Proposed Safety Improvements for the Terwilliger / Taylors Ferry Intersection

The Terwilliger / Taylors Ferry intersection is one of the busiest in Portland. As the outlying areas have developed, traffic volume has grown to where the intersection is rated 'F', for Failure. There's nowhere else for traffic to flow.

Traffic that passes through this intersection is coming from / going to points west along Taylors Ferry Road and Barbur Blvd; from N/S I-5; Fred Meyer, Hillsdale, to/from Lake Oswego and Grove, Lewis & Clark College, Tigard, John's Landing, and the Sellwood Bridge.

Fig 1. Diagram of crossroads. (Don't spend a lot of time Figuring it out!)

(Generally) From the west, connections to the Sellwood Bridge pass through here. Likewise, many north-south connections (other than Macadam) go through this intersection.

Problems and Possible Solutions

This article describes selfish behavior exhibited by drivers, resulting in Hazards to other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and property.

Most of the peak time vehicles are SOV - Single Occupant Vehicles. Is it wise to spend money making this convenient for SOVs at the expense of community, pedestrians, and cyclists?

The New Collins View Blog suggests four improvements to make Terwilliger Safer. If we can't reduce the volume, maybe we can establish some 'guard rails' to let folks pass though this regional junction in an efficient, controlled, safe manner.

Driver's Needs, Choices, and the Problems they Create

Drivers make Choices. The driver of this truck decided to race. Moments before, this truck and another tried to occupy the same place at the same time, and his rolled and had to be uprighted. Some speed was involved. No serious injuries. (Actually, it was the drivers, not the trucks, who did this.)

Fig 2. Saturday 2pm, January 28, 2023 (Photo by J Miller)

In general, southbound Terwilliger drivers may want:

  1. TO GO THROUGH the intersection in order to continue along Terwilliger Blvd to points south.
  2. TO TURN LEFT at the intersection in order to go down Taylors Ferry Road.
  3. TO ACCESS one of the local businesses, such as Original Bark, the Dry Cleaners, Tryon Creek Grill, Terwilliger Plaza, and so on.

These southbound drivers may have come from I-5 exits, Barbur Blvd, Hillsdale, and beyond.

Choices the above the drivers have...

Corresponding to the above 'wants':

  1. Both lanes currently go through the intersection for drivers wanting to go south. The first traffic sign just past the light says RIGHT LANE ENDS. The second sign says MERGE LEFT. Most drivers merge left with varying degrees of skill and caution. Some right lane drivers are tempted to race to get ahead, flaunting the merge etiquette. Their increased speed creates a moving hazard. (See truck photo below.)
  2. Drivers wanting to turn Left (but not waiting their turn) may try avoiding the turn signal, choosing to use the Terwilliger Center parking lot illegally as a loop around.
  3. Southbound Drivers wanting to access the Terwilliger Center often must wait for a break in oncoming NorthBound (NB) traffic to make their left turn-in, creating minor impediments to the through-lane flow. They have no choice, really.

The next few sections of this article examine various problems.

Problem #1: Getting Through the Intersection, one way or anther

This section is the longest to read, but it is necessary to begin describing what all is going on in this area. We do (not) apologize.

Please refer to the diagram below with labels, yellow arrows, and symbols, showing the three southbound lanes (R,M,L) of Terwilliger going through the intersection with Taylors Ferry.

Fig 3. Three southbound Terwilliger lanes R,M&L before the light.

Historically, The southbound (SB) R Lane was a Right-Turn-Only lane. When the intersection was updated in ~1995, a SB Through Lane was added in front of the Shell station, and the Right-Turn-Only designation at the intersection was removed. We'd like to see this reversed.


The L Lane is a well-known problem. The wait queue for that lane sometimes extends north of SW Carson. Last year, and for many years before, drivers would cut down through the neighborhood using SW Carson to circumvent the intersection altogether. This issue was addressed in October 2021, and Yellow wands were installed on Terwilliger at Carson on Memorial Day weekend, 2022. See our article with the story here: [BLOG]

The M Lane is unambiguously for folks heading south.

