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Traffic structure opened to east-west highway traffic last week, as focus shifts to south side connection and Millican Road

PHOTO COURTESY OF ODOT - The Tom McCall Road/Highway 126 roundabout opened to east-west traffic Friday, but work remains before the project is complete.

The new roundabout is open! – well, sort of.

Oregon Department of Transportation opened the traffic structure to east-west traffic last Friday, but project officials are quick to point out that work is not yet complete.

"We still need to construct the south side connection as well as the improvements to Millican Road," said Interim Project Leader Bill Martin.

While that is true, highway motorists should not encounter any changes in traffic control while the project is completed.

"This will be the final configuration while we build the south portion of the roundabout," Martin said.

Opening of the long-awaited and controversial traffic structure ultimately went well for ODOT officials, although they encountered some early struggles. Initial plans called for a Thursday morning opening, but due to unforeseen challenges, they pushed it back a day.

"The only challenge was the staging of traffic while preparing for the opening," Martin said.

Bend-based Alex Hodge Construction began work on the $4.9 million roundabout project in late January. The roundabout was chosen as the optimal upgrade option to the Tom McCall Road intersection with Highway 126, which has grown much busier in recent years with the additions of the Facebook and Apple data centers as well as other industrial businesses in the area.

ODOT officials and city and county leaders considered multiple ways to safely move increased traffic through the intersection, including a traffic light, but determined the roundabout would keep traffic moving while preventing the possibility of high-speed vehicle crashes.

The roundabout is being built to accommodate trucks as long as 130 feet, follow rural design guidelines, and focus on improving turning movements and reducing travel speeds prior to vehicles entering the traffic structure.

ODOT has provided drivers unfamiliar with roundabouts information on how to properly navigate a roundabout. The directions, which can be found online with other roundabout information, recommends that drivers slow to about 10 to 15 miles per hour as they approach the traffic structure.

"Be sure to look for bicyclists merging into the travel lane or pedestrians wanting to cross," the website urges. "Be considerate and let bicyclists merge. If you see a person about to enter the crosswalk, let them cross. It's the law."

Motorists are then advised to slowly approach the "yield" sign, looking left.

"You may have to stop to yield to cars on your left," the directions explain. "If the road is clear, simply enter the roundabout, turning right. You don't have to stop, just enter."

Driver should then slowly proceed through the traffic structure until reaching their chosen exit.

"Do not stop in the roundabout," ODOT officials stress. "Exit carefully, using your right turn signal."

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To find a roundabout brochure, visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Engineering/Documents_RoadwayEng/Roundabout-Driving-Brochure.pdf

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