OPINION: 'Orphan highways' are a matter of life and death
One week ago, Sarah Pliner was struck and killed by a semi-truck while riding her bike at the intersection of Southeast 26th Avenue and Powell Boulevard in Portland.
This tragedy comes a mere seven months after two women were killed in Washington County while walking across Southwest Hall Boulevard in separate incidents, including Karen Kain right here in Tigard.
Just like Powell Boulevard, Hall Boulevard is an Oregon Department of Transportation-owned urban arterial that no longer meets the needs of the city that has grown around it.
Communities like Beaverton, Tigard and Portland continue to suffer the consequences of known safety deficiencies on these outdated and unimproved urban arterials. For some families, sadly, these conditions are deadly and life-altering.
Read our Oct. 10, 2022, story on the fatal crash on Powell Boulevard and the response from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
I urge the Oregon Legislature to join the Oregon Department of Transportation and local jurisdictions like Beaverton, Tigard and Portland to fund the transfer of these roadways to local jurisdictions, in whose care they can best serve and protect the people who rely on them every day.
Early in my career, I spent time working as an EMT and paramedic in both California and Oregon. I witnessed firsthand the trauma wrought by traffic crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
These experiences left a powerful impression that has shaped my view of transportation safety.
Traffic fatalities and serious injuries are on the rise nationally and locally, and this latest fatality in Portland is yet another painful reminder that something is gravely wrong with our transportation system.
I applaud Kris Strickler, the director of ODOT, for acknowledging that safety upgrades must be made to Powell Boulevard. But the agency, the region and state, must do more. The conditions on Powell Boulevard that make it unsafe for bicyclists and pedestrians exist all over the region — on Hall Boulevard, on Tualatin Valley Highway, on Pacific Highway, and on other so-called "orphan highways."
As a state, we are directing billions of transportation dollars toward several large-scale projects that will have little impact in reducing deaths and serious injury crashes. These are important projects; however, we need a similar level of investment on our regional urban arterials — the places where people are being killed by cars and trucks.
An investment of $1 billion spread across the 17 state-owned highways within the Portland metropolitan area identified by Metro as potential candidates for jurisdictional transfer would provide nearly $59 million dollars for each roadway. In Tigard, an investment of this scale on Hall Boulevard and Pacific Highway would result in the most substantial and meaningful safety improvements in the history of our city.
Road safety is a public health crisis, and the need to invest to make our transportation systems safe is urgent. The City of Tigard looks forward to working with the state to transfer urban arterials and improve health and safety outcomes for our communities.
Jason Snider is mayor of Tigard.
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