Portland’s City Council agreed to put additional money toward making the city’s high-crash corridors safer for pedestrians during a final vote on Wednesday on the city’s $5.7 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the city’s transportation bureau, introduced an amendment on Wednesday that would move $450,000 from the city’s general fund toward safety improvement projects on city streets that account for the majority of traffic deaths. Hardesty said she expected the projects would be completed by the end of the year.
The commissioner said she was responding to a recent “crisis of vehicular violence.” According to her office, there have been 25 traffic-related deaths this year; a 47% increase from this time last year.
“It is inexcusable to continue to see the data and know that people are dying because of poor infrastructure and not try everything we possibly can to save lives,” Hardesty said
The money will go to a list of quick-turn improvement projects including new speed cameras, signals that would give pedestrians a few extra seconds at walkways, and warning signs at dangerous intersections. Many will be located in East Portland where the city has historically underinvested in infrastructure projects and a high concentration of residents of color live.
“This is important for people who live, work, worship in East Portland, who take their life into their own hands every day when they’re on the streets,” Hardesty said, pointing to a recent Multnomah County study that found Black residents died from traffic-related injuries at nearly twice the rate of white residents in a five year period from 2013-2017.
All five council members voted in favor of both the budget and Hardesty’s amendment, though Commissioner Mingus Mapps sounded a lone note of concern around the process. Mapps said the last-minute change was part of “a flawed process” and that he was uncomfortable with such a significant amount of funding being moved around so late in the budget process.
“I think we can each look into our own bureaus and identify places where with an extra $400,000 dollars or whatnot we could make a huge difference in the lives of Portlanders,” Mapps said.
This is the second major pedestrian safety announcement this month. Last week, the transportation bureau and the Oregon Department of Transportation agreed to transfer 82nd Avenue - one of the most dangerous streets in the city - from the state to the city by the beginning of next year. The transfer is contingent on the legislature setting aside $80 million for immediate safety upgrades, including sidewalk improvements and pavement repairs.