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Study: Danger lurks for walkers.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

There are a great number of places across the nation similar to Springfield's Main Street, where eight pedestrians have been killed since 2000.

Transportation for America, an advocacy group that calls the Eugene-Springfield metro area the most dangerous metropolitan region in Oregon for pedestrians, said in a report released Tuesday that more than half of all pedestrian deaths occur along "wide, high-capacity and high-speed thoroughfares."

That pretty well describes much of Main Street, a busy route that doubles as state Highway 126 through Springfield.

Prompted by the string of pedestrian fatalities during the 2000s, city and state officials are working to add crosswalks and improve lighting along the particularly deadly stretch of roadway.

Chris Rall, Transportation for America's Oregon field organizer, gives officials credit for moving ahead with the project.

"They're absolutely on the right track," he said.

Rall's group is hopeful that officials in other communities get the chance to follow suit.

Transportation for America's new report - titled "Dangerous By Design" - argues that governments fail to adequately invest in pedestrian safety, and blames deficient street design for many pedestrian deaths. The report's release comes at a time when Congress is considering a six-year transportation bill that contemplates eliminating a pair of pedestrian safety programs, Rall said.

Nationally, pedestrians account for 12 percent of all traffic deaths. But state transportation departments have allocated only 1.5 percent of available federal funds to projects that retrofit dangerous roads that put pedestrians at risk, the report states.

"Our tax money that goes to the federal government and comes back to Oregon for transportation should be used to build streets, roads and highways that are safe for all users," said Shane MacRhodes of Eugene Safe Routes to School, a coalition that promotes safe bicycling and walking to and from schools throughout the Eugene area.

While Main Street in Springfield has gained attention for a string of pedestrian fatalities, the report notes that deaths also have occurred on urban highways that double as city streets in Eugene.

Sixty-three pedestrians were killed on Lane County roads between 2000 and 2009, meaning that the area had a pedestrian fatality rate of 1.9 per 100,000 people, according to the report. That rate is higher than those in such areas as Portland-Vancouver, Medford, Bend, Corvallis, Salem and Bend.

In Lane County, 15.4 percent of all traffic deaths that occurred during the 10-year period were pedestrians. In Portland, pedestrians accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities.

According to the report, the four most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians in the United States are all in Florida. Behind Orlando-Kissimee, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville was Memphis, Tenn., which ranked fifth-worst.

The report states that older people are more than twice as likely to be killed while walking across a street than those younger than 65.
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Title Annotation:Local News; Per capita, more pedestrians are killed here than in Portland
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:May 25, 2011
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