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Pacific Highway is one of the busiest roads in the state, and the crash records show it
by: jonathan house, Greta Helmer was hit by a car near Pacific Highway on Hall Boulevard.

It will come as no surprise to frequent users of Pacific Highway, but the road has a tendency to get crowded.

It is one of the busiest roads in the state, with nearly 157,000 cars driving down it every day.

To put that in perspective, Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter sees about 120,000 cars a day.

All that traffic comes with a price. As the most heavily used five-lane road in the state, it comes with its fair share of traffic crashes.

In fact, according to Tigard records, Pacific Highway sees by far more crashes than any other part of the city, including Highway 217.

The city compiled a list of the most common places to get in a traffic crash in 2011, and nearly every major intersection on Pacific Highway made the list of the 20 most common places to get in a crash.

Half of the top 10 most common crash sites were found on Pacific Highway between Hall Boulevard and Interstate 5 alone.

Here's the short list: Tigard Police responded to about 150 crashes between Hall and the interstate in 2011, the intersections that saw the most crashes were Pacific Highway and Highway 217, Pacific Highway and Hall Boulevard, crashes along Dartmouth Street and near Fred Meyer, 11565 S.W. Pacific Highway.

City and state officials said the crashes aren't anything to be concerned with and are within the numbers expected for a city that receives as much traffic every day as Tigard does.

'Those numbers are in proportion to the volume of traffic,' said Jim Wolf, a spokesman for the Tigard Police Department, which compiled the numbers. 'It's no surprise that those are locations that typically equate to very busy spots in Tigard.'

The No. 1 place to get in a car crash in Tigard wasn't on Pacific Highway, but at Washington Square mall, the report showed.

Tigard Police responded to 79 crashes there in 2011.

'And that's likely under-reported,' Wolf said. 'That's not counting fender benders where police are not called to the scene, and it ends up as an information exchange between the two drivers. We can't even begin to estimate those numbers, but those numbers are certainly likely at least double for that element. Many of the incidents go unreported.'

Other often-reported spots for car crashes not on Pacific Highway were Highway 217 at Southwest Greenburg Road, Highway 217 at Southwest 72nd Avenue and Southwest Upper Boones Ferry Road and Southwest Durham Road.

The crash numbers include car-on-car collisions; single-vehicle crashes and crashes where pedestrians were struck by passing motorists.

One of those pedestrians, Greta Helmer, 79, was crossing Southwest Hall Boulevard along Pacific Highway on April 4 when she was struck by a passing car.

Helmer, a waitress at the Hi Hat Chinese restaurant for 46 years until its closure last year, was on her way to get a perm before Easter when she crossed the crosswalk near Jo-Ann's Fabrics at about 9:40 a.m.

The Hall Boulevard crosswalk is a bit different than others along Pacific Highway, Helmer said, because it isn't at the intersection, but a few yards up the road.

As the driver turned off of Pacific Highway and continued up Hall Boulevard, Helmer said she simply didn't see her when she was struck.

'I had already crossed to the middle line when she (the driver) turned into the lane,' she said.

As someone who doesn't have a driver's license, Helmer walks that stretch of Pacific Highway frequently.

As a pedestrian, Helmer said the recent construction on Pacific Highway has made traffic flow better, but has done little for pedestrians.

'When I want to go across the street at Pacific Highway I give people a chance to go through,' she said. 'But when they redid (Pacific Highway near) that shopping center, they didn't let drivers come out on Pacific Highway anymore and all of them have to come out on that one driveway on Hall.

'I think they made it more dangerous. They wanted traffic to flow faster through town.'

Melissa Hess, who worked at the strip mall for three years, said she knows about three crashes in that area, each of them involved drivers not seeing pedestrians as they crossed the street.

'What I would like to see is this area enhanced with flashing lights when people cross the street,' she said. 'Something like that would be perfect.'

Don Hamilton, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, which maintains that stretch of Hall Boulevard, said the intersection and crosswalk was 'on ODOT's radar,' and they were keeping an eye on crashes there.

'We don't have any plans for any changes, but it is a very awkward crosswalk,' he said. 'To get the proper improvements, it would need ADA ramps and proper striping, which it doesn't have. It is not up to speed, but we're in a lot of discussions about what to do.'

The city and ODOT have taken steps to reduce the number of crashes.

The changes to Pacific Highway near Hall Boulevard and Greenburg Road are expected to reduce some of the incidents in that area, now that drivers have specified turn lanes instead of halting traffic.

ODOT also closed one of the more dangerous entrances to Washington Square late last year, closing off the left turn onto Washington Square Road from Scholls Ferry Road.

The intersection was one of the most common crash sites in the state, said ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie, with more than 40 crashes between 2004 and 2009, the most recent data available.

Hess said while more can be done to improve the crash rate along Pacific Highway, the recent improvements will likely help.

'I think it will produce less accidents,' she said. 'They can see the crosswalks better, and there will be less rearending and stopping at the last second, and pedestrians getting hit.'

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