Work on Highway 34 to improve traffic safety

Road work has begun on Highway 34 in an effort to reduce automobile crashes and fatalities.

At a Jan. 26 Forum Lunch hosted by the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, representatives from the Oregon Department of Transportation explained the new project that affects locals from Sweet Home to Corvallis.

Traffic improvement on Highway 34 has been legislatively mandated because there have been so many crossover crashes, Angela Beers-Sydel, public information officer for ODOT, told attendees at the event.

Beers-Sydel presented a video to explain the $3 million project.

About three miles of 42-inch concrete barriers will be placed in the median along Highway 34, from Tangent Loop Drive to Hinck Road, said Christine Hildebrant, Region 2 project leader for ODOT, in the video.

“There’s been a huge outcry for this project for quite some time,” Hildebrant said.

After gathering input from Linn County and concerned citizens, ODOT made the decision to add the barriers, which will also reduce crossovers at Columbus Street.

“By eliminating left turns in and out of Columbus, we hope to reduce serious crashes and fatalities,” Hildebrant said.

The installation of a signal at that location isn’t feasible because drivers in a rural area, traveling at high speeds, aren’t expecting to slow down, so a signal could actually cause more crashes, she said.

Concrete barriers, on the other hand, are easier to install and are effective at reducing crashes, and are easy to maintain throughout the life cycle of the barrier, added Derek Moore, assistant project manager.

“For people who are used to turning left at Columbus Street, we’d recommend going west to Highway 99 and using the interchange, or going east along Seven Mile Lane and using the new traffic signal,” Moore said.

A forum attendee asked the ODOT representatives how this re-direction of traffic might impact residents living on Seven Mile Lane, and what might be done to improve their safety.

Beers-Sydel responded that a request to change speed limit can be made to the state, although speed limit studies are currently six to eight months out.

Construction crews for the project have already begun to remove existing rubble and preparing the pavement for the placement of the barriers along the three mile stretch. The barriers are expected to be done by April 2018.

The remainder of the project includes new signs and striping at Colorado Lake Drive and Goltra Road to enhance intersection warning, and upgraded lighting to be installed at Denny School Road.

These traffic improvements are provided by House Bill 2017, the “Keep Oregon Moving” transportation bill, which is expected to provide $5.3 billion over the next 10 years, with half of that going to local communities, Beers-Sydel said.

“You’re going to see a lot more infrastructure work, and we’re going to take that funding and apply it to the needs of the state,” Beers-Sydel said.

According to Cascades West Area Commission on Transportation, the City of Lebanon should expect $380,000 annually for those 10 years.

For more information about the OR-34 Corvallis-Lebanon Highway Safety Improvement Project, contact Angela Beers-Sydel at (541) 726-2442, or by email at [email protected].

To see the video, visit youtu.be/NFhQrH6acCg.