The R Lane — Bonafide Right turns are made from this lane. If drivers in the R lane are going straight ahead, and there are no obstructions in the lane, traffic can still flow fairly well, if all merge politely. These drivers are expected to merge with the M-Lane drivers, not race ahead of them.

Obstructions to the R Lane

R Lane Fact 1: Some drivers do want to Turn Right, and may have had to stop for the light. (See the Green circle in above diagram.) The driver may have to wait for a pedestrian (with a dog) using the crosswalk before turning right - blocking traffic behind them. Alternatively, the driver may turn very carefully once the light changes - momentarily delaying drivers behind them. In either case, other drivers in the R Lane just had their hopes of racing ahead of everyone dashed, and as a result feel justified speeding to make up for lost time. (Other drivers may not be stymied in this situation.)

R Lane Fact 2: The R Lane may be blocked by an occasional bus or delivery truck (Rose Oval in diagram) stopping in front of the Shell station. Also, cars may be exiting the Shell station or other businesses, yielding to traffic coming up in the R Lane. These situations are not problems as long as the R Lane traffic is cautious, well-mannered, and not speeding. LOL


R Lane — It's not unusual for a driver to choose the R Lane early on, and proceed (much) faster than drivers choosing the M Lane. I.e. M Lane drivers are often challenged by drivers literally flying through the intersection in the R Lane to get ahead of as many cars in the M Lane as possible before merging with M. Some M Lane drivers do not appreciate other drivers speeding up the R Lane to get ahead of them before merging, resulting in a race condition..

If all drivers in the R & M Lanes Co-Operate and travel similar speeds, they can do an orderly 'zipper' merge. But this is not the only problem with a Zipper Merge here.

Some southbound drivers want to turn left into the Terwilliger Center parking lot (not shown in this the photo). Terwilliger has narrowed about 1.5 lanes at that point - unmarked. While some traffic may choose to go around the Turning Guy, on the right, possibly perturbing zip merging. That perturbation may not settle till the next traffic light cycle. No big deal. People deal with it.

While the main problem may be selfish drivers abusing their merging privilege, and/or speeding (or both racing), there are other complications with local business traffic — e.g. a bus, or a driver yielding to a cyclist in the bike lane, and so on.

Maybe Nip it in the Bud?

This problem would not exist if the R Lane was not allowed to go through. I doubt (as someone commented) that a 40% increase in through traffic is attained here because of a few yards of lane, where drivers must immediately merge anyway, back to a single lane.

During rush hour, southbound Terwilliger gets fully charged up. Why? Any driver further along waiting to turn left at Primrose (or Lobelia) causes a slowdown that propagates northward to the intersection. See our blog article on Primrose LINK].

Fig 4. Merge Lane

Question: Can we dispense with two lanes going through the intersection, and wisely use a single lane and the balance of the roadway for a better purpose?

Problem #2: Getting in and out of Businesses

There are businesses on both sides of Terwilliger south of Taylor's Ferry. The roadway is not well defined for this. For example, here is a driver leaving TC, having to nudge his way through the lanes, with nowhere to wait to merge into southbouth traffic.

Fig 5. Google StreetView captured a white car coming out of Terwilliger Center. How else?

Southbound Drivers can easily turn into businesses on west side of Terwilliger.

Fig 6. Simple turns for Southbound Drivers only.

Northbound drivers can take refuge in the northern end of the left turn lane to wait to access the SHELL station, but nothing is defined for other businesses. (A Step Forward PDX and Nectar.)

Problem #3: Loopers avoiding the Turn Lane

A casual observer might think that a lot of drivers are turning into the Grill for a beer, or whatever. But please observe that drivers are using the Terwilliger Center parking lot as a downhill passage to Taylors Ferry. Call them "Loopers". They do this instead of using the Left Turn Lane (L) at the Signal.

The drivers use the five curb cuts as show in the map/diagram, or use the last entrance at the south end. Surely the business folk there have a good idea of how prevalent this is. This is illegal.

