A snapshot of speeding vehicles
One of Woodburn's busiest intersections is also one that draws a fair number of speeding drivers.
But recent steps taken by the Woodburn Police and city council, coupled with involvement from Oregon Department of Transportation, could serve to curtail those violations considerably.
The Mount Hood Ave. and N. Pacific Highway 99E intersection is already equipped with a Redflex camera system that catches and cites vehicles that run red lights, of which there have been roughly about 3,000 per year in 2017 and 2018.
Those same cameras have the capacity to monitor speed.
Woodburn Police Lt. Jason Millican put together a photo-speed enforcement proposal and presented it to the Woodburn City Council on Monday, July 22. The council in turn authorized Millican to submit his proposal to ODOT, which is the next step in the process of establishing such enforcement.
One councilor, Lisa Ellsworth, opposed the move.
Photo speed enforcement is relatively new to the state of Oregon, becoming legal in 2017 when the Oregon legislature passed a bill allowing cities to implement it. It stipulates that vehicles must be travelling at a rate of at least 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
Millican said roughly 5.5 million vehicles travel through the intersection north and south each year (that number does not include east-west traffic). There were 14 accidents reported in 2017, 6 with injuries, and 16 reported accidents with 10 injuries in 2018.
"We have noticed an increase in reported traffic accidents over the last three years," Millican told the council. "I say reported because not every accident is reported to us."
The lieutenant also stressed that Oregon State Police reports that fatalities on Oregon highways increased 20 percent in 2018.
"If you just (observe) the local news, you know that's accurate," Millican said.
Woodburn Police Department reached out to Redflex last fall to get data regarding speed at the intersection. That data revealed that in 2017-18, 5,346 southbound vehicles travelled through the intersection at speeds above 46 miles per hour (a 35 mph zone), and a whopping 27,591 northbound vehicles clocked 46 mph and above.
Millican broke the data down to 16,500 speeders per year; 2 per hour. The highest northbound speed registered was 99 mph; southbound was 116.
"That one I can tell you was a traffic fatality in 2017 that we handled," Millican said of the 116 mph incident.
He also provided data from Sherwood Police that indicated a decrease in violations each month ensuing the implementation of camera-speed enforcement at a Highway 99W intersection.
With the council's approval to proceed, WPD will now propose the idea to ODOT, which in turn will conduct its own inspection of the intersection and the signage approaching it. If approved by ODOT, WPD would then launch a public-information campaign prior to implementing the enforcement.
Fines levied for violations would increase with speed: D violation, up to 10 mph over the speed limit, no fine; C violation, 11-20 mph, $165; B violation, 21-30 mph, $265; A violation, more than 30 mph, $440.
City Administrator Scott Derickson emphasized that the objective of this proposal is safety and compliance.
"The objective of the city would be to try to force more compliance in terms of speeding through there and not necessarily to generate revenue…to force compliance by people who are creating a hazard at that intersection," Derickson said.
WPD representatives on hand agreed.
"This request is made to slow traffic in and near this busy intersection to increase safety for both motorists and pedestrians," WPD Deputy Chief Marty Pilcher said.
"Our goal is to have zero traffic accidents; zero citations," Millican added.
Redflex would earn $27 per citiation. The company's director of sales, Rick Willing, told the council that cameras ultimately enable police forces to use their resources more efficiently. He also said busy intersections can be tricky to enforce since there is often no viable perch to from which to monitor it.
"The other benefit that our systems do is that it provides you to use your law enforcement resources more economically and smarter," Willing said. "You can't place an officer at your dangerous intersection 24/7. We can handle that for you; we can monitor that for you while your officers are handling other issues within your community.
"In some cases in intersections, there is not a very good location where the officer can sit and safely monitor it," he added. "And even if there is, is it safe for that officer to pull out into traffic and make a stop somewhere where it's safe?
"It's just a good use of technology."
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.