Red flags appear at dangerous Oregon City intersection

Clackamas County

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — Twice within 6 weeks, the Oregon City intersection of Pearl Street and Molalla Avenue has seen tragedy and near-tragedy.

Aidann Popovic was riding his bike in the crosswalk with the signal when he was hit by a driver police said was using her cell phone. He remembers being on the hood for a few seconds “before being launched off.”

The crash fractured his hip and ankle, and his mother said his bike helmet saved his life. 

On April 17, Josefina Rojas waited for the signal and started to cross the intersection of Molalla Avenue and Pearl Street. But she was hit by a pickup truck and died at the scene. She was 52 and left behind a husband and children.

After she was hit and killed, her friends placed red flags on sticks at each corner of the intersection to give pedestrians an extra boost to grab drivers attention as they crossed.

Scott Wooley said he noticed the red flags the day after Rojas died and he’s seen a few people use them.

“I think it’s a good idea but I still think drivers don’t pay enough attention on this stretch of road,” Wooley told KOIN 6 News. “My wife’s been hit once and she’s almost been hit another two times.”

Friends of Josefina Rojas place red flags at the intersection of Pearl Street and Mollala Avenue in Oregon City after she was hit and killed in April. The flags remain available for pedestrians to use, June 5, 2019 (KOIN)

He said something needs to be done and he thinks they city “would be (making changes) after the problems they’ve had here.”

Kevin Drake told KOIN 6 News he crosses that intersection a few times a week and thinks the red flags are an OK idea. “I can’t see how it’s hurting anything having them there,” but said he hasn’t actually used one yet.

Even though he has the walk signal, Kevin Drake runs across the intersection of Pearl Street and Mollala Avenue in Oregon City, June 5, 2019 (KOIN)

“I’m always just super careful anyway.”

Oregon City Public Works Director John Lewis told KOIN 6 News they’ve done an independent review of the intersection to look for problems and they’re meeting with county officials next week.

Lewis said there wasn’t anything wrong with the intersection but they will recommend a number of things. Those recommendations include adding a sign to remind drivers to yield to pedestrians, convert the pedestrian signal to a countdown signal and give pedestrians 2 or 3 seconds before drivers get their go signal. 

There is not enough space for a center lane for a left turn signal, he said.

The city will meet with the county to determine the best course of action for any improvements. He hopes some improvements can be made within several weeks.

Oregon City Police Capt. Shaun Davis told KOIN 6 News the driver who hit and killed Rojas pleaded guilty to careless driving. He didn’t see her as he turned, but he was not on his phone nor was he speeding, Davis said. 

He added the intersection is the same one where Aidann Popovic was hit on his bicycle, but the vehicles were traveling in the opposite directions before turning south onto Molalla Avenue.

Lewis said both pedestrians and drivers need to be aware of each other and use extreme caution in the intersection.

Wooley said he hopes the red flags will help but said “it’s kind of a weird intersection.”

“It’s a dangerous road. You’ve got kids skateboarding, bicycles all the time. I’m afraid and I hope not that somebody else will get hurt.”

Aidann Popovic’s mom, Savannah, said she hopes her son’s story brings more awareness to that intersection “not only for people driving through but the city of Oregon City itself to do something.”

A woman checks traffic as she crosses the intersection of Pearl Street and Mollala Avenue in Oregon City, June 5, 2019 (KOIN)

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