Op-Ed: What Oregon's DOT Gets Wrong on Roadway Safety

Faced with an uptick in roadway fatalities, Oregon is looking at how to increase safety. But it's concentrating on highways while arterials actually account for the region's most severe crashes.
September 8, 2017, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Robert Ashworth

Over at City Observatory, Joe Cortright has been criticizing plans in Oregon and elsewhere to curb congestion by widening freeways. Here, he points out possibly faulty logic (or mixed priorities) in how Oregon's Department of Transportation is pursuing Vision Zero.

"If we're going to achieve Vision Zero, it really means concentrating our energy and resources on the serious crashes, and not the more numerous, but far less serious ones," Cortright writes. Fatalities on Oregon roads have been on the rise in recent years.

Pointing to a recent ODOT report [pdf] on traffic performance in the Portland region, Cortright says the department's priorities are skewed. "The report makes it clear that ODOT is primarily interested in crashes not because they kill and maim Oregonians, but because they're associated with slower freeway traffic."

More attention should be paid to safety on arterial roadways, Cortright says, than on highways, which are statistically safer in the area. "On average, the region's arterials have five times as many serious crashes per mile traveled as freeways, according to the Metro study, a finding they called 'one of the most conclusive relationships in this study.'" That study, which is several years old, can be found here.

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Published on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 in City Observatory
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