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Fatal crash inspires new discussion

(Image is Clickable Link) by: PHOTO COURTESY OF KOIN 6 NEWS - A Portland Police Bureau squad car blocks the intersection of Southwest 30th Avenue and Southwest Barbur Boulevard following a single-vehicle fatal crash. In the early morning hours of Oct. 15, 27-year-old Quinn Sivage, a Lincoln High School alumnus, was driving 80 to 100 mph in the 9000 block of Southwest Barbur Boulevard when he crashed his Toyota Prius into a TriMet bus shelter and died. It was not the first such traffic fatality on that highway — far from it — but it has left Southwest Portlanders wondering how such accidents can be prevented in the future.

The stretch of Barbur Boulevard from Southwest Naito Parkway to 65th Avenue is one of the city’s 10 designated High Crash Corridors, defined as “stretches of roadways identified as having a higher incidence of fatalities and serious-injury traffic crashes than similar roadways.” Extending into Tigard, it is technically a state-owned highway, maintained by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as Highway 99W.

According to Don Hamilton, ODOT public information officer, the key to improving the safety of Barbur might be the Southwest Corridor Plan, a multi-agency partnership between Metro, which is the regional government, Multnomah County, Washington County, ODOT, TriMet and the cities of Portland, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, Beaverton, Durham, King City and Lake Oswego to make the Southwest Corridor more livable through multiple efforts. Those efforts may include a corridor refinement plan to examine the function, mode and general location of transportation improvements and a transit alternatives analysis to define the best mode and alignment of high-capacity transit to serve the corridor.

“The big stuff of this is going to be a study of a high-capacity transit. … This is underway at Metro right now for studying all the different formats that they might have,” Hamilton said. “In addition to that … we have (projects) underway along Barbur right now: pedestrian islands, bike lane markings, flashing beacons, green bike lanes, that sort of thing.”

But Hamilton said these active transportation projects couldn’t completely insulate against human error.

“There’s nothing that engineering can do to stop drivers from harming themselves, and there's no way we can engineer from an irresponsible behavior," he said.

Roger Averbeck is chairman of the Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. Transportation Committee. He had a somewhat different take.

“In my opinion, the design of the road encourages driver behavior that includes speeding. It’s a very wide roadway (with a) wide cross section, very wide traffic lanes … long distances in between traffic signals and safe crossing locations … and particularly in this … historic section, the land use is set way back away from the road with parking lots between the businesses and sidewalks. … This creates this wide, open environment that is definitely a factor in people’s behavior. People do not drive that fast … through the middle of Multnomah Village or even on Capitol Highway through Hillsdale in the middle of the night,” he said. “It’s the environment that people are in that encourages speeding.”

Though the results of a toxicology report on Sivage had not yet been completed, Averbeck said, “You have no on-street parking there — everything’s wide-open; you can only see a traffic signal half a mile away — so I think that does encourage … poor judgment, possibly in this case. Driving 80 mph, I think, is poor judgment regardless of the individual’s condition or impairment.”

In the long term, he added, “I really think what needs to be seriously considered is a jurisdictional transfer from ODOT to the city of Portland in some of the segments of Barbur, and the reason that that hasn’t happened … the roadway and the public right of way doesn’t meet city standards, so it would be really, really expensive to bring that up to standard including the sidewalk gaps and deficiencies ... and crossings and all that that are needed, but jurisdictional transfer should really seriously be looked at for the future, and hopefully it will be as part of this continuing Southwest Corridor planning process.

“It’s like, ‘How many more crashes and deaths and serious injuries do we have to put up with before something’s got to change?’”

Drew Dakessian can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 108.

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