outer division multimodal safety project
The Portland Bureau of Transportation released a major update to their Outer Souther Division Multimodal Safety Project today. And as we hinted at back in November, the latest plans (now at 60 percent design) have added more auto parking and have loosened turning restrictions for drivers.
Outer Division. Again.
Around 8:30 pm on Sunday night 74-year-old Portland resident Fuk Chan tried to walk across Southeast Division Street near 115th. He was struck and severely injured by a man driving a Nissan Quest minivan. Mr. Chan died in the hospital yesterday.
Based on the Police narrative released so far and from a photograph in a KATU story, it appears the collision happened near a TriMet bust stop on the north side of the street, just west of 115th. There’s a small market on the south side of the street.
“Outer SE Division is really a mess.”
“Across the board we have overall support. But we’re also hearing, ‘Wow, losing on-street parking will be a big deal for our business,’ and, ‘How’s freight going to work?'”
— Liz Mahon, PBOT
That’s how Portland Bureau of Transportation Project Manager Liz Mahon introduced this project at a joint meeting of the City’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees last month. And she’s right. That slide above showing data from five years of crashes between SE 122nd and 126th is just one piece of evidence in the case against Division.
That’s why the City of Portland’s Outer Division Multimodal Safety Project is such a big deal. In addition to this being arguably the most dangerous road in Portland, the project is something of a test for the Bureau of Transportation. Can they match vision zero rhetoric with real, on-the-ground, infrastructure? Can they prove to east Portlanders that their pleas for safety are being heard? Can they do it on a faster-than-usual timeline? And most importantly, can they respond to concerns from businesses without overly compromising the outcomes of the project?
So far things have gone well. Following a high-profile kickoff meeting back in February, PBOT took the unprecedented step of declaring an official city emergency to reduce the speed limit on Division. Now they’re working through a plan that will include dozens of “enhanced crossings,” speed cameras, new and improved sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and a raised center median.
Space for that center median and protected bikeway has to come from somewhere. And that’s where things are getting sticky.
“National surveys show that medians reduce accidents but also may hurt auto-reliant businesses. Division is lined with auto-reliant businesses.”
— Division Midway Alliance
PBOT’s initial plan was to use the space currently used to park cars on the street. While this project has broad support from many in the adjacent community who’ve been clamoring for safety improvements for years, business owners have voiced concerns about the loss of on-street parking and impacts to freight delivery.
“Across the board we have overall support,” Mahon said at the advisory committee meeting last month, “But we’re also hearing, ‘Wow, losing on-street parking will be a big deal for our business,’ and, ‘How’s freight going to work?'”
Now Mahon and PBOT are revising the plans to see where they can, “Create opportunities for on-street parking to come back” while making freight truck access work better.
PBOT has heard directly from the Division Midway Alliance, a nonprofit that represents business owners between 117th to 148th avenues. The DMA feels that the median and parking removal will hurt local businesses. “National surveys show that medians reduce accidents but also may hurt auto-reliant businesses. Division is lined with auto-reliant businesses,” says a notice posted on the DMA website today. Here’s more from that posting:
At a meeting late last month, business owners, some who said they felt left out, “steamrolled” in the words of one, of the planning process, told PBOT and other officials their concerns and views, including:
– Medians will cut their business because potential customers, diverted by the medians, will not bother to turn in;
– Delivery trucks will have difficulty making turns or finding alternate routes;
– Drivers will seek other routes, too, pushing traffic on to already overtaxed surface and neighborhood streets;
– Wouldn’t more police enforcement – ALONE – of speed limits and jaywalking reduce accidents?
– And why not fix the roadway, add streetlights and fill in the sidewalks first and NOW?
It’s worth noting that PBOT has been up front from Day One about how this project would impact the street. The official project website has this list of “tradeoffs” that are required to make Division safe:
– Safety improvements may require removing parking on both sides of the street. Instead of parking cars on Division Street, people may need to park cars on side streets or private property.
– People may need to use a different driveway when driving to or from a location directly on Division Street.
– People driving may need to turn off or onto Division at different locations, because a center median will help people turn at the safest spots.
– PBOT will work through these tradeoffs with the community through 2017.
Reached for comment today, PBOT confirmed that business owners in the Jade District are also worried about parking loss. “We believe we can accommodate some on-street parking with separated bike lanes,” PBOT’s Dylan Rivera said via email today. “And we are working with business owners on design options.”
Rivera said the larger challenge is the freight access issue. Namely, how truck operators can still service businesses without a center turn lane to stop in, and with a curbside lane that will be reserved for bicycling and separated from other lanes with vertical plastic wands (side streets aren’t big enough for large trucks, and residents don’t want them there even if they did).
