Comment of the Week: An unheeded warning on SE 26th

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Comment of the Week

Today’s Comment of the Week is in response to one of our articles on the fatality at SE Powell and 26th. The comment came in over the weekend.

What caught my eye was that, within the comment, reader “Rachel b” quotes from a comment she wrote about Powell and 26th six years ago, back in 2016. This sent me on a journey through all the previous BikePortland articles about this intersection, and also many of the comments.

It is sobering and frustrating how many times Rachel b warned about the street she lived on.

Phillip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” I already knew BikePortland was a “first rough draft” for the story of transportation in Portland. What Rachel b made me think about is that, along with that draft, comes a time capsule of comments that give the reader a pretty good idea of how people were reacting to the news.

Here is what Rachel b wrote (I couldn’t find the exact comment Rachel quoted from, so I’ve substituted part of another one, also from 2016, with a link):

My deepest condolences to the family & friends of Sarah Pliner. What a sad loss.

Chris I is right, as I seem to recall he is about many issues. Everything became about the movement of freight once the City gave UPRR carte blanche–no neighborhood input–to move their main operations from Albina Yard (right next to freeway access but developable) to Brooklyn Yard (in the middle of several neighborhoods & nowhere near freeway access).

I lived on SE Tibbetts off 26th & then on 26th itself during that sneaky transition & lived to see SE Powell become a nightmare & SE 26th also become a thruway for bumper-to-bumper semis that didn’t even fit on the road.

But hey–ODOT finally got their extra inches, eh? By having the gall to call the road they colluded to make dangerous ‘not safe enough for cyclists’ & ripping out a bike lane.

I wrote this (below in quotes) about the deadly morphing of SE 26th in BikePortland comments back in 2016 & I hate how evergreen the discussion is. Did you remember SE 26th went through a significant City-led years-long process to become a designated green street complete w/ traffic-calming & bike/ped-friendly features? Hahaha. Joke was on us once UPRR got the green light. That changed everything. But UPRR now makes more than Google so we can all take comfort in our neighborhoods being sold for that.

[from 2016] “I remember reading Union Pacific nearly doubled their freight/rail traffic from Portland to Chicago in the past year. Doubled! I wonder if Portland benefits significantly from this? We seem to be a throughway for UP–someplace to drag stuff through–increasingly, coal and oil. We are reaping the health fallout, though … [read more from 2016]”


Rachel b’s comment can be found under the original post. Thank you Rachel b and everyone else for your recent comments!

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maxD
maxD
3 months ago

Rachel b was a prolific and insightful poster. I always sought out her comments- nice to be reminded of that.

rachel b
rachel b
3 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Thanks, maxD–I likewise always looked for yours.

PS
PS
3 months ago

UPRR made $6.8B in net income in the 12 months ending June of 2022 and Google made $76B in net income for year end 2021. Not sure why the comparison matters in the comment, but it isn’t correct.

PS
PS
3 months ago

Okay, so all we can glean from that is the UPRR is more efficient with their capital than Google (which makes sense, they are dramaticallydifferent companies at other ends of the growth/life cycle from each other), it doesn’t mean we sold our neighborhoods to anyone for anything.

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  PS

It does however seem to imply that UP could afford to move freight in ways that kill fewer humans. Let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

rachel b
rachel b
3 months ago

Thanks Lisa–that’s right. Apologies for the old stats, PS. I’ll do a little research & catch up on the current stats. Sounds like (per PS) Google’s had some good years (! hah). I’d be curious to see when they overtook UPRR again. UPRR has been ruthless in their cutbacks & voraciously profit-driven at the expense of their employees & the communities they impact. We’re seeing the results of that now.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/19/business/freight-rail.html

Matt
Matt
3 months ago

I couldn’t find the exact comment Rachel quoted from

I couldn’t either, and that was after searching using several uncommon text strings from the full quote. rachel b, would you mind providing a link to the source from 2016?

rachel b
rachel b
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Hi Matt–I copied & pasted from my own draft (found in my own notes–habit after occasionally losing whole texts when posting online) so I’d have to search for it here to find it! I edited out some (in my recent post) as it applied more to SE 26th than SE Powell. I do remember posting several times here over the years about the increasing danger to peds/cyclists on SE 26th.

Here’s the full text of the post I plucked from (from my notes):

(2016)
“SE 26th between Powell and Division, running through the Clinton (Hosford Abernethy/Richmond) neighborhood has–like most of Portland–changed radically over a mere span of years, and not for the better. 

Much attention lately has been focused on SE Powell, and rightfully so. But this once-sleepy neighborhood two-lane street, SE 26th Avenue–an adjunct to SE Powell–resembles a freeway increasingly too, with more and more commuters and freight carriers cutting through, and all driving at ever-increasing, dangerous speeds.  

The cars and trucks are winning, at present, as impatient Portland drivers seek out shortcuts and show reckless disregard for vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists. It’s my hope that it won’t take another tragic accident before traffic calming measures are brought to SE 26th.

There are no crosswalks, no traffic-calming measures in this stretch of SE 26th–despite the fact that a school (Cleveland High School) sits at its south end. From the charming Clinton Corners intersection with Clinton Street Theater and Clinton Coffeehouse, cars are encouraged by current road design to speed. Once you pass the intersection heading south, there’s a long flat virtual drag strip, all the way from Clinton to Powell. Few drivers resist the urge to put the pedal to the metal. Some drivers–motorcyclists, scooters, motorheads–seem to seek this stretch out to go full throttle.

The development of SE Division Street was no friend to neighbors on SE 26th. Now, in addition to rush hour commuters morning and evening and school traffic morning and afternoons, this little street sees continuous evening-to-late-night traffic daily, from people using SE 26th to get to restaurants and bars on one of the most hyped Portland streets ever.  

All this, in combination with the City of Portland’s fateful and covert decision a few years ago to approve UPRR’s overnight movement of major operations to Brooklyn Yard in SE, thereby bringing unwanted and unwarranted big freight traffic to SE 26th and all surrounding neighborhoods, has led to a little neighborhood avenue becoming a major thoroughfare. Something it was never built to be.  

This is a neighborhood street. SE 26th between Powell and Clinton is lined almost entirely (once you get past Cleveland H.S.) with residences. Increasingly, I see nervous neighbors scurrying across the ever-busier road, pushing strollers or walking with their families, running for their lives as impatient cars speed past. I can’t emphasize enough the startling jump in traffic numbers and speeders we’ve seen here.

Can we:

1) post some speed limit signs? i didn’t even know the speed limit

2) create some crosswalks?

3) post more “SLOW: SCHOOL ZONE” signs?

4) get a “You are driving ___ mph” sign?

5) get a photo radar car and ticket speeders and reckless drivers?

6) get more of a police presence here and some traffic enforcement?

7) tell UPRR not to consider this a freight route?

8) get some traffic calming measures?

Now I hear ODOT wants to remove our bike lanes! The only way I would go for that is if major–and i mean major–traffic calming measures were brought to bear. Curb extensions, cross walks, planters, roundabouts. My fear is that this little road is going to be thrown to the big metal dogs. I repeat: this is a neighborhood street. Lined with homes. Filled with pedestrians, with cyclists, with old people and kids. This is not a freeway, though that’s what it looks like now.

I’d like to do whatever I can to encourage the City to return to their original plan of calming traffic on SE 26th, and making it more of a green street. Please don’t sacrifice us to commuters, freight carriers, nightlife-seekers and the dismal prospect of a freeway outside our front doors.”

rachel b
rachel b
3 months ago

Hey–sorry so slow to check back in–was surprised to see this! Thanks Lisa & Bike Portland/Jonathan.