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PBOT’s $2.1 million plans to tame dangerous section of N Columbia Blvd

PBOT rendering of new crossing of N Columbia Blvd at Bank, just outside George Middle School.

Prior to the start of the school year in 2016, the dangerous section of North Columbia Blvd near George Middle School in St. Johns was on the city’s radar as a “high crash corridor”; but there wasn’t any momentum or urgency to make it safer. That all changed when then 15-year-old Bradley Fortner was hit and seriously injured by a driver while walking to school.

Now, three years later, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has nearly settled a suite of updates that could slow drivers down, limit their turns, and significantly improve safety.

After the collision, we learned locals have been afraid to cross the street in front of their homes for many years. The wide and fast conditions on Columbia Blvd make it a de facto highway that has all but cutoff an entire residential area from schools, restaurants and other destinations. Fortner’s collision forced PBOT and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek to take notice.

At Portland City Council this week, PBOT will accept a $1.5 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation. The funds will allow PBOT to make final design decisions and build several updates to nearby streets later this year. PBOT has already used $650,000 in System Development Charges to get the project to this point.

Since our last report in February 2018, PBOT has come up with designs based in part on feedback from the community. The project will be a mix of “access management” that will constrain driving movements from adjacent streets, and a new signal and crossing updates on Columbia. PBOT is also studying whether or not to remove or retain the existing overpass that has fallen into disrepair and gets little use.

Below is the official rendering of the access management elements of the project just east of George Middle School.


And here’s what PBOT says about it:

“Due to concerns from the community, PBOT is recommending the installation of two access management islands on Columbia Blvd at Midway and Oregonian. Almost half of the traffic from Columbia turns left on the local neighborhood street, Midway St. By eliminating the left turn access from Columbia to Midway and Oregonian, we will be forcing traffic to use the existing traffic signal at Macrum. By installing these two islands we also understand that we will need to modify the timing on the existing signal at Macrum.”

The main piece of the project will be another set of medians and a full traffic signal at or near the intersection of Columbia and N Bank Street. PBOT has drawn-up two options and they’re asking for community feedback before making a final decision.

Here’s Option A:

And here’s Option B:

Winton Sandino is the PBOT project manager. If you have specific feedback about the proposals, email him at

According to a city spokesperson, PBOT is still doing some outreach and a final decision about the design should happen in the “next month or so.” Construction is scheduled to begin in fall of this year.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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