Aaron Brown (“Pedestrian deaths should be a wakeup call for Portland leaders,” Jan. 1) is right: Pedestrian fatalities are terrible tragedies, some of which could be avoided by making investments in sidewalks, flashing beacons and other pedestrian amenities. Brown is also right that East Portland has a disproportionate share of pedestrian collisions, in part because it has a disproportionate share of dangerous intersections and streets without sidewalks. The city has been investing in pedestrian improvements across Portland, especially in East Portland, and has secured funding for additional investments. But it is not nearly enough. The need for additional investments in safety improvements is one of the reasons Mayor Charlie Hales and I have made it clear that we think it will be necessary to raise additional revenue for transportation in Portland.
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Over the past three years, Portland has secured $47 million in funding for transportation investments in East Portland. Thus far we have actually spent $17 million; another $30 million worth of projects are on the way. Some of the projects that have received the most enthusiastic responses from local residents include:
- A sidewalk infill project on Southeast Stark Street, between 125th and 162nd avenues that included installation of new crosswalks with median islands and Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons at 126th, 135th, and 160th. This project made much easier for Menlo Park Elementary students to walk to school.
- A sidewalk infill project on 162nd between Powell and Salmon. One community member told us that this project reduced her walk to the bus stop from 40 to 25 minutes.
- A sidewalk infill project on 160th between Stark and Burnside, in an area where people in wheelchairs had been rolling out into the street because of the absence of continuous sidewalks.
In September, when we sent Metro a request for $24 million in transportation funding, our largest request was for the $9 million East Portland in Motion–Access to Employment and Education Project. This project will pay for:
- $3 million in sidewalks and improved crossings on SE Powell Boulevard, east of Interstate 205;
- $2 million in building safer crossings, bus stops and shelters;
- $1.5 million in building neighborhood greenways that provide quiet, safe routes for bicyclists and pedestrians to access 10 business districts, 11 schools and 10 parks; and
- $1.5 million for sidewalk connections that provide access to public transit.
Many of these projects were identified through the East Portland in Motion (“EPIM”) Strategy process, in which East Portland residents worked with city officials to identify the area’s highest priorities.
We are well aware that all of this is not enough. There are at least $20 million in EPIM priority projects that have not been funded. There are countless other projects that are needed, but did not make it onto the EPIM priority list. The estimated cost to complete safety improvements along Outer Powell (identified in another community process) is at least $58 million, and the Oregon Department of Transportation has not identified funding. (Powell is a state highway, controlled by ODOT.)
We’re working hard to develop a citywide pipeline of projects that will reduce conflict between pedestrians and car traffic. Our request for Metro also included $2 million for safety improvements on Southwest Barbur Boulevard – like Powell, a state highway inside the city limits – and another $2 million for Southeast Foster Road, west of I-205.
We will continue to search for additional funding to address pedestrian safety needs, especially in East Portland. But at present, we don’t have nearly enough money to maintain the streets, and signals, and street lights that we already have. To make the kind of additional safety investments that are needed, we simply are going to need more money.