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This morning’s death on TV Highway underscores need for reform, investment

Posted by on January 14th, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Another dangerous ODOT highway that runs through our cities. Another tragic consequence.
(Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Policymaking can often feel far-removed from our everyday lives. Then there are times when we can connect current policy debates with matters of life-and-death with a short, straight line. This is one of those times.

“The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind people that it’s very dangerous to cross dark highways while wearing dark clothing.”
— Washington County Sheriff’s Office

This morning just before dawn there was a fatal collision on Tualatin Valley Highway and NW 341st, about two miles west of downtown Hillsboro. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says a woman driving a 2005 Mazda minivan was driving westbound when her vehicle came into contact with 51-year-old Leslie Schmadeke. Schmadeke was attempting to cross the road on foot when she was struck. She died at the hospital a few hours later.

The Sheriff’s Office statement attempts to absolve the driver and place blame on Schmadeke. “The conditions at the time of the crash were dark and foggy, so poor visibility was likely a factor in this crash… The victim was also dressed in dark clothing,” reads their official statement. They then added, “The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind people that it’s very dangerous to cross dark highways while wearing dark clothing. Please consider wearing bright, reflective clothing or carrying a flashing light when out walking along busy roads in the dark.”

The statement didn’t mention that the driver should have had headlights to illuminate the street. Or if visibility was impaired, the driver should have been driving a slower, safer speed in order to not endanger others. The police also failed to mention that there are no sidewalks on this stretch of the highway and that the location where Schmadeke was killed is in the middle of 1.5 miles of highway without a single safe crossing (see below).

1.5 miles between safe crossings. Red star is location of this morning’s collision.

According to a comment from Schmadeke’s cousin, JenRenee Fairlane, Schmadeke didn’t own a car and never learned to drive. “She was an avid supporter and user of public transport.” “My uncle has been hounding ODOT about that dangerous strip for years,” she added.

This tragic narrative is far too common on TV Hwy, also known as Oregon’s State Route 8, which is one of the deadliest roads in the region. We’ve been sharing its trail of death and destruction since Bret Lewis was hit and killed back in 2011. In October 2018 we reported on two separate fatal crashes in one day. According to Washington County, the TV Hwy corridor had a whopping 3355 crashes and 16 fatalities between 2010 and 2014.

But yeah, let’s blame dark clothing.

Advocates and politicians have tried for years to make the road safer, but their hands are tied because it’s owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation, who treats it like a rural interstate rather than the multi-use urban connector it has become in recent years.

Asked about the crash this morning, Metro Councilor Juan Carlos González (who grew up along the corridor), wrote via Twitter, “Pains me to read about another injury. Absurd that a major arterial in the region is still at that standard.”

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Help could be on the way thanks to the Metro 2020 Transportation Measure. Arrow points to location of this morning’s collision.

In addition to having the leadership of Councilor González, there’s more good news from Metro about TV Hwy.

First, the effort to hasten the transfer of TV Hwy away from ODOT and toward local control is moving along. While legislative attempts to force this transfer failed in 2015 and 2019, Metro is still working hard to make it happen. Their jurisdictional transfer assessment project is moving into its final selection phase (TV Hwy is still on the list) and the implementation plan is set to begin in September.

Also promising is that the section of road where Schmadeke was hit this morning is slated for $10-15 million in investment via Metro’s 2020 Transportation Funding Measure. According to Metro (see graphic above, PDF here), the section between Hillsboro and Cornelius is slated to become a “complete street” with narrower lanes, a planted center median, protected cycle-tracks, sidewalks, transit updates, and more. The entire corridor could receive nearly $600 million in funding if the current list of Tier 1 projects is approved by Metro Council and the measure is supported by voters in November.

Metro’s 2020 Transportation Funding Task Force meets tomorrow (Wednesday, 1/15) to figure out how to raise $3.1 billion needed to fix TV Hwy and make other big investments. It’s a matter of life and death. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Bike Guy
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Bike Guy

A tragic and avoidable loss of life. Maybe I have been too critical about the Metro Bond. Thank you for reporting on this issue, Jonathan.

B. Carfree
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B. Carfree

Why do police spokespeople not read the relevant law before (mis)speaking? The Oregon Basic Speed Law is pretty clear. One must slow down to a safe speed when factors such as darkness and weather make it necessary. If a motorist hits someone or something in the dark and blames the darkness, the citation should be written on the spot because they are acknowledging a class B traffic violation.

JenRenee Fairlane
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JenRenee Fairlane

Leslie was my cousin. After reading many disheartening articles today, I am so glad to come across this one. My cousin never learned to drive; she and was an avid supporter and user of public transport. My uncle has been hounding ODOT about that dangerous strip for years. I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your bringing attention to it.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Please change that to 2 miles West of Hillsboro center

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

Despite the picture of TV Highway as the epitome of suburban sprawl and strip mall hell, this section of highway is actually semi-rural, and a gap in the urbanized area of the metro growth boundary goes through here.

It makes the appalling number of deaths and serious collisions I hear about all the more egregious. But yes, the fact that there’s no lit marked crossing for almost two miles and to get from the few residential areas on the north side to the eastbound transit on the south is absolutely an infrastructure induced recipe for disaster. ODOT certainly carries some responsibility for the carnage and the upgrades and future trail can’t come soon enough.

q
Guest
q

The “dark clothing, etc.” official statements need to stop. There was a long Nextdoor thread started in SW this week by someone who was nearly hit while walking on the sidewalk in the South Waterfront area by a car turning directly into her. A high percentage of people blamed her for not wearing reflective clothing or swinging a flashlight while walking on the sidewalk. A scary percentage of drivers believe that if they go the speed limit, blame for crashing into anyone biking or walking is the fault of the victim, unless the victim is reflective and illuminated–even when walking on the sidewalk. They speak of driving at night being like some sort of video game, with ninja figures suddenly appearing from nowhere directly in front of them.

