‘Slow Streets’ plan to treat 100 miles of Portland roads

Coronavirus

Plan is designed to give more space to pedestrians for social distancing

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A total of about 100 miles of neighborhood streets in Portland will be “repurposed,” including some road closures, to car traffic beginning later this week, part of the city’s effort to give residents more space to practice social distancing.

“Slow Streets Safe Streets” is a plan announced by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly last week. The temporary barricades are designed to slow or stop traffic on these streets, and signs will be installed to alert drivers.

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, May 4, 2020 (KOIN)

The plan will also expand pedestrian space along busy streets that are narrow or missing sidewalks and install pop-up walking and bike lanes, officials said.

Portland closing some streets to traffic for physical distancing

The plan was announced last week, but which streets would be closed was not revealed. The Portland Bureau of Transportation will begin the barricade process later this week — “locations where greenways intersect with busy streets and have historic high traffic volumes.”

View interactive map of neighborhood greenway system

PBOT is making room for safer walking with physical distancing.

PBOT — which is one of the bureaus Eudaly oversees — said this plan has three main components: creating neighborhood greenways, expanding pedestrian space along busy streets and reserving space for customers in business districts.

Barrels will be set up in the middle or along the side to alert drivers its limited access. Essential vehicle trips are allowed for people who live, work and need access to homes and businesses.

The ‘Slow Streets Safe Streets’ will remain in place for as long as Gov. Kate Brown’s “stay home” order is in place.

PBOT’s John Brady said these barricades aren’t permanent.

“No, it’s not permanent or putting in gathering spaces, That would defeat the point of physical distancing.”

Since the pandemic began, there are 88% fewer traffic jams and overall traffic is down about 50%, authorities said. But motorists are driving faster, which worries officials.

Residents are encouraged to let PBOT know where streets could be improved with this type of social distancing: 503.823.SAFE or active.transportation@Portlandoregon.gov.

The program will work in phases and be coordinated with Gov. Kate Brown’s decisions on starting the process to re-open Oregon.

Oregon’s state of emergency extended until July 6

A similar plan in New York City, “Open Streets” was discontinued about two weeks after it initially began. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said not enough people used the open roads to justify the police presence necessary to keep them safe. A revised plan was released May 1 and will close 7 miles of roads near parks in its first phase.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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