This morning, Mayor Sam Adams will join the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and Transportation for America in a Walk of Remembrance on Foster Road. The walk is intended to memorialize those Portlanders killed because of unsafe traffic conditions.
The walk will include a stop in the area of Foster in the 70s near Red’s Bar, the site where Jason Grant was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street last January 28. The driver of that vehicle was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Mayor Adams has a mixed record of support for traffic safety in this area. As I’ve reported, the Mayor personally demanded and got the Rapid Flash Beacon that was installed near 80th Avenue following the deaths of two of our neighbors there.
But at the same time, Mayor Adams has been commissioner-in-charge of the two bureaus with the most direct impact on traffic safety on Foster Road: PDC and PBOT. For a very long time, those agencies have been mostly indifferent to the problem. The PDC has never wanted anything to do with this project, and prying open their massive piggy bank has been among the most challenging elements of the local effort to move these safety improvements forward.
Had there been a real sense of urgency from the top, the Foster Streetscape might have been fully implemented a long time ago.
In a little over two months, Portland will have a new Mayor and a very different City Council. We don’t yet know who will be running transportation and urban development at City Hall. Both Mayoral candidates have plenty to say about the PDC in the broad sense –they’ve undoubtedly seen and heard a great deal from the voters about how expensive and ineffectual that agency has been.
But neither candidate seems to know the local relevance of PDC and PBOT’s decisionmaking on our area of Foster Road. Both want to be seen as champions for the area, yet neither seems to be very aware of what our specific problems are or what to do about them. Whoever is elected Mayor will need to be educated by the people of our area.
So today’s visit by the Mayor is a nice punctuation mark to his four years managing transportation safety on Foster Road. I wouldn’t call it a “victory lap” because there’s as yet been no victory. His visit will be sad, not just for the neighbors we’ve lost on Foster, but for the potential that was lost by his term. He could have been a champion for Foster Road, but was not.
It is the job of Foster residents to ensure that the next Mayor and Council do become champions for safety here. That would be a tangible way to remember Jason Grant.