Fig 7. Looping Cheaters using parking lot (illegally)

Not shown in red above — when northbound Terwilliger is backed up before the light, a NB driver may decide to use the entrance at the south end of the parking lot and slowly wend their way north through the Lot to Taylor's Ferry Road, and turn right by TokyRoll. This is illegal.

Award given for Creative Thinking... The Shell Station Looper!

The most creative offender recently observed used the R lane to turn Right from SB Terwilliger onto TayFerry, then immediately left into the corner of the Shell station, through the SHELL station, to come back out and CROSS Terwilliger, to get into the right lane as shown in the diagram below, and then turn right to go down hill. Bless his heart! (I have this on video.)

Fig 8. Using the Shell service station to avoid the turn lane.

Changes that we propose would not prohibit this vile act, but it's still illegal to use the SHELL station in this way. This is very opportunistic - it depends on timing. Let's observe this in the future.

Award given for Maximum Selfishness

This guy, shown below with his blinker on, blocked the lane as he waited, and waited, and waited for a break in the on-coming traffic, evidently so he could turn into TOKY ROLL... but then... he only used the parking area to get to Taylor's Ferry Road as did the Creative Award Shell Station Looper!!

His selfish act spanned the whole signal cycle. Very few others got through the intersection, as you can see in photo. I took the photo because I thought it was idiotic to hold traffic up like that, just so he could turn in to parking lot. Maybe he was lost and didn't know better? But when he then went through the lot and onto Taylors Ferry, I let out an expletive! He literally held up everyone else so that he alone could avoid the left turn signal.

Fig 9. Imagine the Audacity of the indicated Driver (Photo by J Miller Feb 2023)

Note - the cyclist was able to leisurely turn in front of this guy, cuz he was stopped, going nowhere. But - watch out for the on coming white car! It's a wonder that more people aren't killed by this intersection.

Cutting across the NW Corner

It has been pointed out that the NW corner, Salon & Vet, has been cut across for a decade or more: I worked in the salon kitty corner to this intersection for 10+ years, and the same used to happen in our parking lot, and I’m sure it still does. It was infuriating, and so dangerous.

The New Collins View blog invites you to observe this intersection and this particular situation. Go in and talk with people working at the Vet or Salon.

A Safer Center

It would help to allocate street width to a Two-Way Special Left Turn Lane, as defined in Oregon Driver's Guide. People know how to use these.

Fig 10. Two-way special left turn lane? (Concept only!)

A Proper design needs to be worked out that would shorten (or eliminate!) the Merge lanes and use some of that space for the new middle turn lane refuge. Caveat! The author is not a traffic planner. We defer to trained engineers for a proper design.

Technically, nothing would prevent a southbound Terwilli-car from pulling into the proposed Middle Turn Lane and then doing an immediate U turn into the northbound Terwilliger lane in order to turn right on Taylors Ferry and go down hill, bypassing the parking lot altogether. It's not clear whether this is illegal. Would be hard to post a NO U Turn sign.

Can we create a Safe Haven in that Parking Lot?

It might help to close off the north exit from the Terwilliger Center parking lot at Toky Roll so that the lot can't be used to circumvent the left turn on to Taylors Ferry. (See red bar in map.) This would improve the safety of this whole zone because drivers could no longer use the lot to get to Taylors Ferry. The Parking lot would be a haven or sheltered area -- for use by patrons. The Lot would be a Lot safer too without all the illegal through traffic.

If a departing patron wants to go down Taylors Ferry, they'd need to get onto Terwilliger and make a right turn onto Taylors Ferry — Not ideal, but perhaps a good trade off. How many folks actually leave Terwilliger Center to go that way? Do You?

Fig 11. Thwart the Loopers for a Safer Center?

Less often, drivers impatiently waiting in the uphill WB Taylors Ferry left turn lane sometimes Lurch out of the lane and use that north entrance to drive south through the lot, and then pull out onto Terwilliger up by the Grill, as shown as a red arrow. That's illegal, and very dangerous!

