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Posts Tagged ‘Oregon 217’

OR 212/214 - Highway

OR 212/214 – Sunrise Expressway

Its the first new highway (2.15-miles) in the Portland Metro Area in over 30 years.  Yes, you read that correct — 30 years!

The previous new state highway in the Portland area was the opening of the Glenn L. Jackson Bridge in 1982.

As many have noted, it seems the state won’t build a mile of road without a mile of bike path.  Many years ago we were told transit would reduce congestion, now we are told we need to build more light rail and we have to just get use to highway congestion. Most commuters have all but given up on ever seeing extra lanes on constantly congested Oregon 217.  The highway now carries the most traffic in Oregon, with more than 30,000 vehicles a day.  Yet, when surveyed most in Washington county are more concerned about parking at the Nike company store than relieving congested highways.  And then you have Oregon researchers claiming that when it comes to improving freeway traffic flow, sometimes a bigger road really isn’t a better one.

Road expansion in Oregon does not move quickly.  Similar to the winter rain there is a drip, drip, drip process which requires lots of analysis.  For example the Sunrise Expressway project had been under discussion since the mid-1980s.  They broke ground for the project in August 2013 and it took three years to complete opening on July 1st.

Gov. Kate Brown led a dedication on June 30th to big fanfare and media coverage.  She announced that the project will improve safety and ease congestion for people who walk, drive and bicycle in Clackamas.  Likely there was a lot of angst by needing to include the word “drive” to that announcement.  So, after three decades of planning and three years of construction, the Sunrise Expressway, opened. The four-lane, 2.15-mile highway extends the Milwaukie Expressway east to Southeast 122nd Avenue where it links with OR 212/224 – the Clackamas Highway.

Congrats ODOT for getting as much use as possible out of the OR 212/214 transportation system we had up to that point. You’ve spent $130 million on 2.15 miles of highway of which $100 million came from the Jobs and Transportation Act passed in 2009 by the Oregon Legislature.  For a detailed review of the project please see HERE.

Next up are those “smart” highway signs (variable speed signs) which have been in place for well over a year now.  I’m curious how that is working?  Will we be hearing the sound of crickets…

Photo courtesy of ODOT.

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Real Time Signs Being Tested

Real Time Signs Being Tested

Drum roll…. it’s coming this summer.  Oregon motorcycle riders will be bossed around by technology.

I’m talking about how the state has money to burn on solar arrays, sensors, LED signs, and computers at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

You’ve likely noticed the construction of those seven full-color, LED, 30-foot wide traveler information signs on OR 217, four in the southbound lanes and three in the northbound lanes.  In addition, there will be five smaller signs on roads leading to OR 217, including OR 99W, Barnes Road and Kruse Way.  The system will  include subterranean sensors, moisture tracking all communicating via advanced computer algorithms that we’re told will fix the congestion-plagued OR 217.

Real Time Signs - WDOT

Real Time Signs – WDOT

What?  Congestion on Oregon 217 with all the light rail, WES and bike paths, how is that possible?

If you’re like me… texting, day dreaming, adjusting the navigation system, eating a bran muffin and chugging down an extra hot vanilla latte while shaving during the work commute… we missed all the lane expansions during the last 30+ years on Oregon 217!   Of course there was no expansion and all the transit geeks in Portland (who hate all things automobile) celebrate weekly that it’s still only 4 lanes.  To be fair, there have been small widening of the shoulders on three sections of OR 217.  Of course there have been several signage changes and who can forget that rutted out mess last year that was re-paved?!

Variable Message Signs

Variable Message Signs

But, what ever happened to the studies for widening 217 or how about that Newberg-Dundee Bypass?   ODOT’s stated goal is to improve transportation operations by first addressing management techniques prior to building additional capacity to a highway.

But I’ve strayed off topic.

There are approximately 200 crashes a year along OR 217, which equates to a crash occurring four out of every five weekdays.  So, ODOT is following the likes of Seattle (clearly they are traffic leaders to emulate!) by powering up strategically placed signs displaying variable speeds and real-time traffic reports based on the weather and road conditions.

When ODOT flips the power switch on that $6.5 million artificial traffic-intelligence project, motorcyclists will no longer have to endure recurring bottlenecks, high crash rates, and unreliable travel times.  We won’t witness panic braking during peak travel times and can ignore those short weaving areas that create erratic changes to traffic speeds due to interchange spacing.  The new flash advisories will tell us if it’s raining (duh!), if a crash has occurred if it’s being cleared and which lane will glide you along with faster commute times to your destination.  At least that’s ODOT’s hope.

Color me skeptical about this “intelligent” system.

UPDATE: July 11, 2014 — ODOT turned-on the first of the RealTime travel signs yesterday on OR 217.  An email message went out highlighting the accomplishment and evangelizing that National studies show that advisory speed signs have reduced overall crashes by 20 percent, reduced rear-end collisions by 30 percent and reduced secondary crashes by 40 percent.

Full Disclosure:  I’ve been disappointed in ODOT for 4+ years now about a proposal to use the Variable Message Signs (VMS) to help make the driving public more aware of motorcycles.  It’s been rejected multiple times.  The absurd viewpoint, especially given the 12 new signs on OR 217 going off /on multiple times a day has ‘artificially’ influenced this writer.

Photos courtesy of WDOT and CalTran.

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Darrin Sprechar

Driving a motorcycle in the northwest is an exciting experience. The views, the freedom a motorcycle gives you, the expression of individuality that comes from going down the road on two wheels vs. four, are all attractions that thousands of Oregon motorcyclists experience most every day.

Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to driving a motorcycle. Accidents involving motorcycles are more dangerous to the rider than those involving people in automobiles.

That was the situation last week when Paradise Harley-Davidson (PHD) employee, Darrin Sprechar (43) was involved in an accident on Oregon 217 and sustained serious injuries.  Darrin was transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center after he rear-ended a vehicle on the highway between Southwest Walker and Canyon roads. The crash occurred in the southbound lanes at about 2:35 p.m.

Although Darrin was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, he 
suffered a traumatic head injury and remains hospitalized and in the ICU.  According to Beaverton Police (Yazzolino) the helmet wasn’t one approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
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So, let’s reframe the debate — many of us know Darrin from the PHD Service Department — He’s really a nice guy, has a great sense of humor and is 3-dimensional, just like a real person!  Right now he remains in the ICU and it’s unknown when his condition will improve — so is it really time to debate DOT merits?! Really? I’ve read the posts on the forums and press pages.

Instead I suggest it’s time for a good deed.  One that will help bring some happiness to this family during the hazy shade of winter.  The Sunset HOG Chapter is sponsoring a collection for Darrin to help with medical expenses.  You can bring a donation to the next chapter meeting or mail a donation to PO Box 2078, Beaverton, OR 97075.  Or if you prefer you can make a donation HERE however, be advised that 100% of your donation will not go directly to the Sprechar family after the site takes it’s hefty percent of overhead.

We all hope and pray that Darrin’s injury will quickly heal. If you visit this link the family is keeping Darrin’s status updated daily.  For those of you who do contribute,  I’m sure that Darrin and his family would like to personally thank you for your support.
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Picture courtesy of Caringbridge and Sprechar family.
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