n columbia blvd
Prior to the start of the school year in 2016, the dangerous section of North Columbia Blvd near George Middle School in St. Johns was on the city’s radar as a “high crash corridor”; but there wasn’t any momentum or urgency to make it safer. That all changed when then 15-year-old Bradley Fortner was hit and seriously injured by a driver while walking to school.
Now, three years later, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has nearly settled a suite of updates that could slow drivers down, limit their turns, and significantly improve safety.
Like so many intersections throughout our city, the crossing of North Columbia Boulevard near George Middle School in the St. Johns neighborhood is a ticking time bomb. It’s where teenager Bradley Fortner was struck and nearly killed by a driver while walking to school in 2016, and it’s the intersection that spurred Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives Tina Kotek to host a town hall three months ago.[Read more…]
For decades, people who live in a part of St. Johns north of Columbia Boulevard and west of Portland Road have hoped and prayed for street safety improvements. Cut off from nearby schools, markets and restaurants by an urban freeway where people drive large trucks and cars way too fast, residents of this part of our city have been ignored for a long time.
Now, thanks to a $1.5 million set-aside in the recently passed House Bill 2017, changes are finally coming.
Last night at Roosevelt High School the Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (who represents this area of north Portland) hosted an event to gather input about how to improve safety at the notorious intersection of Columbia and Midway.
“Now we have some money, so let’s make the best use of it.”
— Tina Kotek, state representative
“None of us who live in north Portland need to be reminded we have a lot of accidents out here,” Speaker Kotek said during her brief remarks, “And now we have some money, so let’s make the best use of it.”
Also speaking last night was a sixth grader from nearby George Middle School. “I’m worried my friends will get hurt because of fast trucks,” she said. And a leader of the PTA at Roosevelt High who lives north of Columbia referred to it as, “A neighborhood that’s completely isolated, like a little island.”
Portland Police reported late last night that a man was “struck by a vehicle in the 7000 block of North Fessenden.” That would put it near the intersection of N Midway, which is relatively busy with a taqueria, a corner store, bus stops, and apartment complexes. We don’t know many details yet, but police say it was a hit-and-run and they’re looking for a dark colored sedan with front-end damage.
By our count, this is the 48th traffic-related fatality in Portland so far this year (the Portland Bureau of Transportation, who uses state and federal criteria to count fatalities, has the number at 43). There were 44 fatalities on our roads in 2016 and December is typically one of the deadliest months of the year.
It’s been about 15 months since high school freshman Bradley Fortner was nearly killed while trying to walk across North Columbia Blvd on his way to his first day of school. He was hit by a pickup truck driver and spent a week in the ICU with swelling in his brain.
Fortner lives in a part of north Portland that is effectively walled off from George Middle School and Roosevelt High because of how dangerously people drive on Columbia Blvd. Prior to the collision, his family and neighbors said the road was so wide and so full of trucks and speeding drivers that they knew a tragedy like that was “inevitable”.
There’s a pedestrian overpass at this location, but it’s so unkempt and out of the way that most people opt not to use it.
Despite pleas from the police to slow down due to the start of the school year, there has already been a major collision and a 15-year-old boy is clinging to life.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, the crash happened at around 7:45 am this morning at North Columbia Boulevard and Midway — right across the street from George Middle School. The Oregonian has confirmed that the boy is an incoming freshman at nearby Roosevelt High School and was headed to his first day of classes.
As you can see in the photos below, Columbia Blvd is a major industrial freight route with a wide, five-lane cross-section. And Midway is at an angled intersection. The street is so dangerous to cross and so close to a school that it has one of those walking bridges that goes up and over it (bridges that planners and engineers often see as symbolic of a failed street). The speed limit is 40 mph at this location. There’s a speed reader board a few tenths of a mile from the collision site which means that PBOT has been trying to slow speeds down in this area.