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New mile markers posted along Highway 26

Signs are part of a pilot project by ODOT to improve safety for drivers
by: Jim Hart This is the first half-mile marker on Highway 26 on the way to Government Camp. Markers like this one have been installed by ODOT contractors on highways 26 and 217 in the Portland area.

Drivers who notice the green mile-marker signs along Highway 26 between Sandy and Government Camp likely have noticed more of them in recent weeks.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has contracted to install half-mile markers along the east-west highway. ODOT also is installing similar markers on Highway 217 on the west side of the metro area.

The new signs probably won't be used as much by drivers as by ODOT.

But for both, it will make it easier to know the location in case of a vehicle breakdown or crash.

That information could be valuable - even lifesaving - in the case of a crash with injuries.

Emergency personnel say that sometimes valuable response time is wasted trying to find a victim when location information is confusing, contradictory, inaccurate or incomplete.

The faster the response to an incident, the faster the incident is cleared and traffic is moving again.

But the first and foremost reason is safety, according to Jason Tell, manager of ODOT's Region 1 in the Portland area. Location signs every half-mile help police, ambulances and other emergency services find people in need more quickly.

'This will help take the guess work out of emergency response,' Tell said. 'These additional markers will give emergency service providers more precise locations. The result should be quicker response times.'

The half-mile markers also make it easier to pinpoint the location of any driver's concern such as something that poses danger for passing vehicles - a down electrical wire, fallen tree, rock slide, abandoned vehicle or stranded driver.

Another benefit of more mile signs along the highway is in reporting and recording data about traffic, crashes and other incidents.

More specific information on each incident will provide more accurate data in the future.

The new markers give ODOT a better tool to collect highway statistics. Today, highway crash statistics are recorded only in 1-mile increments. A statistical analysis every half mile will lead to a better understanding of specific conditions at a crash scene such as a curve, elevation or line-of-sight issue.

Drivers also will have more specific information when reporting an incident. This will be particularly helpful on Highway 26, where there are fewer reference points on the rural highway.

ODOT also will have more precise information about exactly where crashes are taking place so problem areas can be better defined, categorized and remedied.

The previous mile marker signs, which were two feet tall, have been replaced with larger signs: 3 feet tall on Highway 26 and five feet tall on Highway 217.

This is part of an ODOT pilot project, and the signs are the first half-mile markers in Oregon - although some other states use half-mile or tenth-mile markers.

On Highway 26, 124 markers have been installed from milepost 27, near Shorty's Corner, to milepost 57, near Government Camp. All are in place except for the stretch between mileposts 44.5 to 49 because the contractor handling that installation must complete another project before installing those signs.

The cost of the project for both highways, according to ODOT, is budgeted at about $38,000.