The City of Portland has finally taken action to prevent bad drivers from crashing their cars into houses along an intersection in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood.
Back in January, I shared the story of an s-curve intersection on Southeast Woodstock and 69th. For years, residents told me, they worried that drivers would fail to negotiate the curve outside their homes. And many times, they did. There was a long, documented history of people going too fast and slamming into living rooms, front porches, sheds, and yards. According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, in the five years between 2016 and 2021 there were seven reported crashes — five of which were a car driver slamming into a house or other object.
The combination of selfish and incompetent car drivers and the design of the wide intersection led to many sleepless nights and significant property damage.
Then late last month, we learned that the Portland Bureau of Transportation implemented a project that squared off the “s” with new pavement striping, plastic curbs and wands.
After my article back in January, nearby resident Ben Mooney reached out to say his home — at the southeast corner of the intersection, in the direct path of eastbound drivers on Woodstock — had been struck several times. His living room wall had sustained major damage and he was left fully responsible for getting it fixed. The crashes continued and it got so bad that he and his wife applied for a city permit to install steel bollards in the sidewalk median. Even though they were willing to pay for the bollards themselves, their application was denied.
They began to meet with PBOT traffic engineers and other neighbors to talk about a solution.
A few nights before one of the meetings in March, Mooney said it happened again (photo at right). “A car failed to make the turn going eastbound, jumped the curb, and crashed into the northwest corner of our property, destroying another section of our fence and damaging our shed,” Mooney wrote in an email to BikePortland. “Thankfully our house was unharmed, but we are still not even done repairing damage from the first event in December.” (In both events, the driver ran off and the car was presumed to be stolen.)
Mooney tried again for the permit and included the BikePortland article (at a PBOT staff person’s recommendation) in an appeal filed in early April of this year. Then they got some good news: They were told the city had received so many complaints that the permit wouldn’t be necessary and that a more long-term infrastructure fix was in the works.
When Mooney and other concerned neighbors learned from PBOT that the fix would be limited to “signs and paint,” he was a bit crestfallen. After one meeting to talk about the changes, Mooney emailed BikePortland to say, “This meeting really underscored how much emphasis is given to cars over the safety of homes, pedestrians, and cyclists, as most of the things we asked about were met with answers about how that would not work because of how it impacts traffic flow.”
After the project was installed in the past few weeks, I reached out to Mooney again to get his impressions.
“While my wife and I would have liked to see something a little more substantial to help reduce speeds going into the curves… now that we’ve seen the changes, we do think that they are an improvement to the intersection. We’re also grateful that they made this intersection a high priority,” he said.
“Cars do seem to be taking the curve at a more cautious pace, so in that regard I do think it is a success.”
Mooney says he’s still concerned about the long straightaway on Woodstock that allows drivers to gain considerable speed for 17 blocks between SE 52nd Avenue and his home. He’s inquired about traffic calming measures like speed bumps or stop signs, but so far PBOT has no plans to implement them.
Hopefully this paint, plastic, and signage is enough. And hopefully, PBOT can find more funding to come back and do something more substantial in the near future.
UPDATE, 7/14 at 4:00 pm: PBOT saw the concerns about the materials used in this project and shared: “The improvements we have installed so far are intended to be a temporary measure until a permanent reconfiguration of the intersection can be funded and built. The Lower SE Rising Area Plan could help advance the discussion of permanent improvements in this location and other parts of the area.”