By Midge Pierce

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, new speed bumps are doing their job along Thorburn St., the curvy route between SE 62nd and Gilham.

Debra Monzon, neighborhood project spokesperson who spearheaded a campaign for Thorburn traffic calming and citizen fundraising of $30,000 to cover costs and expedite installation, says the impact of the bumps has been amazing. Average traffic speed, she says, has gone from 32 to 26 mph and traffic volume is down by 6%.

While residents would like to see greater traffic decreases, the goal of the PBOT-designed calming pattern was to slow down drivers. Neighbors who once feared speeding vehicles and heavy trucks careening into their homes and property definitely feel safer, reports Monzon.

PBOT is using bumps known as cushions. Due to the higher classification of Stark-Thorburn as a neighborhood collector with higher traffic volumes, emergency access was a concern. So the speed cushions have “channels” for emergency vehicles to minimize response delays.

PBOT acknowledges its experience with the devices is limited: “Projects like this are part of the foundational data gathering efforts regarding performance, effectiveness, and suitability for a variety of applications in Portland.”

One unintended consequence of the channels is driver misbehavior known as “edge running” – steering around, rather than over the bumps. The practice is especially dangerous along Thorburn  St. where no shoulder or pedestrian walkways exist. So PBOT is exploring options like plastic vertical roadside delineators.

Monzon hopes the proposed plastic will withstand weathering and be sufficient mitigation to deter swerves onto non-existent curbs. It’s a reason she is especially anxious for pedestrian improvements such as sideways and safe crossing zones. “Hopefully we will be able to start lobbying for pedestrian improvements now that the motorist speeds have been reduced,” she said.

Other neighborhoods with traffic concerns might take note of the successful process Thorburn residents followed. Several years ago, they brought documentation of unsafe conditions to PBOT. Then, they successfully sought support that the roadfix was a priority for the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association. After receiving approval from SE Uplfit they raised sufficient funds to make the project happen.