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Hales gives Old Town street closures more time

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRIS ONSTOTT - Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has decided to extend for 60 days the traffic-free Entertainment District in Old Town. Hales said the three-month experiment was helping police quell trouble in the area around nightclubs and restaurants.Portland Mayor Charlie Hales says the city’s three-month experiment closing streets in Old Town’s Entertainment District to vehicle traffic appears to be working and that he will extend the experiment another 60 days.

The city closed Northwest Third Avenue from Everett to Burnside Streets and adjacent streets from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. for the first three months of 2013 at the request of Entertainment District police officers who felt limiting car traffic would make the often rowdy street scene easier to control.

Most Friday and Saturday nights, police deal with fights, many, they say, because the Entertainment District sidewalks become too crowded, resulting in shoulder bumping incidents that escalate. With traffic restricted pedestrians are free to walk in the streets.

A number of apartment residents on the streets above Old Town have complained that the new policies would increase the noise level late into Friday and Saturday nights. A number of those apartment buildings are reserved for people recovering from addictions.

Hales says he wants to hear from stakeholders before making a decision on whether to make the street closures permanent.

“I’ve toured the area from midnight to 3 a.m. on a Saturday night when it is most busy,” Hales said Friday. “So I’ve seen it for myself. And to my mind: It’s working.”