A week ago I reported on the $2.6 million cable barrier project in the median of Interstate 5 in Lane and Linn counties, from the Harrisburg exit south for 35 miles. I wondered whether ODOT had any plans to extend that feature north, where some of the crossover accidents have happened, the type of crash that this barrier down the middle of the freeway is suposed to prevent.
I asked Rick Little about this. Rick is ODOT’s public information officer for this part of the state, and he’s a very helpful guy when it comes to information about the highway department. He looked into it and found that yes, there are plans to extend the barrier north up through Linn County. That’s roughly another 35 miles, up to the Marion County line.
Plans — that’s all they are so far. Extension of the barrier is included in the draft of the state transportation improvement plan for 2016-18. But as Rick Little points out, a final decision has not been made. And he says all projects always compete against each other for funding. Still, he says, a “project is in the queue to continue the barrier northward.”
Crossover crashes are not exactly frequent. I think I am remembering two in the last 10 years or so on I-5 south of Albany. There may have been more. The thing is, when they happen, they are usually fatal. When vehicles hit head-on with a combined speed of more than 100 miles an hour, there’s no feasible defense.
For a while ODOT had its doubts about cable barriers. It’s good that it has overcome them and is putting one in where it might save some lives. It would be even nicer if we didn’t have to wait another four to six years. (hh)