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City of Portland says they’ll ‘daylight’ 350 intersections on accelerated timeline


Graphic: Oregon Walks

A nagging issue for traffic safety activists — intersection daylighting, where cars are prohibited from parking at corners — will see major progress thanks to funding pushed for by Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

“Additional funding secured by Commissioner Hardesty is allowing PBOT to accelerate these changes on High Crash Network streets.”
— PBOT

This week the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) announced they plan to implement “vision clearance” at around 350 intersections and the work will be done by the end of June 2022. That’s a vastly accelerated timeline that comes as the City is embroiled in a lawsuit that says they aren’t following established guidelines.

Advocates had harangued PBOT for years to adhere to state law (ORS 811.550) that says people cannot park within 20-feet of crosswalks at an intersection. Portland City Code (16.20.130) states that parking is not allowed within 50 feet of an intersection under certain circumstances. The reason advocates care so much about this policy is because cars and trucks (especially large ones) block visibility of people trying to cross the street. Advocates also said PBOT rarely enforced the law. For their part, PBOT gave parking enforcement officers discretion and cited a part of the law that gives the “roadway authority” ability to interpret the guidance in a different way.

In September 2018 PBOT bent to community pressure and announced they’d start following the law; but only in very limited situations as part of new capital projects or alongside new developments. Also, as part of work to update the Pedestrian Master Plan, PBOT said they would require planners to set back parking at uncontrolled intersections (without stop signs or signals) on “pedestrian priority streets”. This included a limited number of intersections on neighborhood greenways and streets designated as city walkways or in specific Pedestrian Districts. PBOT said they’d also respond to individual complaints about specific locations.

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Graphic: PBOT

This approach left out thousands of dangerous intersections, so advocates kept pushing. In late 2019, nonprofit Oregon Walks launched a “clear the corners” campaign. Another pressure point was applied in February 2020 when a local law firm filed a lawsuit against PBOT claiming the lack of visibility at an intersection, and failure to comply with parking laws, led to the death of a motorcycle rider. That lawsuit is still working its way through the legal process.

In the meantime, PBOT Commissioner Hardesty has decided to push ahead with the policy as part of her “urgent response to the crisis of vehicular violence” via a budget amendment back in June that included $450,000 in funding for a suite of road safety measures.

PBOT announced Tuesday that $200,000 of that funding will go toward intersection vision clearance work. “PBOT typically applies vision clearance to streets only during paving and capital projects,” read a statement from PBOT. “Additional funding secured by Commissioner Hardesty is allowing PBOT to accelerate these changes on High Crash Network streets.”

This work will put even more strain on space for parking cars in Portland, which has been shrinking for years due to an increase in the number of drivers, a proliferation of street plazas and parklets in commercial districts, and other factors.

See more about PBOT’s daylighting policy here.

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