The dangerous stretch of road pictured. Courtesy PBOT

The dangerous stretch of road pictured.
Courtesy PBOT

As of April 1, Portland’s residential city speed limit will be reduced to 20 miles per hour. This move is part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Vision Zero, which also calls for some changes west of the 100s Neighborhood Greenway along the high-crash corridor of 102nd Avenue from Northeast Weidler to Sandy Boulevard. A proposed “street reconfiguration” would shift this five-lane arterial to a three-lane cross section with buffered bike zones.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, or PBOT, the Northeast 102nd Avenue corridor is one of the most dangerous stretches for crashes in the city, placing it on the Portland High-Crash Network, which tracks the top 30 worst areas for car crashes. They are just 8 percent of Portland’s streets, and they cause more than 50 percent of the city’s deadly traffic accidents.

Now the city is tackling the problem with the Northeast 102nd Avenue Safety Project, a broad effort that will result in a focused plan to turn the tide of traffic accidents.

Dylan Rivera, public information officer for PBOT, filled in some of the background of the project, which had its first open house April 12 at the Maywood Park Annex of Mt. Hood Community College. “This project will make it safer for people to walk and bike in the Gateway and Parkrose area,” says Rivera. “Northeast 102nd Avenue is one of the top 20 most dangerous streets in the entire city for pedestrians. Many Portlanders have asked for safety improvements along Northeast 102nd Avenue. People are very concerned about dangerous, speeding traffic, and they don’t feel safe walking in the area.” 

Data presented at the April 12 open house. COURTESY MESD

Data presented at the April 12 open house.

The first phase of the project was the collection and analysis of traffic and crash data. From this came several revelations about the size and shape of the problem. According to PBOT, there were more than 350 crashes on the two-mile corridor between 2011 and 2015, with more than 5 percent of the crashes involving a pedestrian or bicycle. Their numbers also show that more than 10,000 drivers travel in each direction on the corridor each day, with two-thirds of them breaking the 35-mph speed limit and a quarter of them going more than 40 mph.

The opening suggestion, based on the analysis of that data, for how to improve outcomes on the corridor is four-pronged. There’s the reduction of the speed limit from 35 to 30 mph, the creation of protected bicycle lanes, improved pedestrian crossings at certain intersections and the shrinking of the number of lanes in both directions to slow traffic.

“This project will make it easier and more comfortable for people to walk to Mt. Hood Community College, Prescott Elementary and the new Gateway Discovery Park, which is expected to open this year,” says Rivera.

Other issues that would theoretically resolved by the safety project include the fact that there is no safe space for bicyclists on the street, despite it being a major connection between Gateway and Parkrose with three current bike paths connecting to the corridor and five more in some stage of creation.

“It will be safer to ride a bike because we will move parking away from the curb, so parked cars will separate bike traffic from moving vehicle traffic,” says Rivera. “Pedestrian islands will make it safer and more comfortable for people to cross the street to access public transit, parks and a variety of area destinations.”

The current phase of the project is Community Design and Discussion, of which the open house on April 12 was the kick-off event. The next open house is tentatively scheduled for June or July, according to the PBOT website. 

So far, engagement has been robust, with dozens turning out for the open house on April 12, but time will tell how popular changes like a slowing of the speed limit and reduction of lanes on one of east Portland’s most busy streets will be.

“This is a safety project funded by Fixing Our Streets, the 10-cent gas tax that voters approved in 2016, which also includes a heavy vehicle use tax that was approved by the Portland City Council,” says Rivera. “The $330,000 project is expected to start construction in the summer of 2019.”  n