Backyard fair promotes Foster Road safety

What happens when the weather is too nice for an indoor meeting? See what PBOT folks were doing at this cool evening meeting …

Foster Road area neighbors talk with Portland Bureau of Transportation staff members at this open house, held outdoors in Lents.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Oddly angled SE Foster Road is an important and heavily-traveled thoroughfare in outer SE Portland. It’s also known as one of Portland’s “High Crash Corridors”.

Planners from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and attendees decided it was too nice a day, on May 5, to meet hold an open house in the basement of the Lents Baptist Church on SE Woodstock Boulevard, as planned – so they opted for a backyard fair.

PDOT’s safety guru, Mark Lear, says many factors contribute to SE Foster Road being named a “High Crash Corridor”.

“The main reason the “SE Foster Road High Crash Corridor Safety Project” is important,” explained PBOT’s Mark Lear, “is that people who live, work, and commute in these high-crash corridors are experiencing some of the most dangerous conditions that we have in the City.”

The project’s objectives are twofold, Lear noted:

To reduce the number of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists killed or injured in crashes along the SE Foster Road corridor.

To minimize the number of people who limit their walking, biking or taking transit along SE Foster Road due to traffic safety concerns.

Some may wonder if all this effort is necessary for what appears an “average” outer East Portland main road. We asked about it.

Active participants in Lents Neighborhood issues all – Jess Laventall, Ray Hites, and Roger Averbeck discuss information presented in displays at the event.

Lear said that troubling statistics – not anecdotes – have earned this road its dangerous reputation:

  • The incidence of crashes involving alcohol is higher in this corridor than the citywide average;
  • The incidence of crashes caused by drivers disregarding signals along Foster is about 60% higher than the citywide average. These types of crashes tend to result in more injuries and deaths than other types of crashes;
  • ‘Fixed object’ and ‘head-on’ crashes occur more frequently east of 136th Avenue than on the rest of the corridor;
  • Minimal sidewalk improvements exist east of 136th Avenue; and,
  • The average distance between pedestrian crossing improvements is more than 1,000 feet, or 4 city blocks.

“We’re seeing crashes on an almost a daily basis,” Lear continued. “We’re working to build projects, and to do the kind of enforcement or education actions that will be the most cost-effective.”

This open house, he added, is just the beginning of the project; the goal is to engage the public. “We want to make sure we’re using the resources we have, to make meaningful improvements to crossings and reduce crashes on these corridors.”

Sharon White, with PDOT’s Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership program, shows of a new “PedPro Crossing Caddy” that groups can check out to use at summer events.

PDOT’s Sharon White was also at the event. White has been involved in many “pedestrian crossing enforcement and education” actions – including one a few weeks ago on SE Foster Road.

> CLICK HERE to read “Crosswalk ‘enforcement missions’ aim to save lives”.

“The City, using their federal ‘Safe Community Grant’ funds, purchased three of these PedPro Crossing Caddy units,” White said, as she showed folks the new equipment.

Inside the caddy is a safety vest and four brightly-colored cones – plus, it’s topped with a battery-operated flashing beacon.

“We’re making these available to community members,” explained White. “Community members can borrow one for a special event, like ‘Fun on Foster’, a street party, or a National Night Out program, when they’ve anticipated there are going to be more pedestrians out crossing the streets. It creates visual awareness that pedestrians are crossing the street in that area.”

After looking at the exhibits, and talking with staff, Victoria Oglesbee fills out a comment card regarding the project.

Event organizers said the open house was as much as gathering information from neighbors as it was giving information. “We really want to hear the concerns of people in the area,” White said.

Timeline defined
In June, PDOT’s “Traffic Action Committee” plans to review initial outreach feedback from the open house events. In August, they’ll meet again to review potential scenarios for implementation along the corridor for each of the “Three E’s” – engineering, education, and enforcement.

We can look for another round of open house community meetings in September – and then officials will work to gain consensus for development of a preferred safety strategy option for the SE Foster Road corridor. The hope is to approach the Portland City Council to formally adopt safety strategy in December.

To learn more, see PDOT’s official website for the project: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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