‘Slow Streets’ initiative restricts access to ‘greenways’

Find out why big orange barrels and vehicle restriction signs have popped up here and there on streets in outer East Portland …

This PBOT contractor sets out traffic control signs in the Lents neighborhood, as part of the new “Portland Slow Streets | Safe Streets” initiative.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Starting on the first of May, large orange barrels and A-frames with signs stating “LOCAL ACCESS ONLY” started popping up on some neighborhood streets designated as “greenways” across our area.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) contracted Axiom Event Productions to set out the vehicle-restricting traffic controls as part of the new, temporary “Portland Slow Streets | Safe Streets” initiative.

Just days after they were posted them along NE Glisan Street at 128th Avenue, someone has moved this barrel out of the way, and partially dismantled the “LOCAL ACCESS ONLY” sign.

The purpose of the initiative, as stated by PBOT’s John Brady, is “to reconfigure streets to support physical distancing, address increased movement, and support the City of Portland’s re-opening process.”

Focusing on what PBOT has designated and posted as 100 “neighborhood greenways”, the Bureau has installed temporary barricades to either close certain streets to all but local traffic, or to slow traffic where a full closure is not feasible. And they have put up signs alerting drivers to the “presence and priority of people walking and biking on the greenways”.

>> To see an interactive map of the closures, CLICK HERE.

Asked on what evidence, observation, or request leads PBOT to expect that this initiative will help support the City of Portland’s re-opening process, Brady replied, “For this first part – the treatments on ‘neighborhood greenways’ – we have chosen locations where the greenways intersect with busy streets, and where there have historically been higher traffic volumes.”

This initiative was enacted by PBOT without the approval of the Portland City Council because – as Brady asserted – “City Council approval is not required for traffic control plans such as these.”

In fact, Brady commented, PBOT changed vehicle traffic patterns on 100 neighborhood greenway sections is under the authority of the “City Traffic Engineer”.

The “LOCAL ACCESS ONLY” sign has disappeared on SE Holgate Boulevard at 128th Avenue.

Queried whether an end date for this “temporary initiative” has been set, Brady replied, “We’ve designed these as temporary treatments to support safe travel during the public health emergency. As the conditions change with the overall pandemic, we will adjust and adapt our approach accordingly.”

The budget for this project was “less than $100,000”, Brady told East Portland News.

It’s unclear just when these streets might have motor vehicle traffic restrictions lifted.

Have a comment regarding the “Portland Slow Streets | Safe Streets” initiative? If so, call PBOT at 503-823-SAFE or email: active.transportation@portlandoregon.gov.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

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