PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty introduced an emergency ordinance to install a new school zone and improve safety along Southeast Powell Boulevard and Southeast 26th Avenue. City Council voted unanimously in favor of passing this ordinance Wednesday morning.

The proposal comes in the aftermath of a recent crash at the same intersection, in which a cyclist — identified as well-known Portland chef Sarah Pliner — was killed. Several days after the fatal crash, Hardesty called for immediate safety fixes along the road and throughout the city, saying Pliner’s death was preventable.

SE Powell is currently owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Commissioner Hardesty oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation and argues that the roadway should be transferred to the city’s jurisdiction.

After the deadly crash, ODOT’s director issued a statement saying Powell — also called U.S. 26 — should not function as a traditional highway anymore.

Hardesty stated on Wednesday she is “optimistic [ODOT and PBOT] can work together as partners to make the streets around all Portland schools safer and start transforming Southeast Powell Boulevard.”

However, she said PBOT will not wait to act.

“I’m hopeful my colleagues will join me in approving this resolution, so we can start making the intersection at SE 26th and Powell safer starting tomorrow, with additional improvements throughout the year,” Hardesty said.

According to a press release issued by Hardesty’s office, the proposed resolution includes the following:

  • Directs PBOT to install a school zone on SE 26th Avenue and requests ODOT create a school zone on SE Powell Blvd in both areas adjacent to Cleveland High School.
  • Asks ODOT to install school zones at all schools on state-owned highways in Portland.
  • Directs PBOT to pursue school zone installation at any street adjacent to a high school where the speed limit is higher than 20 mph, whether it’s a city street or state-owned highway.
  • Directs PBOT to propose additional safety improvements on other parts of SE 26th Avenue, Inner Powell and other busy state-owned streets. The bureau would use safety improvements called for in ODOT’s Blueprint for Urban Design, which the state agency does not apply consistently in the Portland area.
  • Directs PBOT to study the city’s freight routes and street classifications that may be leading large trucks to use SE 26th Avenue instead of streets that are wider and more appropriate.
  • Directs PBOT to work with ODOT to develop a thorough cost estimate for the improvements needed to bring Powell up to city standards for safety and maintenance, from SE 9th Avenue to I-205. Without an understanding of the true cost of transfer and a commitment to fund the full cost, a transfer will not make the road safer.
  • With a realistic cost estimate and adequate funding, these improvements could lead to a transfer of Powell to city control, using the recent transfer of 82nd Avenue as a model.

Since the resolution was approved by the city council on Wednesday, PBOT reportedly plans to install the school zone signage on SE 26th Avenue as early as Thursday morning.

“PBOT is optimistic ODOT will move quickly to install a school zone on Powell as well,” Hardesty’s release stated.

ODOT Spokesperson Don Hamilton said they’re supportive of city council’s moves and have been working with PBOT in recent weeks to address this safety issue.

“We are certainly going to be installing a school speed zone adjacent to Cleveland High School there along Powell Boulevard — that needs to be done,” Hamilton said. “We’re going do that as soon as we can get the signs fabricated.”

ODOT said they’re also reviewing their inventory of schools along state highways, to see if more school zone adjustments need to be made.

As for Powell, a major freight corridor for commerce, ODOT said speed and efficiency will no longer be the goal. The surrounding area has transformed around this state highway and officials said safety is now paramount.

“When freight continues to use US 26 in this area, we’re gonna make sure that things are slower and safer,” Hamilton said.

Additionally, Oregon State Senator Kathleen Taylor and State Representatives Rob Nosse and Karin Power are slated to host a forum focused on solutions for improving safety on SE Powell, specifically the intersection at Cleveland High School. It will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday inside the school’s auditorium and will be open to community members.

Because Hardesty is running for re-election for her commissioner position, KOIN 6 News reached out to her opponent Rene Gonzales for a comment on the new school zone proposal. We have not heard back as of this writing.