Residents of the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood who have been searching for a solution to chronic traffic safety problems along NE Wistaria Drive will see their efforts pay off later this year, when the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) begins a project to install traffic-calming devices along the troubled stretch of road.

Wistaria Drive, which connects NE 41st to NE 42nd, has long been a source of distress for people who live along the route. In a traffic study conducted earlier this year, PBOT officials learned that of the roughly 7,500 cars that use Wistaria each day, 15 percent of drivers drove 32 miles per hour or faster in this 25 mph zone.

“Typically we have, every year, two or three pretty serious accidents where people will take that curve too fast, lose control and either hit a parked vehicle, or hit a utility pole, or hit a tree, or in rare cases, they’ve actually hit houses,” explains Dave Anderson, a member of the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association who has been advocating for traffic calming measures over the last three years.

In most cases, when a road is curved, it is banked to the left, guiding drivers towards the inside of the road, much like a race track. However, Wistaria slopes in the opposite direction, leading unsuspecting speeders to lose control as they hit the curve and drive off the outside edge of the road.

“While I’ve seen speeds that are higher in other parts of Portland, when you take into account the topography of the street, and the layout, it accentuates the speeding,” says Will Stevens, a representative of the Bureau of Transportation.

While only a few collisions per year are reported, some neighborhood residents and PBOT officials think that the actual number of incidents may be higher. In most cases, a swerve off-course on Wistaria has relatively minor consequences, such as clipped driver’s-side mirrors and scratched cars, incidents that are often not reported to police or transportation officials.

In some cases, however, the incidents have been more serious. Anderson became interested in addressing the issue when all four passengers of a car that had crashed into a parked car were seriously injured.

Residents of the street investigated the idea of purchasing a speed board at their own expense earlier this year. However, after discovering that the street was eligible to have speed bumps installed, a new plan emerged.

According to Anderson, “When we talked to the city, the city said that a speed reader board would be both more expensive and less effective than speed bumps...The city staff convinced us that, in the long run, speed bumps would be much more effective at lowering the speeds.”

Using funding from the Neighborhood Greenways Initiative, PBOT will implement a two-phase project to slow down speeders on Wistaria. In the first phase, three raised crosswalks will be installed at the intersections of Alameda, Klickitat, and Stanton, probably in the late summer or early fall of this year. Following the completion of a sewer upgrade project, which officials believe will be completed in the spring of 2012, an additional three “speed tables” will be installed along Wistaria.

Transportation officials estimate that the installation of these devices will take no more than four days total and will cost approximately $15,000.

According to Will Stevens of PBOT, the city was able to pay for improvements along Wistaria with Neighborhood Greenways funding because the traffic calming measures will have a positive impact on the three intersecting Greenways Bicycle Boulevard projects already underway along NE Klickitat, NE Stanton, and NE Alameda Streets.

“It was a smart use of money to calm this short segment of Wistaria that provides a vital link to the Neighborhood Greenways Bicycle Boulevard projects,” says Stevens. “We believe there will be a significant impact in terms of speeding.”