Transportation Commissioner Mingus Mapps believes the route to safer streets should begin with, “enforcement, penalties and public awareness regarding breaking traffic laws.”
As Portlanders reel from a spate of violent crashes that have claimed 11 lives so far this month (the most on record), I reached out to his office yesterday to see if he had anything to share with the community.
Today I heard back from his Senior Policy Advisor Shannon Carney.
Here’s what she said on Mapps behalf:
Thanks for the prompt. We were having conversations with PBOT even before this particular tragedy on what our office can do to alter the course of traffic violence trends as of late. Speed and impairment were factors in this fatality, unfortunately, we’re seeing from the data that this is increasingly the case here in Portland.
Given that, Commissioner Mapps feels that beyond PBOT’s efforts to increase speed cameras, the most effective immediate intervention is enforcement, penalties and public awareness regarding breaking traffic laws. It is also a necessity to expand PPB’s recently reinstated traffic unit as soon as possible. Finally, it’s critical to raise the community’s awareness of enforcement, which is something Commissioner Mapps plans to do through his own efforts.
Related, the bureau has also been able to work through many of the challenges to expanding the speed camera program, and we expect to add 19 new speed cameras throughout the city by the end of the calendar year. We will work with the bureau to see if speed cameras are a possible treatment for Chavez.
You asked about that stretch of road specifically. Per bureau protocols, PBOT’s traffic engineers and Vision Zero team have been out to assess the site of the traffic fatality. We don’t know yet their recommendations, but it’s safe to say that a reconstruction of the corridor would be significant project in the order of $50 million.
As you’ve noted in some of your posts, there’s a connection between the infrastructure investments that help make the traffic system safer here in Portland and the bureau’s funding situation. One example is PBOT’s quick build program, which is a key source for safety improvements in places that don’t have a large capital project planned. That program has been cut by nearly $1.5 million over the last several budget cycles due to its reliance on PBOT’s discretionary revenues.
If the bureau is forced to take the full $32 million cut in FY 23-24 that is currently projected, it may lack even the funds to match federal grants from programs like Safe Streets for All that can really move the needle on safety for corridors like Chavez. That would be a travesty given the unprecedented amount of funding available under the Biden Administration. It is Commissioner Mapps’ hope that over the next few months, Council will rise to the moment and ensure PBOT has the funds to address the hazardous conditions on Portland streets.
Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Commissioner Mingus Mapps