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Plans continue toward closing Bear Drive and Highway 97 intersection in Jefferson County

 - At both Ford Lane and Falcon Lane ODOT plans to remove power poles and add pavement to the shoulders to make it easier for traffic to navigate right turns from and onto Highway 97.

The Oregon Department of Transportation wants to close Bear Drive at Highway 97. After a high number of fatalities at that intersection, five in the last five years, ODOT says closing the intersection is the safest solution.

After six months of debate and passionate testimony, Jefferson County Commissioners asked for drawings of how ODOT would improve other intersections in exchange for closing Bear Drive.

Area Manager Bob Townsend says ODOT will make the intersection at Dover Lane larger and therefore safer.

"Basically, we'd be installing left turn lanes on Highway 97," says Townsend. "We'll try to realign Dover Lane as best we can to eliminate some of this skew so when people are stopped at the intersection their line of sight is more squared up, which also drastically improves safety."

Townsend also outlined improvements where Ford and Falcon intersect with Highway 97. Adding pavement to the shoulders and removing power poles will make it easier for trucks to navigate right turns without swaying into oncoming traffic.

"We think Ford Lane will be the candidate for left turn lanes at some point in the future," says Townsend, "but this will meet some of the concerns right now."

"Improvements were promised at Dover Lane in the 2007 transportation plan within the first five years, depending on funding," says Matt Powlison, head of Jefferson County Public Works. "So, I'm glad to see them doing this now."

Powlison would like to explore alternatives to closing Bear Drive. "I would like to see a plan for Bear to see what it would cost to put in a median or something to restrict left turn lanes."

ODOT says a median is not a proper solution for that intersection.

Commissioner Wayne Fording understands the difficulties closing Bear Drive poses for people who live and farm in the area. "It's not a perfect solution, but either would a four-lane highway. It all limits access over time. It's a tough one, but I think saving lives is most important."

After months of discussion, Jefferson County Commissioners seem to be closing in on a decision. They've put it on their agenda again for Wednesday, June 23 at 10:30 a.m.

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