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ODOT says faulty joint causing traffic crashes on I-5, 217 ramp

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - ODOT officials say that a connecting joint along the Highway 217 and Interstate 5 flyover has cone out of alignment, which may have caused several crashes along the ramp in the past few weeks.The Oregon Department of Transportation is analyzing a highway overpass in Tigard after several cars were involved in crashes in the past few weeks.

Shattered glass and pieces of debris still line the on-ramp from northbound Interstate 5 onto Highway 217, a long curving flyover with a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit.

According to ODOT, four cars were involved in separate crashes on the ramp on Thursday, and two more were reported on Friday.

Last week, a driver slammed his car into the shoulder of the ramp after navigating the turn too quickly.

Don Hamilton, a spokesman with ODOT, said part of reason for the crashes might be a problem with a joint connecting two slabs of concrete.

“There is a bridge joint that is slightly out of plum by about half-an-inch,” Hamilton said. That, combined with speeding motorists is likely causing some of the crashes. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - An electronic speed sign warns drivers to slow down as they merge from northbound Interstate 5 onto Highway 217.

“The bridge is out of skew by about half-an-inch, which is within design parameters,” Hamilton said. “But if you are going 40 or 45 miles-per-hour, that will cause a bump, and on a wet road, it will cause you to slide.”

However, that might not be the entire story, Hamilton said. Crashes have been reported all along the on-ramp, not just at the bridge joint.

“That tells us that there are other things at work, too,” he said.

That on-ramp has seen 35 crashes since the on-ramp first opened in 2001. That’s relatively few considering the high number of cars that traverse it each day, Hamilton said.

On Friday, road crews installed a large electronic sign near the on-ramp warning drivers to slow down in the area. Hamilton said crews will perform a traction test on the road, as well as check the road’s deck seals to see if those are contributing to the higher number of crashes.

“The first and most important thing is to make sure that motorists understand that it is unsafe to travel above the advisory speed,” Hamilton said. “That is the No. 1 thing that we can do to make that ramp bridge safe.”

Hamilton said heavy rain has also contributed to the crashes.

“It’s a combination of all of these things.”

One driver involved in a crash on Thursday told The Times' news partner KOIN 6 News that he was likely going faster than the 35 mph speed advisory, but said he lost control when he hit the flyover’s joint metal connector.

“We are in the process of analysis, trying to figure out what’s going on,” Hamilton added. “We are determining what we do about the bridge joint, the traction test, the bridge deck seal and checking the status of all of that.”

Repairs will be scheduled after the analysis is completed, Hamilton said.

In the meantime, drivers should be aware of the situation and slow down when they merge off of the interstate.

“Anytime that you see a ramp speed that is significantly lower than the highway that you are on, you know something different is coming up,” Hamilton said. “That is a good reason to slow down.”



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