Going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for the holidays gets a little safer this month on Highway 26 southeast of Mount Hood. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently agreed to extend the current safety corridor for an additional nine miles.

'We've had so many accidents in that section, I'm hopeful this new designation will help reduce the risks and increase awareness for drivers,' said State Rep. Patti Smith (R-Corbett).

The corridor is inside her legislative district and she asked for the expansion last summer as a member of the House Interim Transportation Committee.

The current safety corridor, established 10 years ago, affects milepost 25 to milepost 57 on Highway 26. The new portion runs from milepost 57 to milepost 66, an area called 'No Man's Land' by fire and police rescue workers.

According to ODOT, 'No Man's Land' has a 27 percent higher crash rate than the state average.

ODOT has put up additional warning and speed signs, adjusted passing areas, and is now installing signs to alert motorist to the new corridor designation. As with the other 14 safety corridors, fines for traffic violations can be doubled in these areas.

'Highway 26 to the east of the Highway 35 junction has seen an increase in crashes with fatalities in the past year,' said Jerry Sabel, head of the Highway 26 Safety Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee. 'Extending the safety corridor to the east will be a major step in reducing these crashes. Without (Smith's) help, we could not have accomplished the safety corridor extension.'

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