If you mention anything about the driver or vehicle being a factor, they immediately go to “that’s not required by law”, ignoring that neither is wearing reflective clothing and lighting, and often being wrong about the law anyway (“there’s no law against tinted windows”, it’s illegal to cross outside a marked crosswalk”, etc.).

Obviously the official statements are teaching drivers to believe this way. Victims are blamed for not exceeding the law, while no scrutiny is given to even check if drivers were obeying it.

JenRenee Fairlane
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JenRenee Fairlane

Thank you. Btw, Carl is Leslie’s father who has been on them for years to make it more safe. I appreciate your including me in the article.

Fred
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Fred

The missing piece of this story is whether the car had its headlights on. I often cycle after dark and see so many cars with headlights off. I can’t believe Leslie would walk across TV Hwy if she saw a car’s headlights coming toward her. Law enforcement needs to do a better job not only of communicating about these mishaps but also of enforcing the law that requires drivers to turn their headlights on.

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

I do not exceed the speed limit. It annoys 99% of the other drivers. When roads are wet, I further cut 5 mph. If it’s dusky, dark, or low angle sunny, another cut of 5 mph. My cell phone blocks calls & messages in & out when the vehicle is under way. Too many cars, not enough infrastructure. It seems people must die before safe crosswalks and side paths are installed. Maybe the victims should be memorialized by naming the crosswalk after them.

q
Guest
q

Google “washington county sheriff” and you’ll see a lot of black uniforms. Same with “portland police”. The agencies criticizing victims for wearing dark clothing are out there walking around on highways and streets responding to night calls. Granted they may have some reflective material somewhere, but on the other hand they’re out in the midst of chaos, flashing lights and moving vehicles as a basic activity of their jobs.

Anyone criticizing or blaming people for walking in dark clothing should feel comfortable telling law enforcement that if they get hit by a car, it’s their own fault. That includes the agencies’ own spokespeople.

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

Another other pedestrian fatality occurred within 1/2 mile of this location in the last year.This is a super scary section of highway. I grew up living on 336th Ave and it’s just tragic. People on foot are crossing TV Hwy to catch the bus, these fatalities are occurring at bus stop locations.

Here is a link to the news story.
March 9, 2019 – 59-year old man hit and killed near NE 334th
https://katu.com/news/local/deputies-investigate-crash-involving-pedestrian-near-cornelius

A motor vehicle fatality also occurred at NE 334th in November 2019.
https://katu.com/news/local/fatal-crash-closes-tv-highway-between-hillsboro-cornelius

Carl Calkins
Guest
Carl Calkins

My article in the Hillsboro News Times-Opinion-11/20/2019,made it clear of the situation that my neighbors and the adjacent streets have put up with, forty yrs is to long when it was first brought before the county on the land zoning change that went to the State “LUBA”.
Those memories and the fight to make it safe came with lots threats, the poisoning of our lawn, roofing nails in the drive way ,windows shot out with a bb gun, verbal threats and the street blocked off so we couldn’t exit.
After 35yrs, we moved away because of pain and suffering of being rear ended three times. The love and memories of our old neighborhood and neighbors where our children grew up still lingers in our hearts .
Did the only child of my neighbor lose her life in VAIN LIKE ALL THE OTHERS ?
It wasn’t darkness it was the failure of those in power to make a known hazardous and accident prone area a” Safety Corridor” Zone under 2017 guidelines, Speed limit ,Flashing caution signs, cross walks.
It just shows the lack of knowledge, judgment, irresponsibility and failure of that those in power have at the expense of 40yrs of doing nothing and many lives lost. Its time to come out of the DARK and do something.

Carl Calkins
Guest
Carl Calkins

There a lot more to the story, its about politics, special Interest and the greed.
Anything to protect life, health and environment is always secondary to financial gain, this
I have learned through my quest and years of experience. The answer I get is it would to much money is a direct Quote from a local politician that will stick in my mind forever.

Robert ''Bob"
Guest
Robert ''Bob"

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege and such the safety of everyone is paramount. The area government’s spend a fortune on traffic control apparatus only to find out that more is always needed. It is time to require map speed limiting equipment on all vehicles. Speeds could be set at 20 mph for neighborhoods, 30 mph for collector avenues, and 40 for arterials, this wouldn’t eliminate accidents but slower speeds would reduce severity of injuries and reduce drivers overdriving conditions and capabilities of automobiles(headlight illumination).

carl
Guest
carl

The speed limit should be 40mph,It doesn’t make any since going from 40 mph to the next 40mph takes only 15 seconds, leaving it at 50 mph is like hurry up and wait inline .

Ron Swaren
Guest
Ron Swaren

I think pedestrians should try to make themselves more visible. Is there something wrong with getting a light colored jacket, so you can be seen on dark, rainy nights? Are we still in the goth craze? Bicyclists have tended to get smart and wear some kind of bright colored clothing. I respect a person’s right to get around via the way they choose, but the Portland fashion for brooding, dark clothing is carried too far.

As far as whether roadways enhance the importance of life, just remember that ambulances, fire trucks and police have to use them as well.