Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has announced a last-minute update to the city's proposed 2021-22 budget to expand funding for traffic safety projects. The budget amendment, which will need City Council's approval, proposes using $450,000 of the city's general fund to subsidize several specific Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) projects to combat the recent surge of pedestrian deaths caused by vehicles.
According to PBOT, the city has seen a 47 percent increase in traffic deaths in 2021, compared to this same time in 2020—an increase from 17 deaths to 25.
“It’s clear our city is seeing a tragic increase in loss of life from vehicular violence and we need to treat this like an emergency," said Hardesty, whose office oversees PBOT, in a Wednesday morning press release which detailed the amendment.
Hardesty's budget amendment would divide the requested funds among these projects:
- Installing more cameras that record vehicles' speed on high-crash corridors and send tickets to drivers that surpass the speed limit by at least 11 mph (similar to red light cameras)
- Increasing pedestrian visibility at intersections in high-crash areas (like prohibiting cars from parking close to the intersection, decreasing visibility of oncoming traffic)
- Adding rubber bumps to the road at high-crash intersections to signal to left-turning drivers at a crosswalk
- Installing "flexible posts" to prevent drivers from misusing open center turn lanes as they approach major intersections
- Reducing speed limits in high-crash areas
- Installing signs about traffic safety risks at high-crash intersections
Hardesty said that, if this budget amendment is approved, she's instructed PBOT to complete these projects within the next four to six months.
This amendment is just the latest intervention in traffic deaths in recent weeks.
In early May, ODOT pledged $3.35 million in safety improvements for 82nd Avenue, a high crash corridor, as part of a $10 million statewide pedestrian safety project. The investment was prompted by pressure from transportation safety advocates after two pedestrians were killed by cars on the same section of 82nd just two weeks apart. Those changes included lowering the speed from 35 mph to 30 mph, as well as adding 10 speed reader boards.
Just last week, the Oregon Department of Transportation and PBOT proposed a plan to transfer ownership of 82d Ave. from the state to the city— the corridor is currently a state highway and is maintained by ODOT. That transfer of ownership would come with $95 million in safety improvements for 82nd Ave. including improved sidewalks, pedestrian crossing, and lighting. The plan awaits approval from the Oregon Legislature, but it’s unclear when the relevant subcommittee will discuss the proposal. There are three weeks left in the current legislative session.
City commissioners will vote on whether to include this amendment in the city's proposed budget during a council session Wednesday afternoon. Hardesty will also be introducing a second amendment, which will pitch to relocate $1 million in funds already earmarked for graffiti clean-up work to expand trash cleanup at outdoor houseless camps.
City Council's final vote to approve the upcoming fiscal year's budget is scheduled for June 17.