Gravel - Cycle Oregon

ODOT cites high speeds in rejection of lower speed limit request on West Burnside

Posted by on June 14th, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Burnside at the Wildwood Trail Crossing. 58 percent of people driver over the posted speed of 40 mph here. The City thinks the speed limit should be 35.

The City of Portland wants to make a 1.5 mile section of Burnside that runs through a wooded area of the West Hills more human-friendly. But the State of Oregon has thrown a wrench in the works.

Between Skyline Boulevard and Tichner Road, the curvy and relatively narrow three-lane cross-section tears right across the Wildwood Trail, Portland’s marquee hiking destination. The trail crosses Burnside in a curve with poor sightlines and Oregon Department of Transportation data shows a majority of people go over the 40 mph speed limit. This section of road also has such a dubious crash history — 45 of them between 2013 and 2015, 35 of which resulted in people being injured — that the Portland Police Bureau has flagged it as a concern.

“It is difficult to support the City’s request. Without dramatic enforcement, this percentage of violators would increase significantly if the speed was lowered.”
— Mike Kimlinger, ODOT Speed Zone Review Panel Secretary

In fall of last year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation filed a formal request to lower the speed limit from 40 to 35 mph. In response, ODOT launched a speed investigation study in August. A month later they denied the City’s request. PBOT then appealed the decision to the State’s Speed Zone Review Panel. This panel meets quarterly and is made up of representatives from the Oregon Transportation Safety Committee, the Oregon State Police, the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities and ODOT. The meeting to hear the appeal was held on March 21st in Salem.

According to a copy of the meeting minutes we obtained, ODOT opened things up with an explanation of the 85th percentile rule, their current method for setting speeds. The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of motor vehicle users travel. Agencies that follow this rule believe that’s what drivers feel is “reasonable and safe,” and therefore limits should be set as close to it as possible.

The problem is, that rule is outdated and might actually make roads more dangerous. PBOT doesn’t believe in it. “The 85th percentile method is not supported by evidence and is not part of PBOT practice,” states PBOT’s website. And as of last summer even the National Transportation Safety Board warned against it.

But ODOT still uses it. Before hearing PBOT’s appeal, the five members of the Speed Zone Review Panel heard an ODOT engineer explain how using the 85th percentile is the state’s primary tool that yields the best results. The agency does acknowledge that alternative methods are currently being discussed but, “For now,” the ODOT panel secretary states in the minutes, “the current method is what we must rely on.”

It’s worth noting that, as an agency, ODOT does not believe lower speed limits improves safety or reduces crashes. In a FAQ document posted on their website, they write, “Drivers are much more influenced by the roadway conditions and their perceptions of the need to slow down.” Going further, ODOT believes that if posted speeds are too low it could actually make conditions more dangerous due to the potential for a higher variance in speeds between drivers.

The panel then heard that the section of Burnside in question has an 85th percentile speed of 46, meaning 85 percent of drivers go at or below 46 mph. ODOT’s investigation also found that 58 percent of drivers exceed the posted limit of 40 mph and 74 percent travel between 37 and 46 mph.

These findings led the ODOT engineer to tell the panel that, “It is difficult to support the City’s request.” “Without dramatic enforcement, this percentage of violators would increase significantly if the speed was lowered,” the minutes state. “The general experience is lowering the speed limit only marginally lowers the speed of vehicles.”

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That’s a lot of crashes. (Source: PBOT Speed Zone Review Panel presentation)

Then PBOT traffic engineer Carl Snyder presented the city’s case. He told the panel that Burnside has nearly four times the rate of “street departure” crashes versus the citywide average and that high speeds were a factor in 47 percent of all fatal collisions between 2004 and 2013. Snyder also pointed out that lowering speed limits is one of three actions called out in PBOT’s Vision Zero Action Plan, adopted by City Council in 2016.

“His reservation against lowering it would make too many drivers law breakers given the existing speeds observed.”
— from ODOT Speed Zone Review Panel meeting minutes (March 21st, 2018)

PPB Traffic Division Captain Michael Crebs then testified in support of PBOT’s request. He said a lower speed limit is needed on Burnside because the curves and geometry of the road don’t leave much room for error.

The panel then began deliberations. Here’s how they responded:

Dorothy Upton said she understood the City’s desire to lower speeds but she doesn’t see lowering the speed as being effective.

Stacy Shetler said he felt the same.

Patrick Huskey said he supported lowering the speed to 35 MPH because retaining the 40 MPH would not address the crash history.

Victor Hoffer said he supported lowering the speed to 35 MPH but believes it should be more consistently applied on the road outside the investigated section. He also thought the proposed pedestrian bridge should be redesigned to be out of the line of sight so it’s not a crash hazard.

Brian Barnett said he had reservations regarding retaining existing speeds and against lowering the speed. His reservation against lowering it would make too many drivers law breakers given the existing speeds observed. It would not be in the spirit of uniformity to do so by itself. He thought the [infrastructure] improvements Portland is working on is a good first step for lowering speeds and increasing safety. But he doesn’t think changing the speed by five MPH would make gaps any bigger to increase safety in more congested hours. He drove the route two or three times in the morning and noted most of the signs are obscured by vegetation. He said he didn’t think Portland did enough due diligence in providing data to support their request.

Ultimately the request was denied by a vote of 2-3.

The decision might also impact the planned footbridge over Burnside at the Wildwood Trail. PBOT has recently learned that the current design of the bridge assumed a 35 mph speed limit. Because of sightlines and potential safety hazards, federal guidelines could trigger a redesign if Burnside remains at a 40 mph speed limit.

