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Swan Island houses the region’s largest cluster of advanced manufacturing and metal fabrication jobs. Over 10,000 employees work for regionally significant employers such as Daimler, Vigor Industrial, Columbia Wire and Iron, UPS, the Port of Portland, Columbia Distributing and the US Coast Guard.
Swan Island also contains an active group of bicycle, pedestrian and transit commuters. Daimler Trucks North America posted the highest number of new bike commuters in the 2012 Bike Commute Challenge. The Island is also home to over a mile of multi-use path along the Willamette River.
Swan Island’s mixture of semi-trucks, bicyclists, transit riders and pedestrians can create a challenging travel environment. Through the Going to the River Project the Portland Bureau of Transportation is investing over $2 million in federal funds to optimize access to one of the state's largest employment centers. Funded through the Oregon Department of Transportation’s State Flexible Funds program, the project bundles capital investments with commuter encouragement activities.
Until the Waud Bluff trail is completed, N Going Street provides the sole access on and off Swan Island. To accommodate the freight demands on the island, N Going at some points has six lanes. The road’s very steep grade tends to encourage high speeds.
At the bottom of this hill, pedestrians and bicyclists seeking to access the west side of Swan Island must leave Going’s separated multi-use path and cross N. Basin Avenue. The limited sightlines make this crossing even more challenging. “Before the improvements, I felt that crossing Basin Avenue was the most dangerous crossing on the island,” said Swan Island Transportation Management Director Sarah Angell.
As part of Going to the River project, this winter PBOT installed a Rapid Flash Beacon to increase safety by alerting drivers to pedestrians’ and bicyclists’ intent to cross the street. A Rapid Flash Beacon catches drivers’ attention with a pair of light emitting diodes (LEDs) mounted on a pole under a pedestrian crossing sign. When the beacon is activated by a push-button system, its yellow LEDs begin flashing. (Motorists are required to stop for pedestrians according to Oregon law even if the beacons are not lit.)
“It works like a charm,” said Angell. “Given the fast-moving traffic, the TMA has been very impressed by how well drivers are responding to the flashing lights. It has made for a dramatically safer crossing.”