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News Blog: New Safe Routes to School projects make walking and rolling safer for young Portlanders, thanks to Fixing Our Streets

SW 14th speed cushion

A newly painted crosswalk and emergency vehicle-friendly speed cushion at SW 14th Avenue and Spring Garden Street. Photo by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Fixing Our Streets Logo

(Sept. 5, 2019) In the next few weeks, families will have had time to adjust to their routine for the new school year. Many will discover their walk or roll to school is a lot safer than it was at the end of the last school year because of 12 Safe Routes to School projects that were constructed over the summer.  

These projects are just some of the total 88 Safe Routes to School projects identified and funded by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) through Fixing Our Streets, a voter-approved 10-cent gas tax for fixing our streets and making them safer. Fixing Our Streets was the first local funding source in the city’s history dedicated exclusively to the city’s transportation needs. 

Slower speeds 

As part of this work, PBOT installed speed bumps and speed cushions along primary school routes. Speed cushions are a type of speed bump PBOT installs on emergency routes that have grooves for emergency vehicles like firetrucks. PBOT installed: 

Speed bumps along: 

  • SW 45th Avenue (between Hamilton Street and Beaverton Hillsdale Highway) 
  • SW 47th Avenue (between Hamilton and Julia streets) 
  • SW 17th Avenue (between Spring Garden Street and Taylors Ferry Road) 
  • SW Spring Garden Street (between 20th Avenue and Taylors Ferry Road) 

Speed cushions along: 

  • N Fremont Street (between Albina and Gantenbein avenues) 
  • N Willis Boulevard (between Hereford and Druid avenues) 
  • SE Stark Street (between 16th and 18th avenues) 
  • SW Shattuck Road (between Windsor Court and Beaverton Hillsdale Highway) 
  • SW Huber Street (at 40th Avenue) 

Why the focus on speed?  

PBOT’s Safe Routes to School program has been conducting biannual travel surveys from families of Portland students for the last decade. These surveys aim to understand the kinds of barriers that exist for students which might keep them from walking or rolling to school. Year after year, the number one barrier listed by parents and guardians is “traffic safety.” 

“I often see vehicle[s] speeding through school zones.” 

-Spring 2019 travel survey, Franklin High School cluster  

“Cars … continuously ignore the school zone signs and speed in the school zone.” 

-Fall 2018 travel survey, Lincoln High School cluster 

PBOT's Safe Routes to School team frequently hears from concerned school staff, community members, and families about dangerous driver behaviors on their routes to school, particularly speeding and a failure to stop for people crossing the street at crosswalks.  

Many students in Southwest Portland walk or roll along narrow streets without sidewalks. PBOT installs speed bumps and cushions to make people driving slow down and follow the speed limit. Research shows that family-friendly roadways that feel safe and comfortable attract new riders, providing Portland families with more options to get to and from school.

Speed cushion on SW Shattuck

An emergency vehicle-friendly speed cushion on SW Shattuck Road. Photo by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Improved crossings 

Even families that live close enough to walk or roll to school may choose to take a car because of dangerous intersections and crossings along their route. Crossing safety was a top concern families reported to PBOT during the community outreach stage of planning these improvements. 

 Over the summer, PBOT has installed and is improving these crossings: 

  • Extended the curb and added posts to protect pedestrians on NE Fremont Street at 131st Place 
  • Filled in a median island and cleared vegetation to improve the visibility of pedestrians where NE Buffalo Street crosses Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard 
  • Added a median island at SE 46th Avenue and Henry Street (still under construction) 

Pedestrian crossing at NE MLK Jr. Blvd and Buffalo Street.

PBOT crews filled-in this median island and cleared vegetation to improve pedestrian visibility at NE Buffalo Street and Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard. Photo by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

How were projects chosen? 

In 2016, PBOT’s Safe Routes to School team embarked on an extensive planning process to identify projects Portland families needed to get to school safely. PBOT staff and volunteers categorized and mapped six years of school travel data to capture comments from over 3,000 parents and guardians and understand what safety improvements they wanted to see. Safe Routes staff attended over 60 meetings and events with parents and guardians, school staff, parent leadership, and culturally specific parent groups.  

PBOT identified over 1,200 projects through this process. With feedback from school communities, a Stakeholder Advisory Committee and the Fixing Our Streets Oversight Committee, the list was narrowed to a priority list of 88 projects. The Safe Routes team verified the routes and projects with each school before moving forward and gaining approval for these 88 projects from City Council in June 2018. 

 Community outreach

The full prioritized list PBOT generated from this process will help with the implementation of these 88 as well as any future projects as new funding becomes available. 

More Safe Routes to School projects on the way 

PBOT will be hard at work constructing more Safe Routes to School projects through the end of construction season. Families will continue to see improvements to their route to school thanks to Fixing Our Streets.  

Here are the Safe Routes projects PBOT expects to complete by the end of 2019: 

  • Median island, curb ramps, and a marked crosswalk at NW Miller Road and Miller Hill Drive 
  • Median island, curb ramps, and a marked crosswalk at NW Miller Road and Spencer Street 
  • Two medians, curb ramps, and crosswalks at NE Killingsworth Street and 9th Avenue 
  • Upgraded island where the Springwater Corridor Trail crosses SE 92nd Avenue 
  • Median island and a marked crosswalk at SE Henry Street and 46th Avenue  
  • Pedestrian pathway and a marked crosswalk where SW Pedestrian Trail meets Shattuck Road 
  • A marked crosswalk and pedestrian signage at N Willis Boulevard and Haven Avenue  

You can find the map, details on projects, routes, and more information about the planning process at SafeRoutesProjects.com 

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