FONT & AUDIO
PBOT: Traffic deaths up, despite Vision Zero efforts
Traffic-related deaths in Portland continued to increase in 2017, despite the City Council's approval of Vision Zero policies intended to eliminate all fatal and serious injury crashes by 2025.
Forty-five people were killed on city streets last year, making 2017 the deadliest year since 2003, when 47 people were killed, according to the first annual Vision Zero report released by the Portland Bureau of Transportation on Tuesday.
The total is one more than the 44 people who died in 2016. The greatest increase happened among pedestrians, whose deaths jumped from 13 in 2016 to 18 in 2017, according to the report.
The increase happened despite several steps taken under the Vision Zero Action Plan adopted by the council in November 2016. They include spending $15.4 million on safety projects on 21 High Crash Network streets and intersections last year. PBOT also launched a new Safe Ride Home program that provided 3,389 coupons for discounts on safe travel options during high-DUII holidays or events in 2017.
"We knew achieving Vision Zero wasn't going to be easy. The steps we took in 2017 are setting us on a path for safe streets in Portland, and we remain committed to eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2025," PBOT Director Leah Treat said when the report was released.
More steps have been taken since the end of the year. They include lower the speed limit on residential streets from 25 to 20 miles per hour. Additional red light safety cameras have also been installed.
Spending on additional safety projects is expected to increase in coming years. The temporary 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax approved by Portland voters at the May 2016 primary election is raising more money that expected. And the transportation funding package approved by the 2017 Oregon Legislature includes additional funds for cities. Projects to be funded by the package in Portland include:
• $110 million to completely rebuild a 4-mile section of outer Southeast Powell Boulevard and create safe access for people biking, walking and taking public transit.
• $1.5 million to install a safe crossing at North Columbia Boulevard and Midway Avenue.
• Reconstruction of Interstate 5 and city streets in the vicinity of the Rose Quarter to improve, among other things, safety on North and Northeast Broadway, the street with the highest bicycle crash rate in Portland and the fifth highest pedestrian crash rate.
In addition, the package includes $35 to $40 million annually for TriMet bus operations and purchases, expanding service and access for transit, Portland's safest transportation option.
"Portland's streets remain challenging, especially for older adults, who are at a higher risk of dying in a crash. I'm encouraged by the work we're doing and look forward to the day when our streets are safe for people of all ages, no matter how they choose to get around," Bandana Shrestha, Community Engagement Director of AARP and a Vision Zero Task Force member, said when the report was released.
Portland is far from the only city in the country where traffic fatalities are increasing. Traffic-related deaths in the United States have been increasing for several years, in large part because more people are driving because of the improving economy and continuing law gas prices.
The Vision Zero Action Plan includes 32 two- and five-year actions. Five of them are complete, 15 are on track to be completed by the end of 2018 and 12 require additional effort to launch.
You can read the report at tinyurl.com/yaown27l.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.