Prompt repairs after crashes help keep our streets safe

Blog Post
Each year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) makes hundreds of emergency infrastructure repairs to ensure the proper functioning of infrastructure that can help people use our streets safely.
A pedestrian crosswalk signal broken off at the base and lying across a sidewalk. Pieces of the equipment are scattered on the ground.
A broken pedestrian signal at NE Halsey Street and NE 42nd Ave. (May 13, 2021)

Safety infrastructure only works if it’s working!

When a crash happens on Portland streets, medical care for the people involved takes priority.

But there’s a secondary response, too: Repairing damage to the signs, traffic signals, street lights, and other infrastructure. Crews address immediate concerns, like exposed electrical wires and debris in the street. They also work to restore the proper functioning of infrastructure that can help people use our streets safely.

Even as we work to install more street lights, rapid flashing beacons, and traffic signals, we repair damage to our existing equipment on a daily basis.

Those repairs add up.

It is night time and a dark colored car is shown next to the curb with severe damage to its front end. The signal box at the intersection has been destroyed by the car crash.
A destroyed signal box at SE Powell Boulevard at SE Milwaukie Avenue (May 13, 2021)

In 2020 alone, vehicle collisions caused $621,682 in damage to traffic signals and street lighting at 210 locations. That’s the budgetary equivalent of installing speed bumps on 85 miles of street, upgrading 518 crosswalks with high-visibility markings, or filling 8,022 potholes. Collisions also regularly damage signs, bridges, and bus stops, and other property, including outdoor seating, businesses, and homes.

Destroyed signal box at Burnside and 117th Ave.
Destroyed signal box at East Burnside Street and E 117th Avenue (May 13th, 2021)

We work to recover costs when possible. For fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-20, PBOT recovered approximately $1.4 million in damages to the bureau's infrastructure. Cost recovery is not always practical, though. Sometimes we’re unable to determine who is responsible for the damage. In other cases, people driving may not have insurance or may have limited financial resources.

So in the end, PBOT often picks up the tab for at least a portion of the damages.

How you can help take care of our streets

Streets make up the majority of Portland’s public space. Help us take care of them by:

  • Using public transit, walking, or biking as much as possible. Less driving means fewer crashes and more funding that we can invest in safety improvements and routine maintenance rather than emergency repairs.
  • For trips where you must drive, mind your speed, avoid distractions, and refrain from alcohol or drugs.
  • If you encounter our repair crews, go slow and give them plenty of space.

Finally, if you spot damage needing urgent repairs, like a downed pole or signal, let us know. PBOT Maintenance emergency dispatch is available 24/7 at 503-823-1700 or by email at