This is a frustrating setback for the City of Portland.

“The 85th percentile is an old way of setting speeds… These are the type of things we have to battle.”
— Michael Crebs, PPB Traffic Division Captain

PBOT works hard to reduce speed limits. From pushing legislation that led to our 20 mph residential speed limit to using an arcane emergency statute and high-tech cameras to catch speeders, their work has made a difference. One front of their war on speed that doesn’t get as much attention is the case-by-case requests they make to the Oregon Department of Transportation to reduce speed limits on a specific section of road.

In 2017, PBOT lowered speed limits in 33 areas. They’re so proud of it they even keep a running tally.

In case you’re wondering why ODOT is involved in City streets, that’s because the State of Oregon controls all speed limits, whether or not they have jurisdiction over the roadway itself. If a local government wants to change speeds, they must go through a request process (which was thankfully simplified in 2016).

ODOT’s Burnside decision flies in the face of the direction PBOT and the Portland Police Bureau want to take our streets.

On May 9th, two months after the denial, Capt. Crebs told a crowd of advocates at an event hosted by The Street Trust that, “The 85th percentile is an old way of setting speeds.” Crebs was clearly frustrated by ODOT’s decision, saying, “These are the type of things we have to battle,” and, “I’d really love to have the City of Portland have the ability to set its own speeds.”

While ODOT adheres to an outdated speed policy that favors fast driving, the agency is looking at a record number of traffic deaths in 2018. So far this year 179 people have died on Oregon roads. That’s nearly 20 percent more fatalities than this time last year.

We can only hope there won’t be any more victims on Burnside.

On the bright side, ODOT has programmed $170,000 for a safety project on West Burnside that will include curve warnings, reflective pavement markers on the center and edge lines, and a speed warning system east of Barnes Road. That project should be completed by 2021. And thankfully, PBOT hasn’t given up. They plan to pursue another speed limit reduction request once the street is eligible again in 2020.

In related news, Kate Walker’s campaign to lower speed limits on SE Stark in the Montavilla neighborhood was successful!

— 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

140 Comments
  • Anonymous lover of life June 14, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    I dare – double dog dare – even one of those ODOT employees:

    Dorothy, Stacy, Patrick, Victor, Brian – I’m talking to you

    head on over to West Burnside and cross the street. I’d suggest you bring your child or grandchild with you if I didn’t care so much about children’s safety.

    If you cross the street, and manage to live through it, come back and step up to the plate to lower the speed limit not just 5 but a whopping 10 miles per hour and SAVE A LIFE!

    It’s astounding to me that the facts of higher speed = slower reaction time and longer stopping distance has somehow escaped these people who are paid to be professional traffic bureaucrats.

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    • AnotherEngineer June 15, 2018 at 8:20 am

      Two quick things:

      Not all of those listed on the panel are ODOT employees.

      While I agree it would be hard to cross here that is not the issue PBOT or ODOT identified, these are road departure or street departure crashes which will likely be allievated by the planned 2021 improvements which will visually warn drivers of the curves on the roadway which will slow drivers down.

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      • Johnny Bye Carter June 15, 2018 at 10:32 am

        Again, we’re training drivers to look out for signs instead of hazards. If they can’t pay enough attention to the road in front of them then they’re bad drivers. Currently that results in them crashing off the road, but without blame because it’s the road’s fault. We can’t lower the speed limit to give people more time to pay attention. So we’ll have to force them to slow down with man-made hazards.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:03 am

      Dorothy was the only ODOT employee on the board (her last meeting, that one).

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    • Mark smith June 24, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Here is the deal. W burnside is an alternate to 26. Odot knows this, people know it…and the cops rarely enforce it. Traffic should be diverted to the highway…not the reverse. W burnside has no place in modern Portland in its current form. It needs to be one lane each direction with a 12 foot raised path on both sides for people powered means. The drive lane should be no wider than 9 feet. Period. That will naturally slow traffic and make it right sized for the Portland of today. Not the Portland of 1970.

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  • Buzz June 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    “Between Skyline Boulevard and Tichner Road, the curvy and relatively narrow three-lane cross-section tears right across the Wildwood Trail…”

    Jonathan – I think this is the same sort of inflammatory language you accuse others in the media of using when describing crashes as ‘accidents’, etc.

    I think it would much more appropriate and effective to simply say ‘crosses’.

    my $0.02

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    • Chris I June 14, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      Agreed. He is definitely not considering the feelings of Burnside Street when using that type of language.

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    • Brandon June 14, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      I think it’s appropriate when used as a visualizer. Considering we’re talking about a quiet hiking trail that suddenly intersects with cars going 50mph.

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      • rick June 14, 2018 at 6:27 pm

        I agree. People have said on video by the Portland Parks Foundation that they turn around at Burnside instead of crossing it. The upcoming trail bridge shows a big reason why other main north / south roads need a redo.

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  • Mick O June 14, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    How on earth did Oregon get that Distracted Driving Law passed?? Don’t they know it will “make too many drivers law breakers given the existing” behavior?

    ODOT’s honest slogan should be: “We’re far from dispassionate. We actively want to to see you killed. “

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    • Dan A June 14, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      ODOT requires one body per safety enhancement, sometimes more.

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  • gneiss June 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    It boggles the mind that a state agency like ODOT is able to hide behind their “we’re studying it” cloak regarding the 85th percentile rule given how completely the NTSB eviscerated the arguments used for it’s adoption last year, particularly how it was adopted for use on *all* streets, this despite the fact the data for the study was compiled only from rural highways and interstates.

