Last Thursday evening a young north Portland resident was hit and seriously injured while walking across Fessenden Street in St. Johns. A source tells us she suffered multiple broken bones and major lacerations to her face. The collision has added fuel to the fire of many local residents who’ve been pushing for safety updates in the area for many years.
Neighborhood advocates plan to attend a meeting of the St. Johns Neighborhood Association tonight where a staffer from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is scheduled to give an update on a project that would make upgrades to this stretch of Fessenden — such as median islands, curb extensions, narrower lanes, speed cushions, and painted crosswalks — all of which could have prevented Thursday’s collision. Advocates are also upset because a man was killed while walking across Fessenden just 11 blocks from this location in November 2017.
Last week’s collision happened to a 13-year-old girl who’s a student at George Middle School. If that rings a bell it’s because that school is adjacent to the nearby section of Columbia Blvd where a 15-year-old boy was hit by a driver and nearly killed as he walked to school in 2016. That collision led to a $2.1 million safety project that PBOT says will being construction in fall of this year.
PBOT has had plans to slow down drivers and create safer walking conditions on Fessenden since at least 2013 when they published the St. Johns Transportation Plan Development Project. That plan was ultimately folded into the St. Johns Truck Strategy Phase II. Here’s what PBOT’s current plan includes for the St. Louis/Fessenden corridor (worth nothing that the intersections one block from Richmond in both directions are slated for significant changes):
– Restriping the roadway to reduce lane widths and create buffered bike lanes.
– New median refuge islands with street trees and striped crosswalks at six locations: Kellogg Street, Smith Street, Seneca Street, Oswego Avenue [just one block east of Richmond], Allegheny Avenue and Tioga Avenue.
– New curb extensions with street trees and striped crosswalks at Burr and Midway avenues.
– Speed reader boards on both sides of the St Louis Avenue and Fessenden Street curve.
– New rapid flashing beacons at the intersections of Seneca Street and New York Avenue and at Seneca Street and Midway Avenue.
– A new HAWK signal at Charleston Avenue [one block west of Richmond].
– A reconfiguration of the New York Avenue leg of the New York Avenue and St Louis Avenue intersection to create a perpendicular alignment.
As we reported back in October, some members of the advisory committee from that plan formed a new group to pressure PBOT to build the project. Citizens for a Safe and Attractive Fessenden, St. Louis, and Lombard, a Facebook group with 468 members, has been on high alert recently due to what they claim are several delays. Construction was first promised to begin in 2017 but ground has yet to be broken. Meanwhile, the toll of people being hit continues to pile up.
Donna Cohen is the leader of the Citizens group. “They should have already begun construction!,” she wrote on the Facebook page last week. “And now, here we are, two years after construction was to begin, with two injury accidents and one death which might have been prevented had PBOT done what it was supposed to!!”
Local resident and member of the group, Gregory Proteau, saw the aftermath of Thursday night’s collision and shared, “I got extremely angry since this keeps happening.”
Another source tells me he’s written to PBOT “on numerous occasions” about the dangerous conditions on Fessenden. “It feels like our poverty-stricken community is not as important as others in Portland,” he shared after hearing about this latest collision. “Let this be another example, and hopefully a motivator, to hear us when we ask for help.”
In a letter sent to local residents on February 4th of this year, PBOT Project Manager Rich Newlands wrote that construction will finally begin on February 18th. Newlands will present an update at the neighborhood meeting tonight (2/11, 7:00 pm at the St. Johns Community Center, 8427 N Central).
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.