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Highway work moving toward design phase

Additional funding secured to advance Highway 30 safety improvements


by: COURTESY ODOT - A map presented by Mark Buffington of the Oregon  Department of Transportation at Wednesdays meeting shows past, present and planned projects along Highway 30 through Columbia County.State officials are developing a clearer picture of changes planned for Highway 30 in Columbia County, Oregon Department of Transportation staff said this week.

Transportation maintenance manager Mark Buffington detailed safety improvements, including the placement of “rumble strips” and measures to restrict some turns from and onto the highway south of central St. Helens, that are slated for the county’s main road.

Rumble strips, which are lines of grooved pavement placed down the center line and along the edges of a road, have already been put in along much of Highway 30 south of Scappoose. Buffington said ODOT plans to add more rumble strips all the way north and west into Clatsop County.

Buffington noted, however, that rumble strips are best suited for rural stretches of road because of the noise they make when tires go over them.

“It sounds like a gun going off to the people who live along the side of the road, because when you hit those things, you can really hear them,” Buffington said at an early-morning meeting of the Columbia County Traffic Safety Commission in St. Helens on Wednesday, Aug. 7. “The intent is to wake people up and bring them back into the traffic lane. The downside of it is we’re finding that we have to go back and fill, potentially grind some of them out when they’re right in front of residences.”

The Highway 30 Safety Corridor Committee also met late last month to discuss potential improvements in the vicinity of St. Helens.

ODOT spokesman Lou Torres said the committee talked about its options for the highway’s intersections with Bennett and Millard roads.

“At Bennett Road, the two alternatives were a raised median along the highway that restricts all turn and through movements except right in and right out, and an ‘S’ separator that only restricts left turn movements from Bennett and through movements,” Torres wrote in an email. “ODOT asked for concurrence from the committee to move forward with a design on making improvements at Bennett. The group responded with a unanimous yes.”

At Millard Road, ODOT is exploring a potential realignment of where the street intersects Highway 30. The committee also approved that for design work, but the state traffic engineer has yet to sign off, according to Torres.

Buffington said the department’s goal is to eventually have a traffic signal at the Millard Road intersection.

The project will also illuminate Bennett and Church roads where they meet Highway 30, Torres noted.

According to Torres, the safety corridor project has $5.4 million budgeted right now, mostly in federal dollars.

“Back in February, the project appeared to be underfunded based on earlier estimates,” Torres wrote. “We have now [secured] additional funding to shore up the difference for the improvements.”

Torres said the goal is to begin design work in earnest next month. Construction would then take place in 2015.