Few, if any at all, EB Taylors Ferry drivers use that curb cut to enter Terwilliger Center. (Shown as another red arrow.) Such a EB patron could instead turn south (RT) on Terwilliger, and then use the proposed "Two-way special left turn lane" to get into the Parking lot.

So, closing off that one curb cut with a barrier would:

Potential problem: Waste Management probably needs to pass by TokyRoll to service their dumpster, but they can probably work around it. Same with delivery trucks. The fire station should also be consulted before closing that exit.

An Officer on Duty at SW Community Policing in Multnomah Arts Center said there’s no personnel to enforce the rat-running in the parking lot.

It could be that TokyRoll corporation (the property owner) could elect to close that one exit to improve safety for their patrons.

The owner of the defunct 'Sol Station' business disliked the unsafe cut-through traffic, and put out stanchions to discourage it.

Hmmm.. Never Mind?

Here's a trick that might diminish the effectiveness of closing of the North end of the Terwilliger Center parking lot — I saw a southbound driver turn into the Terwilliger Center's southmost entrance, then doubled back north just past the TC Grill, to the middlemost exit on Terwilliger. Another driver politely (unwittingly) let the Looper back onto Terwilliger, where she traveled a very distance to turn right on Taylors Ferry!

Fig 12. Looping into the lot, then getting back out onto SB Terwilliger!

One has to assume this person was avoiding the turn signal.. which was not all that backed up at the time. Go figure. Anyway, this trick would blunt the effectiveness of closing the north end of the lot. Cheaters might clog the parking lot. They might have to wait a while before getting back on to Terwilliger. But anything is evidently better than waiting in that dreaded left turn lane, evidently.


Years ago on Terwilliger a southbound driver turned in front of a cyclist at the entrance to the TC Grill. The cyclist was in the bike lane heading north. Peter Stoel collided with the vehicle and suffered broken bones. A cyclist on a bicycle is no match for a one ton box.

All day long, drivers are looking for an opening in the on-coming traffic so they can zip into the Parking Lot. A cyclist may be hidden behind cars unless they rise up tall to be seen over the cars. This is inherently dangerous. A middle turn refuge all along there might reduce impulsive moves by turning drivers, and inform the northbound traffic that is is a Turning Zone. Right now, there is an ambiguous DOUBLE YELLOW from the light all the way south.


Crossing from the NE corner to the SE corner is a challenge. The L Lane turners keep turning (2 or 3 cars worth) after the arrow goes red! (They run the damn red light.) This cuts into the time pedestrians have to cross, and delays when they can start crossing, irritating NB drivers waiting to turn right onto Taylors Ferry — as if the Pedestrian is to blame? If you don't get this, you probably aren't a pedestrian.

One of the proposed changes is to close the north exit of the Terwilliger Center Parking lot by TOKYROLL to create a Safe Haven, as shown here.

Fig 13. Pedestrian safety improved by closing the Taylors Ferry exit from TokyRoll Parking lot.

This would improve pedestrian safety immensely, as you can see by the green lines.

Be it resolved - Any changes to this intersection should not make it easier for drivers at the expense of walkers and bikers. Maybe the newer, smarter, signalization can give Peds a three second head start, as they do in Hillsdale...

Suggestions, Future Ideas, Further Discussion?

Here are the suggestions made above:

DON'T FORGET TRANSIT! It would help local place-making if the Trimet stop on Terwilliger in front of the SHELL station was color-coded to indicate that buses stop there — like a "Mini Rose Lane". (See Rose oval in Fig 3.) This would help build transit infrastructure. For example, the sidewalk is better there for a rider who uses a walker to deboard there — better than the sloped stop on Taylors Ferry. (This idea may become an additional blog article.)

In addition to the 'Mini Rose Transit Lane', the whole lane in front of businesses could have curved Right arrows at each business curb cut — the whole lane would be all Right Turn only for businesses. I think that's what is was in 1970-1989. People might abuse it ... I won't digress here.

This lovely patio is just off the parking lot with all the cut-through traffic.

We hope that smarter signalization (technology, software upgrade?) will be budgeted soon. However, nothing proposed here would modify or eliminate the need for that.

