As mentioned briefly in GMN this morning, a 5-year-old girl was struck by a car last night when she wriggled out of an older boy's hand while crossing SE 136th
StreetAvenue—making her the fourth pedestrian hit and killed in Portland in 2013.
It's a sad story—KGW has a heartbreaking interview with the 13-year-old boy—and it's also gotten a little political.
The stretch of road where the girl was hit is notoriously lacking in sidewalks and crosswalks and other safety improvements. And although money for those fixes was previously set aside for the corridor, the city's street-maintenance backlog has Mayor Charlie Hales' transportation bureau looking to shift those funds ($1.2 million) to road paving. Update: To be clear, that project would have stopped just north of where the girl was hit.
It's not clear that, in this case, whether sidewalks would have prevented what happened. Maybe, if there were marked crosswalks, the two kids wouldn't have been crossing in the middle of the road. But the girl's mother told reporters she's long been concerned about the state of the roads. And mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, who lost to Hales and lives east of 82nd Avenue, also has been calling attention to East Portland's years of neglect.
"We have to rethink our transportation priorities," he told KGW. "We have to prioritize safety over smoothness. I would take a little bumpier ride, for another kid to stay alive, and I think most Portlanders would too."
Hales' office today put out a statement reacting to the awfulness of Morgan Cook's death as much as to the criticism that followed it. Hales previously told BikePortland.org that the sidewalk funding shift came from the interim director he hired to run Transportation, Toby Widmer.
"I didn't craft that part of the proposal," he said, "but I'm not unhappy with it." Asked about the chances the sidewalk project cut would survive, Hales said, "I'd say it's about 50/50 that the cut will remain."
Hales' statement, and a list of car fatalities this year, is after the jump. You tell me if the reported criticism is fair or not.
My heart goes out to the family of Morgan. As a parent, I can find no words that are sufficient to describe this horrible occurrence.
My thoughts also are with the Portland Police officers who responded last night. Each of them has family, too, and each is affected by such tragedies in different ways.
Safety throughout the city has to be our first priority. I have been at work fewer than 60 days, and so far the city of Portland has experienced eight automobile-related fatalities, four of which were pedestrian deaths.
There has been a lot of talk of late about paving streets, and about sidewalks and crosswalks throughout our city. There has been a lot of talk about the backlog of projects, and about how to pay for these core responsibilities. As always, public safety has to be our North Star, guiding all of our decisions in every part of the city.
We will work through these decisions together, as involved citizens, as elected officials, as city employees, as residents of Portland, and as people who are holding our families a little bit tighter today.
Jan. 9, at North Columbia Boulevard & Argyle Way (Single vehicle crash / Passenger killed)
Jan. 20, at Northwest Fifth and & Everett Street (Pedestrian killed)
Jan. 23, at Southeast 42nd and Division Street (Single vehicle crash / Passenger killed)
Jan. 29, at Northeast 79thh and Glisan Street (Pedestrian killed)
Feb. 5, at Southeast 162nd and Division Street (Single vehicle crash / Driver killed)
Feb. 14, at Southeast 17th and Holgate Boulevard (Pedestrian killed – Hit and Run)
Feb. 16, at Southeast 111th and Market Street (Single vehicle crash / Driver killed)
Feb. 28, at Southeast 136th & Harold Street (Pedestrian killed)