Meeting aims to improve safety on one of Portland's 'most dangerous streets'

A $1.5 million project is in the works to improve safety on North Columbia Boulevard near George Middle School and potentially remove a pedestrian bridge.

Portland's Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) said 41 people have died in crashes on the city's streets so far this year -- three of them on Columbia Boulevard alone.

On Monday night a meeting was held at Roosevelt High School aimed at improving conditions on part of North Columbia, especially for children.

Dylan Rivera, a PBOT spokesman, described Columbia as one of the city's "most dangerous streets."

A pedestrian crossing near George Middle School goes over North Columbia Boulevard near Midway Avenue.

A KATU crew saw two people use the footbridge Monday afternoon.

But one boy did not. He ran across Columbia, dropping a skateboard before safely picking it up.

Last year another boy wasn't so lucky.

Portland police said a pick-up truck driver hit 15-year-old Bradley Fourtner as he crossed the same stretch of road.

"If it had been a Freightliner or a Mack truck that would have hit him, I'd be making funeral arrangements today," Esperanza Trujillo, Fourtner's mother, told KATU on Aug. 31, 2016.

She was grateful her son survived.

But like many of her neighbors, including Pat Jewett, she wanted change.

"The bridge just doesn't work for a lot of people," Jewett said Monday. "I used my Fitbit and walked using that bridge and it's 300 steps versus 27 steps if you just cross the street. ... It's not in a very good location either."

Jewett and PBOT said many drivers on Columbia speed, going well over the 40 mph speed limit.

"Certain times of the day there's really heavy traffic on the road and it's just really hard to cross," Jewett said.

Rivera said 14 people died and 57 people were seriously injured in crashes on Columbia over the last decade.

Monday night's meeting focused on how to spend $1.5 million improving conditions near the middle school.

The state Legislature allocated the money this year as part of a plan to potentially replace the pedestrian bridge.

"I'd like to see the speed limit lowered and a signal light there actually, and medians and sidewalks," Jewett said. "I think we need to make it safe for everybody."

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and PBOT authorities listened to ideas from members of the community at the meeting.

Rivera said PBOT is asking Oregon's Department of Transportation (ODOT) to lower the speed limit near the middle school.

He also said members of the freight trucking community have told PBOT the pedestrian bridge is too low for oversized trucks.

The 41 fatalities on Portland roads so far in 2017 include three fatal crashes over the holiday weekend, Rivera explained. The grand total includes 16 people walking, 17 driving, two biking and six motorcycling.

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