New roads to the future

MY VIEW: Have patience with summer construction projects
by: L.E. Baskow, A smooth-functioning Interstate 5 is critical to our collective quality of life, writes Matt Garrett, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

This summer, the Oregon Department of Transportation is ramping up bridge and highway construction on Interstate 5. Visitors to the Salem and Eugene areas and Southern Oregon likely have or will notice the work there. Many of the projects are being funded by the Oregon Transportation Investment Act.

The intent of the OTIA program is to make improvements that will keep people, goods and services moving safely and effectively by modernizing our most important transportation corridors. As part of OTIA, we are repairing and replacing bridges, widening lanes and performing essential maintenance throughout the state.

The I-5 corridor is Oregon's central transportation artery. Serving commerce, commuters, tourists and our economy, a smooth-functioning I-5 is critical to our collective quality of life. Since it was built in the 1950s, I-5's freight volume has increased, the dimensions and weights of loads have grown, and an overall greater volume of traffic puts more pressure on the system every day.

Our work will strengthen this vital roadway and help maintain unrestricted routes for trucks, tourists and travelers. Simply put, making improvements to I-5 is not only an investment in Oregon's transportation infrastructure, it is an investment in the economic health of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.

ODOT also is repairing many state highways surrounding Portland; most of the projects are funded through means other than OTIA. Ten projects in the metro area include replacing two viaducts on Highway 99E (the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Grand Avenue viaducts); repaving part of Oregon 224 (Milwaukie Expressway); repaving and adding auxiliary lanes to part of Interstate 205 in the West Linn area; and replacing a bridge and adding left-turn lanes on Oregon Highway 219 (Hillsboro-Silverton Highway). All but two are expected to be finished by the end of this year.

ODOT's mobility engineers have created unique approaches to help keep traffic moving during these upgrades. By estimating possible delays in work zones and coordinating timelines for multiple projects, we are working to keep delays to a minimum. Whenever possible, construction will be scheduled for off-peak or night hours to further maintain traffic flow.

Your help is needed to make these efforts truly successful. Major road construction, even with state-of-the-art traffic planning, can cause delays. We are asking you to be prepared for intermittent disruptions. Most important, we urge you to slow down in work zones and be patient. Our motto is 'Better roads are ahead!'

To help you plan your trips and avoid delays, ODOT maintains two sources of up-to-date information: and 5-1-1. provides detailed information on construction projects, including anticipated delay times, as well as incident, weather and other conditions affecting your trip. You can get the same information by calling 511.

Oregonians always have understood the importance of a strong transportation system in supporting a healthy economy. Oregon was the first state on the West Coast to complete I-5 construction from border to border, and we now are leading the way in improving this key 50-year-old highway. It took the combined efforts of the people from public and private sectors to build our historic interstate - now that same partnership is working together to rebuild it for a safer, stronger future.

Matt Garrett is director of the Oregon Department of Transportation.