John Thompson lives at the corner of where N Portland swoops into N Willamette, on a bluff overlooking Swan Island and the river. The intersection is treacherous, he says: Cars fly around the curve at top speed—35 mph—ignoring the signs to cut their speed to 15 mph, and often missing the turn.
"I've had four accidents in my yard. The neighbors have had cars go through their yard, but haven't had a lot of damage, except for a tree," says Thompson, who's lived there for over 14 years. Last year, a car jumped the curb and hit the telephone pole, severing it.
Two weeks ago another car missed the turn, ran over the curb, and slammed into the house next to Thompson's, shaking the residents awake. "[The driver] blew out all four tires," Thompson reported to the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association.
Since then, Thompson has stepped up his efforts to get the city to do something about the intersection. He'd already sent the city a "traffic safety report" last June—the neighborhood association signed off on it—detailing the violations he sees on an hourly basis.
"To not address the concerns at this intersection could be considered negligent and a liability for the City of Portland," he wrote. Indeed, the residents whose home was hit are planning on filing a claim with the city, Thompson says.
He's also asked staffers in City Commissioner Sam Adams' office and in the Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT) to consider ideas like better signal timing on nearby N Greeley, to discourage cut-through traffic, and pedestrian and bicycle improvements to calm traffic. Speed bumps are a "last straw" idea, Thompson says. So far, the city is planning to install a crosswalk and pedestrian "refuge" island. But Thompson doesn't think that will solve the problem.
"In my experience with PDOT, I have been frustrated with its inability to look at the big picture. They only address one issue at a time. They don't seem to comprehend or acknowledge that there are multiple issues at this intersection and in the neighborhood," he says. He plans to attend Adams' town hall budget meeting on January 11 at the Kenton Firehouse—PDOT Director Sue Keil will be there.
City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield says the city is working to calm traffic at the corner. "[The crosswalk and island are] our next step in terms of responding to the concerns there." But Burchfield says there are limits to what the city can do at the intersection, "but we'll continue to monitor it. There's always a probability with the 15 to 20 thousand cars a day that a driver will make a mistake."
After the crosswalk and island are installed, "It's not going to be a place where there's going to be no crashes," Burchfield acknowledges. "But hopefully there will be fewer than there has been, and not as sensational."