‘Terrible tragedy’ spurs SE Hawthorne safety upgrade

A new pedestrian refuge is being installed at SE 43rd Avenue

City crews work on safety improvements on SE Hawthorne at 43rd in Portland, March 2, 2017 (KOIN)
City crews work on safety improvements on SE Hawthorne at 43rd in Portland, March 2, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Just slightly more than 6 months since a 15-year-old girl was hit and killed crossing SE Hawthorne at 43rd Avenue, a pedestrian island and other improvements are being installed.

On August 19, 2016, Fallon Smart was hit and killed while crossing the street in the middle of the afternoon by a driver who was traveling between 55 and 60 mph.

About a month later, Fallon Smart’s mother begged the Portland City Council to make the street safer.

Fallon Smart in an undated photo on a GoFundMe page. She was 15 when she died August 19, 2016
Fallon Smart in an undated photo on a GoFundMe page. She was 15 when she died August 19, 2016

Fawn Lengvenis testified that the day Fallon was killed, she took her to Hawthorne Boulevard. “Before we parked, she asked where is the crosswalk? I told her every intersection is a legal crosswalk, a statement that will haunt me forever.”

PBOT said they investigated the corridor from SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd (SE 39th Avenue) to SE 50th Avenue and determined the best course of action would be to install a new median refuge at 43rd.

The agency admits the current intersection can be confusing for pedestrians. The west and east crosswalks will be closed to encourage use of the new marked crossing.

Additionally, left turns on to Hawthorne from SE 43rd Avenue will no longer be allowed, and PBOT is also installing improved curb ramps. The process will take about 3 weeks.

Jim Houser, the co-owner of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic in SE Portland, March 2, 2017 (KOIN)
Jim Houser, the co-owner of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic in SE Portland, March 2, 2017 (KOIN)

Jim Houser, the co-owner of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic at the intersection, told KOIN 6 News they’ve talked with the city about speed and traffic in the area for several years.

“In particular, the One with Heart Academy has a lot of children that take classes, and there’s been some near misses over the years,” Houser said.

He described Fallon Smart’s death as a “terrible tragedy” and said he hopes the safety island reminds people to slow down.

“I’m glad the city’s doing it,” he said. “I’m glad they moved so quickly to do it.”

The case against the driver who allegedly hit and killed the teen, Abdulrahman Noorhah is ongoing at this time.

A rendering of the planned safety improvements at SE Hawthorne and 43rd in Portland, March 2, 2017 (Courtesy)
A rendering of the planned safety improvements at SE Hawthorne and 43rd in Portland, March 2, 2017 (Courtesy)