The Portland Bureau of Transportation will make significant changes to the center median on Southeast Division in response to numerous complaints from people who live and own businesses along the corridor.
The Outer Division Multimodal Safety Project was mostly completed last fall, but a strong chorus of opposition has been building since before the concrete was even dry that the nearly continuous center median between 80th and 148th avenues has made driving too inconvenient and made businesses too inaccessible. One business owner in particular, Roman Russian Market owner Fatima Magomadova, has testified about her concerns to city council several times. Magomadova’s market is on SE 109th and Division.
This morning PBOT announced that they will make a break in the median to allow left turns onto 109th, right in front of Magomadova’s market.
PBOT installs center medians in large part to reduce the risk of crashes from drivers turning left from a large arterial onto a smaller street (or commercial driveway). This change will result in more turns and research shows it could increase the risk of crashes.
In addition to the median break at 109th, PBOT will do several other bits of what they refer to as, “corrective work” that includes: changes to make u-turns easier in some locations; more “No Parking” signs and stronger striping in the bike lanes; and more raised, reflective pavement markers to indicate where lanes shift in key areas.
The changes to allow easier u-turns are also in response to numerous complaints that there isn’t enough room to make them. Among those making complaints are City Commissioner Dan Ryan.
At a City Council meeting yesterday, Ryan sharply questioned PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps about the Division project (even though Mapps had very little to do with this project, since it was conceived and completed before he ran the transportation bureau). At the meeting, Ryan made comments about an unrelated project on 82nd Avenue when he turned to Mapps and said he wanted, “to make sure that we don’t repeat any mistakes that we made on Southeast Division.”
“We’ve heard consistent complaints about all the upgrades there,” Ryan said. “I’ve experienced it myself. They [people who oppose the medians] didn’t make up any stories. When you make a u-turn out there it doesn’t work. You run into the new curb, and it’s kind of terrifying when you have to put your car in reverse. The cars are coming down fast. So that’s a little terrifying. That doesn’t help the safety. I’m sure there’s been accidents out in that area because of this. And we spent a lot of money on that.”
Oddly, despite being extremely relevant to Ryan’s comments at council yesterday, PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps didn’t mention these changes.
It’s good to see that PBOT will add more “No Parking” signs to the bike lane, since that’s been a consistent problem since the changes went in.
News of these modifications to the Division project come on the same day an anti-median protest is planned in the parking lot of Magomadova’s business on 109th. PDX Real, the group who has led the organization of the event, has passed out signs that say, “Remove the medians, PBOT!” Whether or not this one change will be enough to satisfy them remains to be seen.
PBOT says work on these changes is scheduled to begin Monday, September 25th.