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Hales Says New Taxes for Walking Safety Could Be on November Ballot

Mayor Charlie Hales has responded to calls for increased walking safety in East Portland by saying he's focused on finding new taxes and fees to fund streets and sidewalks.

His office says a new fee plan, pushed by Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick, could be on the November ballot.

"That's likely to go to voters this year," says Hales spokesman Dana Haynes. "And that's a real, long-term effort to make streets safer."

As WW reported in this morning's Murmurs, two pedestrian deaths last weekend—Yan Huang, 78, along Southeast Division Street and Douglas Norman Miller, 60, on Southeast Powell Boulevard—have sparked renewed calls for City Hall to commit funds to walking safety.

Pedestrian advocates Oregon Walks are asking Hales and other city officials to support "Vision Zero"—a policy of street-safety investments designed to eliminate pedestrian fatalities.

Novick says he'll back the policy.

But Hales' office won't yet commit to Vision Zero or Novick's request for $1 million to install 15 sets of flashing beacons at crosswalks at the city's most dangerous intersections—two in Southwest Portland and 13 in East Portland.

"He hasn't been able to analyze Vision Zero to find out what it'll cost right now," Haynes says. "And what it'll cost in the future. And whether that funding will be the most effective possible plan."

Haynes says that Hales will keep focusing on finding new revenue for the cash-strapped Portland Bureau of Transportation. The mayor is also talking to the Oregon Department of Transportation about safety improvements. 

Haynes says Hales wants to pull sidewalk funding from the rubble of the Columbia River Crossing.

"And once CRC is really, truly dead, that's the opportunity to begin engaging the state of Oregon in a discussion of street safety," Haynes says. "Any discussion of safe streets must, and will, include a conversation with ODOT, since a lot of this last year's fatalities happened on state-owned streets."