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Safe Streets for Everyone: Measure 26-173


By Elaine Friesen-Strang

On the afternoon of April 2, 13 year old Mauricio was struck by an automobile while he was in a crosswalk at SE 142nd and Division. He suffered a severe concussion and broken shoulder. No one should be a victim of such an assault, but in this case, he has youth and resiliency on his side. Had he been 70 years of age, he may not have survived.  The Oregon State of Pedestrian Safety Report, which Oregon Walks released last year, states Oregonians age 65 and older are four times more likely to be killed while walking than any other age group.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says a crosswalk beacon where Mauricio was hit "should be up and running by early next year".  We know where the high crash corridors are.  According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, 51% of pedestrian fatalities occur on these deadly streets. We know that better engineering, education, and enforcement protect pedestrians and make us safer drivers.  But prevention requires funding and resolve, and to date, both have been lacking.

The city proposed a street fee in 2014.  It was not heartily embraced. AARP acknowledged the need to address the backlog of deferred street maintenance and improve pedestrian infrastructure, but we shared concern with others regarding transparency, accountability, and fairness of the fee.  Professionals and volunteers gathered at planning tables for months afterwards to discuss these issues.  Being a member of one of those groups, I questioned how we would find a revenue solution agreeable to everyone.  Tenacity and compromise won out.

Measure 26-173 is endorsed by advocacy groups, like Disability Rights Oregon, Oregon Walks, East Portland Action Plan, Bicycle Transportation Alliance as well as Neighborhood Associations, the City Club of Portland, and the Portland Business Alliance.  It's a 10-cent per gallon gas tax that will raise 58 million dollars over the next four years, and while it still falls short of the need, it starts paving the way to a more livable city.

Over the next two decades, the 65+ population in the Portland Metro area is projected to grow by 106%, compared to an increase of 35.6% in the general population.  It's in our best interest to pass Measure 26-173.  It will improve pedestrian safety, create more crosswalks, and provide safety beacons. It will target investments in areas of the city that have long been underserved.  It will invest in better access to schools and transit--improvements that will help people of all ages. And it will pay for much needed street maintenance.

There have already been five pedestrian deaths this year. Crossing the street shouldn't mean crossing your fingers.  Mauricio deserved better; we all do.  AARP supports Measure 26-173 and urges Portlanders to vote YES. We can make Portland a safer place to live for everyone.

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