Hales Says Safety "First Priority" After 5-Year-Old Girl Killed Crossing Southeast 136th Avenue

Mayor distances himself from East Portland sidewalk cuts.

 Mayor Charlie Hales has declared "safety throughout the city has to be our first priority" after a 5-year-old girl was hit and killed by a car last night on Southeast 136th Avenue, near where the city proposed cancelling a sidewalk-building project.

"There has been a lot of talk of late about paving streets, and about sidewalks and crosswalks throughout our city," Hales said today in a statement. "There has been a lot of talk about the backlog of projects, and about how to pay for these core responsibilities. As always, public safety has to be our North Star, guiding all of our decisions in every part of the city."

Morgan Cook, 5, died last night after being hit by a Suzuki Grand Vitara at about 7 pm while running across Southeast 136th Avenue at Ellis Street. Police say the car was driving under the speed limit, but the intersection has no crosswalk.

Her mother, Connie Ruiz, told The Oregonian this morning that the city must add crosswalks and sidewalks in the wake of her daughter's death.

The accident took place less than half a mile from where the Portland Bureau of Transportation last week proposed cutting a sidewalk construction project along Southeast 136th Avenue to free up money for road paving, a priority for Hales.

Pedestrian coalition Oregon Walks and bicycle advocate Jonathan Maus both blistered the city this city this morning in editorials.

"Repaving streets is absolutely important for this city, but let's not fix potholes on the backs of children's safety and accessibility for people with disabilities," the Oregon Walks editorial said.

Former Rep. Jefferson Smith, who ran for mayor last year on a platform of equality for East Portland, appeared on KXL 101.1 this morning to call for the return of the sidewalk project to the city budget. Smith said most Portlanders will accept a bumpy ride in exchange for a child's life.

As pressure grew on the mayor's office this morning, Hales released his statement just before noon—along with a list of 13 traffic fatalities since Jan. 1 in neighborhoods throughout the city.

After new PBOT director Toby Widmer last week announced the plan to cut the sidewalk construction from Southeast Powell to Holgate boulevards, WW reporters visited Southeast 136th Avenue. Elementary school buses stop regularly along that stretch of road, and children walk home on the narrow, muddy shoulder.

"I can't tell you how many times I've almost been hit," said Mary Waller, who lives off Southeast 136th Avenue. "I realize that money is tight, but their priority should be for safety, not potholes."

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