reduced. Capitol Hwy through Hillsdale and Multnomah Village already has two 20mph segments and Multnomah through Garden Home is 25mph.

          Portland needs to exercise its authority to set emergency and temporary speed limits. Most of our streets are not built to match their planned functions. That would seem to qualify as a temporary/urgent hazardous condition.

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        • paikiala May 6, 2018 at 11:09 am

          Alex,
          That is the current list. A 20 mph business district is easy to achieve with a request to ODOT to rescind the speed order on a 2-lane street. It is much more difficult on a multi-lane street, particularly if it is classified as an Arterial.
          The way the streets east of 82nd were created (and are classified) makes it difficult to find 2-lane, Collectors that run through business districts. Space reallocations (e.g. road diets) may assist with this in the future.
          It’s a chicken-egg thing.

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      • Chris May 6, 2018 at 6:13 am

        Just looked at a map and N Williams isn’t listed as getting the new 20 mph limit. Where is the info about them being reduced?

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        • Chris May 6, 2018 at 6:19 am

          Just answered my own question. It’s reduced North of Killingsworth. Bummer.

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        • Ernest May 7, 2018 at 10:31 am

          Williams is already 20mph around Fremont where most of the businesses are.

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    • soren May 5, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Kate Brown’s regressive and toxic support for more freeways and for our 1950s-era transportation department will not be changed by electing a “progressive” Portland commissioner.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy May 5, 2018 at 11:03 am

        I’m just going to ignore the laws that don’t work for me, anyways.

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        • soren May 6, 2018 at 4:22 pm

          And that is exactly what you, I, and most people do…every day.

          An unexamined life is a life not worth living.

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  • Terry D-M May 4, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Kate could also get an endorsement for this speed reduction from the Montavilla Neighborhood Association, then Se Uplift as well if PBOT needs a bit more citizen push. It takes a few meetings to get through the system, but the city does pay attention.

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    • Kate May 4, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Hey Terry! MNA already supported and wrote a letter on the project’s behalf 🙂

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      • maxadders May 7, 2018 at 11:35 am

        It’s a shame that MNA adopted an anti-law-enforcement agenda. Who do they think will enforce the new speed limit?

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      • Terry D-M May 9, 2018 at 8:07 am

        Excellent. If you want, SE Uplift Board can weight in as well. Feel free to email me. Terry dot Dublinski @ gmail

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  • Alex May 4, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I live just up the hill off Thorburn from this area, and this speed reduction would be super welcomed. Cars also continue to speed up the hill from Stark through the intersection of Thorburn/Gilham, and it’s not uncommon to see cars going 40-50mph through this stretch. We should make it 20 the whole way, and I’d also love to see Thorburn taken down to 2 lanes (or 3 with a turning lane) rather than the massive 4 it currently is.

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    • paikiala May 4, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Road diet is being studied.

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      • Eric Leifsdad May 4, 2018 at 11:10 pm

        We really should just shut it down until we figure it out. We know the status-quo kills people.

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        • paikiala May 6, 2018 at 11:10 am

          EL,
          Do you take the same position regarding bikes sharing roads, or bike lanes?

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      • soren May 5, 2018 at 10:38 am

        If this studying focuses on how to implement a road diet then this is great news. If, on the other hand, PBOT is studying whether to implement a road diet then I would like to remind PBOT and the City Council that they made a commitment to #visionzero.

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        • Phil Richman May 7, 2018 at 1:36 pm

          Great reminder!

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      • David Hampsten May 7, 2018 at 7:26 pm

        Paikiala, do you know when this street is next scheduled to be ground and repaved? A repaving would require all the linework to be replaced as part of the cost anyway. A road diet whereby each lane is no more than 10 feet wide (9 feet preferable) would be a far better option than any sort of unenforcable speed limit reduction. Maybe by narrowing lanes, could a buffered bike lane be put in, to replace the current 1970s vintage bike lanes? How about crosswalk lines at every intersection?

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        • paikiala May 8, 2018 at 2:38 pm

          I don’t.
          The analysis would need to be complete before any resurfacing project, and a plan developed. It is reported to have been resurfaced in 2003/2004. It would be at least a couple years, to 5 out.

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  • Rachel May 4, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Great job Kate!

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  • B. Carfree May 4, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Awesome. Maybe as an encore (of course I’m assuming success) someone can shift the lane striping a foot or two to the left to clear a bit more of that bike lane from the door zone.

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  • Eric Ivy May 4, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    YEAH Kate!! Thank you!! Signed.

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  • Scott Kocher May 4, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    The businesses will also do better if people driving past go slower and can see what the businesses are, and if there’s a nice “place” that’s tempting to stop.