    If ruling like this from the NTSB were ignored by the airline industry instead of state DOTs, you can better believe that that this would be a scandal worthy of many articles in the media. But because it’s for cars/trucks instead of airplanes, we get a collective shrug instead.

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    • X June 15, 2018 at 9:22 am

      A fatal airline crash involves a hundred people more or less. That’s about how many it takes to shock the nation into action. Of course most of the hundred have to be American.

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      • Y June 15, 2018 at 3:54 pm

        National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2016 data shows 37,461 people were killed in 34,436 motor vehicle crashes, an average of 102 per day in the good ol US of A.

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        • X June 15, 2018 at 6:12 pm

          One by one, mostly. Rarely makes the news. 100 people die in a day, sadly, that’s just a Tuesday. Unless they fell out of the sky which was my point.

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    • Chris I June 15, 2018 at 11:27 am

      I work for a large aerospace company, and the way we treat safety compared to the way ODOT treats safety is incredibly different. If ODOT operated the way we did, half of the roads in Portland would be shut down immediately.

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      • bikeninja June 15, 2018 at 2:29 pm

        An even more down to earth comparison is OSHA, the occupational safety and Health Administration that governs workplace Safety. If ODOT was as concerned about safety as much as OSHA, 90% of roads in Portland would be shut down. And if OSHA was as concerned about safety to the same degree as ODOT then teenagers would be cooking Burgers at fast food restaurants with Flame Throwers and window washers would be free climbing the outside of buildings with nothing but a roll of papers towels and a bag of chalk.

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  • B. Carfree June 14, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    ODOT claims in its manuals that motorists will drive a safe speed and uses that as its justification for setting the speed limit at the speed people are driving a given road at. That’s a reasonable starting point. Where ODOT, and many traffic engineers fail, is taking the next step: Test that hypothesis. Without any effort, the test has been made and it fails miserably, as miserable as having to inform someone of the untimely death of a loved one involved in a crash where speed was a factor.

    And that’s the easy test. People are not stupid (politics aside). If a situation appears to be dangerous, they will mostly steer clear of it. However, it’s kind of challenging to determine where the speed of motorists is creating a situation that depresses active transportation and recreation. I think we are all aware of places we just won’t ride or walk. For too many people, those places are rapidly becoming “just about everywhere”.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:08 am

      The 85th percentile is a hold-over from roadway design that originated from the Federal government for freeways and other high-speed, often rural, facilities. While it is still used to gage effectiveness of roadway changes (the goal is to get the 85th down to the posted speed), it was developed when the most significant distraction in a car was the radio and passengers.
      It is also part of the past of road design that looked at historical crash history to define ‘problem’ instead of the new paradigm that seeks to reduce future risk – Vision Zero/Safe Systems.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty June 16, 2018 at 2:49 am

        Could PBOT install a crosswalk or a signal to get people safely across the street in that location? They are obviously aware of the problem. If they can’t lower the speed limit, why not use other tools to protect crossers?

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        • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:06 pm

          A crosswalk marking alone would not be sufficiently safe. A pedestrian hybrid beacon costs about $200k and a full signal about $300k, both depending on all road users for maximum safety. The bridge is the safest crossing.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty June 18, 2018 at 3:26 pm

            Of course a bridge would be far more expensive. Speed bumps are cheap.

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  • David June 14, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    I guess we should just be happy they didn’t try making PBOT raise them to 45. This is a location that could use some speed cameras…

    “Brian Barnett said he had reservations regarding retaining existing speeds and against lowering the speed. His reservation against lowering it would make too many drivers law breakers given the existing speeds observed.”
    I can’t think of a worse way to legitimize bad behavior. It’s the “everyone’s doing it” excuse. Ignoring the crash history and saying that this speed limit is effectively too low because everyone’s breaking it isn’t a way to make people safer.

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    • Dante June 14, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      If any street in Portland needs a speed camera, this is it right here. I believe in lowering speed limits, I really do but on the other side, people will still drive ten over even it was 35, now going 45. You put in a speed camera and everyone will be on their best behavior. The thing is, you want to put in two so you can’t slow down and speed up. If they can do it for 122nd between Foster and Holgate, they can do it for this stretch of Burnside also.

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      • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 10:42 am

        Actually ‘they’ cannot. Fixed speed cameras are limited to the worst of crash corridors.

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        • Eric Leifsdad June 15, 2018 at 11:36 pm

          What about a stop light? That would take care of the trail crossing, and with a few of them, you could make the 85th percentile speed be whatever you want.

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        • 9watts June 15, 2018 at 11:42 pm

          Maybe that too should be changed?

          You are always so quick to clamp down on (often eminently reasonable sounding) suggestions here in the comments, by citing some code that more often than not isn’t very inspired, shouldn’t be the last word.

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          • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:07 pm

            The state legislature determined where fixed speed cameras can be placed, no PBOT.

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  • Andrew Kreps June 14, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Depave W Burnside, problem solved.

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    • jered June 14, 2018 at 4:42 pm

      Bombing W. Burnside on a bike it feels depaved already… A ripping gravel W. Burnside would be very cool. BUT, Friends of Forest Park would oppose depaving because it might bring mountain bikers.

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      • Charley June 14, 2018 at 5:10 pm

        LOL

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:09 am

      How about a road diet? Its already only one lane in each direction through the tunnel and west of the tunnel.

