Last summer, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) announced that many Slow Streets Program sites would become permanent installations. This week, crews completed work on four of the five locations planned for Montavilla. Although some locations in this program replaced the temporary orange barrels with concrete planters, these four installations utilize an alternative design created to accommodate narrow streets.
PBOT completed work on SE Stephens street at 76th Avenue, NE 71st at E Burnside, and both sides of SE 87th Avenue at Stephens Street. Each intersection features signage listing a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit and indicates that the road is shared between bicycles, pedestrians, and cars. In the center of the roadway, three Tuff Curb® Traffic Separator Curbs with an attached reflective lane delineator wand will limit a vehicle’s turning radius and force slower speeds. These bendable tubes push over if a car makes contact with them and rarely cause damage. PBOT believes the installation will initially limit the driver’s speed and calls attention to the street’s mixed uses designation.
Early examples of permanent Slow Street featured concrete planters with signage displaying the slower speeds on a pole in the center of the traffic diverter. Those installations ensured vehicles slowed down or risked damage to the car when navigating around them. However, when addressing streets in the Montavilla neighborhood, PBOT determined a different traffic calming option was required. “Some locations are either too narrow or have other operational challenges, like no parking lane, that required using an alternative design to the planters.” Said Hannah Schafer, PBOT’s Interim Director of Communications and Public Involvement. Schafer explained that many other neighborhoods have these space-constrained streets and will receive the same configuration seen in Montavilla.
PBOT selected the five local streets in the Slow Streets program due to their prior designation as neighborhood greenways and one of several other criteria. Those added factors included roads lacking sidewalks or where people do not have access to parks and open spaces. The Slow Streets treatment could also help areas with higher traffic volumes or experience vehicle speeds that make it challenging to walk, bike, or roll. Since the early pandemic, these locations feature temporary traffic calming measures, and most sites have received praise from residents.
As the Slow Streets program becomes permeant across the City, PBOT staff will need to evaluate the effectiveness of the alternative design. Similar installations throughout Portland show signs of vehicles driving over the delineators leaving tire marks on the reflective surface or breaking them off at the mounting point. However, the intent of this new infrastructure is not to immobilize a vehicle. It is simply to caution drivers to slow down when entering the roadway, and both Slow Streets designs may accomplish that goal. Keep an eye out for the new posted speed limit and use extra caution while driving through the Slow Streets.