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‘Safety is the focus’: ODOT starts work on new Hwy. 20 pedestrian tunnel near Tumalo

Two roundabouts also on the way

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Transportation has begun work on a project that will improve safety to the benefit of drivers and pedestrians on U.S. Highway 20 near Tumalo.

The improvements to the busy highway will include two new roundabouts and a bike and pedestrian undercrossing to deal with congestion and a history of crashes.

"It's a huge safety improvement for vehicles, and they better accommodate people who are walking, biking, rolling through the area by having safe crossings for them as well." ODOT Region 4 Public Information Officer Kacey Davey said Monday,

ODOT data from 2009 to 2014 shows a total of 21 crashes on Highway 20 between the intersections of Fifth street and Cook Avenue/ O.B. Riley Road.  Fourteen of the crashes in the ODOT data were related to the intersection at Cook Avenue.

"We did a traffic study in the area that showed a number of intersection related crashes at Cook Avenue and U.S. 20," Davey said.

At a nearby food cart lot, the owner of Taylor-Made Sandwiches, Ainsley Taylor, said he's noticed the impact on the road and the need for improvements. 

"I usually see an accident, seems like once a week, probably a little less," Taylor said. "There's accidents constantly at the intersections." 

ODOT believes the roundabouts will provide a crucial safety upgrade.

Davey said, "Roundabouts are really great at reducing crashes. They slow vehicles down. they reduce the conflict points, which means you don't have the head-on crashes like you might have at traditional intersections." 

 The traffic study showed many crashes happened as motorists try to cross or turn onto the highway.  

"If you've ever tried to get across Cook Avenue and Highway 20, it's really challenging because traffic on Highway 20 is so heavy," she added.

Taylor said, "It would do a lot to ease up the congestion and accidents, as well so -- and the pedestrian underpass is a great idea." 

For construction, the speed limit has been changed to 45 and in some areas 35. The project should be completed by the end of this year.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County
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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

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