Citizens take action on traffic problems

By Midge Pierce

An uptick in vehicles and construction has snarled virtually every SE Portland corridor and major intersection. To address the growing problem head-on, the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA) held a recent traffic meeting to advise citizens how best to advocate for solutions.

Complaints in the area have clustered around clogged intersections at SE 50th and Division St. in the bulls-eye of recent development and SE 60th intersections at both SE Stark and Belmont that lack protected turn signals. A recent survey surfaced a number of other concerns from unsafe school routes to Mt. Tabor Park access.

Traffic management efforts by neighbors along curvy Thorburn Street was cited as a recent model of how citizen activism matters. Residents have decried cars racing around the curves and flying down the hills past schools and pedestrian crossings. After studying the area at citizen requests, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is reducing speeds to a consistent 25 mph along Thorburn as it merges into Stark all the way to 11th.

Debra Monzon helped spearhead the campaign.”The traffic study confirmed what we all knew. Speeding motorists are a safety problem on Thorburn not only between SE 62nd and Gilham but all the way to SE Water St.”

PBOT agreed to allow traffic “pillows” around the curves to help deter west-bound trucks and traffic off the interstate that uses Thorburn as a shortcut to downtown. The bumps would cost around $30,000 – an unfunded expenditure and must first go through a public approval process. Future adjustments to the stretch may also include reconfiguring the intersection at Gilham and adding a gravel sidewalk to the route that lacks a pedestrian walkway.

If funding were in place, the speed bumps could be added as early as summer, according to Monzon. To expedite funding and accelerate the project, neighbors are launching a fundraising drive supported by the MTNA.

After years of frustration and unanswered complaints, Thorburn residents are becoming expert at working through process. Monzon thanks neighbors who helped collect data forwarded to the City. To take action, the City must determine if safety issues meet appropriate criteria. PBOT engineers collect and analyze data and make recommendations about how best to fix safety issues.

Once approved, projects may still lack funding. Competition for safety and transportation projects is keen. It can be years before projects are actually implemented.

MTNA Landuse co-chair Stephanie Stewart is on the receiving end of complaints. Her advice for solving traffic problems is for neighbors to pool their efforts, divvy up tasks and be civil. “You can scream or you can be polite, but you will more easily navigate the bureaucracy downtown if you have help along the way and (officials) don’t run when they see you coming.”

Here are tips Stewart compiled for maneuvering through City Hall:

• Report any PBOT-related issue with this online tool here:    

• A reminder: there is currently a 16-week delay in investigations.

• Requesting a Public Record:  

• Contacting those in charge:

Commissioner Steve Novick oversees PBOT.

Leah Treat is the Director of PBOT:

• Useful links from PBOT:

Parking enforcement information: 


• Unimproved street improvement information:   

(This includes alternatives to full street repaving.)

• Pothole repair can be submitted via online form, or call:


• The Active Transportation site offers links to bike and pedes

trian information.

and see the “I want to…” section.

• Requesting a Public Record from PBOT: 

Citizens take action on traffic problems

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