Due to decreased crashes, corridor designation may be gone next year
by: Stover E. Harger III RESCUE — An ambulance speeds through Highway 30’s “safety corridor,” a state designation that could be removed by next year.

Due to a decreased number of critical and fatal crashes on the stretch of Highway 30 between Scappoose and St. Helens, Oregon Department of Transportation officials say the highway's 'safety corridor' designation will likely be removed in 2013, two years after it was commissioned.

To classify a roadway as a safety corridor, the three-year average number of fatal and serious injury crashes must be 110 percent of the rate on similar roads statewide, said ODOT spokesman Larry McKinley. There can only be 13 designated safety corridors at one time in the state.

The safety corridor allows ODOT to tap additional resources, including funding for signage, low-cost engineering improvements and ramped up enforcement patrols. But the safety corridors are rescored yearly, and it appears the accident rate on Highway 30 has gone down enough to remove the designation. The corridor will remain in place for at least one more year to see if the numbers bear out, McKinley said.

'The goal of the county and of ODOT has always been to remove the safety corridor,' McKinley said.

Oregon State Police Sgt. Yvette Shephard said troopers worked 260 hours of overtime patrolling the corridor through September 2011, the last month for which data is available. Troopers stopped 420 vehicles, issuing 127 speeding tickets and arresting three people for drunk driving.

'There will be no grant funding for this corridor this year due to the lowered crash, citation, and DUII arrests,' Shephard said in an email. 'This is mainly due to the fact that several troopers made a conscious effort to work this area, which influenced the commuting public.'

Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher said the possibility of losing funds for increased Oregon State Police presence is unfortunate, but the lessons learned from increased safety auditing will benefit all 56 miles of Highway 30 inside the county. Fisher said some engineering issues that could help safety are probably too expensive to deal with right away, but consultants say simple fixes like trimming vegetation to increase visibility, improving signs and adding better striping and rumble strips would improve safety immediately.

'Our concern has been the entire US 30, and my hope is we can continue working with ODOT to address those issues,' Fisher said.

Fisher and State Sen. Betsy Johnson co-chaired a 17-member work group seeking to establish the designation.

Since the program was established in 1993, only seven safety corridors have been removed from the list. The shortest time a corridor spent on the list was six years, for a section of U.S. Highway 101 near Coos Bay. Highway 30 is also the newest safety corridor. Route 140, near Lake of the Woods, was commissioned in 2005 and is still on the list.

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