Eighteen people have died in Portland traffic crashes so far this year.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation, also known as PBOT, is responding by implementing citywide safety improvements, such as updating older infrastructure.
“Many of our traffic signals date to the 1970s, so not only is the technology old, but the design of the intersection and the way it works is based on older technology,” said Dylan Rivera, public information officer with PBOT.
Some of the specific fixes PBOT will be making involve installing Leading Pedestrian Intervals, also known as LPIs, which give pedestrians a head start in a crosswalk before traffic lights change. PBOT will be adding at least 10 LPIs each year to existing signals citywide.
PBOT will also be installing at least three protected left turn signals each year on streets prone to crashes.
In addition to changing infrastructure, the bureau is establishing a new crash response protocol. After every fatal crash, PBOT will install electronic signs at crash locations to mark those sites and raise awareness.
There is currently one on Northeast Broadway from a fatal crash last week, when a pedestrian was hit and killed by a delivery truck.
PBOT is in the process of installing temporary safety fixes to Northeast Broadway in response to that crash, such as extending the sidewalk space with a barrier so that pedestrians have a shorter distance to cross the street.
“We are really trying to do more in response to specific fatal crashes as they happen,” Rivera said.
Just in the past two weeks there have been four fatal crashes in Portland. Rivera says this is far above average.
“Compared to the last 26 years, since 1993, the 14 days from April 12 to April 25 — that two-week period — has an average of 1.15 traffic fatalities,” Rivera said. “Four versus one is a dramatically high difference.”
2019 is already proving to be a particularly bad year for traffic deaths, with the most fatal traffic accidents in the last three years, at this point in the year.
By late April last year, there were 12 fatal incidents; 2017 saw eight fatalities and 2016 had 19 at this point in spring.
“This is not enough to consider this a trend in any regard,” Rivera said. “We’re hoping for the rest of the year we can get these numbers down and continue to have a downward trend in annual traffic fatalities.”