Mayor’s Office Offers Proposal to Improve Safety Along Foster

Just a day after the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) unveiled plans for a “road diet” along NE Multnomah in the Lloyd District, the Mayor’s Office offered a proposal to address transportation issues along Foster Road.  With the Lloyd District plan taking shape after less than a year of public process, the residents in Foster-Powell and Mt. Scott-Arleta are seeking similar results to meet their growing demand for a safer and multi modal thoroughfare.  Where the difference lies, though, is that the residents along Foster Road have been waiting since 2003, when the original Foster Streetscape Plan was adopted.

Despite a town hall meeting organized by then State Rep. Ben Cannon over two years ago in response to pedestrian deaths along Foster, and recent political pressure due to continued fatalities on the high crash corridor, the city is just now making attempts to appease the community. And as has been documented here, the Mayor’s Office has recently engaged the neighborhood to expedite the process, which PBOT says will take at least two more years before a shovel hits the ground. While the gesture is kindly appreciated, is it enough?

After being told that money and time would not make trimming lanes in the “heart of Foster” feasible, but also acknowledging that temporary speed enforcement does not actually change long term driving behavior, city staff brainstormed such possibilities of adding a traffic light, adjusting signal timing, and improving visibility to current or proposed new crosswalks.  While any would have been accepted, the mayor’s Transportation Policy Advisor recently informed us their new approach to addressing traffic and pedestrian safety will be to conduct a day of crosswalk enforcement and (maybe) add digital speed-reading boards.  However, the latter proposal is contingent on being awarded a grant for the funds.

This seems counter to the planners’ stated goals of actually changing driving behavior, rather than band-aid fixes that do little in the long term.  Meanwhile, the Lloyd District will be testing their “road diet” plan with a year-long pilot project that has an estimated cost of $175,000.  This may not seem cheap, but it is just a fraction of the $3.25 mil that has been set aside for Foster Road.  And while the project in the Lloyd District falls short in many ways, specifically to include more and better biking options, the neighborhood is getting a shot in the arm with a much quicker response from the city than we’ve received in outer Southeast.

So the question remains:  is this enough, or are we simply being placated?  Do we accept this proposal as the city’s attempt to make real and lasting changes on Foster, or would we be better served by letting PBOT’s process play out and bring a more encompassing and big picture approach?  Or…do we demand more?

Have your say, folks.

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16 Responses to Mayor’s Office Offers Proposal to Improve Safety Along Foster

  1. Nick Falbo says:

    A crosswalk enforcement action and a speed reader board is an insult to the people who have died on this street. As you point out, the plans for Multnomah prove that transformative change can happen quickly and cheaply, as long as the political and community support is there.

  2. MizVerde says:

    Wow. Words fail me.

  3. John Mulvey says:

    This is a slap in the face. Crosswalk enforcements and leader boards seem more like diagnostic tools that you use when deciding what the permanent solution is going to be –not the ultimate solution itself.

    If Foster Road was in Kenton we’d have had a road diet years ago. Maybe the answer is to get the Mayor to buy property in fopo?

  4. Nick Falbo says:

    It is clear that Foster will not get the kind of quick, responsive transformation that we see on Multnomah in the Lloyd district, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually. The process to update the streetscape plan is our last, best, chance to advocate for a new Foster. This summer will be a pivotal time to ensure that a strong vision is adopted for the future of the street.

  5. Disappointing, indeed. At least we now know that money isn’t the real reason for the project’s delay. So, too, is the case for a neighborhood’s willingness to engage in the public process. I suppose we’re not close-in enough, or, more realistically, don’t have a strong/organized enough business community that’s willing to apply some pressure.

  6. Sia says:

    I would also say there isn’t necessarily “One Voice” on the road diet plan, which makes it hard to get these type of projects pushed through after they have been planned and budgeted. I talk to peope every day who are not on the “road diet” team. And many of them support FoPo businesses even though they live in outlying neighborhoods.

