Blocked Access to Ross Island Bridge Puts Drivers, Pedestrians at Risk

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on May 18, 2020 in Auto Accident

Fall 2019 suddenly seems like ancient history. Back then, residents of South Portland, Oregon were understandably fed up with exceptionally long lines of idling motorists on SW Kelly and SW Corbett Aves waiting to merge onto the west end of the Ross Island bridgehead. Like death and taxes, every weekday afternoon, never fail, cars and trucks lined SW Kelley and Corbett blocking access to homes, slowing traffic, contaminating the air and impeding emergency vehicles.

Sick and tired of this endless congestion, members of the South Portland Neighborhood Association (SPNA) sought to end cut-through traffic in the neighborhood by limiting access to the Ross Island bridge. By the end of 2019, SPNA and the Portland Bureau of Transportation implemented the plan that drastically reconfigured street flows on neighborhood streets leading to the west end of the bridge. Most significantly, PBOT installed “DO NOT ENTER” warnings and physical barriers designed to prevent northbound traffic on Southwest Kelly Ave (between Whittaker and Curry), Eastbound traffic on SE Whittaker (between Kelly and Corbett) and access to Southwest Naito at Gibbs street. 

map of bridge blockage

Image courtesy of: Portland Bureau of Transportation

Soon after barricades were erected, the near mile long slow parade of idling motorists on SW Kelly and Corbett Aves vanished.

But not everyone was pleased. Residents and businesses located near the west end of the Darlene Hooley 1-5 pedestrian bridge were land locked. Access to the west end of the Ross Island bridgehead was successfully limited, but so was access to businesses and residents near the bridgehead.

By January 2020, signs of more serious dangers (head-on collisions and pedestrians crossing near the barriers) began to emerge. Many motorists who were accustomed to the old neighborhood shortcut simply ignored the new wrong way signs and proceeded against oncoming traffic and onto the Ross Island bridge.

The photo below shows a bent barrier at Southwest Kelly and Curry after it was apparently struck by a vehicle heading the wrong way. The parked minivan also evidences the crash. 

minivan after an accident

Here is the barrier from another angle:

intersection with damaged road sign

The above photo also illustrates how a potential pedestrian crossing at Kelly and Curry would be obscured from view of southbound traffic on Southwest Kelly. For reference, Southwest Kelly and Curry is also the location of the historic Milton Smith home. Here it is as a point of reference: 

corner near a house with street signs

SPBA and PBOT had the best of intentions. While long lines of traffic leading to Ross Island Bridge are long gone, soon we may also lose something more precious, our lives. PBOT your new barriers have created new dangers greater than the original problem you set out to solve. Its time to rethink this before someone gets killed.