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Work Zone Ahead: As construction seasons kicks into high gear, City of Portland urges travelers to use caution to save lives and prevent injuries to essential workers

Press Release
A message about work zone safety from Portland's Water, Transportation and Environmental Services Bureaus.
Published

(April 12, 2022) The City of Portland’s crews are out on city streets every day of the year in snow, ice, rain, wind (and the occasional sunny day) working to repair, improve and maintain Portland’s street, water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure. During the 2022 National Work Zone Awareness Week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the Portland Water Bureau and the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) remind people to keep their distance from crews at work and slow down when traveling through work zones.  

As crews continue to clear debris from yesterday’s storm and construction season kicks into high gear, crews will be out in neighborhoods across the city doing indispensable work such as filling potholes, renewing fire hydrants, installing new sewer pipes, restriping roads, fixing leaks, clearing catch basins, building curb ramps and sidewalks, grinding and paving roads, and more.

"Our mission essential workers spend every day out in the field, conducting critical maintenance and repairs to our transportation network to keep Portland moving,” Portland Transportation Director Chris Warner said. “As we head into our peak construction season, please use caution when traveling through our work zones. We need everyone’s help to keep our crews safe: Slow down when you’re driving and encourage your family and friends to do the same.”

“Environmental Services continues to work throughout the city to upgrade critical sewer and stormwater infrastructure to prevent sewage releases and protect public health, property, and our environment. Much of that work is underground. Work zones around maintenance holes and trenches protect those workers you may not see. Please help keep yourself and them safe,” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan.

As people return to workplaces, shopping and schools, they will be traveling more and driving more. We need everyone to take care to follow speed limits, don't drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and look out for people biking and walking on our streets. Alcohol consumption, as well as rates of anxiety and depression are up nationwide, according to surveys and media reports.

“We want everyone to get home safely to the dinner table, the dog park, or the ball field. We ask you to look out for workers and slow down in work zones for everyone’s safety," said Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer.

Crews at work above and below the street surface in Northwest Portland. Photo by PBOT.
Crews at work above and below the street surface in Northwest Portland. Photo by PBOT.

Work zones play a crucial role in separating construction and maintenance activities from traffic. They provide a safe area for workers and a safe route for all road users (people walking, bicycling, rolling, driving, and during this pandemic, customers of businesses who have street-side seating). However, work zones also frequently involve changes in traffic patterns and rights of way. Those changes, combined with the presence of workers, and the frequent movement of work vehicles, may lead to crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

Portland and cities across the nation continue to see a rise in fatal traffic crashes that defy historical trends. Through the Vision Zero program, the City of Portland and our partners are working to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries on our streets.

an orange sign that reads "work zone ahead"

To further protect yourself and city workers from death and injury, the bureaus ask Portlanders to follow these safety steps: 

  • Keep your distance. For the health and safety of everyone, please give our crews the space to complete their work while maintaining proper distance. We understand that as people are spending time at home, they are curious about what we’re doing in their neighborhoods. We have a few videos about the indispensable work that continues through the pandemic. City bureaus also send mailers or door hangers to homes and businesses in an area before major work.
  • SLOW DOWN.  Speed is a major factor in crashes. If you must drive, follow the construction zone speed limit. Slow down, don’t tailgate. Speed was a contributing factor in more than 31 percent of 2019 fatal work zone crashes nationwide, increasing from 26 percent the year prior.
  • Use an alternate route. When you can, avoid streets with posted work zones. 
  • Obey all speed and warning signs. Work zone signs apply to everyone traveling through – whether the person is walking, biking, rolling or driving. They are there for your safety and will help prevent a collision.
  • Be alert and look out for all road users. Put down your phone and pay attention to the road conditions ahead of you. In 2019, 140 pedestrians and bicyclists lost their lives in work zone crashes nationwide. Distracted driving, which includes using your phone, is  illegal. Learn more here: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/saf…
  • Carefully move over. When possible, give workers more room between them and your vehicle, but do not veer into an oncoming traffic lane. 
  • Keep your distance. Work zone activity often leads to congestion, delays, and traffic queues. Rear-end crashes are extremely common in work zones – maintain extra space between you and the person in front of you at all times and be alert and watch for sudden stops. In 2019, nearly a quarter of all fatal work zone crashes nationwide involved rear-end collisions
  • Stay clear of construction vehicles. Heavy vehicles travel in and out of the work areas and can make sudden moves. We know it’s interesting to see our machines at work, but please keep a safe distance from the work zone if you plan to watch. 
  • Expect delays and be kind. Our goal is to get you through our work zone safely, while also completing our street improvements in an efficient manner. We appreciate your understanding. 

Watch these videos of PBOT and Water Bureau Maintenance Crews keeping the street safe, the water on and sharing why safety around work zones is so important:  

PBOT Maintenance Operations staff explain importance of work zone safety 

Water Bureau Safety Officer asks everyone to do their part for work zone safety

Find out Environmental Services’ sewer and stormwater repair projects in your area and sign up for updates at www.portland.gov/bes/improvements/find-sewer-and-stormwater-construction-projects.

Image removed.

About National Work Zone Awareness Week 

National Work Zone Awareness Week runs from April 11-15, 2022. Work zones play a key role in maintaining and upgrading Portland's roadways, water and sewer infrastructure and more. Unfortunately, daily changes in traffic patterns, narrowed rights-of-way, and other construction activities often create a combination of factors resulting in crashes, injuries, and even fatalities. These crashes also cause excessive delays, especially given the constrained driving environment. Recent statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration show that the rate of fatalities from all causes nationally has not substantially improved over the last ten years and continued to increase in 2020, including a 21% increase in work zone fatalities involving persons on foot and bicyclists. Since 2015, the annual number of fatalities overall has exceeded 35,000, with millions more injured each year.

About PBOT 

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the City’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more on Twitter @PBOTinfo and portland.gov/transportation.

About the Portland Water Bureau 

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day. Learn more on Twitter @PortlandWater and portland.gov/water.

About the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services  

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services - your sewer and stormwater utility - provides Portland residents with programs to protect water quality and public health, including wastewater collection and treatment, sewer construction and maintenance, stormwater management, and stream and watershed restoration. Follow on Twitter - @BESPortland and portlandoregon.gov/environmental services.