While efforts to increase funding for longstanding transportation safety and maintenance needs throughout Portland continue, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer joined local and state officials in Ventura Park to mark the installation of a new flashing crosswalk beacon last month—part of a package of 18 new beacons—on Stark Street at 113th Avenue. 

It not only flashes yellow when pedestrians push a button, but it also emits audio instructions in Spanish and English. “Standing here at Southeast 113th and Stark, it’s clear that this busy, multilane street will now be safer and easier to cross for everyone, especially kids going to and from Ventura Park Elementary School and to Ventura Park,” said City Commissioner Steve Novick. “These improvements are significant. A motorist is five times more likely to stop for a pedestrian at crossings with beacons than one without.”

Before the school year began, five of the new beacons were installed. “These safety improvements are effective and affordable solutions,” said Blumenauer. “I commend the hard work of officials at both the city of Portland and the state of Oregon for working together for the common goal of transportation safety.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer was among many government officials at the dedication of a flashing, bi-lingual crosswalk beacon on Southeast Stark Street near Floyd Light Middle School last month.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer was among many government officials at the dedication of a flashing, bi-lingual crosswalk beacon on Southeast Stark Street near Floyd Light Middle School last month.
Memo photo/Tim Curran

In addition to Southeast 113th Avenue, the others are at Foster Road and Southeast 120th Avenue; Northeast Glisan Street at 141st Avenue; Southeast Stephens Street at 122nd Avenue; and by Menlo Park Plaza at Oregon Street on Northeast 122nd Avenue. The state of Oregon has also installed a beacon on US Route 26 at Southeast Powell Boulevard and 168th Avenue.

These new pedestrian safety improvements were made possible by state funding secured by the East Portland Legislative Team last spring. Led by Clackamas Democrat Rep. Shemia Fagan—two of the 18 flashing crosswalk beacons are in her district—the improvements give a needed safety boost to the intersections, all of which cross-multilane busy streets in east Portland. “The beacon you see today, along with 17 others throughout the city that have been or will be installed, were paid for with $1.9 million in Oregon Department of Transportation funds,” ODOT Region 1 Interim Manager Rian Windsheimer. “I want to thank our east Portland legislators and Commissioner Novick for their leadership and commitment to transportation safety. It will take all of us, working together, to improve safety for all modes.”

Novick and Leah Treat, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, also pointed to a map of Portland showing many more intersections in need of safety improvements (http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/502010).

“It’s a strong step forward for east Portland to have more ways for kids to travel safely to school,” said Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, the Democrat representing Oregon State House District 47, where 14 of the 18 new crosswalk beacons are located. “This is a great example of a partnership that should and must continue. The entire east Portland delegation and I will continue to advocate for safety improvements in east Portland.”

As officials dedicated the new rapid flash beacons, Portland Police and the Portland Bureau of Transportation held a crosswalk enforcement action to highlight pedestrian safety at the crossing on Southeast Stark Street at 113th Avenue.

As officials dedicated the new rapid flash beacons, Portland Police and the Portland Bureau of Transportation held a crosswalk enforcement action to highlight pedestrian safety at the crossing on Southeast Stark Street at 113th Avenue.
Memo photo/Tim Curran

Asked why basic safety improvements like these took so long since the area’s annexation happened more than 30 years ago, Vega Pederson responded, “We’ve been elected since 2012, and since that time, I think we’ve done a great job of having a strong delegation for east Portland.” She added, “From our perspective, there’s a lot more that needs to be done, not just with pedestrian safety, but with investments in streets, and parks. We need to get moving; we’ve got a lot of catch-up to do.

Novick said over the last few years, the city makes special efforts when it gets state or federal funding for special projects to focus in east Portland. “With the help of our legislators we secured $47 million dollars in funding for safety projects in east Portland,” he said. “The city recognizes the need, and is doing what it can, but the needs are huge and the funding is limited.”

Blumenauer, not only a Multnomah County, but also a Portland Commissioner before his election to congress, faults the county for building wide arterials like Stark Street in east Multnomah county without proper supporting infrastructure. “It’s an illustration if we do it right in the beginning, we wouldn’t be dealing with these problems,” he said. “This road [Stark St.] was developed years ago for the county, without the proper infrastructure; this should have been baked-in.” Moreover, at the same time funding was decreasing, the city was inheriting Stark St., among others, from the county. “We haven’t increased the federal gas tax for 21 years,” he said. “Safety money that used to be there is really a struggle.” To achieve results today, different partnerships are needed he contends and that he appreciates what the state and city are doing to move the process forward ameliorating past mistakes. “How many accidents would it take to total 1.9 million for all 17 [beacons]? “I hope the federal government does its part, because frankly, we’ve been asleep at the switch.”

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Here’s a full list of the 18 intersections receiving flashing beacons

  • Northeast Weidler Street at 106th Avenue
  • Northeast 122nd Avenue at Stanton and Oregon streets
  • Northeast Glisan Street at 117th and 141st avenues, and 130th Pl.
  • Northeast Halsey Street at 106th and 140th avenues, and136th Pl.
  • Southeast Stark Street at 113th, 142nd and 151st avenues
  • Southeast Division Street at 105th and 165th avenues
  • Southeast 122nd Avenue at Stephens and Boise streets
  • Southeast Powell Blvd. at 168th Avenue
  • Southeast Foster Rd. at 120th Avenue