Fire Station No 10 and Terwilliger Center businesses are being consulted regarding these suggestions. We will eventually reach out to businesses on west side of Terwilliger too.

What About a (mini) Round About?

Traffic Circles or Roundabouts always come up. It seems that roundabouts are typically used when there is plenty of room, such as a large plaza or out in the country, not in tight urban quarters... but let's talk about one here, in a high volume, over-loaded, Level F (for "failing") intersection.

The two dominant left-turning patterns would result in people being in the roundabout for 270º, compared just 90º for right turners, and 180º for straight thru the crossroads. This means one circular lane has to handle both the straight through and the turning traffic. That seems like a factor of two right there. A rectangular intersection only sits idle for a few seconds each light change.

Fig 14. A one lane roundabout from Mike on Traffic (See Refs)

Try to imagine all the current left turn activities making it through the circle!

Please prove me wrong. Draw a plan for us. See References for a good article on Roundabouts.

Historical Notes on Terwilliger (Draft!)

Terwilliger did not cross Stephens Creek until 1920's. There was a crossing known as the Roland Bridge.. that went across Stephens Creek from what is now South Burlingame.. approximately in alignment with SW 11th. Does anyone out there have some history on that? We have a photo of the wooden bridge.

Before Terwilliger Blvd came across the bridge, the street was Maple St, then 6th.

First Terwilliger Bridge was made from recycled steel trusses from the SW Vista (name?) bridge. Year?

This is what the Terwilliger + TFR Intersection looked like at the time.

Fig 15. Intersection as seen from the air, 1985

The current Terwilliger Bridge built in 1993. The building was in phases:

(I'm not sure if the intersection was updated at the same time as the bridge construction, or if that came a while later. Anyone recall? --jm)

National Law and the Oregon Driver's Guide

"In most states, cutting through a parking lot is an illegal act that can earn you a ticket or fine from a police officer. But, evading a traffic signal (like a stop sign or red light) or reducing your travel time short by cutting through a parking lot isn't just illegal, it can also be dangerous."

Double solid yellow line – Indicates passing is not allowed for both directions of traffic. You may turn left, to enter or exit a roadway, across double solid yellow lines after waiting for oncoming traffic to clear.

Two-way special left turn lane – If a two-way left turn lane has been provided, do not make a left turn from any other lane. It is illegal to travel in a two-way left turn lane, so enter the lane just before you want to make the turn. Wait in the left turn lane until traffic clears and you can complete the turn.

You may turn from a side street or driveway into a two–way left turn lane. You must stop to wait for traffic to clear before moving into the lane to your right. Make sure the left turn lane is clear in both directions before entering the lane. It is illegal to use these lanes to speed up and merge with traffic or for passing cars to access a turn lane at an intersection.

** Abbreviations

In writing, I use these abbreviations to be explicit about direction of travel, intention to turn, and when referring to lanes:

EB - East Bound
WB - West Bound
NB - North Bound
SB - South Bound

RT - Right Turning
LT - Left Turning
ST - Straight Through intersection. No Turn.

Right/Left lanes are relative to the direction of the traveller. Same with Turning.

RL - Right Lane
ML - Middle Lane
LL - Left Lane

Comments Made on Next Door

These are comments made on Nextdoor. Names have been removed, and comments lightly edited.

Comment: I worked in the salon on the NW corner of this intersection for 10+ years, and the same used to happen in our parking lot, and I’m sure it still does. It’s was infuriating, and so dangerous.

Comment: I try not to take this way home from work because of this area. There is always someone speeding to get in front of the merge. I have seen a lot of near miss accidents due to this.

Comment: I see it all the time. The race from the right lane. I saw a car turning into the gas station get rear ended there, and also saw a bike rider almost get hit.

Comment: Wish they would make that a right turn only lane at Taylor’s Ferry. Near misses happen often

Comment: I used the merge lane there ever since I read that Zipper merge techniques can relieve traffic backup lengths by up to 40% I am a big fan! SO relieved when I am not in the left-turning lane...The length of the line is never-ending! I reckon that's why the supermarket (MoC) had to close, you couldn't get out of their parking lot!