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    • Dave May 4, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      Yes! I’ve found business I was looking for by SLOWING DOWN! Who knows how many $ have been lost to business that were hard to find whilst blasting by at 20 mph over the posted limit?

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      • Kyle Banerjee May 7, 2018 at 5:49 am

        Given that most people looking for a business know where it is, use a navigation device/service to identify the location, and are willing to circle around a bit if they overshoot it rather than just go home, I doubt this is a major factor.

        Some businesses are hard to find, but I can’t say I’ve ever abandoned my search just because I overran it and I’ve been using navigation only for a few years.

        However, business districts are visually busy, have higher concentrations of people, and drivers are distracted by trying to read signs rather than minding the roads. As such, reduced speeds in such locales is appropriate.

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  • Edward May 4, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    I love the notion of slower traffic, but I fear just enacting it and changing the sign won’t have much effect.
    In my mind, one of the most convincing factors is a scenario where, “We can’t get a crosswalk (or other physical structure) put in because speeds are too high.”

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    • Chris May 5, 2018 at 7:18 am

      Speed cameras.

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      • Spiffy May 7, 2018 at 3:25 pm

        speed bumps…

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        • paikiala May 8, 2018 at 2:39 pm

          Speed cushions, if Portland Fire and Rescue approves.

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    • David Hampsten May 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      When the street is repaved, as the old lines will all be removed anyway, and new ones put in, hopefully with a better design.

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  • Kate May 5, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who’s supported my speed reduction project. As a phase 2 to this, I was hoping to push for flashing beacon at one of the crosswalks, curb cuts, etc. Turns out METBA (the biz association) is currently studying a pedestrian safety plan…I’m planning to help them after I wrap up my project. Thanks again!

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    • David Hampsten May 7, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      Try to get a red/amber/green signal like they have at fire stations instead, hanging off of wires. They cost about the same, but drivers legally have to stop at them.

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      • paikiala May 8, 2018 at 2:41 pm

        Roadside beacons cost about $25k. Overhead beacons cost about $200k. Overhead full signals cost about $300k Span wire signals are not used much anymore.

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    • Terry D-M May 9, 2018 at 8:10 am

      The 70s Bikeway will at least build new crossings at 80th, STIP money coming in 2020.

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  • Toby Keith May 5, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I love going to both Country Cat and Flying Pie…and always dread this street. Please make this happen!

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  • Emily Guise (Contributor) May 6, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    Yay Kate! Montavilla has such a great business district, but such unfriendly streets running through it. I happily signed and totally support this project!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 6, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Signed and donated, thank you Kate.

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  • Zoe May 7, 2018 at 8:35 am

    I support this. Montavilla is somewhat unique as neighborhoods go, in that it is bisected (or trisected or quadri-sected?) by arterials rather than being bounded by them as many neighborhoods are. This really creates a challenge for connectivity in the neighborhood. However, one note I’d like to add (as a resident directly to the south) is that Stark is actually currently the easiest and most comfortable crossing around. If you’re trying to reach the business from the south, you have to cross Washington, which lacks any of the bulb-outs (I know, there’s just one), crosswalks, and signage that Stark already has, and probably has higher speeds. I’m afraid that as long as these two remain a one-way couplet, we will continue to see excessive speeds because of a design that encourages speeding.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu May 10, 2018 at 6:27 am

      Is that so uncommon in Portland though?

      My neighborhood has four arterials going through it.

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  • maxadders May 7, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Stark is currently set up as a feeder for Burnside, west of Mt. Tabor, via Thorburn. If we shift traffic over to Burnside between 68th and 82nd, it’ll negatively impact a much more residential area. Is that preferable?

    Burnside is a vital central Portland arterial and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

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    • David Hampsten May 7, 2018 at 7:34 pm

      There’s no freeway ramp off of Burnside at 205 and it is already one-lane east of 68th, so traffic is unlikely to shift off of Stark/Washington to matter how difficult we make it to drive fast on it. Glisan is too far north to have have any real impact.

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      • maxadders May 9, 2018 at 12:16 am

        You’d think so, but cut-through traffic doesn’t seem to matter, it just follows Waze / GMaps. Burnside will likely see an increase in traffic if we apply a road diet to Stark. Pray for the vulnerable road users inhabit the blocks between.

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    • paikiala May 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      Stark-Thorburn does not connect to Burnside. You would have to jog at 60th.
      Maybe you mean Gilham-Thorburn?

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      • maxadders May 9, 2018 at 12:14 am

        Obviously. I’m not terribly interested in splitting hairs; Stark effectively feeds traffic to Burnside and Burnside effectively feeds traffic to Washington.

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  • Phil Richman May 7, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    We should just start calling bike lanes in door zones what they actually are. White stripes.

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