The north Marion County rural-road connection between I-5 and the Dundee Bypass is now a designated safety corridor.
Marion County announced Wednesday, Feb. 3, that it became the first Oregon county to designate a local safety corridor, establishing the route consisting of McKay, Yergen and Ehlen roads, roughly through the St. Paul, Donald to Aurora areas, with that classification.
In recent years Marion County Public Works, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Marion County Sheriff's Office have heightened focus on public safety in the area where speeding motorists often imperil farm vehicles and other slower traffic on the rural roads.
The three entities teamed with the Oregon Farm Bureau early in the 2019 growing season in a collaborative news conference to draw attention to the issue.
The issue also was an impetus behind House Bill 3213 (2019), which allows ODOT to create a safety corridor pilot program for counties.
County sources said the safety corridor designation allows traffic fines to double in the designated area; in this case it is between OR-219 and I-5. The county's public works department plans to install safety corridor signs early next week. Safety corridors have been available for Oregon's state highways for many years and have proven effective at reducing crash rates.
"For several years, people have been bypassing bottlenecks on I-5 through Marion County rural roads. We appreciate the work of Rep. Bill Post and other legislators who sponsored legislation to make county safety corridors a possibility," said Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis. "We've done a great deal of work to get to this point and appreciate the cooperation between the county, state and local communities to help improve traffic safety in northern Marion County."
Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley noted that for several years the McKay/Yergen/Ehlen corridor has been a high priority for the county due to higher than expected crash rates and people driving at excessive speeds in the area.
Public works has installed safety enhancements such as center-line rumble strips and wider striping; adjusted speed limits, warning, and stop signs; added more pavement markings; and designated no passing zones.
MCSO also has coordinated with neighboring agencies to conduct targeted patrols to educate drivers on speed and other safety issues.
The county has plans for future enhancements, including the addition of flashing red beacons at stop signs, flashing amber beacons, increased intersection lighting, and driver speed feedback signs. The county also is pursuing grant funds for the construction of center-line turn pockets at major intersections within the corridor and other enhancements.
"As soon as House Bill 3213 was adopted by the Oregon Legislature, Marion County committed to North Marion County communities to development this safety corridor," said Marion County Public Works Director Brian Nicholas. "The formal designation of this safety corridor fulfills that promise and the county is committed to working alongside the community for future enhancements."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.