Featured Stories


Road rules for Southwest Portlanders

Drew's views


Starting this year, 15-to-17-year-olds at Wilson High School and throughout the state of Oregon won’t have to take the traditional Drive Test if they complete an Oregon Department of Transportation-approved driver education course. But it seems to me that some long-licensed adults in Southwest Portland are in need of a crash course in how to avoid a car crash.

Imagine a driver is in Arnold Creek, heading north on Boones Ferry Road — perhaps on his way to Tryon Creek or Lewis & Clark College — when he finds himself impeded by another vehicle waiting to turn left on to Southwest Stephenson Street without colliding with southbound traffic. Does he steer his car to the right, driving one or two feet on the unpaved shoulder to maneuver around this vehicular roadblock and then continue on his way? Probably, if he’s like countless drivers that I’ve observed — but he shouldn’t. If he needs a better reason than that doing so is illegal, he should bear in mind that this intersection has been the site of several fatal crashes over the years.

Driving through Johns Landing on Macadam Avenue up Taylors Ferry Road and onto Terwilliger Boulevard is a time-honored tradition for Southwest Portland commuters who work elsewhere in the city and want to bypass rush-hour traffic on Interstate 5. Unfortunately, somewhere around the 130 block of Taylors Ferry, traffic tends to come to a dead halt. I personally take this as a golden opportunity to turn my car’s engine off and its radio up and sing along to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at the top of my lungs. Of course, not everyone has that kind of spare time, and invariably some driver who fancies himself terribly clever will turn left on Third Avenue to proceed to Boones Ferry and get back on Terwilliger a few blocks later. But those two no left turn signs are there for a purpose. They exist to warn driers not to drive into oncoming traffic when you don’t have the right of way. Heed their call.

A very basic rule that seems to elude the preponderance of Southwest Portland drivers is that at a four-way intersection, the right of way goes to the driver who arrives at the stop sign or stoplight first. Yes, that rule applies to the intersections of Huber Street and 35th Avenue in Markham; Capitol Highway and Taylors Ferry Road in Multnomah; and Custer Street and 13th Avenue in Hillsdale. No, it doesn’t matter how late a driver is dropping his kids off at school.

Finally, let’s talk Barbur Boulevard. The majority of drivers seem to hover at 45 mph on this 6.3-mile corridor — but the posted speed limit is 40 mph from 65th Avenue to just past Custer Street, where the speed limit decreases to 35 mph, and doesn’t increase to 45 mph for another six blocks. Now, some of us who live in abject fear of being pulled over drive the speed limit; tailgating by non-abiders is the inevitable result. But if a tailgater fails to adjust his or her speed as a speed limit-abider comes to a traffic signal, he or she could rear-end. Barbur Boulevard is one of 10 so-called High Crash Corridors in the city. From 2000 to 2009 there were 1,383 total reported crashes on Barbur Boulevard; seven of them caused fatalities. The top two location types were intersection crashes and roadway straight section crashes, and of those crashes, 596 (4 were the top collision type — yep, you guessed it — rear-end. A little caution is clearly in order.

I’ve lived in Southwest Portland most of my life and I hope never to leave. I suspect many of you, dear readers, feel the same. So let’s help make our little quadrant of the city a safer place to get from point A to point B.

Drew Dakessian is the lead reporter of The Southwest Community Connection. She 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.