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Turning left? Then think twice in OC


by: PHOTO BY RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Some folks want the southbound McLoughlin Boulevard left turn to Tumwater Drive closed since there is a protected left-turn light within 500 feet.Left turns are big business in Oregon City.

Although some projects are under construction, locals want more attention paid to the issue.

Here are some examples:

1. A barrier now prevents left turns across Highway 213 at the northbound Interstate 205 ramps and the Clackamas River Drive-Prairie Schooner Way (formerly Washington Street) intersection. Work on the $26.8 million “Jughandle” project continues behind concrete barriers and guardrails, with no travel lane closures expected this week.

2. Oregon City’s Barclay Hill Neighborhood Association has concerns about the safety of several left turns along busy streets in the area. In a work session last week, Oregon City planning commissioners discussed priorities and potential fixes with neighborhood representatives.

3. For an estimated $3.92 million, the Oregon Department of Transportation is completing a project this month to repave McLoughlin Boulevard (Highway 99E) and add left-turn lanes by removing through lanes south of Second Street near Milepost 13.8 and north of the intersection with South End Road. ODOT hopes to reduce the potential for crashes by providing a safe place for drivers to pull on and off the highway where high-speed rear-end crashes have often occurred.

Protected left turns got many other locals thinking about another nearby intersection. Some folks want the southbound McLoughlin (99E) left turn to Tumwater Drive closed since there is a protected left-turn light within 500 feet.

Carl Ronson, a longtime Clackamas resident and volunteer with the Clackamas County Historical Society, says he’s seen many crashes and near misses at this turn. Having spent more than 40 years volunteering with the U.S. Forest Service working on the Barlow Road, he argues that filling this cut through the ridge could regain a “nice area” to the south end of the promenade.

“This would not only add to safety, it could also be filled to its original configuration and added to the promenade,” Ronson said. “There will be no shortage of fill material if the mill is to be demolished, and another great view of the river and falls would be gained.”

But an ODOT Traffic Study Report prepared in 2000 showed that the new intersection would need two southbound left-turn lanes on McLoughlin at the location to meet operation standards if Tumwater was closed. ODOT prepared the report for the project that reconfigured the McLoughlin/Second Street intersection and converted Tumwater from a two-way minor street approach at McLoughlin to a one-way (westbound) approach.

The traffic study showed that leaving Tumwater open for southbound left turns as an alternative to South Second Street would reduce the left-turn movements at Second Street and eliminate the need for two left-turn lanes there. Because of the right of way constraints (the highway is sandwiched between the basalt bluff and the railroad at this location), leaving Tumwater open for southbound left turns off the highway was found to be the preferred alternative.

ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton recently said that there hasn’t been a traffic study done since 2000, nor does ODOT have any immediate plans to study the area again.

“There are a lot of other critical projects that we have to get to, which is not to say that’s it’s not important, but it’s just not something that’s on the forefront right now,” Hamilton said.