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  • Glenn f June 14, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Pdot should just grow a pair and go out there and change the signs to 35..screw odot…

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    • Andrew N June 14, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Comment of the month right there! How I would love to see PBOT initiate a little “bureaucratic warfare” in the name of Vision Zero. It’s way past time.

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      • meh June 15, 2018 at 6:47 am

        Nothing changes without enforcement. Put up all the signs you want the speed of vehocles won’t change

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        • Jamie June 15, 2018 at 10:27 am

          Exactly. PBOT wants to lower the posted limit, but ODOT says no because too many people don’t observe that limit. So PBOT should start doing saturation patrols with zero tolerance enforcement as if this were a safety issue.

          Also, because we’re talking about the west side, it shouldn’t incur the sort of hand wringing over equity concerns that always arises when you talk about using enforcement to tackle dangerous driving on the east (and north) side.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty June 16, 2018 at 2:52 am

            Unless people complain that the west side gets all the police resources.

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        • Chris I June 15, 2018 at 11:29 am

          Put up the signs and apply road diet treatment. Much of the speeding here is due to the two uphill lanes, which really aren’t necessary.

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  • Stephan June 14, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    This is frustrating but PBOT gets the goal and steps wrong. The correct goal is lower speed, not lower speed limits. The correct steps are:

    1. Make changes to the infrastructure that force people driving to drive more slowly.
    2. Request lower speed limits.
    3. Have ODOT do a speed investigation ( and roll eyes).
    4. Lower speed limits after the speed investigation checks out OK.

    I am highly supportive of PBOT’s push for lower speed limits but they are but one policy to reduce speed. Ideally, adequate speed should follow from the infrastructure.

    Case in point: NE Knott now has a 20mph speed limit, something a lot of people living nearby highly approve of. However, this is such a wide, straight street that driving at or below the speed limit is actually hard. I live nearby and want to see cars go slower on that street but there got to be infrastructure changes to support the speed limit.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:11 am

      Wide, straight street? Its the common 36-feet, with one lane in each direction and parking on both sides.
      It only takes a few good citizens to cause that, and all other such streets, to operate at a safer speed.

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      • stephan June 15, 2018 at 10:46 am

        Just because it is common does not make it good. 36 feet is quite wide and encourages speeds faster than 20mph. Here is an article about narrow streets:

        https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/3/17/some-thoughts-on-narrow-streets

        I am all in favor of lower speed limits and lower speed. I commute by bike every day and strongly believe that everyone would benefit if we all drove slower. But it amazes me how hard it feels to drive below 20mph on a street like Knott. The idea of VZ is to change the design of these streets so that not only you and me and other safe minded people drive at a reasonable speed, but everyone.

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        • stephan June 15, 2018 at 10:54 am

          Also, I was overly harsh in my initial post — speed limits are all good but knowing how ODOT ticks, it does not strike me as an effective approach to lead with speed limits. It seems more effective in the current situation to work on infrastructure redesign that lower speed and then to follow up with lower speed limits.

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    • Duke Ganote June 15, 2018 at 11:21 am

      Merely changing speed signs is like planting stop signs everywhere: it simply undermines respect for the law (since nothing changed on a “wide, straight street”.) Signs become political scrums instead reflecting reality.

      Political hacks deliberately aggravate this. Consider the referenced NTSB assertion that “speed-related crashes [accounted] for 31 percent of all traffic deaths.” Sounds terrifying. Yet in fact “speed related” crashes have little to do with the posted speed limit. Most speed-related crashes happen on twisting two-lane roads trimmed with trees and telephone poles. The lowest-rate of speed-related (and other crashes) occur on the highest-speed roads.
      https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt/data_facts/docs/speeding_counts.pdf

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  • fourknees June 14, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    So backwards.
    I wouldn’t have been surprised if ODOT recommended increasing the speed limit.

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    • Dan A June 14, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      We requested a speed reduction on Bethany BLVD, and the engineer we talked to said that he could request an 85th percentile speed study but it would probably result in them increasing the speed limit there.

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  • BradWagon June 14, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    How about this: 40 mph speed limit stays BUT road is restriped to have only 2 vehicle lanes with bike lanes going both directions up to the tunnel (cyclists then use 48th/Barnes to avoid tunnel). Drivers will naturally perceive the need to drive slower with less space AND we get badly needed direct cycling route up the hill.

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    • rick June 15, 2018 at 7:20 am

      I think it needs a bus-only, east-bound lane as it gets closer to 23rd, in the forested area.

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      • BradWagon June 15, 2018 at 9:19 am

        Agree, bet you could do it with existing road space from Tichner down(even though traffic backs up further it’s at least something)… could be a shared Bike/Bus only lane.

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  • bikeninja June 14, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Someone should tell ODOT that Mad Max was a Distopian Australian Movie from the 70’s and not a training video for new engineers.

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  • Charley June 14, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    If ODOT is right about the current speeds people use, then this area is RIPE for speed cameras. PBOT should get on that!

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    • soren June 14, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      pbot does not have authority to install speed cameras except in a few limited locations.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:13 am

      The locations have to be in the top 10% of historical crash corridors.

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      • 9watts June 15, 2018 at 11:46 pm

        Maybe the eligibility criteria could be relaxed? Or we could look into what it would take….

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  • Granpa June 14, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I was on a motorcycle on Burnside eastbound and I stopped for pedestrians at that crossing. The car behind me had to lock up the brakes with smoking tire screech to keep from creaming me. Lesson learned? Vulnerable road user should not stop for even more vulnerable road users.

