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Outer Division Street safety project drawing mixed reviews from drivers

A long center median was put in near 162nd Avenue to add predictability to left turns, but some drivers believe it's also making it hard to access businesses.

PORTLAND, Oregon — The Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) $13 million Outer Division Project in Southeast Portland is receiving mixed reviews from drivers.

Outer Division Street, east of 82nd Avenue, has been one of Portland's deadliest streets for at least 15 years, according to Dylan Rivera, the spokesperson for PBOT.

"We’ve heard loud and clear from the public that they don’t want to live on a high crash corridor... on a deadly street," said Rivera.

Over the past two years, PBOT has installed pedestrian crossing beacons, improved street lighting and added a center median through long stretches of Southeast Division Street. 

“It’s unpredictable where people are going to turn left. That is the crux of one of the major safety issues and the medians are very specifically intended to address that issue," said Rivera.

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Southeast Division Street used to be a wide, four-lane road with a center turn lane.

David Stillwell said he believes the new improvements have made the road undrivable.

"Primarily, it’s a waste of money. They went overkill on this whole project," he said. 

Stillwell works as a parts delivery driver for an auto parts store in the Division Crossing Shopping Plaza. He's one of many drivers who have reached out KGW about the changes along the busy street.

"The way they’ve cobbled up the intersections, I mean, you can’t get out of here to go east on Division, and you can’t make a U-turn up there because of all the concrete set up," Stillwell said.

Rivera said that's according to the plan and that PBOT is "bringing order to the street" by making it clear where drivers can and cannot turn left or right, and where they can or cannot make a U-turn.

That makes getting in or out of Division Crossing, a shopping center with an adjacent movie theatre, a lot more difficult.

"The only way you can get out is on the west end of this parking lot and with all the derelict motor homes and stuff out there, it’s dangerous," said Stillwell. "You can’t see traffic and what it’s done is made the situation worse, in my opinion. With the aggressiveness that I’ve seen, I don’t think it’s going to accomplish what [the city was] after."

The answers to speeding is fixed speed safety cameras, according to PBOT. There is one set of cameras on Southeast Division Street, near Southeast 148th Avenue. A new set of safety cameras were just activated on Southeast 122nd Avenue at Stark Street.

RELATED: More fixed speed cameras coming to Portland

PBOT is slowly deploying more in other designated high crash corridors throughout the city. Sandy Boulevard and Columbia Boulevard are in line to get installations soon. 

As far as enforcement is concerned, the Portland Police Bureau dismantled its traffic division last year to compensate for extraordinarily low staffing, and more pressing crime. 

Chris McGinness is a meteorologist and transportation reporter for KGW. Got a story idea or a great photo you want to share? Email him at cmcginness@kgw.com or reach out on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

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