Back in June I received an email from a reader named Craig Doerty. He needed help with a problem. A big problem: Car drivers routinely fail to negotiate the s-curve intersection in front of his house and he lives in fear that they’ll slam into him and/or his home.
His concerns are very reasonable because it has already happened.
Late on a Saturday might in October 2021, the driver of a small hatchback lost control in the turn and managed to run right up into his front yard and struck his house. “My house just shook like a bomb had gone off,” he shared with me on Thursday. The driver took chunks off Craig’s garage and destroyed he and his neighbor’s fence before it came to rest nearly in the yard next door. And that was just one of several incidents where a driver slammed into a house in this neighborhood.
Craig said he’s witnessed about a dozen collisions. Houses on each corner have been struck. The fence and wall of one house, which was heavily damaged and draped with a tarp when I was out there from a crash just a few weeks ago, has been hit at least five times in recent memory. Parked cars have been totaled. Traffic poles and trees have been uprooted.
Craig’s neighbor, Brendan Bishop, has also been rattled by the omnipresent threat of the street.
“It’s kind of like developing PTSD a little bit… It’s like you hear you hear a noise and you almost always think it’s an accident or crash,” Brendan shared. After his house was hit in 2021, he filed a report with the City of Portland’s 823-SAFE Traffic Safety & Neighborhood Livability Hotline. He warned about speeding drivers, curbs that aren’t ADA-compliant, a spate of crashes, people doing donuts on the wide expanses of pavement left over from the break in the street grid. PBOT responded a few weeks later. They would put the request for an engineering investigation in the queue and could expect to hear something in three months. Brendan was relieved.
Seven months later he hadn’t heard back, so he emailed PBOT’s 823-SAFE staff person again.
“Since the time I first called, another accident occurred early this morning, a car going west bound, hit a telephone pole, arrow sign and stop sign and slammed into a home. I know these things take time, but I highly recommend sending someone to the corner sooner than later… It’s extremely scary… Something has to be done soon or another accident will occur.”
The PBOT staffer said an engineering analysis had been completed and the agency was will to update some curve advisory signs and add a painted bike lane in one direction. But that was it. Brendan and Craig want to see something much more substantial, like a concrete median island and/or some sort of traffic control and calming device.
Neither of these folks are well-versed in transportation advocacy. They just want to stop being scared.
“I want to say I feel let down by the city but I don’t think that’s the case,” Craig shared. “I just think we haven’t been loud enough about it yet.”
I encouraged them to get involved with their neighborhood association, to plug into PBOT’s Lower SE Rising Area Plan project, email their elected representatives, and do whatever they can to keep their concerns in the news.
There are a lot of dangerous intersections in Portland that need urgent changes. This one seems especially egregious. For eastbound traffic, there are no stop signs or signals on Woodstock for about one mile between 52nd and 69th. That means drivers have a perfect straightaway to gather speed with very little warning that a sharp corner is coming up. Craig and Brendan said drivers love to “drift” around the corners for fun.
We’ve covered several recent projects where PBOT has used a combination of painted pavement and plastic wands and curbs to narrow intersections. It feels like that would be a minimum here.
What do you think? Do you ride or drive or walk in this area? What is your experience with this s-curve or similarly designed intersections?