Making Capitol Highway safer
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is plowing forward with a project that it hopes will improve safety and accessibility for drivers, bikers and pedestrians along Capitol Highway in Southwest Portland. During an open house at Markham Elementary School on Sept. 13, staff unveiled a design for the project — which is funded through the Fixing Our Streets ballot measure, gas tax revenue and state funds — that is 60 percent complete. From 2012 to 2016, there were 55 crashes — including two that led to serious injuries — and 33 that led to minor injuries on the section of Capitol Highway between Southwest Huber and Southwest Kerr Parkway, according to City data. And in that section, 57 percent of drivers travel above the 35-mph speed limit. To ameliorate these issues, the City plans to switch the lane configuration from four lanes to three lanes and change one of the lanes to a turn lane. PBOT Capitol Project Manager Sheila Parrott said this configuration would remove a dangerous scenario: when one car attempts to pass another car while the stationary car waits for pedestrians to cross the street.
Parrott also said it would lessen the likelihood of rear-end collisions, which often occur when one car bumps into a car that is attempting to turn left from a through lane. "We have a history of doing this type of thing, from a four lane to a three lane, and we have seen success in other areas. So that's why we've chosen this as a model for this type of situation," Parrott said. "And it's a high crash corridor, which is why it rose to the level of something that needed to be done." Additionally, the City plans to implement pedestrian crossings at Southwest Dickenson and Southwest Cornado, as well as enhanced bike lanes. The project also calls for a speed-limit decrease from 35 to 30 mph, and the City will also examine which areas might need lighting improvements. Currently, most of the lighting along the corridor is located on one side of the street. "I think it just feels better when, as a pedestrian, you're walking across the street and cars aren't going by you so quickly," Parrott said. "We have data that shows that when you're hit at a lower speed, your survival rate is higher." The City projects the change would lead to an average eightsecond increase in travel time for drivers and a lessened crash rate for both drivers and pedestrians. This part of the project will cost about $275,000, and Parrott said construction will mostly involve repainting. As for the area of Capitol Highway between Garden Home Road and Taylor's Ferry, the City is planning to add a separated bike lane and a sidewalk on the east side of the road and a multi-use path on the west side. The bike lane will have a separate surface than the sidewalk. "The big thing there is the east side is mostly downhill, so we think we're going to have a lot of people on bikes moving quickly. We want to make sure there's adequate separation between people biking and walking," PBOT Capital Project Manager Steve Szigethy said. The middle of the road, which is two lanes, will remain unchanged. Construction for the project is
projected to begin in the summer of 2019 and finish in the summer of 2020. Szigethy said many property owners will be affected and some will be required to implement retaining walls or remove vegetation. One traffic lane will be open throughout construction. "There's quite a bit of changes to the physical environment people are going to see on their property frontages, and we're working closely with (them on) that," Szigethy said. Szigethy said that local residents implored the City to add pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in this section for more than 20 years and that the project will allow residents to walk around the area more easily. "My main takeaway that I've heard from the larger neighborhood is this is going to be a major positive," Szigethy said. "People are going to be able to walk to Multnomah Village. They're going to be able to wait for the bus without standing in a mud puddle. They're going to be able to walk down to Barbur World Foods, walk down to the light rail station."