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State shuts down turn lane into Washington Square

by: Jaime Valdez

Planning a trip to Washington Square? You might need to rethink your travel plans.

Starting Sept. 7, the Oregon Department of Transportation will be removing the southbound turn lane into the mall from Southwest Scholls Ferry Road.

'The main reason is for safety,' said ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie. 'There have been several crashes in the left-turn from southbound Scholls into the mall.'

Crews will remove the turn lane and install a raised barrier to keep drivers from turning onto Washington Square Road.

It's good news to city officials, who say that the intersection has been dangerous for some time.

The intersection is one of the most common crash sites in the state, Dinwiddie said, with more than 40 crashes between 2004 and 2009, the most recent data available.

About half of those crashes resulted in injuries.

'And those numbers don't include near misses and doesn't include rear-end accident of people avoiding those crashes,' Dinwiddie said.

While no one has died as a result of a crash at the intersection, Dinwiddie said it's only a matter of time.

'We're taking action before someone is seriously injured or there's a fatality,' she said. 'We'll eliminate the crash problem altogether.'

With more than 200 people using the intersection every hour during peak drive times, Dinwiddie said that drivers need to be aware of the change.

Drivers can use the Scholls Ferry Road exit instead, Dinwiddie said, or use other nearby streets like Hall Boulevard or Greenburg Road to access the mall.

'People will need to change their habits to get where they are going,' she said. 'Safety is taking a priority over convenience; there are still many ways to get to Washington Square.'

Yet the lane closure isn't a long-term solution, only a stop-gap, Dinwiddie said.

'We don't have the funding for a long-term solution,' she said. 'That would require extensive modernization of Highway 217 and Scholls.

The lane will close Sept. 7.