Foster’s Safety Needs Discussed in the Oregonian

Does the Oregonian’s SE Portland news reporter, Steve Beaven, hit the mark with his recent article about traffic safety on Foster Road?

You be the judge.

The concerns of local residents are clearly expressed, and the desires for safety improvements are plainly laid out, but does the level of injustice and stalled city movement on the issue become evident?  I’m not so sure.

While any publicity that the safety needs of Foster gets is good, it is important to note that the city’s response for several years has been and is, “We’re working on it.”  And while this is true in a sense, it has only been recently that promises appear to be closer to a reality than simply appeasing and placating the community.  PBOT project manager, Mauricio Leclerc, appears more intent on seeing the Foster Streetscape plan through than any of the public officials before him.  Leclerc also seems interested in engaging the community and determining the needs and wants of area residents.  However, his desire and ability to make Foster great has been limited by city priorities and funding decisions that have given thumbs-ups and resources to other projects across the city that do not necessarily save lives or improve the livability of neighborhoods that have long been neglected.

Steve Beaven definitely touches on these issues, but the core of the problem is not the neighborhood’s inability to wait for a streetscape plan to be funded, rather it’s the frustration of residents who have seen way too many pedestrians hit, injured, and/or killed, while those on foot, on bike, or driving cannot feel completely at ease while travelling the Foster corridor.  To make matters worse, the city has been hesitant to make safety improvements that are not included in the future streetscape plan, which is already 10 years in the making.  To neighborhood residents, immediate safety needs do not need to be linked to a future plan, and instead see them as an addition to a larger vision for Foster Road.  A streetscape plan is helpful for implementing safety improvements, but it also is a tool for economic development in a part of SE Portland that has long had trouble attracting businesses and local investment.  For that reason, the streetscape plan does not necessarily have to be the only tool for getting the safety needs of the community met.  And part of the argument of those pressing the issue is: improve safety in the near term (safety improvements); make Foster beautiful and more functional as part of the larger picture (streetscape plan) over time.

A few other notes from the article:

– A reference is made to Mayor Adams’ offer for a traffic light in the “heart of Foster.”  However, that idea was not so much of an offer as much as a theoretical short-term solution.  The article suggests the neighborhood residents turned this idea down, but 1) it was never offered as a done deal for the taking and 2) city transportation officials implied it wasn’t a viable option because it would only take money from the future streetscape plan.

– The city has applied for grant funding to acquire speed reader boards (two) to be posted on Foster.  The funding has since been secured and the boards will soon go up.

– PBOT, the PDC, FLIP, and Foster Green are all working together on an investment strategy for the Foster Corridor, and through this process will complete community outreach and refresh the Foster Streetscape Plan, which was originally adopted by the city in 2003.  This nearly 10-year wait is what so angers the community, and the expected 2014 start date for construction is not necessarily a given, although money has been allocated for partial build-out of the plan.

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