On a drive from Albany to southern Oregon and back, you can’t help but notice U.S. flags tied to the fences on lots of the overpasses across I-5. The only thing I know about this is that ODOT is not pleased.
It would be nice to know who put the flags there. What’s the motivation? Any special occasion, or is it somebody’s idea of expressing patriotism in general?
But the stars and stripes on the fences come with no other message. So motorists passing underneath them at around 70 miles an hour have no clue.
Back in Albany after our trip, I sent an inquiry to Angela Beers-Seydel, the ODOT official who deals with the press in this part of the state.
“We do not know who is doing it or why,” she replied on Friday morning. “It has been going on for many years. Our maintenance crews remove them on a regular basis, as they do any materials attached to the overpass screens because they are safety hazards.”
I ‘ve been going up and down I-5 in Oregon for close to 50 years, and I can’t remember seeing as many flags on overpasses as I did this week.
“People often attach signs, banners, and such to overpass screens to be seen from the highway,” Beers-Seydel says, “When materials are attached to the screen, the people who left them have no way of controlling them. Any item placed on highway overpasses becomes a safety concern as it may fall into traffic or cause a significant distraction to travelers. We certainly do not intend any disrespect to our nation’s flag and in fact are following flag code.”
The code, she points out, says the flag “should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.”
She adds that these flags and other personal property removed from highways are stored at ODOT maintenance facilities, and owners are welcome to come claim them.
On Feb. 27, KMTR-TV, Channel 16 in Eugene, did a story on the freeway flags and ODOT’s practice of removing them. The station said flags had shown up on overpasses from Woodburn south. The ones I saw were between Albany and Roseburg.
Somebody has been going to a lot of trouble and expense to tie those flags to the overpass screens, and to replace them when ODOT takes them down.
I don’t know how much the flags add to the routine distractions while driving. But if you want to get photos to illustrate blogs like this, it’s wise to have your passenger be the one to get the shots. (hh)
The original version of this story has been updated.