The sidewalk on 122nd Avenue is not necessarily the ideal place to hold a press conference, what with the high volume of loud car traffic zooming down the street a few feet away. But that’s exactly what made it important for U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, Commissioner Mingus Mapps and Portland Bureau of Transportation staff to meet there this morning.
Straining to hear each other talk over the noise on the street, it was clear to everyone in attendance how much this corridor needs a transformation — and they hope that change is coming thanks to $20 million in federal funding the city received at the beginning of February.
“This is a signal of everything we’ve done wrong. It’s a signal to people to speed,” Blumenauer, the longtime transportation and safe streets advocate who represents most of Portland east of the Willamette River in the U.S. House, said as he gestured to 122nd Ave behind him. “Until recently, we’ve been going the wrong way.”
Blumenauer commended the PBOT team for their work in the face of their budget woes.
“I’m really pleased about what PBOT is doing in terms of being on the cutting edge by doing a lot with few resources,” he said. “And [Commissioner Mapps], I appreciate what you and your team are doing and welcome you here.”
After Blumenauer spoke, Mapps took the podium to give his thoughts. This was one of the first opportunities to hear the commissioner speak about transportation issues publicly since he took over PBOT about six weeks ago. He seemed pleased to be in Blumenauer’s company in the same position the congressman occupied when he was a member of Portland City Council in the late 1980s and 90s.
“This [grant] is a game changer for Portland,” Mapps said. “122nd Avenue runs through some of our most diverse and dynamic neighborhoods, but it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the metro area. With this grant, that’s about to change. I want to thank Congressman Blumenauer for everything he’s done…for being an incredible champion for safe transportation.”
The grant will partially fund PBOT’s 122nd Ave plan to turn the street into a safe “civic corridor” with protected bike lanes, more tree canopy coverage, medians, lighting and more. PBOT Capital Delivery Division Manager Steve Szigethy elaborated to Blumenauer and Mapps about the project plans on a short walk on 122nd from Morrison to Stark streets. He highlighted PBOT’s desire to reduce car speeds with additional signalized crossings, speed reader boards and by redesigning the street to have fewer driving lanes and more room for people biking.
“Something I’ve learned as the commissioner in charge of PBOT is that one key things driving traffic fatalities here in Portland is the intersection of speed and people,” Mapps said.
Speaking of intersections, one of the most dangerous ones is at 122nd and Stark. This is one of Portland’s high-crash intersections and is among the most treacherous spots in Portland for people walking and biking. PBOT installed the city’s first intersection safety camera at 122nd and Stark last year, and planners think other upcoming changes to 122nd Ave will contribute to making the intersection safer.
A plan this robust will take quite some time to get underway — PBOT staff hope that after about a two-year design and engineering process, construction can begin in 2026. In the meantime, PBOT plans to construct several new signalized crossings on 122nd using money from Fixing our Streets and Metro.
“We’re going to be able to make this road safer for people who are walking, biking and taking public transit,” Mapps said. “We’re going to make this a model project for the City of Portland.”
Meanwhile several people will likely die annually waiting for those changes to actually get implemented on 122nd.
lol if only this was even on the table
As a person who lives just a couple blocks away from 122nd changes can’t come soon enough. As an ex-walker the routine running of stop signs/lights without looking for people on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk needs to change.
Also, standing at the bus stop and watching cars going by at easily 40+ mph doesn’t make me want to choose human powered options for transport.
It needs to be a multi-mode change, from removing lanes (dedicated bus/bike lanes anyone?) to more flashing light crosswalks, to actual enforcement (by person or by camera).
Of course, 122nd shouldn’t be the only street receiving such treatment.
Needless to say, with PBOT’s reputation, I’m not going to hold my breath until these changes are completed.
While the car was getting worked on at Tonkin I spent some time playing tourist nearby. I visited Midland City Park, Mill City Park, and had lunch at La Osita. I really liked the neighborhood and I thought it looked like a great place to live. Walking along 122nd was my least favorite part of it, of course.
“’Something I’ve learned as the commissioner in charge of PBOT is that one key things driving traffic fatalities here in Portland is the intersection of speed and people,’ Mapps said.”
He didn’t know that long ago? People driving weapons of mass destruction or the people getting killed by them? In my head I hear a variation of the climate change denier’s “I’m not a scientist:” I’m not a physicist (and I never bothered to think about traffic violence).
There’s a lot of misinformation. Lots of people, even cyclists, believe that low visibility at night time is the cause of cars crashing into pedestrians and cyclists. The reality is the car speed is lower at night time, and many of these crashes happen in broad day light when, when cars drive faster, on non-rush hour times.
I’d hope the person that is in charge of the Portland transportation bureau to have an understanding on what makes roads safe vs unsafe.
It doesn’t bother me for the new PBOT commissioner to find an humble way to center a really important piece of information.
It’s refreshing to see PBOT leader Mapps willing to restore traffic enforcement as part of a multi pronged attempt to stem traffic violence. After setting traffic death records under the watch of Chloe Eudaly and Joanne Hardesty it’s great to see a more inclusive approach.
No, you can’t conclude that Chloe Eudaly and Joanne Hardesty are 100% to blame for record traffic deaths during their tenure as PBOT Commissioner. In fact if traffic deaths drop during Mingus Mapps’ term a good bit of the credit should go to the two women who were in the office before him.
Mapps didn’t mention enforcement in the quotes that were given. This article was about infrastructure. Infrastructure projects take time to plan, fund, and build. If he initiates a project the effect will show up years from now.
Fortunately, with Mapss we will finally have a POBT leader who’s doesn’t feel common sense traffic endorsement is “bad”.
Here is his quote X:
Well, we’re going to continue to invest in safer infrastructure, things like pedestrian crosswalks, better lighting, and I think one of the pieces that has been missing, and we need to be more focused on moving forward is getting back into the business of traffic enforcement,” Mapps answered.
It’s amusing to see Blumenauer warmly embracing an anti-poor politician whose transportation policies will be dictated by the PBA. I wonder whether the many “progressives” who voted for Blumenauer feel a twinge of cognitive dissonance when viewing these photographs.
And you wonder why your candidates keep losing elections?
I love it when I hear our officials admit the past mistakes of car centric urban planning. It amazes me when there are plans now to fix those mistakes. I wonder how these officials and plans will be defended when the status quo comes knocking. Transit advocates really need to band together to push these changes forward. The opposition is hardy, they sustain themselves on 2+ hours of traffic every day while dreaming of road widening projects. They will fight hard before they finally get on a bus. Get involved, fill seats, and get loud.
Comment of the week.
I love it when I hear our officials admit the past mistakes of car centric urban planning. It amazes me when there are plans now to fix those mistakes. I wonder how these officials and plans will be defended when the status quo comes knocking.
I hope the grant is used well and the work is successful.