My View: Foster Road improvements must balance all needs

Unfortunately, we can’t have it all in life, which also is true for issues about traffic and livability. It is about making smart choices and finding a reasonable balance.

Increased numbers of people driving their cars on Portland streets is the real reason that travel time in the future will increase on Foster Road (City hopes ‘road diet’ improves livability, Aug. 15) and many other streets. A good reminder for anyone complaining about being stuck in traffic is that they are as much a cause of the congestion as a victim of congestion.

The additional vehicles using Foster Road in the future will indeed add minutes to the 2030 commute, as compared to the 2013 commute. The addition of bike lanes, crosswalks, turn lanes and other safety improvements also may add an additional minute or two. Without those improvements, though, there would just be more traffic, more congestion, more pollution, more injuries and more deaths.

Drivers heading downtown from the east using Foster Road may indeed have to give up a minute in the future for livability, for improved traffic safety and for saving lives in the neighborhoods around Foster Road. They also will have an additional choice to use the new safer, faster and improved bike route that Foster will feature, which will save them time getting to town by bike. And there will still be the other choice for drivers: taking the freeways that are specifically designed for motor traffic.

Think about this benefit of safer and more livable streets such as Foster Road: revived and flourishing neighborhoods along those roads as a result of the improved livability will actually reduce the need or desire to go downtown: shopping, entertainment and jobs are being created close to home.

No one is denying others the choice to live in other parts of town than where they work, because it has something they like better. Should other neighborhoods be expected to sacrifice their livability and economic viability however in order to accommodate the increased traffic through their streets?

Indeed, anyone driving through Portland will experience a “delay” from speed limits, crosswalks, signals or other traffic safety features. That is universal and not specific to Southeast Portland or Foster Road. The current situation on Foster is far from being optimal or even acceptable as far as balancing traffic impacts, safety and neighborhood livability.

For most people, the importance of traffic safety is hard to grasp unless a loved one has been injured or killed in traffic. Foster Road has seen large numbers of casualties, both injuries and deaths. In fact, during the past decade the number of Portlanders who died trying to cross Foster Road was more than twice the number of Portlanders who died fighting the war in Afghanistan.

With almost one fatality a year, the human toll of the current traffic is simply too high, even if all victims may be “strangers” to you.

Foster Road doesn’t have bike lanes, even though bicycle use has grown tremendously in the past 15 years. On Foster, bicycles still have to share traffic lanes with cars, which puts bicyclists at risk and causes delays for cars in those lanes. The leading alternative for the new cross section on Foster is calling for an increase in traffic lanes from the current four lanes to five lanes: three dedicated to motor traffic, plus two lanes dedicated for bicycle use.

Hidden demand for bicycle use on Foster is thousands of bicycle trips per day. Those are people who in the future situation of an improved Foster Road either will save travel time compared to their current bike route or who currently drive their car because safe, convenient bicycle options are not available. All these people will benefit from these proposed improvements (and so will drivers continuing to use Foster since it will carry less car traffic because of it).

Let’s create a reasonable balance for Foster Road: better adapted for modern-day traffic, better for neighborhood livability and better for economic development opportunities. The businesses and neighborhoods around Foster are ready for the change.

Marcel Hermans is transportation chairman of the Mt. Scott/Arleta Neighborhood Association, a member of the Foster Road Coalition. The Foster Road Coalition is a group of neighborhood associations and the Foster Area Business Association that are working to improve the future of Foster Road.

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine