MLK Transit and Safety Project
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd transit and safety project includes striping dedicated bus and turn (BAT) lanes, adding pedestrian crossings and enhancing the existing bikeway crossings at intersections. The project is partially funded by an ODOT safety grant and through pavement bond measure funding.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd is a 5-lane high speed minor arterial street with a 40 mph speed limit. This lane configuration offers more capacity than is needed for the traffic volumes on this street and this leads to risky behaviors including speeding and erratic lane changes which can lead to crashes, serious injuries, and/or fatalities.
Safety Challenges on MLK
The project area on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd has experienced a significant number of severe crashes over time, including crashes that resulted in 4 fatalities and 26 life-changing injuries across all years of available data (2007-2021). In light of this prominent crash history, MLK is one of Eugene’s High Crash Corridors identified in the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan.
Figure 1: Project area fatal and life-changing injury crashes by primary cause
Severe crashes within the project area have been attributed to a number of primary causes in the State’s official crash dataset. Many of the crash causes highlighted in Figure 1 are reflective of MLK being a high speed facility where drivers have challenges identifying safe gaps in traffic when turning and are often unprepared to make safe stops when needed.
City of Eugene staff believe the current design of MLK is contributing to these safety challenges by providing an oversized facility where there is more vehicle capacity than is needed. This excess of travel lanes can create conditions where motorists find themselves consciously or subconsciously driving faster.
The planned project is expected to improve safety conditions by rightsizing the number of general travel lanes on MLK to reflect how much private vehicle capacity is needed. “Road diet” projects that include similar general travel lane reductions have been successful in many other communities and, in some instances, have yielded as much as a 47% reduction in total crashes.
In addition to the potential of reducing the overall number of crashes, City staff believe the proposed project has significant potential to reduce the severity of injuries when collisions do occur. Even a 5 mph difference in vehicle speeds can make a significant difference in the survivability of a crash, particularly when people walking or biking are involved. While the reduction in general travel lanes should help calm vehicle speeds on its own, City staff also hope to secure permission from ODOT to coordinate the MLK project with permanent speed limit reductions to further promote safety.
The City of Eugene also recognizes that LTD service improvements associated with the bus and turn lanes (BAT lanes) may come with additional safety benefits. Alcohol and drugs have unfortunately played a major role in fatal crashes throughout our community, and impairment was identified in 23% of the serious crashes on record within the project area. Promoting transit service as an alternative to drinking and driving is one key strategy to reduce automobile crashes related to impairment. City staff hope transit infrastructure improvements, such as BAT lanes, will make busing an easier and more attractive choice for community members in the Eugene-Springfield area.
The proposed project will repurpose the outside travel lanes to bus and turn lanes (BAT lanes), add two pedestrian crossings across MLK, and enhance the bikeways with green colorant at driveways and intersections. The project is expected to begin construction in 2024.