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What's in a name? Most of us call them speed bumps. PBOT calls them road 'cushions'; despite the comfy name, they work

DAVID F. ASHTON - PBOT contractors, with a freshly-installed speed cushion along S.E. Flavel Drive. Neighbors say these are already slowing down the speeding drivers on the busy street. For about a year, several prople who live along S.E. Flavel Drive, between the Clackamas County Line at Clatsop/Harney Street, west to 52nd Avenue, told and e-mailed the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association's Land Use Committee Chair – Stephenie Frederick – about the problems that speeding traffic was causing on their winding road.

These included:

· The volume of traffic was growing week by week;

· Its speed was excessive, and growing worse;

· Its noise was excessive, and growing worse;

· More and more large trucks, and vehicles with trailers, were joining these car caravans.

Neighbor moves because of traffic

"One particularly engaged resident told me that the family next door, with small children, had recently sold their house and moved away, because of the danger that the traffic posed to their children," Frederick told THE BEE.

"That bystander said she'd begun using a radar speed gun to verify her perception that passing traffic was moving well above the posted speed limits," Frederick recalled. "She'd also learned that 'Google Maps' was sending traffic onto S.E. Flavel Drive as a time-saving 'hypotenuse of the triangle' formed by Johnson Creek Boulevard, 52nd Avenue, and Flavel Drive."

The neighbor took the initiative and engaged Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) planner Scott Cohen about the changing nature of the traffic on the street. 

Frederick said that she personally observed that, "Fast, heavy traffic menaced cyclists as well, especially given the absence of painted bicycle lanes; and heavy-duty trucks were almost certainly damaging the pavement of this neighborhood street."

Looking through some PBOT maps, Frederick said she'd learned that Flavel Drive is considered a "Neighborhood Collector Street"; and, as such, the speed should be limited to 20 mph, not 25 mph as it was posted.

Gets speed limit lowered

"I inquired into this, and PBOT immediately changed out the signs for 20 mph signs," Frederick said. "PBOT also persuaded Clackamas County to replace signs on its continuation of Flavel Drive, from 30 to 25 mph."

By fall, 2020, after "quite a bit of communication" with PBOT's Scott Cohen, Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability's planner Marty Stockton obtained a large planning grant on behalf of a multi-neighborhood area that includes Brentwood-Darlington – and the grant's process is now well underway.

Then, PBOT's traffic engineers evaluated the speeds and volumes of traffic on Flavel Drive to obtain official and actionable data. "The data confirmed what residents had been so concerned about, and PBOT categorized S.E. Flavel Drive as a street that required traffic-calming treatment." 

'Speed Cushions' installed

Starting on the first of November, after PBOT found the funding, a crew set about installing speed bumps on the busy street. "Actually we found out they're called 'speed cushions', because they are 'more friendly' to fire engines and other emergency vehicles," Frederick remarked.

"As of early November, even though only some of the 'speed cushions' have been installed, I believe I see a slowing of traffic on the street," Frederick said. "We're grateful for the help we've received from PBOT, as they are doing incredible work with inadequate dollars."

What about the potholes?

After learning that THE BEE would be featuring this work to improve safety along Flavel Drive, several neighbors asked, "Since the workers have the paving material, tools, and personnel to put in the 'Speed Cushions', why not throw a shovel or two of asphalt into some of the growing potholes in the same street?"

We put the question to PBOT – an d PBOT's Capital Projects, Assets and Maintenance Communications Coordinator, Hannah Schafer, responded: "The new speed cushions on Flavel Drive are funded by the 'Fixing Our Streets' program.

"The speed bumps on cut-through routes are installed by a contractor, Brix," Schafer explained. "Potholes are repaired by our own [PBOT] maintenance operations crews; this is why they weren't addressed when the speed cushions were installed. "Folks on Flavel Drive – or any Inner Southeast Portland street – can report pothole locations to us online – www.pdxreporter.org – or by phone, at 503/823-1700, and we'll have a crew out there soon!"


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