JM replies: Zipper works fine, when it does. But that open lane ahead is like a vacuum, and too many drivers use it to race, not co-operate. This auto-psychology is why we often need traffic calming devices for our neighborhood streets, imho.

Regarding the closure of MoC, a note from a community newspaper in April 2009: The CEO of the Eugene-based company that owns eleven Market of Choice stores in Oregon told the Southwest Connection that the decision to close the store on SW Terwilliger Boulevard in mid-April came down to the size of the store, a shortage of parking spaces and increasing traffic congestion at the intersection with Taylors Ferry Road...

"Basically, the store hasn't been able to perform and there are a lot of factors, many, many factors", said Rick Wright, who runs the Market of Choice chain from its corporate offices in Eugene.

Comment: That merge lane is needed to prevent even bigger back ups.

JM replies: I would like to see this modeled. Zipper merge works ok when traffic is light, but then it isn't really needed at all. I have seen traffic back up from Primrose when someone is trying to turn there, and that impedes flow, plus the other complications I've spelled out (on Nextdoor). The real question is Why are so many vehicles cramming through here on rush hour? Because there are no other routes to Oswego / Lake Grove / Sellwood. It's not College Traffic at 4 pm. I think a single smooth-flowing lane would work just as well, or even better due to the simplified traffic 'pattern'.

Comment: The entire Sellwood bridge was designed using the Zipper Merge. That lane is so more cars get through the light. Also there would almost be ZERO back up on Taylors Ferry turning right onto 43 towards LO if people would use the merge lane to make a right on red. It blows my mind how grown adults behave around letting people in and out of traffic the way it was designed to be done.

JM replies: I see people using both lanes down there to turn east onto the Sellwood Bridge, and then merge into ONE LANE which gets backed up on the bridge because SE Tacoma is one lane, and there is another light at the east end of the bridge. So, the Bridge serves as a giant parking lot for that queue. Southbound Macadam, north of bridge, is sometimes backed up all the way to Taylor's Ferry. I get it. This is called Too Many Cars, and Societal Failure in my book. :^)

JM further replies: You may recall the west end of the old Sellwood Bridge, where people from the south and from the north took alternating turns onto the bridge. Similar to a Zipper, and it was understood by all, that we took turns taking the turn.

Comment: What a thorough and exact description! I did not need to look at your diagram, as I drive this piece of real estate at least a few times a week, at varying times of day. I don't know the exact remedy, have witnessed all that you have mentioned. The one thing I could suggest is an actual traffic officer at random times handing out tickets. The merging is dangerous, even if you have taken your own chill pill and are willing to let say one, even two, if need be, speedy, impatient, oblivious drivers by on the right. The problem is when it's busy, each one gunning to cut people off, creates its own potential accident anywhere along the line. So even if I let one in you have to be on the defensive.. and hold them off at some point. It's a dangerous stretch of road. Thanks for doing what you're doing regarding trying to implement a change that would help.

John Miller says: What's weird about this intersection is that Terwilliger Blvd has ONE southbound lane coming from the I-5 bridge to the intersection, and then narrows back to ONE lane south of the Taylors Ferry intersection... So, the design allows drivers to use an additional right lane before the light, then forces them to merge back in after the light! All merging has to be completed in 450 feet! All to supposedly get more throughput. Drivers also then proceed at about 45 MPH southbound from that intersection (only to encounter Primrose!). The psychology could be that drivers are en route to either Boones Ferry Road south or Terwilliger Ext to Oswego -- both seem like country highways -- so they start speeding in Collins View. Note that there is No striping on the pavement to indicate early merging.

Comment: I mean technically can they pull out to cross the double lines? I just don't ever do that in situations like this anymore, too much anxiety. I just plan a work around, park across the street, go out the other way and turn around at a safer feeling spot, etc

JM replies: It could be that there is no way out of Terwilliger Center to go south without crossing the double yellow. Good point.

