Safe crossing to French International School?

Neighbors were asking CPO 1 to weigh in on a petition they submitted to Washington County asking for a crosswalk at the intersection of Cornell Road and 87th Avenue. They were concerned for the safety of students crossing there to get to the French International School south of Cornell. We got this response from Washington County:

Pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the vicinity of the Cornell Road and 87th Avenue intersection is challenging weekdays during student drop-off/pick-up times at the French International School of Oregon at 8500 NW Johnson Street.

The Washington County/Multnomah County line runs through the school site. The City of Portland is responsible for the Cornell Road site frontage; Washington County is responsible for the portion of Cornell that includes the 87th Avenue intersection.

Cornell Road is an urban arterial street with a 45-mph speed limit. To avoid congestion in the school’s on-site drop-off/pick-up area, some parents opt to park on streets north of Cornell Road and then students with or without parents walk across Cornell Road at the intersection of 87th Avenue, where there are no traffic control devices.

Neither the school administration nor the County support or encourage this. Parents and school leadership have expressed concerns about pedestrian safety at the 87th intersection in recent years. A petition calling for a traffic control device at the Cornell / 87th intersection has garnered 220 signatures as of May 6.

Washington County Traffic Engineering and the City of Portland met with French International School leadership four times over the last year to discuss master planning of major improvements on the school site that have included traffic concerns at the intersection. Possible improvements could include:

School site circulation improvements: The school’s master plan includes site improvements to address drop-off/pick-up flow and parking. This could include a new right turn exit-only access onto Cornell Road east of 87th to help limit congestion and long lines at the Cornell/87th intersection.

An enhanced pedestrian crossing: This would need to go through Washington County’s midblock crossing approval process. If approved, a traffic control device would need to be installed to facilitate pedestrian crossings, due to the 45-mph speed limit and high volume of traffic. Washington County is likely to recommend a crossing guard at the intersection as well during student drop-off and pick-uptimes. Staffing a crossing guard would be at the discretion of the school.

A traffic signal: The school could potentially pay to have a traffic signal installed at the Cornell / 87th intersection. However, early assessments of the traffic at the intersection by the school’s traffic engineer do not appear to meet the minimum signal warrants that demonstrate that a signal is an appropriate traffic control measure.

Either an enhanced pedestrian crossing or traffic signal would enable more parents who opt not to circulate in the on-site school car line to park on the side streets and cross Cornell.

Other options discussed:

Establishing a school zone: The location doesn’t quality for a school zone per Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) A Guide to School Area Safety, primarily because students aren’t walking or biking along Cornell Road. The school does not have a Safe Routes to School program for the same reason.

Speed limit reduction on Cornell: Speed limits are set by ODOT. A 2023 speed study measured 85% of speeds at 47 mph; the posted speed is 45 mph. Based on speed-limit setting methodology in areas outside of cities, lowering the speed limit to less than 40 mph would be outside ODOT’s authority.

The speed limit in the Multnomah County portion of Cornell Road is also 45 mph. Washington County will coordinate with the City of Portland on consistent speed limits if/when they conduct a speed study on this portion of Cornell Road.

Washington County, the City of Portland, and the school continue to work collaboratively to consider potential strategies to address community concerns about pedestrian and traffic safety in this area.