In wake of little girl's tragic death, Rep. Shemia Fagan leads charge for pedestrian safety improvements

Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, whose House District 51 includes parts of East Portland, Gresham and Damascus, is among 10 legislators calling for more funding for sidewalks and other pedestrian safety improvements in outer East Portland following the Thursday, Feb. 28, death of a 5-year-old girl.

Morgan Cook was walking home with a 13-year-old friend at about 7 p.m. when she crossed the street and was hit by a car at Southeast 136th Avenue and Ellis Street, just west of Powell Butte. She died in an ambulance while being driven to a hospital short time later. The driver — a 68-year-old woman — was unimpaired and traveling at or below the speed limit, police said. No citations have been issued and the case is under investigation.

In the wake of the tragic accident, Fagan is galvanizing legislators representing portions of east Portland who have signed a letter to Portland's mayor and city council to immediately reinstate funding for sidewalks and crosswalks on Southeast 136th Avenue.

Other local legislators to sign her letter include Rep. Greg Matthews, D-Gresham, and Rep. Christopher Gorsek, D-Troutdale.

In a press release, Fagan said that for the past week, East Portland legislators have “conducted frank conversations” with the City of Portland in response to the transportation bureau's proposal to spend $1.2 million previously allocated for sidewalks along Southeast 136th Avenue on road paving projects in other parts of the city.

The sidewalk project had been slated for the section of 136th between Powell and Holgate, just north of where the girl was hit. And the proposal to reallocate its funding for road paving took place before Portland Mayor Charlie Hales took office in January.

Fagan's letter also urges the major to provide additional funding for at least three crosswalks complete with rectangular rapid flashing beacons on 136th Avenue between Division Street and Foster Road.

The tragic accident brought into stark and horrifying reality East Portland’s lack of basic infrastructure, Fagan said.

“As a mother I am heartbroken by what happened last night less than a block from my home,” said Fagan. “The City cannot continue to pretend that East Portland can wait for the sidewalks and adequate lightning that most of the city takes for granted.”

Southeast 136th Avenue is a major road and a common route to area two elementary schools and a middle school.

Fagan has formed the East Portland Caucus to advocate for East Portland and to work with the city to improve what she called “this long-neglected part of the city.”

Parts of east Portland still have unpaved roads and few sidewalks and crosswalks. Mayor Hales, who was elected in November, included promises of road improvements as part of his campaign.

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