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McVey intersection eyed as a local 'trouble spot'

by: Sam Bennett, 
The McVey Avenue and State Street intersection may be due for changes. The intersection often has accidents involving motorists turning left from State onto McVey, then merging with those who have turned right onto McVey from State.

The intersection of McVey Avenue and State Street has long been a source of stress for drivers and the city of Lake Oswego.

'It's no secret that McVey and Sate has been a trouble spot,' said Massoud Saberian, a principal transportation engineer with the city.

The city recently helped initiate a study of the intersection, in hopes of making it safer.

Saberian said city officials have identified safety issues with the intersection - namely that northbound traffic on State Street (technically called Highway 43) is sometimes hampered by cars slowing to make left turns onto McVey. The city wants the Oregon Department of Transportation to consider having a designated left turn lane for northbound traffic onto McVey.

'They seem to be agreeable to that,' Saberian said of ODOT. 'We haven't seen the final recommendations.'

An additional fix that the city could make is giving motorists who turn right onto McVey from State Street more room to merge with those turning left onto McVey from State Street.

To do this, the city would have to remove some two-hour parking spots on McVey and speak with nearby property owners. However, the widened lane would not require condemnation of property, he said.

'We would engage and discuss (with) the adjacent property owners,' said Saberian. He said he had only noticed cars parking in the area where the new lane would be a few times in the last two years.

Jane Heisler, director of public affairs for the city, said it's clear the State Street/McVey intersection is in need of a fix to make it safer.

'A car stops (northbound on State, turning onto McVey), yields for the through traffic and by the time he turns, the next guy is rear-ended,' she said. 'But it's also vehicles southbound on State Street that are hitting vehicles because they don't know they're turning. It's kind of a bad intersection.'

According to city figures, on average, there is a collision at the intersection once a week. Most of the crashes involve vehicles northbound on State Street attempting to turn left onto McVey.

City officials say the drivers often don't see the second lane of traffic, which they must pass in front of.

Christine Miles, spokesperson for ODOT, said her agency is studying the intersection but she is unsure how long the study will take.

Saberian said he hopes the study could be done in the next few months and the changes could be made in the spring of 2008.

The designated left turn lane would mean one less lane for traffic. But Saberian said just one lane of traffic feeds into State Street at that point anyway. Drivers, he said, 'are not gaining significant capacity' with the open left lane and most will simply stay in the right lane if the left turn lane is installed.

He said the estimated cost would be $25,000 to $35,000 for the northbound designated left turn lane. That would be paid for by ODOT. The cost for creating a new lane for right hand turns onto McVey off State would cost the city $5,000 to $6,000.

Although some Review readers have speculated that a recently installed device on the State Street/McVey traffic signal is part of the study, a surveillance camera or possibly a detection device for catching people who run the red light, Saberian said it's none of the above.

The city installed the device on the northbound signal as a way to monitor when the lights should change. The device detects traffic patterns and adjusts the signals accordingly, he said. Often, this task is done with 'magnetic loops' in the pavement. The video detection device was installed in August.