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ODOT has plans in works to improve Highway 20 safety


Just days after a 2-year-old was killed in a head-on collision, we looked into what is being done to make that stretch of Highway 20 safer. It turns out the Oregon Department of Transportation already was planning to make some changes to the highway to improve safety.

Highway 20 between Bend and Sisters sees around 10,000 vehicles a day. In the last five years, there have been 150 crashes; of those, 10 percent have been fatal or led to severe injuries.

There are plans to improve signs, and to install “rumble strips” on the center line next summer.

Rumble strips help to prevent road departure crashes, which the agency said cause about two-thirds of the fatal crashes in Central Oregon.

“When people leave the road, they do it in one of two directions. And we want to stop both of them,” ODOT Regional Traffic Manager Joel McCarroll said Wednesday.

These strips have proven to reduce crashes by about 15 percent.

Compared to other rural highways in Oregon, ODOT says Highway 20 is not more dangerous. It’s actually less so than others, if you look at the crash data the agency compiles.

But that rate doesn’t mean there are not many crashes. It just means compared to other highways and the amount of travelers, there aren’t an abnormal amount of crashes.

McCarroll said when it comes down to it, ODOT — and everyone — wants fewer crashes.

“Our goal isn’t to make crash rates average, it’s to reduce crashes,” McCarroll said.

The safety improvements are happening during the repaving of Highway 20 from the Deschutes River to the Highway 126 junction in Sisters. Compared to the $4.5 million that will cost, rumble strips are relatively cheap, at $1,500 per mile, or $30,000 for this stretch of road.

“For the benefit that we get… it’s one of the most effective things that we can do,” McCarroll said.

Along with those plans, ODOT has requested further funding from state lawmakers to do even more.

The agency sent a “wish list” to the state that included a list of potential projects in Central Oregon. One would be widening the shoulders of Highway 20 to 6 feet.

With wider shoulders, ODOT could add more rumble strips. But even if the agency got more state funding, these projects would compete with other transportation priorities.

Another project would be adding more left turn lanes, most likely at the Cloverdale Road and Fryrear Road intersections.

Next year’s highway improvements will cause some traffic delays, but the roadwork will be done mostly at night.

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