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    • Pete June 14, 2018 at 6:52 pm

      This is the rationale used to argue against red light cameras. Maybe there should be some “collateral damage” to law-abiding drivers in order to facilitate a culture shift? Kinda like we have to lose a cyclist or two to get some green paint in our busiest intersections…

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      • Grandpa June 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm

        Thanks for volunteering me, Pete, but I will pass

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  • Glenn June 14, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Wait, don’t you 1) decide what you want the public to do, then 2) make a law about it, then 3) make them follow it? Or would it be too easy to confuse that with leadership?

    Anyway can we set the murder rate in a similar fashion? I could see committing about one murder per year… but I have no idea where I stand in terms of 85% of murderers. Thoughts?

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    • Kyle Banerjee June 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      You mean just figure out what’s best for everyone and force compliance? This sounds like exactly what we need to Make America Great Again!

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      • q June 21, 2018 at 10:48 am

        Or the building code? Or zoning code? Or rules for using tennis courts at the park? Or rules for checking out a book at the library? I think Glenn’s statement was reasonable.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty June 21, 2018 at 12:56 pm

          Or traffic rules?

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  • rick June 14, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Pathetic leadership in ODOT. I’ve walked all of (main) SW Barnes Road and West Burnside and it was a scary experience in an afternoon rush hour. A tire on my bike had gone flat and I didn’t have money on me for a bus # 20 ride. Unbelievable leadership in ODOT. What is Multnomah County saying about this ? Elected state leaders in Salem ?

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:14 am

      Pathetic, how?

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      • Dan A June 15, 2018 at 10:02 am

        Let’s start with ODOT marketing the RQ expansion as a safety project while completely ignoring all of the dangerous roads they own in Portland.

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      • 9watts June 15, 2018 at 11:48 pm

        Let me count the ways….

        I didn’t think anyone was left who didn’t recognize that ODOT brass could be counted on to get just about anything important wrong.

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    • HJ June 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Multnomah County couldn’t care less. They run the worst, most dangerous roads designs in the metro area, refuse to even look at the smallest changes to them, and happily let them crumble. As for the stuffed shirts in Salem, they just go “I don’t live there, not my problem.”

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  • rick June 14, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    It is a fun ride on a weekend or early morning to ride a bike downhill on West Burnside towards the river.

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  • Kyle Banerjee June 14, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Normally, riding in fast traffic in a narrow lane with no shoulder isn’t much fun. This is one of the exceptions.

    I wonder how many cyclists observe the speed limit on this un descent 😉

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    • rick June 15, 2018 at 7:18 am

      I don’t think I’ve rode to 40 mph on my bike downhill on Burnside. It isn’t a “road” bike.

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      • Kyle Banerjee June 15, 2018 at 11:17 am

        Some won’t. But many will — this is an easy road to go well over that and I seriously doubt cyclists who are already not observing the speed limit will observe a lower one.

        I don’t think lowering the speed limit will necessarily make things safer or even slow things down. A dedicated signalized crossing with lights including some far enough up and down the road to let alert everyone would probably help trail users more.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    I am not surprised at ODoTs position, though I am heartened at the NHTSA shift and that it was a close vote vs. 5:0 or 4:1 on yesteryears on the speed zone review panel. The 85th Percentile is a perverse tool and now outdated..but it is so very easy to use from a data collection standpoint and rarely are traffic engineers or the engineering profession called out for using it…its really design by autopilot. It gets the outcomes it intends to get…

    So where do we go from here…how about:

    1) Perhaps Portlanders / BP community should work to get a post-85th Percentile/ Vision Zero “advocate” on the Speed Zone Review Panel during the next opening?

    2) And as I have suggested before, Portlanders should work at Salem to get the legislature to adopt a law similar to Washington State’s by which cities over over a certain size can take full responsibility on setting speed limits and other design variables on city arterials.

    3) Does it make sense for PBoT to try again …but instead seek…”(3) An experimental alternative investigation to replace the standard engineering study in order to determine a speed zone recommendation on certain City of Portland streets (not state highways) may be approved for a two-year trial period by the State Traffic-Roadway Engineer. The alternative method must include an evaluation plan for the City of Portland to provide a review and report to the Speed Zone Review Panel at the end of the trial period for a recommendation on the suitability of the City’s alternative method.” https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Get-Involved/OAR%20072017/734-020-0011Notice.pdf

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    • Dan A June 15, 2018 at 8:22 am

      “high speeds were a factor in 47 percent of all fatal collisions between 2004 and 2013”

      The next death on Burnside is on them. They were given the opportunity to do something about it.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:15 am

      It does not qualify for the alternative method due to Federal Functional classification.

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      • Todd Boulanger June 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm

        Paikiala, thanks for the follow up detail…I was afraid it might be so (but did not have the time to research for full meal deal)

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  • Scott Kocher June 14, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    This is important reporting. Thank you, Jonathan.

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    • MATT D DAVIES June 15, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      For people who can afford it this in the type of dogged trying to understand why things are the way they are reporting that we get with our donations to BikePortland. Keep up the good work.MD

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  • q June 14, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    I just “recommended” almost every comment above.

    The trail crossing is like something out of Fahrenheit 451. You have to wait for a break in traffic, then run literally as fast as you can across the street. I’d never do it with kids, dogs, or any adult who cannot run fast. You feel like if you trip, you will die.

    I drive it often, and would love a lower limit.

    SW Taylors Ferry Road above Macadam just got new speed signs, and I believe they’re 5 mph slower than before (not sure). It’d be interesting to see if people are obeying those.

