EUGENE, Ore. — Build more sidewalks and crosswalks. Add wider bike lanes that are more protected from cars. Hire more police officers. Install cameras to catch red-light runners and speeders. These are among the things Eugene would need in order to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2035, according to a draft plan presented to municipal officials.
“If nothing else, our transportation system needs to be safe,” said Rob Inerfeld, the city’s transportation planning manager told the Register -Guard. “We have a lot of people involved from different agencies who are solidly behind making our streets safer.”
The draft plan does not address how the city would pay for the proposals, though it is the first major milestone for the city’s Vision Zero effort since 2015 when the City Council made it official policy by passing a resolution,.
Sweden developed the Vision Zero strategy in the 1990s, and its adoption by U.S. cities has been gaining momentum in recent years. Central to Vision Zero is the idea that no one should be killed or seriously injured using city streets. But individual localities are left to decide how to reach that goal.
Rob Zako, executive director for Better Eugene Springfield Transportation, an advocacy group that works to improve walking, biking and public transit for area residents, said he’s pleased the city is taking safety concerns seriously.
“We see a lot of good ideas in it,” he said of the plan. “We have questions about next steps and how the plan gets implemented.”
Zako said his group wants more information about the costs associated with the ideas in the plan. There are no estimated costs of the proposals in the plan — which was released last month — or how the city would pay for them.
City Manager Jon Ruiz would have to approve the plan for it to become the city’s formal road map to achieve the Vision Zero goal.
Zako said he wants city councilors and budget commissioners to have that discussion soon.
Mayor Lucy Vinis said city councilors are taking the draft seriously because its goals are a key part of the city’s 20-year transportation master plan they adopted earlier this year. Making streets safer also is needed if the city is to reduce carbon emissions by getting people out of their cars and biking, walking and taking the bus more often, she said.
Vinis expressed confidence that the city’s budget committee would discuss ways to pay for projects identified in the report.
“I do imagine it will be a topic of conversation,” she said.
The plan was created in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Transportation, Lane County and other public agencies.
A 19-member committee of city officials and community leaders developed the document. A technical advisory committee of employees from local public agencies supported the work, including the city, Lane Transit District and ODOT.
The city paid a Portland-based consultant, Toole Design Group, $49,000 to help with the plan, which identifies key steps that can be taken in two- and five-year time frames to help achieve the Vision Zero goal.
Officials examined crash data on Eugene streets and highways for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians from 2007 to 2015 and looked at the contributing causes of those collisions.
The plan identified the top 15 most dangerous streets for different types of travel. All of the streets are high-traffic corridors spread throughout Eugene. The plan includes the entire length of these streets, though city officials said they will focus on the high-crash stretches or those sections with characteristics similar to the high-crash stretches.
The plan found 60 people were killed and more than 360 people were seriously injured on streets and highways in Eugene from 2007 to 2015, including Highway 99, Randy Papé Beltline and Interstate 105.
The plan identified three major contributors to traffic crashes that cause death or serious injury: street design, dangerous behavior, and drug or alcohol use.
The plan noted about two-thirds of the deaths and serious injuries occurred on Eugene’s busiest streets, or arterials, where motorists drive at higher speeds.
These crash-prone arterials are familiar to Eugene residents and regular visitors. They include Coburg Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, 11th Avenue and Willamette Street.
These corridors account for just 9 percent of Eugene’s total street network, but they are where more than 70 percent of the city’s traffic deaths and serious injuries occurred, according to the report.
These busy streets are prone to crashes because of the frequency of conflicting uses, the report said. Marked crosswalks are few and far between for pedestrians. Bus riders must cross the streets before boarding or leaving a bus. Bicyclists have dedicated lanes, “but they may not be the safest design for the speed and volume of auto traffic on that street.”
“We cannot escape the conclusion that our arterials must be designed differently to save lives in Eugene,” the report said.
The plan lists several proposals to improve safety on streets: lowering speed limits; additional lighting; buffered bikes lanes, which provide more space between bicyclists and moving cars; more marked crosswalks; and raised medians in crosswalks for pedestrian safety.
For dangerous behavior, the report found failure to yield — running a red light and not completely stopping before turning — is the most common contributing factor to traffic deaths and serious injuries for all types of travel, though more hazardous for bicyclists and motorcyclists than for motorists. Speeding and reckless or careless driving were other contributing factors.
The report noted that alcohol and drug use contributes to less than 5 percent of reported crashes, but it plays a part in about half of all fatal pedestrian and motorist crashes and in a third of fatal motorcyclist crashes.
The report lists the following six main strategies to reach the Vision Zero goal, each with associated actions:
Reducing potential conflicts between motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Slowing vehicle speeds.
Reducing impairment caused by alcohol and drug use.
Encouraging safe practices.
Improving data collection and analysis.
Committing to implement Vision Zero by the entire city organization.
The report outlines both two- and five-year projects and actions.
It calls for the city to make safety improvements each year to streets listed on the high-crash corridors.
The city has not identified sources of money for the improvements.
Some money would come from the street repair bond Eugene voters approved earlier this month, said Inerfeld, the city’s transportation planning manager.
The bond dedicates $1 million a year to pay for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, including crosswalk warning systems, sidewalks, street lighting and center medians. A citizen committee and city staff will work to identify possible projects.
Most of the bond measure will pave streets, but Inerfeld said low-cost striping could be added to marked crosswalks or buffered bike lanes during repaving to improve safety for non-motorists.
Eugene also regularly applies for state and federal grants and will receive additional funding from increased state gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
The state estimates the city will receive a total of $29 million over seven years, some of which could be used for Vision Zero projects.
Mayor Vinis said Lane Transit District also could be an important funding partner on safety improvement projects.
She noted the West Eugene EmX extension, a $100 million construction project that began operating in September, added miles of new and repaired sidewalks along the corridor.
LTD has taken earlier steps to identify its next EmX route that would likely feature similar street improvements.
The Vision Zero report calls for Eugene to hire more traffic enforcement officers within five years and, within the shorter term, focus existing police officers’ time on high-crash corridors to reduce impaired and speeding drivers.
The police department now has seven traffic officers — one position is currently vacant — and a sergeant who supervises the team.
The plan also calls for the city to work with ODOT to lower speeds on high-crash corridors and support legislation to allow local agencies to lower speed limits.
About a year ago, ODOT, at the city’s request, approved a reduction of speed on a stretch of River Road, a high-crash street.
The plan calls for the city to install red-light cameras on high-crash corridors.
The cameras automatically ticket vehicle owners for driving through red traffic lights.
A change in state law that took effect last month also allows cities to use the cameras to catch speeders at or near intersections. The cameras snap a picture of a vehicle’s license plate when motorists run a red light, and police officers review the photo and send a citation to its registered owner.
The Vision Zero plan also calls for Eugene to support legislation to authorize the installation of stand-alone automated cameras along streets, not just at intersections, that would ticket vehicle owners for speeding.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com