Comment: I'm one driver who uses the right lane to "unclog" the mess between that intersection and the I5 bridge. I don't race other cars, I just do a zipper merge, although I have seen upset folks in the M lane - they typically veer to the right - and I just back off behind them and merge. I do believe that this - when properly used - helps alleviate the congestion a t the crossroad of Terwilliger/Taylors Ferry -hence why I do it, but I have seen folks racing, folks blocking, and folks waiting until the last entry to the parking lot in front of the old "subway" to turn left - thereby blocking all traffic from M lane. I have been known to stop in the right lane to let a poor soul stuck behind such a car move on. None of this will be resolved without thoughtful research and fewer invectives at what other drivers do. It's not a simple 2-street intersection, it extends all the way to I-5 to the north-east, Primrose to the south, and Boones Ferry to the east. I don't envy the engineers who have to solve this - I'm just trying to be a thoughtful driver...

Comment: Very interesting stuff. I always pull into the right-most lane to go straight coming up the hill from Barbur. Very often the middle lane gets stopped by someone turning left toward Tryon Grill, so I can just continue on straight around them. I always assumed these people were stopping at one of the businesses and never considered that they were cutting though the parking lot instead of waiting in the left turn lane at the light. /// If all of the cars in the middle lane are indeed continuing on straight, then I zipper merge.

JM replies: Yep. Observing yesterday, I could see that using the the R lane is a rational move, as stated. But, then I was shocked to realize that most of the left-turners were just using the parking lot. This is easily observed. It has increased since the Yellow stanchions went in at SW Carson, preventing cut through there.

Comment: Very interesting! We live on 7th and have a very hard time turning left to the intersection during those peak times. Not a big deal but annoying! And then there are the people that race thru 7th to cut through - we put out a slow sign because we have littles ones and someone stole it last week!

JM replies: Noted. I may not get all the deviant behavior into the first draft of BETTERWILLIGER. Let's add this to the list of sorry unsafe situations. :^)

Comment: It’s tricky for sure. Unfortunately people in the M lane also often refuse to let people in the R lane merge as well. Which could definitely be part of the reason people race to be out front (but obviously, that wouldn’t be everyone’s motivation!).

JM replies: I can understand a driver who is AHEAD (by virtue of having arrived at the light earlier), not wanting to let someone in who had the opportunity to use the Zipper Method and merge in before trying to get ahead of another car. Kind of annoying. But Accidents never happen in a perfect world. Accidents never happen. [YouTube]

Comment: I learned yesterday that there have been drivers who have run through and knocked down parts of the yellow barricade at SW Carson and SW Terwilliger. Now, it’s a constant maintenance problem. I wish they had been permanent concrete obstructions! Of course then the drivers would just go around them in the right lane! Maybe we need cameras, compliments of the city, to catch these drivers in their creative stunts!

JM replies: I was aware of the first knock-down, but it seems (to me) to have been intact since then. That really sucks. The wands were a quick & easy installation. The Vision Zero or whatever project has a 'concrete' solution too, as you probably know. 'Jersey' barriers can be quick to assemble. It seems like those wands have otherwise been effective in cutting the cut-throughs, which means they were a good test, and have served their purpose.. CAM on a Pole to catch offenders would probably be shot at! JK.

Comment: The only solution would be a traffic circle but people around here seem to struggle with those as well. Oregonians by and large don’t seem to understand the concept of merging and how to do it safely.

JM replies: Thanks for your comment. I don't think a traffic circle would work here due to the topography and lack of space. This intersection is at a saddle point -- Taylors Ferry goes downhill on both sides of the intersection. You never see a traffic circle on a slope. It would be deformed (like a Dali landscape.) Unless of course you took major portions of business properties at the corner, and somehow flattened the hilltop, trading what little we have as a "place" for a regional traffic junction. (Don't forget space for pedestrian crossings. No lane for Cyclists? Yikes.) Remember, about 14,000 cars/day go through here.

Comment from Facebook post: Ugh that intersection is one of the worst parts of my commute--both directions. In the morning it's the racers using the right lane, which is super fun when there is a truck parked on the street making deliveries to the Chevron market and/or when someone tries to turn L into the Terwilliger Center, across a double yellow line. And in the afternoon it's the number of red light runners (3, 4, ore more) turning left onto TF from Terwilliger.

