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Revamping Powell Boulevard: Oregon DOT’s Safer Road Project

Portland auto accident attorneyPowell Boulevard is a dangerous road for a lot of reasons. For one thing, a portion of the road that runs through densely populated low-income neighborhoods currently has no sidewalks. The road is also described by the Portland Tribune as a “1950s-vintage rural highway” that needs to be made into a “modern urban thoroughfare” because it is so well-traveled.

Because Powell is a dangerous road, efforts are being made to correct the problems and make the street safer for everyone. Our Portland accident lawyers know that such efforts are necessary in order to avoid accidents and also to help protect government authorities from legal liability for traffic wrecks that occur due to road problems and defects. However, while the DOT is spending about $5.5 million to improve road safety, this is far less than the $74 million concept plan that the Portland City Council approved for the same area. This has led some to say that the improved safety efforts being put in place in the area are not good enough.

Improvements Aim to Reduce Accidents & Improve Road Safety

The goals of the DOT in working on Powell Boulevard are noble goals and it is likely that the changes being made will have a real and fundamental impact on reducing accident deaths. For example, the DOT project involves lane striping; creating a wider shoulder for pedestrians and bike riders; wheelchair ramps; traffic devices to prevent or slow speeding; and greater enforcement of red light laws.

ODOT has expressed hope that these changes will make it easier and safer to cross Powell Boulevard and Southeast 112nd Avenue. This alone could make the investment in saving people’s lives worth it, since this area is ranked as number one for accidents.

While these changes are positive steps, the Portland City Council had envisioned going further than the DOT with the improvements and changes. The City Council, for example, had called for the road to be reconfigured so there was just one traffic lane in each direction as well as a center lane for those turning. The Council also spoke out in favor of putting in full sidewalks and a buffered bicycle plan.

The Council was not able to carry out its intentions because Powell is a state highway and ODOT has the authority to make the changes to the road. ODOT wanted to ensure five lanes of traffic rather than a single lane in each direction. Transportation activists also lament that sidewalks are not being added to an area of Powell that goes through East Portland.

Despite misgivings, safety groups still believe that this project can make a difference. When work is done by mid-October, hopefully fewer wrecks will occur in an area that is undeniably recognized as one of the riskiest in greater Portland.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000 for a free case consultation.

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