To make this work, Rivera says PBOT is, “Exploring tools that will provide a protected bike lane while not precluding freight.” The solution could mean a raised — yet mountable — barrier to protect the bike lane which they say would keep cars out but still allow trucks to use the bike lane. Since they’d be in the path of bicycle riders, PBOT might restrict loading and unloading to “certain low-traffic hours of the day.” That idea was quickly questioned by committee member Doug Klotz. “I think it’d be better if trucks stopped in the right hand auto lane,” he said. “That seems to be what vision zero would call for.”
Another issue that came up at the October Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting is how u-turning drivers might encroach on biking space at corners. PBOT says they’re aware of that issue and will plan on using special markings to warn users of the hazard. Some committee members recommended that PBOT prohibit u-turns by large trucks and instead require them to circle the block. Others questioned why PBOT would design a project with danger spots built in: “I don’t want you to introduce untested facilities with obvious conflict points as part of a safety improvement,” said Elliot Akwai-Scott.
To learn more about this project and see PBOT’s latest plans, attend the open house this Thursday (11/9) from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at Portland Community College Hall Annex (2305 SE 82nd Ave).
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Portland City Council just voted unanimously to enact an emergency state law to drop the speed limit on outer Division Street — a road recently referred to as a “death corridor” by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
As we reported earlier this month, the move comes as the Bureau of Transportation reacts to a spate of deaths and injuries on the street. The move also comes as the latest example of PBOT flexing its Vision Zero muscles.
Since this passed as an emergency, it can go into effect immediately. PBOT crews will be out on Division Street tomorrow taking down 35 mph signs and replacing them with 30 mph signs. Once the signs are up, the new speed limit will be in place for 120 days. If all goes according to PBOT’s plan, they’ll never have to remove the signs. Upcoming changes to the street intended to slow people down are likely to reduce average speeds to an amount compatible with what the Oregon Department of Transportation prefers to see before granting an official, permanent speed limit change.
Here’s more from PBOT as shared in a press statement following today’s Council vote:[Read more…]
Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman apologized to residents of the Jade District in person last night for a spate of fatal traffic crashes on outer Division Street.
Speaking as the new commissioner-in-charge of the transportation bureau, Saltzman stood in front of a mostly Chinese-speaking crowd and said, “We’re sorry and we’re bound and determined to do something about that.”
18 months ago in the exact same room as the meeting Saltzman attended last night — the Jade/APANO Multicultural Space on the corner of 82nd and Division — the City of Portland launched their Vision Zero effort. The Bureau of Transportation didn’t plan on coming back, but since that celebratory launch five people have died and three others have suffered life-altering injuries on outer Division. When two Chinese immigrants died trying to cross the street in separate collisions within just hours of each other back in December, PBOT swung into action and has been listening and formulating plans ever since.
Last night in a meeting hosted by the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, PBOT kicked off a community process slated to end with a plan adopted by City Council this fall.
Division Street east of 82nd is one of the deadliest part of our entire transportation network. Designed exclusively around the use of private motorized vehicles, it’s a vast, nine-lane behemoth full of speeding, multi-ton vehicles driven by many people without regard to laws or the safety of others. It also happens to be directly adjacent to places where a growing number of Portlanders live, work and play.
After the two deaths on Southeast Division Street Tuesday night, family members who have lost loved ones due to traffic violence want Portland City Council to take action.
As we reported earlier this week, Kim Stone and Krisy Finney-Dunney — two of the founding members of the local chapter of Families for Safe Streets — are feeling Wednesday’s deaths with a particularly heavy heart. That’s because the two fatalities happened in the same intersections on Division that claimed the lives of their sons.
Led by Stone and Finney-Dunn, seven other women who have lost a family member have stepped forward with a demand that the City of Portland, “expedite major changes in order to slow speeds and increase safety for all on outer SE Division St.”
Here’s the full text of the letter (emphases theirs):
Two people were killed while walking on Division Street last night in separate collisions. The first one happened just before 7:00 pm at 156th Avenue. The second one happened around 9:00 pm near 87th. These are the 13th and 14th people to be killed while walking (about three over our average since 1996) and the 39th and 40th traffic fatalities so far this year. That’s the most fatalities we’ve had since 2003.
Division is already known as one of the most dangerous streets in Portland for vulnerable road users. This year alone five people have died in traffic crashes while using Division (four people walking and one person driving). In addition to those fatalities there have been at least three serious injury crashes on Division in 2016, including one with life-threatening injuries and another with traumatic injuries. Seven of these collisions happened on a two-mile stretch between 124th and 156th.