    • Well said, Sia. There definitely is not one voice, but I think folks within the neighborhood want to feel they have a say and are not simply being placated by the city. As far as the road diet, it is not an end all, but one idea that a lot of people locally see as beneficial for a stretch of Foster that has more and more families walking about and find scary to cross or do business on. Some of the motivation for making changes on Foster has to do with how people outside of the neighborhood view/use the corridor…a thoroughfare to get from point A to point B quickly…Foster Freeway, as many people call.

  7. rebeccalavelle says:

    How frustrating! The road diet seemed like a good idea, and somewhat simple to implement. What can we do now? I am going to start by writing a letter to the mayor’s office. Maybe we can get the WW or Mercury on our side?

  8. Ruben says:

    A bigger question also, if all these deaths had happened in the Pearl would they still be waiting for action?

    • Sia says:

      Working class folks are more dependent on cars in outlying areas, because the jobs arent out here. If you work 8-5 in wilsonville and have to pick up kids in portland by 6, Trimet is iffy. While that worked for me in SF and Alameda, CA it doesnt work here so well. So in addition to not being considered politically connected, there IS a strong class division around this issue. And for the purposes of my argument, working class is not defined by well-educated folks doing their salad days in FoPo.

      Cause when it does happen, folks will lose their s*it.

      • Salad days in FoPo. That’s an interesting image. I never thought Foster-Powell would be on the opposite end of a class division argument.

        I think the real issue here, Sia, is safety on Foster Road. There have been countless fatalities on the stretch of road that the city identifies as a high crash corridor. That’s what we’re trying to fix. In the process, the Foster Streetscape Plan also adds some aesthetic improvements and hopefully will attract businesses to the area…just as Lents is trying to do. Our goal is to make the road safer, first and foremost, and changing the structure of the road is ultimately what will accomplish that. The speed limit is 35 mph, but you probably know first hand that people often go faster than that. It is our hopes the city can change driving behavior on Foster, not create division between neighborhoods. And I’m sure there are differing views from within the neighborhood, too.

        As for class division, we saw it play out when the city tried to expand the bike networks in N. Portland. I saw it in my native SF, too. I have to think this is a little different. Even still, that’s why the outreach has to be done and logistics planned accordingly, so as not to alienate or divide neighborhoods. I don’t think anybody wants to make it hard for working folks to drive to work…there are working class folks in FoPo, too. We just want it safer with slower speeds.

        You know speeds were just decreased in the Lents Town Center, right?

        • Sia says:

          Yes, i am aware of the serious safety issues along Foster. And am not in theory against road diets. Just bringing up a counterpoint.

  9. John Mulvey says:

    Sia raises some valuable points, but I think they’re somewhat ironic, given that the Plan that’s being jettisoned was written 10 years ago, when presumably the neighborhood was more “working class” (or insert whatever euphemism you prefer) than it is now.

    The main thing I think we should consider here is that the various liveability initiatives –biking, close-in development, etc –are not things that are culturally-based; they’re things that everyone in this City should be able to share.

    I worked for a big downtown developer for several years, and when they were marketing the Pearl, it was to wealthy people ready to sell their McMansions and live in a more urban environment where they could walk to the things they needed, be healthier, leave a smaller footprint, etc.

    But my basic philosophy is that those things out to, by right, be available to everyone. The pov that those things are just for the wealthy and that poor people “have to” drive a lot and should just accept that there aren’t the services they need nearby –and indeed, that they should defend these things as part of their “culture” –is something I 100% reject.

    • Sia says:

      I understand the timing of the original plan. AND wishing that poorer folks had jobs closer doesn’t make it so. I wonder how many folks on this thread live in Portland and work in washington, clark or other faraway County. And are responsible for elder care or young children? Sometimes it’s good to see other perspectives. When I had a job which REQUIRED driving at least some of the time to do home visit, it took 45 minutes to commute home to outer SE from downtown. And there isnt the frequency of bus service in outlying areasn as closer in. As a single parent, it significantly affected our quality of life on those days. I want slower speeds and more marked crosswalks.

  10. Pingback: Mayor’s Office Offers Proposal to Improve Safety Along Foster: May 2012 - Foster United

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