The Portland Transportation Bureau will lower the speed limit on Northeast Halsey Street on September 13, a move PBOT called “a rare and dramatic step in the city’s efforts to achieve Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating all. road deaths ”.
The reduction will reduce the speed limit over 2 miles of Northeast Halsey, which has seen a high number of crashes.
PBOT will lower the speed limit to 30 miles per hour northeast of 114th Avenue at the city limits, just west of 162nd. That’s a reduction of 5 mph from 114th to 137th and 10 mph east from 137th.
Oregon Walks, an advocacy group that closely monitors traffic accidents, injuries and deaths, applauded the move. But the group’s executive director, Ashton Simpson, says PBOT needs to do a lot more to increase safety on the city’s streets.
“Northeast Halsey is designed as a drag strip, and that doesn’t change that,” says Simpson.
As someone who lives right next to Northeast Halsey at 138th, Simpson says he regularly sees drivers significantly exceeding the current speed limit and driving erratically without fear of a penalty.
Records show that a city speed study found that 76% of drivers regularly exceed the speed limit between northeast 114th and 137th.
This speed plays a role in the extraordinary toll that drivers took along Northeast Halsey. PBOT says there were no pedestrian fatalities in the corridor in question from 2015 to 2018, but there have been four since 2019.
Although PBOT adds two signposted crosswalks and lowers the speed limit, Oregon Walks would like to see many more crosswalks, which has the effect of slowing traffic and making the crossing safer for pedestrians, and would like to donate the five lanes of traffic a “highway regime” by adding protected cycle lanes, traffic calming devices and other features that would slow down traffic. Simpson says he would also like to see a greater application of fixed speed cameras, which have been shown to be effective at slowing down drivers but which the city has rolled out at an icy pace.
Earlier this year, WW relied on a comprehensive study of traffic deaths in Portland compiled by Oregon Walks to show that these deaths disproportionately occur east of 82nd Avenue and disproportionately affect low-income people of color.
Related: You’re Driving Too Fast.
Research shows that speed is one of the leading causes of death, but wide, hard-to-cross streets such as Northeast Halsey are also a factor. Simpson says Halsey suffers from three other dangerous conditions: poor lighting, inadequate sidewalks and limited access to public transportation.
“People fly in this neighborhood like we, the people who live here, don’t exist,” says Simpson.
With the new crosswalks, Oregon Walks says the distance between marked crosswalks on the 2.5-mile northeast stretch of Halsey will drop from 3,366 feet to 2,200 feet, still far too great for safety . By comparison, most downtown blocks are 200 feet long, which means marked crosswalks are 11 times more frequent. While neighborhoods outside became increasingly dense, infrastructure has not kept pace.
PBOT continues to invest heavily in its Vision Zero strategy, designed to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from city streets by 2025. The office has invested more than $ 120 million in improving safety since then. that Portland City Council passed the policy in 2016, but the trend is going in the wrong direction. PBOT says road fatalities are nearly 30% higher than the 54 total last year.
Records show that even incremental changes like reducing the Halsey speed limit take a long time. PBOT submitted the required speed zone investigation to the Oregon Department of Transportation, which must approve many of these changes, in May 2019, over two years ago.
Simpson says when more than one Portlander dies each week in a traffic accident, city and state agencies need to act more urgently.
“We’re not doing enough,” he says. “We could do a lot more. “