One of Portland’s most prolific killers has struck again. Portland Police say Tuesday night just before 10:00 pm, a person was found dead on Northeast 122nd Avenue just north of Glisan. They believe the victim was walking prior to being hit and killed by someone driving a car.
Last night’s fatality was the 14th in past five years (2019 – 2023) on this street alone. Eight of the victims were on foot. This section of 122nd is about 75-feet wide with seven lanes used by drivers and a 30 mph speed limit.
122nd Avenue has been the focus of many speeches and plans over the past decade; but it remains a ticking time bomb of traffic tragedy and we’re years away from completion of infrastructure changes.
10 years ago this week, then Portland Bureau of Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick elevated the importance of making changes to 122nd Avenue when he lobbied for a “street fee” that would have allocated $20 million for better bus service on the street. That street fee would never come to pass, but it didn’t stop PBOT from working with TriMet to set aside $8 million for updates aimed at improving safety and adding a frequent service bus line.
At a press conference along 122nd Avenue in 2018, Novick’s successor Chloe Eudaly gave him credit as they both cut the ribbon on $4.7 million in crossing and transit-related improvements. But as I reported at that time, those relatively minor changes would not be enough to end the deaths and injuries caused by dangerous driving.
On a more positive note, PBOT has continued their effort to make 122nd a “civic corridor” — instead of the wide, fast, inhumane, deadly place it is now.
In 2022, PBOT won a $4.5 million federal Regional Flexible Fund Allocation grant (via Metro) that help them and more lighting and build four new crossings on 122nd between NE Wasco and Beech. That project is due for construction in 2025 with completion the following year.
And earlier this year, PBOT won a $20 million grant through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will help them build out $25 million worth of safety projects envisioned in the city’s 122nd Avenue Plan.
That plan is a roadmap to a safer 122nd between NE Sandy and SE Foster. Notably, of all feedback received by PBOT during the outreach for the 122nd Ave Plan, “community members expressed the most concerns about the stretch between NE Glisan Street and SE Powell Boulevard,” near where the person was found dead in the street last night. The Glisan intersection (which is designated a “high crash intersection” by PBOT) was ranked as a “near-term priority” and it was ranked third on a list of nine intersections that should be prioritized for improvement.
Nearly $30 million in safety changes is good news, but we won’t see the results for at least 3-4 years. That means 10-15 more people are likely to be killed while we wait.
It’s a sad truth that we know where traffic dangers lurk and we know how to mitigate them; but the pace of bureaucracy has so far failed to keep up with the speed of many drivers and the incessant traffic violence left in their wake.
Is our only option to sit back and wait for more victims? I hope we are better than that.