September 27th, 2012 | by TROY BRYNELSON News | Posted In: PDX News, Transportation

City Proposes More Pedestrian-Only Streets in Old Town

Safety concerns spark expansion of entertainment area

douches_drink2012_3823IMAGE: Jarod Opperman

City officials have proposed a new step toward reinventing Portland’s Old Town and Chinatown as a new entertainment district: Expanding pedestrian-only blocks on weekend nights.

An Office of Neighborhood Involvement proposal (first spotted by Portland Afoot) seeks to expand the weekend closure of Northwest Couch between 3rd and 4th streets to a six-block area stretching from Burnside to Everett streets on Northwest 3rd Avenue. In all, the new car-free area will prohibit vehicle entry from 9 pm to 3 am on Fridays, Saturdays and “specific major holidays.” 

Portland Police say drunk people stepping directly into traffic from the pedestrian-only island at Northwest Couch and Third. Between March and August 2012, Portland Police received a “high volume of calls” to address the issue with expansion and access to safe transportation. The proposal suggests police maintain a perimeter to keep cars from obstructing line of sight by parking on these streets, while devoting one block to taxis and limos and another block to pedicab stands.

“We’re looking to improve safety and visibility in the area,” says Mike Boyer, a crime prevention coordinator with ONI.

And safety isn't the only thing the city has on its mind. Modeling its proposal from cities such as San Francisco, New York and Dallas, the new area will also act as a pilot program for an eventually larger entertainment district. The city hopes that a larger pedestrian-only zone will revive Portland's Old Town and Chinatown neighborhood and get businesses increased foot-traffic.

 
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