Why is ODOT placing the new median cable barrier on I-5 so close to the fast lanes in both directions, south and north? Thanks to Rick Little, the answer is at hand.
I asked about this on Jan. 22, when I snapped the photo on my way south from Albany. The barrier seemed unusually close to the left-hand lane, not leaving a whole lot of space in case someone has car trouble and has to pull off the freeway on that side.
Little is ODOT’s public information officer for this area. He saw the question about the barriers, and Monday he came back with the answer: “The reason why we placed them so close (8 feet from the edge of pavement) is that much of the median consists of recognized wetlands. Obviously, we have to mitigate or avoid construction in those locations.”
Protected wetlands in the middle of the freeway? That tells you how far we have gone off the rails with state and federal laws intended to protect lands which water-dependent wildlife and plants need. For decades now, the laws have been extended to land that is dry except when it rains. And there’s no longer a connection with natural habitat. After all, who needs a gaggle of waterfowl in the middle of I-5?
Little says a barrier close to the highway rather than in the middle of the median is still effective in preventing cross-over crashes, as ODOT learned with a barrier on US 26 in the Mt. Hood area.
And as for the assertion by one of our commenters that pulling off to the left is illegal anyway, that’s true but there are exceptions, and one of those is when a vehicle breaks down and the driver “can’t avoid stopping or leaving the disabled vehicle in the otherwise prohibited location.”
Let’s just hope that when the barrier is finished, nobody’s vehicle breaks down on that side of the road. (hh)