Commuter students and staff face hazardous road conditions

By Rachel Rippetoe | January 18, 2017 10:25am



Icy roads and sidewalks had students and staff slipping around Monday and Tuesday, whether they were getting to campus on foot or driving.

by Annika Gordon / The Beacon


Philosophy professor Lara Trout strapped on some YakTrax (essentially tire chains for your feet) and left her home around 7:20 a.m. on Tuesday. It was her second two mile icy trek to the University of Portland this week.

Trout said Tuesday’s hike was “still bad, but not worse” than Monday’s. She was expecting to walk in an ice storm, but the freezing rain hadn’t started yet. It took her about an hour to get to campus.

“It’s tricky walking because there’s so much impacted snow and ice on street crossings and sidewalks,” Trout said. “I’ve slipped a couple of times, but luckily have not fallen.”

The National Weather Service released an ice storm warning for Portland Monday evening. The University remained open until 1 p.m., when classes were cancelled and operations began to shut down. This meant that there were many students and faculty on campus who had already braved the icy road for their commute earlier that morning.

For commuters, the conditions were hazardous.

“(It was) ridiculous,” said Rayne Funk, office manager for the College of Arts & Sciences. “The St. John’s bridge, ridiculous… Out where I live, Highway 30 is pretty clear, and then when you get into Multnomah County is where there are problems. It was very scary.”

Political Science professor Anne Santiago decided to cancel her afternoon class even before the University’s official closure after her husband spun out on the road during his commute and landed in someone else’s yard.

Even with many of Portland’s main roads having been cleared by the city or simply by frequent use, Santiago said the streets getting to the freeways and main roads were still extremely dangerous thanks to compacted snow left over from last week’s storm.

Even Willamette Blvd. remained icy throughout Monday and Tuesday. Several students have reported seeing minor accidents and slide-outs right in front of the University’s entrance.

“I-5 is fine but every road to campus is terrible,” said senior nursing major Alex Onslow, a commuter from Vancouver, Wash. “I could cry all the way to my house to campus. My car slips and slides every couple feet.”

Onslow said she feels that the University is undercutting commuter students’ safety in closing campus so late in the day.

“A lot of people don’t understand the stress and worry of driving to campus only to have classes canceled last minute and then we have to drive home in (the ice and snow) or be stranded,” Onslow said.

While roads leading to campus were treacherous, many were also concerned with the conditions within campus. Ice still covered much of the pavement in UP’s main parking lot, and massive piles of snow blocked off entire rows of parking spaces.

Left over from a record-breaking snow storm earlier this month, giant piles of snow in the main parking lot blocked off many of the already scarce parking spaces.

by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

“I was very disappointed to see the state of the parking lot when I arrived on campus,” Santiago said. “Given that we don’t have enough cars for commuters, faculty and staff to begin with, losing half the parking spaces in the main lot due to the snow piles was very short-sighted.”

Tuesday night, Physical Plant moved the piles of snow from the parking lot to the grassy area around the baseball field.

Working in the College of Arts and Sciences, Funk understands the challenges of delaying the first week of classes. She’s hoping that better weather comes quickly.

“The first week of semester is really important that staff is here,” Funk said. “We get really behind if we’re not here on a daily basis.”

And while for many a school closure means a restful day off, Onslow has seen the more challenging side of cancelled classes. After arriving at UP just before the closure was announced, she opted to stay at a friend’s house in North Portland Tuesday night because the icy road conditions proved too stressful for a drive home. She also received an “irking” email from one of her professors.

It read, “In lieu of scheduling a makeup class session over exam period, we will be having an extended class on Tuesday of the last week of classes, meaning that we will start at 7 p.m and end at midnight or 1 a.m.”

“Like… is that even legal?” Onslow said.

Ben Arthur, senior sports reporter, also contributed reporting to this story.

Contact Editor in Chief Rachel Rippetoe at or on Twitter @rachelrippetoe.
This article was first published here

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