County wants McKay Road designated as safety corridor
Given the string of deaths and accidents over the past two years in the area of McKay Road near St. Paul, officials at Marion County are seeking an additional step to increase traffic safety in the stretch sometimes referred to as "Death Road."
In a discussion about transportation last week, Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano said regarding the accidents on McKay Road: "People are dying and I'm fed up with it."
Brentano and the county hope to designate the area as a safety corridor under a new state law.
"Marion County worked hard cooperating for the Newberg-Dundee bypass, but because it's incomplete and broken into phases, that traffic dumps out into Marion County," Brentano said. "Suddenly we've been overwhelmed – 12 deaths last year and accidents on a near nightly basis somewhere in that area. The Donald-Aurora interchange area is a mess.
"I grew up in the St. Paul area and ever since this started happening we've been asked what we're going to do about it," he said. "We've done everything we can to this point – we cleared brush, put in new signs, a lot of enforcement. We think that is starting to work but we need to do more."
In last year's legislative session, Brentano said counties were given the power to designate certain areas as safety corridors – a move that he believes will reduce deaths and accidents in the area near McKay until the Newberg-Dundee bypass is finally complete. The potential changes are welcome, Brentano said, in the eyes of the county – but officials are still waiting to learn about the proper procedure of making this designation. Marion County is working with the Oregon Department of Transportation to learn when and how these changes might come about.
No other Oregon county has utilized this power yet, so Marion might be the first. Existing safety corridors in the area were created by ODOT.
"I'd been pushing for that and there's still some action that needs to be done before we can make that move," Brentano said. "We could potentially be the first to do this.
"The main issue here is speed, when you look at it. You can't drive those roads at 80 mph and expect you won't have some troubles. They're rural roads and not set up for that kind of speed."
The changes installed by making that area a safety corridor would include a 45 mph speed limit along with a handful of other unique deterrents for drivers. Brentano said the issue is unlikely to disappear entirely until the Newberg-Dundee bypass is completed, but this move to designate the area as a safety corridor is a necessary step after all the ones the county has tried to take.
From a sheriff's deputy assigned to that area to more frequent traffic patrols aimed at pulling over speeders, the county has instituted measures to reduce deaths on the dicey stretch of rural road. A safety corridor designation would be the most effective strategy yet, Brentano said.
"I'm sick of this problem here," he said. "In my ideal world, we'd have a 45 mph zone, double the fines and try to discourage people from speeding or even using that roadway altogether."
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