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Thursday crash doubles traffic fatalities from last year

KOIN 6 NEWS - A motorcyclist was killed in a collision Thursday morning on Southeast Powell Boulevard.At a time when the city is working diligently on its Vision Zero campaign to end traffic fatalities, they doubled last year's level with a Thursday morning crash.

According to police, a motorcyclist was killed in a collision with a U-Haul truck on Southeast Powell Boulevard at 48th Avenue at 10:18 a.m. Officers and medical personnel arrived and began to treat the motorcyclist, but he was unresponsive and died at the scene. The U-Haul driver has remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation.

Thursday's death pushed the total 2016 traffic fatalities to 12, exactly twice as many as the six by this time in 2015.

Other fatalities include a pedestrian and a teenage bicyclist killed in separate DUII crashes on March 19.

The increase happened despite the City Council's adoption last year of a Vision Zero goal of no traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Portland streets. After the March 19 fatalities, Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick issued statements saying they underline the importance of achieving that goal.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation believes it is too early in the year and the numbers are too low to know, for certain, whether fatalities are continuing to trend up, said spokesman Dylan Rivera.

Regardless of whether the numbers continue increasing, the fatalities underscore the need for Portland to spend more money on transportation safety projects, according to Aaron Brown, campaign manager for the temporary 10-cents-a-gallon gas tax measure on the May primary election ballot. That is expected to raise $64 million over four years, with $28 million going to safety projects. Of that amount, $16.9 million will support Vision Zero projects and the rest is for Safe Routes to School and Neighborhood Greenway projects.

"The temporary gas tax provides necessary funding for Vision Zero projects so that Portland can work to eliminate traffic fatalities and ensure every Portland family can safely walk and bike in their community," Brown said.

More than 30 organizations have endorsed Ballot Measure 26-173, including many concerned with traffic safety, such as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, AARP Oregon, the Community Cycling Center, Oregon Walks and the city's Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

"We're supporting the measure because we believe these safety improvements need to be made. A lot of people don't realize how much we need them until it is too late," said Kristi Finney Dunn of Oregon and Southwest Washington Families for Safe Streets, which includes families whose relatives have died in traffic crashes. Her son was killed while biking on Southeast Division Street in 2012.

Last year, Portland traffic fatalities included 20 people in cars and trucks, five on motorcycles, two on bicycles, and 10 people walking. The majority of fatal crashes — 54 percent — included at least one person who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to the 2015 Portland Traffic Safety Report. That was the most since 2005.

So far this year, fatalities have included five people killed walking, four in motor vehicles, one on a bicycle and two on motorcycles.

“More than half of Portland’s traffic fatalities involve DUII. This weekend's tragedies remind us why no one should drive under the influence, and all Portlanders should follow the rules of the road, including speed limits," Hales said after after the March 19 fatalities.

"This City Council has made historic investments in traffic safety, including millions of dollars for sidewalks and safer crossings on 122nd Avenue that will enable significantly improved transit service in the area," Novick said. "But clearly we need to do more, and I remain firmly committed to improving transportation safety, especially in areas such as East Portland, where historically underserved communities brave some of our city’s most dangerous roadways.”

In recent years, PBOT has installed more than 20 rapid-flashing beacons at crosswalks in East Portland, installed 14 more since last summer, and has plans for 15 additional beacons in the coming year. The bureau also is building sidewalks and other improvements on High Crash Corridors such as 122nd Avenue and East Burnside Street.

You can learn more about the Vision Zero goal at tinyurl.com/jleqg76.