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Repeated wrecks at S.E. 13th and Umatilla worry neighbors

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Police check on the drivers of the latest sedans to collide at S.E 13th and Umatilla Street during a Friday rush hour.A March 8th rush-hour collision between two sedans at S.E. 13th and Umatilla Street was the third in as many weeks at the dangerous intersection.

Nearby store owners say they regularly see cars speeding down 13th where the Springwater bike trail detour runs by Eric Deady’s Bike Commuter business. “Every day I see at least three close calls there, with squealing brakes, blaring horns, and swerving into another lane,” Deady says.

“This time I watched the whole thing happen from my front counter. All I can say is – it’s just a matter of time before someone gets killed here.”

Deady was first on the scene this time, to check if anyone was hurt. “The two ladies seemed okay, although somewhat bewildered,” he reports. “I told them to turn off their engines and put their cars into ‘park’, and they immediately started making phone calls and exchanging information. A police car showed up within minutes to assess the situation, and to help clear the street.

“It’s not as though people aren’t stopping at the stop signs,” continued Deady. “It’s just a real busy intersection – with pedestrians and bikes crossing, and busy traffic on S.E. 13th. You can't see much from [the stop sign at] S.E. Umatilla, so drivers figure they just have to find an opening in traffic and ‘gun it’ to get out onto 13th.”

Chris Lang, owner of “Wells and Verne”, two doors down, heard the latest crash when it happened. “I went out to help direct traffic around the scene, but impatient drivers continued speeding by into oncoming traffic, just to get around the accident,” she said. “There already were two wrecks at the intersection in the past three weeks, and another right out in front of my store (at 8315 S.E. l3th Avenue). There, a lady tried to do a U-turn on S.E. 13th, and was hit in the side.”

Deady added, “I’ve seen pedestrians rolled up onto car hoods, and bicycles creamed at the intersection. One woman passenger in a crash a couple of weeks ago was about eight months pregnant, and had to go to the hospital. You just hope everything turned out okay.

“There’s limited visibility, and too much going on. Drivers are frustrated with commuter traffic, especially at that time of day. Cars kept speeding by and honking at people who were trying to help.”

Laurie Austin, shop owner at “Please Be Seated” nearby, attributed recent wrecks to speeding vehicles. “Another aspect is all the parked cars around here – people can’t see until they get out into traffic. Bicyclists often don’t stop when crossing S.E. 13th Avenue as well. I think somebody’s going to get killed here.” Speeding, commuter frustration, and a lack of visibility at the intersection, all seem to be part of the problem. Neighbors agree that something should be done -- possibly by the Portland Bureau of Transportation evaluating or redesigning the crossing.

As one shopkeeper sighed, “With Sellwood Middle School just blocks away, and summer coming up soon, I certainly hope that youngsters and shoppers can avoid disaster while exploring lower S.E. 13th Avenue.”