JM replies: Confirmed. Every L-Turn signal cycle three or more Drivers feel justified in continuing to turn after the signal goes red. An assertive Ped can glare at the turn lane and stop them from running the red after ONE. Left unchecked, who knows how long that would continue? Pretty sure they feel justified cuz they had to wait soooo long. Booo Hooo.

Comment rcvd in Email: I saw something new last weekend - a car went through the intersection heading south and instead of pulling into the grill driveway she held up traffic until she could make a U turn to go north and down the hill. She had traffic stopped in the intersection until someone let her pull her stupid move.

One Last Comment: At busy times the left lane backs WAY up. Using both lanes is sometimes the only hope one has of getting through the intersection on a green light.

JM replies here on the blog (missed replying on Nextdoor): The way things are now, not everyone makes it through the light, during peak times. Why should someone arriving later than others make it through the light, while others who may have arrived earlier are left behind? Is it their own fault?

References and Related Issues

Questions for Our Readers

¿ Can we dispense with two lanes going through the intersection, and wisely use a single lane and the balance of the roadway for the better? Tell us what YOU think, after having read this article.

¿ Has a traffic study been ever been done — not just raw traffic counts — but sources vs destinations?

¿ Does the Traffic controller there collect counts on each lane? Can we see those numbers? Can we see how the numbers vary by time of day?

¿ If tolling is ever implemented on I-5 near here, can we somehow assure that Freeway drivers won't be tempted to use these Crossroads to avoid tolls? How can we be involved in that planning?

¿ Whose decision would it be to close the north end of the Terwilliger Center? The property owner? The City? Mayor? LOL

¿ Why is it that so few trimet buses go through this intersection while 10,000 cars do? It seems like there must be a demand for travel to the same destinations drivers have. See our repsponse to Forward Together, and the proposed changes in Trimet's Service plan. LINK

¿ Can we think Out-of-the-Box and come up with a better large scale solution? Tunnels? Sky Bridges? Alternate routes?

¿ Is a "BETTERWILLIGER" possible?

Editor's Note

I was on the Terwilliger Bridge Replacement advisory committee when the intersection was redone. Updating was required. The committee thought the southbound merge lane was a bad idea, but the engineers at the time said it was needed. :^(

My hope is that the city can do some community-based planning that addresses safety issues, respects the "place" and neighborhood streets around the intersection that are abused by short-cutters.

Over the years I have seen some truly insane stunts. Recently, I've gone over to Terwilliger on foot many times to observe the merging, signage, curb cuts, etc. I witnessed no egregious (w)reckless behavior, just normal speeding, and the illegal cut-throughs. Watching from the west sidewalk was fascinating. I saw all sorts of things. Each light cycle was a little different.

I observed that anyone turning into the Terwilliger Center disrupts orderly zipping, like a chain reaction. (This included the "Loopers"!) I observed this at 5pm -- Otherwise, merging is smooth when it works, but apparently unnecessary in the first place then. I've noticed that drivers have to go slower to carefully merge than they would if no merging was going on. I also have observed that after an initial surge away from the light, the flux of vehicles /always/ slows down before it completely became one lane... This is because Terwilliger ahead (to the south) had congested for whatever reason (eg drivers turning onto Primrose). It is palpable. Terwilliger to the south has to absorb Not Only the Terwilliger flow, but alternately the stream coming from the uphill turn lane from Taylors Ferry, etc. Terwilliger doesn't fully recover between signal cycles.

The Terwilliger exit off Northbound I-5 (x297) is signed as a way to get to the Sellwood Bridge. There are a couple big green freeway signs! It seems this problem has worsened since the Sellwood Bridge was replaced. How about an exit for I-5 that sails off directly to the east over the Willamette, or at least down to Macadam. Wouldn't that be awful, where ever it landed? :^)

Text by J.Miller. All photos and figures by J.Miller. Comments by you, dear Readers.