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    • Dan A June 15, 2018 at 6:31 am

      I’ve driven on that section of Burnside many times too, and it’s a white-knuckle trip. Speeds vs road condition are absolutely ridiculous.

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      • Dan A June 15, 2018 at 8:18 am

        And for everyone saying that lowering the speed limit wouldn’t matter, well….I would drive slower. When the speed limit is posted at 40 on a road like this, you pretty much have to drive 40 or subject yourself to lots of cars swerving recklessly around you. A lower speed limit would allow people to drive slower.

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  • Justin June 15, 2018 at 6:38 am

    If 58% of drivers are speeding, this strikes me as an EXCELLENT fundraising opportunity!

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:17 am

      Very little room to set up the mobile speed enforcement van, and there are only 4 traffic officers on duty during either shift for the whole city.

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      • Dan A June 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

        Sooo…..why are there only 4 traffic officers on duty? The entire police force was not reduced enough to justify so few traffic officers.

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        • soren June 15, 2018 at 2:21 pm

          the real question is why a temporary speed camera requires the installation of warning signs and staffing by law enforcement officers.

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          • David June 15, 2018 at 2:24 pm

            Ask your state representative or senator. They were the ones that added a number of restrictions to allow for speed cameras (for ticketing purposes) just a couple years ago.

            PBOT or PPB can put up signage or other equipment indicating actual vehicle speed but an officer must be present for a ticket to be issued.

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            • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:10 pm

              I recall that being a police bureau ask.

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  • John Liu June 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

    I disagree with reducing the speed limit here. ODOT is (for once) right. It will be futile, is unneccesary, and won’t solve the problem we’re talking about.

    The problem here for persons crossing at the trail is not that the speed limit is 40 instead of 35.
    It is that that location is on a blind-ish curve and almost no-one knows that it is a crossing point.

    I’ve driven that stretch of road, and have never noticed the “crossing” for the Wildwood trail. It is not marked in any way, no crosswalk lines or signs, other than the stick figure walking signs that are easy to miss. I have also never noticed the “crossing” when riding that stretch, going uphill you’re working too hard, going downhill you’re going too fast.

    If the city wants to make that crossing safer, it should treat it like an actual crossing. Paint crosswalk lines, roadway markings leading up to the crossing, install big conspicuous signs (Wildwood Trail Crossing Stop For Pedestrians), and even install a HAWK beacon.

    In other words, treat it like the crossing at the Audubon site on Cornell. Treat it like an actual crossing.

    If you don’t do that, then a speed limit change will make no difference. Drivers may go a little slower, but it will still be just an unmarked spot on a curve in the road. Are you going to feel much safer crossing just because cars rounding the curve are going 40 instead of 45 or 45 instead of 50?

    I understand why ODOT wouldn’t lower the speed limit on a entire mile of road, in an ineffectual gesture aimed at one unmarked crossing point.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:20 am

      It is signed:
      https://goo.gl/maps/kVtP4Pp5TiJ2

      Marking implies more safety than exists, so more than signs would be needed before marking would be approved (people who think paint alone stops cars are delusional).

      The bridge is the best option.

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      • HJ June 15, 2018 at 10:08 am

        There might be a sign, but when you’re driving there you’re too busy worrying about people leaving their lanes to notice. It’s a horribly designed road on every level. The visibility of that crossing is zero. It needs drastically better marking at a bare minimum. As in paint across the street, a HAWK beacon, etc.

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        • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 10:45 am

          four signs, actually, two for each approach. Marking alone would not add to a pedestrian’s safety, and might decrease it.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty June 16, 2018 at 2:59 am

            I don’t believe it. I’ve witnessed the change in behavior of drivers when the marked crosswalk in front of Cleveland HS was installed. They work.

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            • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:13 pm

              A marked crossing alone in front of Cleveland HS?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 18, 2018 at 3:24 pm

                I’m not sure what you mean, but there are no signals or other non-static elements. There might be a sign. Compliance is excellent there.

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      • Shoupian June 15, 2018 at 2:13 pm

        No, but cars traveling at slower speeds are more likely to stop for pedestrians crossing the road. Reducing the speed on this road will help that.

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      • John Liu June 15, 2018 at 3:09 pm

        Almost no-one notices those stick figure signs or knows what they mean.

        For the average driver, they are driving on a sweeping bend through the woods with nothing around.

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    • X June 15, 2018 at 9:30 am

      Wait, they let you drive?

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    • q June 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      The thing is, the crossing isn’t the only reason for lowering the speed limit. If the crosswalk didn’t exist, it would still make sense.

      As one example–I used to drive in and out of Tichner daily. Heading uphill westbound on Burnside, people would go so fast I’d get tailgated, honked at, and swerved around just because I was slowing to get into the (short) left turn lane.

      Heading downhill on Burnside, to make a right turn onto Tichner (which is a sharp turn at the gravel pile) was even worse, because people were right on my tail as I’d slow down to make the turn, as if my turn signal didn’t matter. Making drivers brake on a downhill is a major sin, apparently.

      There are similar issues at the several streets people enter and exit Burnside from, many requiring slowing down quite a bit due to sharp turns and poor visibility.

      That’s only mentioning the benefits to drivers of slowing traffic.

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      • X June 15, 2018 at 3:09 pm

        About braking on a downhill–does the slope of a road enter into the speed calculation? West Burnside is clearly not designed for high speed automobile traffic. Is there some rule of thumb for slope and degree of curvature that applies to this situation?

