As the population in Inner Southeast grows, Sellwood must also deal with all the Clackamas commuters

DAVID F. ASHTON - SMILE Transportation Committee Chair Scott Kelly presents information provided by PBOT, along with suggested solutions for cut-through traffic. Charles Leatherwood of Tom Dwyer Automotive, a business deeply concerned with this issue, takes notes in the background. At the end of last winter, the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) Transportation Committee revisited the growing problem of drivers, trying to avoid the weekday morning traffic jam on S.E. Tacoma Street, cutting through the neighborhood on side streets.

At that March 22 meeting, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Capital Improvements Project Manager Rich Newlands described how the Bureau was changing the operation and traffic movement at the S.E. 6th Avenue and Tacoma Street intersection. Newlands also said they'd be doing traffic counts on side streets to help inform the solving of the cut-through problem.

Months later, at the September 27 SMILE Transportation Committee meeting, committee Chair Scott Kelly described the effort made by PBOT to solve the cut-through traffic problem.

"PBOT took a lot of input from residents in the neighborhood and businesses this spring, and started doing 'traffic counts' to collect data – speed, vehicle count, and videos –showing traffic maneuvers leading onto Tacoma Street," Kelly said. "They also documented how traffic is finding ways around Tacoma Street when it is very congested.

"PBOT presented this material to us in August, including potential improvements, and asked us to prioritize their suggestions, and then let them know if more data needs to be collected or information can be provided," said Kelly.

Two specific areas of study are what Kelly described as the "southwest and northwest quadrants" of Sellwood, from west of S.E. 13th Avenue to the eastern foot of the new Sellwood Bridge.

"But, areas west of 17th Avenue are seeing drivers cutting through various streets in the neighborhood to get to Tacoma Street to get around the congestion, trying to get in a little bit further in front of the queue."

Not all of the traffic is caused by commuters coming from outside the area, he pointed out; in some cases the vehicles are driven by neighbors, trying to get across the bridge. "It's difficult to say exactly what's coming from inside and coming from outside the neighborhood," Kelly said.

Solutions proposed by PBOT include:

· Diverters  such as are now on Spokane Street. Some people are in favor of them, other people dont like them, Kelly said. They tend to push traffic off onto the other streets; but might be a solution on the Neighborhood Greenway, like Umatilla Street.

· Tacoma Street Median Islands  placed at S.E. 7th and 9th avenues, to restrict northbound traffic from turning west on to Tacoma Street.

· Changing the traffic signal at SE 6th Avenue  One of the suggestions is to completely remove the new signal; another is to install some type of hybrid signal, as is found at S.E. 19th Avenue.

Part of the consideration is that PBOT has to wait for federal funding tied to the Sellwood Bridge project. They have to wait for the final review, Kelly said.

For more information, or to help work with the project, go to the SMILE website  and click on the Transportation tab.

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