New Diverter Coming to Deadly Intersection

By Jonathan Maus

Three months after a woman was killed while waiting for a bus on the corner of SE Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Taylor St., the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is set to move forward on a change to the intersection.
On July 15, 43-year-old Jeanie Diaz had just finished her work day as the children’s librarian at a Multnomah County Library branch across the street from the bus stop when a reckless, speeding, intoxicated driver lost control of their car and rolled onto the sidewalk.
This tragic death on a busy corner of a popular neighborhood greenway street sent shockwaves through the community. It also underscored safety issues on one of SE Portland’s busiest, most dangerous streets. In 2021, 23-year-old Austin Boyd was hit and killed by a driver while walking on Cesar Chavez Blvd. at SE Clinton St., just 0.8 miles south of where Diaz was struck.
PBOT has funded plans to reduce driving lanes on Cesar Chavez Blvd. south of Taylor St. from SE Powell Blvd. to SE Holgate Blvd., and to build a new signal at SE Gladstone St. and Cesar Chavez Blvd. (the intersection where 22-year-old Mark Angeles was killed by a driver while bicycling in 2015). That project isn’t slated for construction in the 2024-2025 fiscal year.
The section of Cesar Chavez Blvd. where Diaz died won’t receive significant change in the near future. Instead, what PBOT just announced to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association in October, is a smaller project. They plan to install a diverter at the intersection of Cesar Chavez Blvd. and SE Taylor St. that will prevent left turns to and from Cesar Chavez Blvd.
In an email to Sunnyside advocates, a PBOT staffer acknowledged this diverter doesn’t directly address what led to the July 15 crash. “However, in addition to the safety benefits I describe above,” wrote the PBOT staffer, “we have found that adding vertical elements, like a diverter, tend to slow driving speeds. The location of this installation may not have stopped the exact actions of the driver in the crash three months ago, but it may slow down a different driver, or discourage dangerous weaving, and that could prevent another tragedy in the future.”
According to a PBOT analysis performed as part of their fatal crash review following Diaz’s death, left turns accounted for 25 percent of all crashes at this location while only 1.7 percent of all vehicles entering the intersection were turning left.
The diverter should also improve safety for bicycle riders using the SE Taylor St. greenway and for people walking across the street to reach the library and other destinations.
As for more significant changes to the intersection like a wider sidewalk and/or a buffer between car drivers and sidewalk users? That could only happen if the existing, four-lane cross-section changed—and barring a strong consensus and political pressure from adjacent residents—that’s unlikely to happen any time soon.
At a meeting of the Richmond Neighborhood Association land use and transportation committee on September 26, PBOT City Traffic Engineer Wendy Cawley said it’s too late to expand the scope of the planned road diet south of Powell Blvd. “That said, we have talked about when we’re doing the analysis of that project south of Powell Blvd., what does it look like on the pieces north of Powell up to SE Stark St. if we go to a three-lane cross-section? Or potentially even a two-lane cross-section? And so we’re hopeful that there’s some synergy there where we can do some larger analysis.”
If all goes according to plan, the new diverter should be installed by early November.

This article was originally posted on

Photo credit: Jonathan Maus

New Diverter Coming to Deadly Intersection

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