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Ski season brings speeders

Damascus sees an increse in speeding with the winter weather
by: Patrick Sherman, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott King watches for drivers speeding through the Damascus area on their way to Mt. Hood.

There are two sure things each winter in Damascus: snow on the mountain, and people driving too fast through Damascus to get there.

'They just congest the heck out of downtown,' said Deputy Scott King with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. 'We're stuck right in the middle between Highway 26 and the mountain, so we feel the effect, big-time.'

Especially on weekends, King targets mountain-bound traffic through the city.

'I just try to keep the speed down,' he said. 'The speed limit downtown is 35 miles per hour, but skiers just fly through here at 50-plus. Most of them are from over on the west side, just trying to get to the slopes, and they don't pay attention.'

King explained that a stretch of highway east of Sandy became known as 'Blood Alley' because of all the deadly accidents along that stretch of road.

'Be extra careful on weekends,' King said.

With Damascus and its neighbors growing so quickly, harried skiers are not the only speeders King and his fellow deputies are seeing in Damascus.

'We're like a central hub out here,' he said. 'Whether you're going to Bagby Hot Springs or up to the mountain or out to Estacada, maybe to do some shooting in the wilderness, you have to go through here.

'It seems like, if you live in Gresham, the shortcut to Clackamas is through Damascus. A lot of high school kids from Barlow go home for lunch, and then they are in a hurry to get back to school.'

With an expanding population, wide-open country roads have been transformed into city streets, but motorists have yet to change their driving habits. Along with Highway 26, 222nd Avenue and 242nd Avenue have been designated traffic safety corridors by the state.

'They do those designations to let people know that there have been a lot of crashes along those routes,' said King. 'Southeast 242nd is one of my favorites - we see people going 80 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour speed zone.

'We're seeing DUIs that are coming from outside of town, too. I haven't heard of any local people getting picked up for DUI yet.'

King said locals are glad to see the sheriff's office doing traffic enforcement.

'They've started to notice the impact that using their roads like a raceway is having, and they like the quick response and just the fact that we're out there,' he said.

King urged locals to report traffic problems, either by entering a report at the sheriff's website (www.clackamas.us/sheriff) or by visiting city hall and filling out a traffic complaint form.

'When we're out on patrol, we don't know if there's a problem somewhere else,' he said. 'We appreciate it if people let us know.'