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        • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:14 pm

          That would trigger a black and yellow warning sign if a hazard at posted speed, not a regulatory 24/7/365 black and white sign.

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  • Jim Labbe June 15, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Fantastic reporting! Thanks for covering this and exposing ODOT’s
    Dated (Pleistocene?) management and thinking.

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  • Geoff Grummon-Beale June 15, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Following ODOT’s logic: very few people on bikes stop at the stop signs on N Williams at Jessup and at N Wheeler and Interstate (Rose Quarter TC). Can we please get those stop signs removed?

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 9:21 am

      ODOT logic does not apply to other traffic control devices on City streets.

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      • 9watts June 15, 2018 at 11:52 pm

        No kidding.

        But the point to which you are responding (in predictable fashion) was excellent all the same.

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        • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:15 pm

          Ignorance is bliss?

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    • Duke Ganote June 15, 2018 at 10:44 am

      Good idea; those certainly should be yield signs, since the traffic volume is so low.

      “Sam Schwartz, the former New York City Traffic Commissioner, explained another problem with using stop signs as traffic calming devices. Schwartz said that if a stop sign doesn’t seem to belong in a location, some drivers will ignore it.” I know I do.
      https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2011/04/26/to-get-safer-streets-traffic-lights-and-stop-signs-arent-the-answer/

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      • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm

        Williams at Jessup should either be 2-way stop control, or have the All WAY riders added to clarify the operation.
        Considering the propensity for bushes to grow, stopping N-S seems safest, unless the vegetation is removed from the island spaces.
        Stop signs also assign right of way, clarifying who is to blame in the event of a crash.

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  • Pat Lowell June 15, 2018 at 9:24 am

    Sometimes it feels like the only way to make things safer out there is for *more* of us safety-minded folks to be driving.

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    • rick June 15, 2018 at 9:28 am

      How so? People could ride bikes at 27 mph over the rubber – tracking strands that record the data.

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      • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 10:46 am

        ODOT does not use 24-hour counts to evaluate speed. They use a radar gun and ‘free flow’ conditions – off-peak.

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        • Bay Area Rider June 15, 2018 at 7:34 pm

          Same as California. You only need to measure 100 free flowing cars, not trucks. Free flowing is defined as no traffic for 5 seconds in front of the car being measured. Measurements taken at off peak times during the day and far enough away from curves to not interfere with the speed of the car.

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          • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:23 pm

            So, ‘ideal’ conditions.
            Except that most drivers haven’t been in a crash, and don’t know how fast things can go wrong, so that ‘ideal’ 85th percentile is a result from users with a large gap in a basic knowledge based for determining what is, or is not, ‘safe’.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty June 18, 2018 at 3:21 pm

              Maybe we could take steps to lower the freeflow speed before applying for a speed limit change. Narrow the roadway, install speed bumps… that sort of thing.

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            • q June 18, 2018 at 3:50 pm

              That’s quite an insightful comment. It makes me think of people driving, for example, towards a wreck blocking the freeway. Some people have seen it ahead, and slow way down. Others have not seen it yet, and continue forward at 60 or 70 mph.

              The 85th percentile speed of drivers 500 yards before the wreck might be 60 mph. But drivers who’ve noticed the wreck might have an 85th percentile number of 45 mph, and 65 mph for those who haven’t noticed. 45 mph might be a safe speed for driving at that point, but 60 certainly wouldn’t be. But 60 would be the 85th percentile speed.

              You could have a similar example of people driving in icy conditions. The people who’ve already hit a patch of ice might be driving half the speed of those who haven’t. The 85th percentile speed of all drivers might be double the speed that a highway patrol officer might say is safe.

              The 85th percentile speed only removes the speed of the fastest 15% of drivers from consideration, when in reality maybe half or even more might be driving without accurate knowledge of what a safe speed is. “85th percentile speed of drivers who know what they’re doing” would make a lot more sense as a basis for establishing limits.

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  • X June 15, 2018 at 9:42 am

    A. Build the footbridge.
    B. Take the speed limit signs down.
    C. Hail Darwin!

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  • Dan A June 15, 2018 at 9:57 am

    1. Reduce traffic police force.
    2. Speeds rise and crashes increase.
    3. Do a speed study.
    4. Oh look, lots of people are speeding!
    5. Do nothing/raise speed limit.

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  • soren June 15, 2018 at 10:31 am

    When an agency entirely accountable to an elected Governor acts in an anti-social manner it ‘s very odd to see no one pointing fingers at said Governor. ODOT does the things it does because voters continue to support establishment democrats who are far more interested in currying “favors” from corporations than working to improve the general welfare.

    This electoral cognitive dissonance is compounded by the fact that many non-profit advocates have substantial employment histories (e.g. a revolving door) with establishment democrat-run governments. It’s difficult to advocate for anything other than minimal, incremental change when one’s salary is dependent on the approval of those who are beholden to wealthy folk and corporations.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 16, 2018 at 3:02 am

      Vote Republiican!

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  • Shoupian June 15, 2018 at 10:33 am

    “as an agency, ODOT does not believe lower speed limits improves safety or reduces crashes” – In essence, for an agency dominated by engineers, the agency does not believe in science. Drivers speed on this section of W Burnside already, but ODOT doesn’t seem to be concerned about enforcement now. The enforcement argument is a red herring ODOT likes to use when oppose speed reduction because (1) that’s their ideology and (2) they know their argument is illogical and not supported by data.

