A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Will this tricky corner ever be fixed?

Written October 23rd, 2018 by Hasso Hering

The logs spilled in Tuesday morning’s accident were still there in the afternoon.

Once again, on Tuesday morning, a log truck spilled its load while turning from Spring Hill Drive on Highway 20 toward the Ellsworth Street bridge. When will ODOT do something about this corner, tricky because of its steep downhill turn.

As always when part of the bridge access is blocked, the crash caused traffic jams on Spring Hill, North Albany Road, and the Albany-Corvallis Highway. (A 7:42 a.m. police alert on Albany’s “Nixle” service didn’t help because it implied the blockage was in the westbound lanes, not the ones approaching the bridge.)

ODOT is well aware of the danger of overturning log trucks. It was that which caused the state to nix continuation of the double left-turn lanes from Spring Hill in effect during the reconstruction of North Albany Road in 2015. The danger was that a log truck would fall on a vehicle to its right. As it is now, the danger is only that it will spill its logs on any hapless pedestrians or bicyclists on the downhill side.

The problem is the “super elevation” of the highway at the Spring Hill junction, constructed when the Lyon Street bridge was built in the early 1970s. Albany city officials have pleaded with ODOT to fix that problem. But the city’s street expert, Ron Irish, told me Tuesday he was not aware of any planned ODOT project to do so in the foreseeable future.

This summer, he said, ODOT asked about upgrading the signals at the intersection. The city said it would support a signal upgrade only as part of a larger project that also addressed the super elevation of the road.

“Didn’t make much sense to us to rebuild a signal to current standards knowing that it would all need to be replaced if the intersection grades changed,” Irish said. And so far, he hasn’t heard back from the state. (hh)

Near the head of Tuesday morning’s traffic snarl on Highway 20 at the Ellsworth Street Bridge.


Later Tuesday. a truck makes the downhill turn from Spring Hill without mishap.

22 responses to “Will this tricky corner ever be fixed?”

  1. Chris says:

    The double left turn lane worked well, becuase trucks were not allowed to use the intersection, and it allowed traffic to flow better. Trucks coming that way should be forced onto hickory and then back on to hwy 20. Problem solved.

  2. tom cordier says:

    Require all log trucks to exit Spring Hill at Hickory. Then Take left on N. Alb rd and left on Hwy20 to cross the bridge into Albany. Simple no cost solution

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The Hickory pavement is not strong enough for steady truck traffic. It would need to be rebuilt in a couple of years. Also, the city says, the truck detour on Hickory in 2015 worked only as long as a cop was watching. At other times it was ignored.

      • Pete Pyburn says:

        It would help two problems if odot installed a light at hwy 20 and independence hwy, then the heavy trucks would use independence instead of springhill.

      • tom cordier says:

        Perhaps you believe that at face value. I don’t. Sound like an opinion What factors were in the calc. i.e. frequency, weight, etc. Only one lane might need to be rebuilt= at what cost. Certainly less than Excavating the steep slope of HWY 20 intersection
        Issue citations to drivers who do not abide–there are not an infinite number–they are known and registered.

  3. Jon Stratton says:

    Better solution: don’t allow truck traffic on Springhill at all, except local traffic. The road was never designed for it, anyway.

  4. S. Whittle says:

    Hey, if you bought it a truck brought it.

    • Judy says:

      I don’t recall a warning sign regarding the unusual road conditions ahead. Sign or no sign how did Springhill become the preferred route for any trucker? If there is a reason log trucks are not using a safer option let’s fix that.

  5. Pat says:

    I have been under the the impression that the trucks use Springhill to avoid the hassle of trying to turn onto 20 at Independence. A light at that intersection would solve the truck problem, but that creates an issue for a far greater number of vehicles traveling 20.

  6. James Engel says:

    I don’t believe that the “road” was operating that truck. A dim witted driver was who failed to check his bindings & complete other safety checks. Until DMV tightens up it’s CDL requirements for drivers these type of accidents will continue.

