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Portland Bureau of Transportation

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News Release: First ‘pedestrian scramble’ in Portland goes live ahead of the holiday season, one of three new traffic signals activated in the Pearl District

Pedestrian scramble opened NW 11th and Couch

(Nov. 24, 2015) Traffic engineers from the Portland Bureau of Transportation have activated Portland’s first “pedestrian scramble” at the corner of NW 11th Avenue and Couch Street in the Pearl District, just ahead of the holiday shopping season. The pedestrian scramble crossing is one of three new traffic signals in the Pearl District. The newly-activated traffic signals are located at the intersections of NW 11th Avenue and Couch Street, NW 10th Avenue and Couch Street and NW Broadway and Couch Street.

A pedestrian scramble, also called a “Barnes Dance” after 20th century traffic engineer Henry Barnes, is an intersection where motor vehicle traffic halts and pedestrians are given priority. During the scramble, people may cross the intersection in all directions – including diagonally. The intersection of NW 11th and Couch is one of the most heavily used pedestrian crossings in Portland, in addition to being along the A Loop, B Loop and North/South Streetcar lines, making it highly suitable for a scramble crossing.

The pedestrian scramble intersection at 11th and Couch consists of three phases:

  • The first phase is the scramble, which allows for people walking to cross in all directions – including diagonally across the intersection.
  • The second phase is an east side only crossing, allowing for pedestrians to cross NW Couch between Powell’s Books and Starbucks while the Streetcar and other motor vehicles move north-south through the intersection.
  • The third phase is a north side only crossing, which allows for pedestrians to cross NW 11th Avenue while motor vehicles travel east-west on NW Couch or turn south on NW 11th towards West Burnside.

Crew installs pedestrian scramble intersection

A “Portland-style” event to celebrate the opening of the City’s first scramble crossing is scheduled for Dec. 5. Details are forthcoming. 

In total, five new signals will be installed in the Pearl and in Old Town Chinatown. The $2.4 million in signals is being paid for with urban renewal funds from the Portland Development Commission and PBOT System Development Charges, which come from real estate development.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation asks the traveling public to be mindful of others and obey all traffic signs and signals and to use caution when crossing streetcar tracks.

Photography by Felicity J. Mackay, Portland Bureau of Transportation


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.