Portland approves emergency plan to reduce speeds on SE Stark Street

Kristi Finney-Dunn, whose son was killed in SE Portland, pictured in 2016 on Stark Street advocating for safer pedestrian crossings and lower speed limits (Courtesy of PBOT)

Portland approved an emergency plan Wednesday to reduce by 5 mph the speed limit on a more than 50-block stretch of Stark Street in Southeast Portland.

Two of the city’s 10 traffic fatalities this year happened between 109th and 162nd avenues on Stark. A 53-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed on Feb. 1, and a 34-year-old motorist died Feb. 11.

Leah Treat, Portland’s transportation director, on Wednesday told the City Council the bureau will install three new pedestrian crossings on Stark this year – at 146th, 151st and 160th avenues — and set up red light and speed limit safety cameras at 122nd and 148th avenues.

“We have found that when we reduce the speed limit and have it backed up by an enforcement method,” Treat said, “it’s way more effective.”

Drivers should notice 30 mph signs soon, down from 35 mph.

The speed limit change, while deemed an “emergency,” will only be effective for 120 days at the outset. Oregon Department of Transportation must approve a permanent speed limit change.

Treat said the city would immediately seek a permanent slowdown, calling the street one of Portland’s 10 most dangerous for bikes, pedestrians and motorists. Portland can subsequently apply for a 120-day extension if state officials have not yet approved the reduction.

Transportation officials are also kick-starting plans to redesign Stark, which in that stretch of east Portland has bad lighting, long gaps for pedestrians and no median or bike lanes.

“The time is definitely right to address this and other major roadways,” Treat said to council.

Stark is the latest to see speed limits reduced. In 2017, Portland slowed down traffic on parts of Southeast Division Street and installed speed cameras. City leaders say those cameras are working to deter speeders.

This month, the city also installed hundreds of new 20 mph signs on residential streets while simultaneously releasing an advertising blitz designed to warn drivers of the dangers of speeding.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Transportation Bureau and introduced the emergency ordinance, thanked east Portland community groups like the Rosewood Initiative for bringing the issue to the council’s attention.

Saltzman said the city is committed to its Vision Zero campaign, which strives to eliminate all traffic fatalities and injuries by 2025.

More speed limit reductions could be coming.

Saltzman said by reducing speeds from 40 to 30 mph, the likelihood of fatality is cut in half.

“One of the fundamental principles of Vision Zero is that traffic deaths are not just inevitable,” he said, “we can reduce them and get them to zero.”

— Andrew Theen

atheen@oregonian.com

503-294-4026

@andrewtheen

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A TriMet Lift bus, pictured here, left a road and rolled on its side April 10, 2018 in Southeast Portland

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