Ending weeks of emotional back-and-forth between transportation reform activists, neighbors and the City of Portland; the Bureau of Transportation confirmed with us this morning they plan to install a permanent crosswalk and a median island on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard at 43rd.
This is the intersection 15-year-old Fallon Smart was walking across on August 19th when a man recklessly and illegally drove his car into her and killed her. It’s also a stretch of Hawthorne that local residents and business owners have complained about for many years; because despite being a bustling main street filled with popular destinations there are no marked crosswalks for eight full blocks (between 41st and 48th).
Just days after Smart was hit the community made a presence at this intersection with their own bodies and a variety of objects. They had one goal: Slow people down so that a tragedy like this never happens again. The intersection became filled with a mix of memorial items like flowers, signs and photos; and guerrilla traffic-calming devices like a orange traffic cones and an unsanctioned crosswalk. The center turn lane used by Abdulrahman Noorah to speed passed someone who had stopped to let Smart cross was effectively closed.
“”It has taken time and unfortunately a terrible tragedy happened in that time, but the action they plan to take now will save lives in the future.”
— Katherine White, works at a nearby business
After about a month had passed and the city felt Smart’s family and the community had time to grieve, they decided to clear the intersection and re-open the center turn lane. Sources we spoke to from the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association said the City received complaints from some Hawthorne Blvd users that the unsanctioned closure and objects were making the road unsafe.
PBOT’s plans did not sit well with people who are tired of the speeding and dangerous driving on Hawthorne — especially in a city that has committed to Vision Zero and has a Livable Streets Strategy that aims to make public roads more than just places to speed through in cars.
We published a letter from an employee of a nearby business who implored the city to keep the memorial up until a permanent solution could be installed. “The memorial is making a difference,” wrote Katherine White of One With Heart, a martial arts studio. “Cars are no longer racing down the street at 40 miles an hour… Isn’t it sometimes worthwhile to let go of policy and procedure, to step outside the bureaucratic road blocks and just do the right thing?”
On October 6th, PBOT removed all the memorial items and restored the center turn lane.
All the while PBOT staff had been meeting with Sunnyside Neighborhood Association board members to respond to their safety concerns. This morning we received an email from White that included a forwarded message to her from an SNA member. “PBOT is proposing a permanent crosswalk with a median at Hawthorne & 43rd to be constructed over the coming month.”
We reached out to PBOT to confirm the news and heard back from spokesperson John Brady. “We proposed a crosswalk with a pedestrian island for the intersection.”
Brady didn’t release a timeline but said since the work could be done by in-house PBOT crews it could, “start fairly quickly.” A final design needs to be hashed out and SNA members are meeting this week to go over the proposal.
White is thrilled that the City is acting so fast.
“I am so happy that PBOT is finally listening to us, following through and working with the neighborhood to make Hawthorne safer,” she shared with us via email. “It has taken time and unfortunately a terrible tragedy happened in that time, but the action they plan to take now will save lives in the future.”
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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