|Chemawa Road and Newberg Drive - via Google|
James Alton  was taken to Salem Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He later died from those injuries, said Lt. Andrew Copeland.The photo at the scene from the Keizer Police shows rainy, possibly slick conditions. The crash was called in shortly after 7:30am.
Officers were told Alton was crossing the street when he was hit by a 1999 Ford Ranger driving east on Chemawa Road. Salem resident Melody Krewson, 49, told officers she didn't see Alton crossing the street. Krewson has been cooperating with the investigation, officials said.
|At the scene Friday morning it was rainy - via Keizer PD|
But even though it is formally classified a "minor arterial," it still retains many characteristics of a local, neighborhood street. (Older information from Keizer suggests "collector," but the more recent draft regional TSP says "minor arterial." For this discussion it doesn't matter which is true.) If it's signed for 30mph, people routinely travel faster, and appears to be another example of a place where we have prioritized auto through-put too high. Lawful driving may yet be too dangerous to people out walking.
|Near Keizer Rapids Park, 30mph seems excessive|
This is an older rural road that has become very suburban and is part of a neighborhood. It seems very likely it is engineered and posted for inappropriately high speeds along the entire corridor.
No matter who was at fault in the particulars of this, the roadway design privileges auto movement and increases the likelihood that small errors, by drivers or by people on foot, will cascade into catastrophe. There is also a system problem here.
This is the seventh person on foot killed in the area. Though it has many fewer trees, Chemawa here is configured similarly to Pine Street, where Caroline Storm was killed this summer, though Pine Street has a continuous center turn pocket.
We were on the theme of medians this week, and 17th Street might be interesting to consider in this light. It's in Salem, so I know it better, and it is also an older road that has been widened and repurposed to "minor arterial" capacity and standards. It shares at least some history and characteristics with Pine Street, Chemawa, and even inner Center Street, where David McGregor was struck.
And the question is: Did widening 17th to three lanes actually improve anything? And if so, for whom?
I don't know the exact time line, and perhaps you can fill it in - though the dates aren't at all necessary for the general thought.
Currently serving between 11,000 and 12,000 car trips per day along here, 17th Street used to be much smaller, a legacy of a neighborhood and local street that didn't even go through.
|In 1917, 17th Street dead-ended at creek - via USGS|
The primary rationale for the widening is two-fold, as I understand it. The center turn pocket places drivers and cars making a left turn out of the travel lane and thereby reduces queuing and "congestion." And so it increases capacity with a freer flow for through movement. Secondly, it reduces the frequency of head-on and rear-end collisions involving turning movements. (Here's one FHWA study, but I don't know the current state of the literature. Maybe you can add to this or correct it?)
With the widened road, speeds have increased, the crossing distance is longer, and the intersections are much more problematic for people on foot.
The first was at Chemeketa a couple years back. Sadly, shortly after it went in, a driver struck down a blind man using the crosswalk - for whom the crossing had been explicitly designated! - so that showed an important limit to the effectiveness of it.
|17th and Chemeketa, with marks from investigation|
after Rose Litherland crashed into John Dashney, a blind man
|New median, enhanced crosswalk at 17th and Nebraska|
|Crosswalk and median on 17th at Mill|
In this primarily residential area, the 17th Street widening configured it in such a way that it was very difficult for people to cross it. And may still yet be difficult.
It's a Captain Obvious moment, but worth stating anyway: This is strong evidence that widening a road to the urban standard of two through lanes and a turn pocket creates a very significant barrier for people on foot and introduces new problems or exacerbates existing ones.
At least on mid-sized streets like large collector streets or minor arterials, we should consider a new approach.
|Way out south, Mildrid Lane is insanely overbuilt|
Hydraulic autoism isn't working.