    PBOT’s safety data show a real need to lower speed on W Burnside and the safety implication of lower speed is well documented in transportation literature. Except holding the legal power to approve the speed limit change, ODOT really does not have any legitimacy to make a case for denying speed reduction.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

      Speed certainly affects the outcome of a crash event that occurs, but only recently has evidence emerged linking speed directly to an increase in number of events that will occur.

      Past research was only able to find a link between speed differentials and potential for crashes. Hence the goal of trying to find a speed range (pace) that most drivers fall into, and posting in that range.

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      • Shoupian June 15, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        You need to read more research articles then. Research has clearly shown that lower speeds mean lower fatality / serious injury rates, all else being equal. There is a big gap in your argument. You have failed to show the link between speed differentials and potential for crashes and why that is a defensible reason to post speed limit based on the 85th percentile speed.

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        • Andy Kutansky June 16, 2018 at 7:17 am

          Outbound West Burnside could easily be described as drag racing, most hours of the day. A lower speed limit, even 5mph, would improve safety and cost nothing.

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        • paikiala June 18, 2018 at 1:25 pm

          Actually, the Nilsson power model was only developed in 2004, relatively recently as road design goes.
          Feel free to provide some citations.

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    • soren June 16, 2018 at 10:43 am

      Governor Kate Brown has the executive power to change this policy with nothing more than a few keyboard clicks. Perhaps advocates who care about traffic violence, air toxics, and climate change might want to focus their attention on the elected official that has direct authority over “ODOT”.

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      • Lossed Cookies June 17, 2018 at 3:32 pm

        What are you going to do, elect a republican governor?

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        • soren June 21, 2018 at 11:35 am

          i’ve never really supported the democratic party but i might very well vote for a very progressive (e.g. a mainstream 1970s era democrat) in a democratic primary.

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  • Mike Sanders June 15, 2018 at 10:34 am

    I’m amazed that ODOT is even claiming jurisdiction over speeds on Burnside, since by definition, it’s a city street, not a state highway. By refusing the city’s logical request, they’re basically saying that Burnside must be regarded as an auto-oriented street. Therefore, the need for a ped/bike bridge over Burnside, or a tunnel beneath it, increases greatly. The only remaining option, then, is to kickstart the bridge or tunnel project immediately.

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    • paikiala June 15, 2018 at 10:53 am

      State law, as described in the article, places the authority to determine speed on all streets in Oregon not posted in accordance with state statues, with the state.

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  • brett June 15, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Orwell is chuckling quietly in his grave

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  • Todd Boulanger June 15, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    A [silly] question*, has PBoT considered an alternative lane layout for this section of arterial?
    The ADT is less than 9000 motor vehicles per day, so why is it striped as a 2+1 lane layout instead of a safer 2 lane with middle median/ left turn pocket. This would allow a pedestrian refuge to be set up if needed.

    And since there are few intersections, then some sections of the median could become a striped 5 FT shoulder. The two lane WB (?) makes it very difficult for the prudent driver (aka “moving speed bump” per Dan Burden) to set the maximum speed if the aggressive drive can pass them freely.

    *I have not been monitoring this project so I do not know what has been proposed to date.

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    • John Liu June 15, 2018 at 6:37 pm

      How about two lanes with wide shoulders for bikes?

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      • rick June 15, 2018 at 8:34 pm

        I think West Burnside needs a second, bus-only lane for the east bound part within, maybe, 1/3 mile of NW 24th. Bus 20 will become a 24 hour bus.

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      • Andy Kutansky June 16, 2018 at 7:15 am

        I tried riding Burnside inbound a couple times during the AM peak and I do not recommend it at all – just a terrible commuting route. Motor vehicles go 5-10 mph.

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        • Lossed Cookies June 17, 2018 at 3:29 pm

          Cars are a thing we decided to put there, not a force of nature.

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        • rick June 20, 2018 at 12:18 pm

          It can be a thrill on an early morning in dry weather with very good brakes.

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  • El Biciclero June 16, 2018 at 11:38 am

    So, wait—speeds are too high; let’s lower the speed limit; we can’t lower the speed limit because speeds are too high? Somebody call Yossarian.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Ironic, no? Luckily, PBOT had other tools they could use to make this crossing safer if they wanted to.

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  • Eric Leifsdad June 17, 2018 at 9:57 am

    It sounds like we need an advocacy organization in Salem that we could trust with our streets. Reform to the speed limit rules and 10mph speeding gimme are badly needed.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 17, 2018 at 10:15 am

      I think the 10mph issue could be dealt with locally.

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  • JaredO June 18, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    “This panel meets quarterly and is made up of representatives from the Oregon Transportation Safety Committee, the Oregon State Police, the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities and ODOT.”

    I’d encourage people to count the votes.

    TSC has a voting member, who is safety-focused.

    The Portland Police brought a representative, convincing the OSP member to come along on this vote.

    The ODOT rep will likely back ODOT’s findings, so that’s one vote against.

    The problem is the League of Oregon Cities and Association of Oregon Counties have appointed traffic engineers to the panel, rather than elected officials, public health experts, safety advocates, etc. Get LOC and AOC to change who represents them, and I’d bet the Speed Zone Review panel would vote differently in the future.

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    • rick June 20, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      How did you find that information? That change would be great.

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  • Adam June 19, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Can someone explain to me why in God’s name ODOT owns Burnside?

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    • rick June 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      ODOT doesn’t own any of West Burnside; PBOT owns it but it isn’t under the new standard of more easily lower speed limits. Burnside eventually goes to merge with ODOT’s Highway 26 in Gresham and that corridor eventually “continues” all the way the to southeast Idaho.

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