  7. Tim Hanson says:

    Every action has a reaction. Diverting trucks from Springhill to N. Albany Rd. via Hickory would make an even busier intersection at Hwy. 20 and N. Albany. Frankly, truck traffic could be prohibited on Springhill forcing trucks to use Independence Hwy., which would exacerbate the problems there.

  8. Bryan says:

    I’m sure the real problem is excessive speed. Put in some red light cameras. That will stop people from speeding through trying to catch the “yellow” light.

  9. J. Jacobson says:

    It strikes this reader that a continuous series of upturned log trucks is essential to the success of our transportation-dependent society.

    There’s the need for Rubber Neckin’ so as to slow all traffic to a near halt so everybody can look and remind themselves how glad they are it wasn’t them driving.

    There’s the need for story telling, especially significant for persons of the Hering Persuasion, folks who just gotta break the news.

    There’s a need for the DMV, as this type of “accident” allows for a nearly endless number of forms a CDL driver must fill out after an “accident” of this nature.

    The borderline medical testing industry exists only because of “accidents” like this one. Drivers involved in this type of incident are whisked away to the nearest drug and alcohol testing lab to see if they’ve been imbibing on the job. Millions are at stake.

    The list goes on, but the point’s well made. Continual, repetitive accidents like this one are the life’s blood of a mobile society. As such, ODOT should do little or nothing to change the current accepted paradigm.

  10. centrist says:

    With logs on the ground, but no evidence of a rollover, Engle makes a good point about binding failure. Road may have contributed, but didn’t cause, the incident.
    There’s a technically-feasible solution to the bank on this piece of road. Not cheap or free of inconvenience. (Regrading one approach requires two-way traffic on the other bridge.)
    Sounds like a comparison between Springhill intersection regrade and Independence Highway intersection controls is in order.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The trailer overturned and the logs spilled. My photo of the overturned rig was taken while I was driving by in the left, open lane and turned out far too blurry to use. Later I walked to the scene to get an illustration for the story, and the log photo was the result.

  11. Bob Woods says:

    1) Ron Irish of the City of Albany is one of the finest traffic engineers you could find anywhere. Follow his lead.

    2) Contact your state representative and senator, along with the Director of ODOT and the Governor’s office, and tell them you want them to solve this life threatening situation once and for all. Actually writing a note card would probably REALLY get their attention because no one does it anymore. Then repeat every couple of months to keep the heat on. Set a reminder on your phone.

    3) Those of you who are tempted to say “It wont work… Nobody listens…They don’t care” are dead wrong. That’s exactly how you get things to change, not just posting online. It takes time but it does work.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The cynic in me says it won’t rise up ODOT’s food chain until-when there are more than one serious injury accident (or death). Accidents with no injuries hardly raise eyebrows…

  12. Delfina Herrera Hoxie says:

    20 is an off-camber road. Having two left hand turns off Springhill would help solve the problem.

  13. MGH says:

    The Benton County Transportation Plan (under development) indicates that Benton County is the jurisdictional authority for Springhill Road. Several projects in the Springhill/Hwy 20 area are being proposed in the updated TSP. See https://www.co.benton.or.us/tsp/page/tsp-project-library. ODOT is not the sole cause of (or owner of) all the evils in the world.

  14. Joe says:

    Springhill road was not designed to be the truck route it has become. Better solution would be to actually improve the Independence hwy 20 interchange. A proper fix would require hwy 20 to be moved a bit south, a change that would require disturbing some mud puddles in the field where the road would go.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      It’s a small thing maybe, but could we all use the proper spelling of “Spring Hill Drive”? Please?

      • PAM says:

        This seems to be a bit of a controversy. If you look at USPS.com and Benton County Tax Assessor page it is Springhill. I have lived on a couple of streets in my life where the spelling or spacing is not consistent.


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