PORTLAND --The Old Town district of Portland Friday will turn into a car-free zone as part of a pilot program to make the area safer.
During the weekends, it's bustling with partygoers.
Starting Dec. 28, police will shut down traffic from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and major holidays. The area will cover West Burnside to Northwest Everett and 2nd to 4th Avenues.
Police are restricting the area for pedestrians only with the exception of defined taxi and pedicab zones.
Portland Police patrol the district on weekends. Over the summer, 4,000 to 5,000 people pack the streets on Fridays and Saturdays. Police said people are overcrowding sidewalks and blocking cars. Officers often have to break up drunken fights.
In October, community leaders toured the neighborhood and got a first-hand look at some of the problems. That led to city's decision to temporarily close the streets.
"I think it’s going to make it a lot safer in Old Town. There are way too many pedestrians and vehicle incidents. There are just too many people down here,” Andrew Guthrie, the owner of Hobo’s said.
Guthrie supports the closures with one exception.
“I wish they didn’t have to tow the cars at 10 O’clock at night in this neighborhood. That makes it a little tough for my dinner customers, but hopefully there will be enough parking lots close by,” Guthrie said.
The road closures will continue until April 1, 2013. The pilot program will be reviewed to see how it will have an impact on businesses and residents.