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FROM THE EDITOR

Creative solution for a dangerous intersection


by: ERIC NORBERG - This shows the view of an eastbound driver on Tacoma Street waiting for a chance to turn left onto S.E. 17th. The left turn lane westbound is occupied. Notice that the two turning cars now do not face each other, which means that each turning car blocks the view of oncoming cars to the turning car on the other side of the intersection - so oncoming cars trying to beat the light might collide with the turning cars from the other side of the intersection, whose drivers dont see them coming. If you have attempted to turn left from Tacoma Street in Sellwood onto S.E. 17th, either westbound or eastbound, you probably have had a feeling of unease.

If you’re eastbound, part of the problem is that you have to wait and turn in the through lane, backing up traffic behind you and causing some motorists to zoom around you in the right-turn curb lane and then proceed straight across the intersection.

But there is a more important reason why this is a dangerous turn to make in either direction. It is that the turn lanes do not align.

That is, if you are waiting to turn left, and someone is waiting across the intersection from you to do the same thing, the waiting car you face is blocking your view of the oncoming traffic.

So, if you have moved into the intersection preparing for your turn, as you are supposed to do, thus allowing you to complete the turn after the traffic light turns yellow, you are starting to make your turn without being able to see if somebody is trying to beat the light in crossing the intersection in front of you.

It is no surprise that a lot of crashes happen there, and for that reason it has been a priority for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to address the problem and make the intersection safer. There has been one little problem holding up the solution.

As PBOT representatives recently explained at a meeting of SMILE, the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood association, their plan to build a left turn lane eastbound without removing one of the two eastbound lanes now present – a left-turn lane that would exactly align with the westbound left turn lane now present at the intersection – will remove some parking places in front of businesses in the first block westbound on 17th. And that could impact those businesses.

The city is inclined to think that it is more important to prevent injury in traffic collisions than to provide an extra parking place or two on the street, and we agree, but they are sensitive to the welfare of local businesses as well.

In conversations led by SMILE Transportation Committee Chair Brian Posewitz, a compromise was reached that would eliminate a couple of those parking places, but not all of them. That compromise would allow the realignment of the intersection (to be done by restriping the street) to proceed.

One snag arose: Tacoma Street between the Sellwood Bridge and McLoughlin Boulevard is a 30 MPH street. And, when seeking from ODOT a reduced speed of 25 MPH for Tacoma, which seems very reasonable to us, Brian was told that a speed reduction would require a traffic study, and any traffic study would be useless until the new Sellwood Bridge is completed, since the construction activities constantly impact the traffic on Tacoma. So, it looked as if the speed limit would remain 30 MPH on Tacoma for another couple of years, and a dangerous intersection would remain dangerous until then.

At that point, someone made a creative suggestion. Nobody seems to recall who it was, but our hat is off to him or her.

How about asking ODOT to post a “temporary construction speed limit” on Tacoma of 25 MPH? The question was posed, and the temporary construction speed limit was granted. So, the intersection repair can proceed (and will hopefully be made permanent when the Sellwood Bridge is completed and the traffic study can finally be done).

Consequently, one of these days soon, expect new speed limit signs on Tacoma Street, and new paint striping on Tacoma at the 17th Avenue intersection. You will find turning left easier and much safer when that happens.

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And now for something completely different…
Every now and then a police report cries out to be shared. For a newspaper like THE BEE, it normally would have to deal with something happening specifically in the Inner Southeast neighborhoods we serve. But, we can range a bit further here in the editorial section, so we take the liberty of sharing with you, verbatim, this crime report from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, dated February 11th. This would be ludicrous in a work of fiction, but in this case truth is stranger than fiction. Watch it unfold in your mind’s eye… “This morning at approximately 3:00 am, deputies with the Marion County Sheriff's Office were called to the Silver Dollar Tavern on a reported theft that had just occurred. The bartender reported that Lydia Andryushchenko, age 27, of Salem, stole three money bags containing a total of almost $7,000.00 cash.

“During their investigation deputies learned that Ms. Andryushchenko is a regular at the bar, and she was allowed to remain inside after the bar had closed for business. It was when the bartender was distracted that Ms. Andryushchenko grabbed one of four bags of cash off of the bar and attempted to run out of the business.

“Ms. Andryushchenko could not go far, because the bartender had locked the doors with a key and she could not get out. After a verbal confrontation between Ms. Andryushchenko and the bartender, Ms. Andryushchenko put the money bag down on top of a pool table and agreed to leave.

“The bartender walked over to the doors to unlock them, and at the same time Ms. Andryushchenko ran back over to the counter, grabbed the remaining three money bags, and ran out the now-unlocked doors.

“After deputies viewed video footage and verified the bartender’s story, they went to Ms. Andryushchenko’s residence. At the residence, deputies were able to convince Ms. Andryushchenko to come outside, where ultimately they gained consent to go inside and recover the stolen money.

“Ms. Andryushchenko was arrested and charged with Theft in the First Degree and Robbery in the Third Degree.” About all we can say about this is that it was certainly NOT a well-thought-out crime, on a variety of levels! Have a good month.