A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

How state intends to fix Hwy. 20 junctions

Written November 18th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

ODOT is inching ahead with plans for safety upgrades on the Albany-Corvallis Highway, and here is the agency’s concept for improving the junctions at Granger Road and Independence Highway.

The main idea is to construct median acceleration lanes on the highway for vehicles making a left turn — toward Albany — from Granger or Independence. This would allow drivers to turn when there’s a gap in just westbound traffic rather than having to wait for simultaneous gaps going both west and east.

Second, there would be “buffered” right turn lanes for Highway 20 traffic turning on Granger or Independence. This is intended to improve the sight distance for drivers waiting at the junctions to turn on the highway, either right or left.

The configuration of the acceleration lane at Independence Highway has raised concerns by the owners of Midway Farms, whose driveway south of Highway 20 is 630 feet east of the junction. On Facebook they say the project would put them out of business because customers could no longer turn left from Albany or, when leaving, toward Corvallis.

Julie GaNung, the ODOT engineer acting as the project manager, told me she’s not yet had a chance to meet with Midway Farms but expects to hear from them at a neighborhood meeting starting at 5:30 tonight at the Children’s Farm Home. She stressed that it’s still early in the design process for these projects, and ODOT’s goal is not to put anyone out of business by cutting off access.

“I look forward to taking with them,” she said. “We don’t want to shut anyone down.”

Instead of adding acceleration lanes, why doesn’t ODOT want to install traffic signals?

Because, GaNung says, signals on high-speed rural highways raise safety concerns of their own: More rear-end crashes, more red-light-running crashes, plus more queuing.  The two-lane highway is a busy commuter route and handles 18,000 vehicles per day.

ODOT has put out a two-page information sheet on the Highway 20 projects. You can look it up here.

It shows, among other things, that Phase 1, the upgrades at Granger Road and Independence Highway and near Garland Nursery, are scheduled to be designed through 2021 and constructed in 2022. (At the curve near Garland, the plan calls for wider shoulders, an added guardrail, and rumble strips.)

Phase 2 calls for widening the shoulders and adding a two-way left turn lane on the Albany end of 20, between Scenic Drive and North Albany Road, and also at the Corvallis end, between Merloy Avenue and Conifer Drive. This is to be done by 2023.

ODOT says total funding for both phases is $28.2 million.

All this planning started in 2012, when ODOT commissioned a safety audit of the highway. If the timeline holds, it will be 11 years from start to finish to get something done on this 11-mile road. (hh)

On a foggy day in November 2016, vehicles wait to turn on Highway 20 from Independence Highway.

16 responses to “How state intends to fix Hwy. 20 junctions”

  1. Don says:

    This system works well at hwy 34 and Denny school road.

  2. Jon Stratton says:

    Why can’t Midway just shift primary access to their entrance that is farther East? I get it, it’s inconvenient and sucks to have to do it, but it’s not overly difficult.

    • Rebecca Landis says:

      Are you sure that driveway belongs to Midway?

      • Rebecca Landis says:

        Perhaps Hasso should ask Tweedt’s how it affected that business when access to Seavy was restricted from Hwy 20 years ago.

      • Jon Stratton says:

        No. I got clarification from someone elsewhere online and they are not able to use the other access points.

  3. Grace says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Hasso. I wish they’d start working on it now.

  4. centrist says:

    Good design. Some folks already use the right-turn strategy by by crossing the fog line.
    Who else remembers movies to the south?

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    How do the cyclists heading to Corvallis get through?

    • Jon Stratton says:

      Remember that super-duper multi-use path Benton County is going to waste our money on? There you go. Until then, just stick to the right side of the lane of travel.

  6. Richard Vannice says:

    Couldn’t the money put into the “bike/hike” path along I 84 have been used for this Hwy 20 problem. Seems as though the State has their priorities set for the elite area of the state (Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas Counties) and not looking at the well documented problems of Hwy 20 between Albany and Corvallis.

  7. Kevin says:

    I’ve worked across the street from this intersection for 20 years. Seen it all.
    The problem is, and will remain even after this “improvement” will be trying to turn north.
    Getting into the new “acceleration” lane will be no easier than it is now.
    I can too only image when there are 5+ cars in the center of this hwy trying to merge in with other cars doing 60 going in both directions what kind of mess that will be, with dividers?…really?
    It needs a right turn to Corvallis that vehicles can merge into traffic, like HP has, off Granger to ease congestion at the crossing, AND a left turn to Albany……WITH A LIGHT.

  8. Cynthia Cooper says:

    Thanks for reporting the details. For clarification, by median acceleration lane, doesn’t this just mean an extra middle lane at Independence and at Granger, for cars to get past the Corvallis-bound traffic before they merge with the Albany-bound traffic? Or does median imply a concrete island like the one that blocks Albany-bound traffic coming from Tweedt’s?
    Thank you

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Not sure what you’re asking, exactly, by “for cars to get past the Corvallis-bound traffic”. I think the drawing makes pretty clear how that center lane is intended to work. You wait on Independence, wanting to turn left toward Albany. When there’s the gap in westbound traffic, you cross to the center lane and make a left. Then you stomp on the gas to reach cruising speed. When you get to the end of the center lane, you hope there’s a gap in eastbound traffic so you can merge into it.


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