By Garlynn Woodsong | CNA Board Member, SW1 CNA LUTC Chair
There are several ways to make streets safer. One is lowering speed limits, like Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) did recently on several Concordia roadways.
Killingsworth Street is one that Concordia Neighborhood Association (CNA) has asked PBOT to reduce the speed limit. After all, Oregon Department of Transportation speed zone standards state business districts should be posted at 20 mph.
However, PBOT refuses to lower the speed from 30 to 20 for the sections of the street at 30th and 15th avenues – clearly micro-business districts – with constant pedestrian traffic crossing the street, as well as significant cross traffic and turning movements that include TriMet buses.
In response to CNA’s request, PBOT engineering associate Mike Corrie replied, “After reviewing available data, we have determined the current speed zones on Killingsworth to be appropriate given the layout, and similar to other comparable-sized roads in the area. Therefore, no changes were recommended.”
This response is hard to reconcile with PBOT’s focus on Vision Zero, and the “20 is Plenty” campaign that apparently does not apply to our section of Killingsworth.
It’s possible, with the high volume of traffic on Killingsworth, lowering the posted speed limit alone might be sufficient to slow down traffic. This should certainly be the first step tried.
While lowering speed limits is something that CNA will continue to advocate in locations where it makes sense, such as the micro-business district of Killingsworth, we also are interested in solutions to lower speed by calming traffic with physical methods.
One is Ainsworth Street. Recent data shows, for two days in February, counts were measured on 4,330 trips average per day eastbound, and 4,154 westbound. The posted speed on this roadway is now 20 mph, having been lowered from 30 within the past couple of years.
During the survey, 91.8% of drivers were observed traveling above the posted speed limit eastbound, and 94% westbound. Of those, 13.8% of eastbound traffic was traveling at least 10 mph above the posted speed limit, as was 21.1% of westbound traffic.
Multiple times a day in each direction, some drivers were measured traveling at speeds above 45 mph. This on a street with elderly citizens in mobility devices and people pushing strollers.
So 20 mph signs didn’t help. A traffic-calming solution could include traffic-circle-type installations at intersections that would require traffic to slow down to navigate each circle. That would eliminate the ability to drive fast in a straight line down the long stretches between the very few stop signs at 33rd and 15th avenues and MLK Jr. Boulevard.
On Alberta Street, the situation is a bit different, although we don’t have traffic count data yet to quantify this precisely. The speed limit was lowered to 20 mph but anecdotal evidence suggests that at times when traffic is light – such as during morning rush hour – some drivers choose to use Alberta as their own personal freeway on-ramp, despite the presence of children walking to school.
A physical safety solution on Alberta could include raised crosswalks, such as those found on 42nd Avenue between Fremont and Knott streets.
Only through a combination of speed limit reductions and physical changes to the built environment can we achieve our desired outcomes: a safe neighborhood and city where nobody is seriously injured or killed in traffic accidents.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.