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Posts Tagged ‘Oregon Department of Transportation’

Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods

On a cool summer morning it all started on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway with the wind at our backs looking east.

I’m talking about Interstate 84 and the 378 miles which stretches from Portland, Oregon to the Idaho border.  Senate Bill 461 took effect in January 2014 which required the use of private funds to be used in the purchase, installation and maintenance of the large brown signs which designates the route to honor all veterans who served and those who became casualties** during the Vietnam war.

There are approximately 20 signs installed to-date and our riding group passed a couple as we headed toward the base of the Blue Mountains to the Wild West city of Pendleton for the Pendleton Bike Week (PBW).  We took the Cascade Locks exit and rode across the cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River called the “Bridge of The Gods.”

Maryville Winery

Maryville Winery

There we picked up another rider in our group and headed east on highway 14.  We stopped in Stevenson, WA at the Venus Café for a bit of breakfast then made our way winding along through the Columbia Gorge through the forest and up steep bluffs.  We did a quick stop at the Maryhill winery, traveled past the largely dismantled aluminum smelter plant and then after a short stop in Umatilla we arrived in Pendleton.

This was the inaugural year of the PBW and based on my observations it looks to have sowed the seeds for the start of a recurring big event.  Bikers flooded the convention center, took in vendor booths, relaxed with musical entertainment, cruised around town and spent money which was an economic boost for the city!

Helmley's

Hamley’s “Old West” Saloon

Some key highlights were:

  • There is power in the wheat field and power in the rain because the Rogue Brewery Ale House officially launched the Pendleton Pilsner.  They grow their own hops, malting barley, rye, pumpkins, honey and other ingredients for refreshments.  The new Pendleton Pilsner is brewed at the Rogues HQ in Newport, Oregon and I’m reminded of that movie… where Frank the Tank states: “Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!
  • Pendleton’s legendary hospitality continues in fine style.  The local food was 1st class, the staff at restaurants were most personable and everywhere folks seemed genuinely friendly and appreciative of the motorcycle enthusiasts being in town.
  • PMR Registration

    PMR Registration

    The 100-year old mahogany bar at Hamley’s.  We spent a fair amount of time enjoying Pendleton’s iconic “old-west” saloon and taking in the towns ambiance.

  • Wildhorse Resort & Casino was most entertaining.  Operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the 10-story hotel and resort pulls in the people and the gaming revenue seemed brisk during my short time there. Yes, I contributed to their next expansion project!
  • Attendance of Rattlesnake Mountain H-D from Kennewick, WA at the rally celebration added icing to the cake.  The dealer brought over a bunch of motorcycles and there was a rather large assortment of accessories, parts and t-shirts for attendees to load up on.
Rally Crowds

Rally Crowds

Eric Folkestad, event partners and business leaders are likely making plans for 2016.   I chatted briefly with Eric and he deserves a big shout out from the riding community in taking on the risk and pulling together this quality event.  Motorcycle rallies are a huge gamble and you have to bring your “big girl panties” to the party because it’s not easy.  Note: That is a biker saying and apologies if I offended anyone wearing panties!  Granted he’s had practice being the co-owner of the Hells Canyon Rally and then selling his stake to his brother, but for any motorcycle event to be successful you need to bring large groups of riders together, offer up great entertainment, get biker vendors to support the event, cover the civic (OSP, police, 1st responders etc.) duties and hope that you don’t suffer financial ruin in the end.

Motorcycle Show Trophy's

Motorcycle Show Trophy’s

I’m happy to have participated in the “First PBW!”  Congrats on a most successful rally Eric!

Lastly, I wish I could report that there were no accidents, but Mr. Jason Anteau, 43-years-old, sadly died Friday night in a motorcycle accident at the west end of Pendleton.  Mr. Anteau worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation, was a Hermiston volunteer firefighter and was attending the rally.

Motorcycle Show

Motorcycle Show Entry

The preliminary investigation revealed speed and distraction were not factors, nor were any of the drivers impaired.  More information reported HERE.   Obituary HERE.  Rally’s can be a recipe for danger, but PBW is very small compared to other high profile events (i.e. Sturgis, Laughlin River Run etc.) where thousands of riders are packed into a congested area.  It’s an unfortunate blemish this occurred during the rally and we’re reminded once again how important safety awareness is to the motorcycle community, and how precious life really is.  My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Anteau’s family and friends!

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – added link to Mr. Anteau obituary.  Also adding that Mr. Anteau was on the Oregon State HazMat Team and was the vice president of the East Desert Diamondbacks chapter of the Iron Order motorcycle club.

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – The 2016 Pendleton Bike Week will take place from July 22 to July 26th. According to this report co-founder Eric Folkestad said the event met attendance and revenue goals and was able to break even. PBW brought in a total of 5,740 people over the five day event. The event peaked on Saturday, when 2,150 motorcycle enthusiasts arrived at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Photos taken by author.

**Approximately 57,000 Oregonians served “in country” during the Vietnam War with 719 killed in action.  Another 5,000 were wounded in action.  39 remain missing in action after 40 years.  Of the 333,000 veterans living in Oregon, approximately a third served during the Vietnam conflict. Interstate 205 (I-205) is also known as the War Veterans Memorial Highway and Highway 97 is known as the WWII Veterans Memorial Highway.  Thirty-three other states have officially designated highways in honor of Vietnam vets.

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red-lightI’m talking about Senate Bill 5141 which was signed by Gov. Inslee and took effect on June 14th.

It states that if a motorcyclist approaches an intersection, including a left turn intersection, controlled by a triggered traffic control signal using a vehicle detection device, and that signal is inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle, the motorcyclist must come to a complete stop. If the signal fails to operate after one cycle, the motorcyclist may proceed through the intersection or turn left after exercising due care.

The Washington legislation provided a legal way for motorcyclists to get through a red light and according to the American Motorcyclist Association, 14 other states have passed similar legislation.

In Oregon, motorcycle detection issues remain a problem at traffic lights in both rural and urban areas.  If you’re like me you’ve experienced the frustration and/or jockeyed around so that the auto behind can trigger the light.  And when motorcyclists encounter devices that fail to notice their presence, most riders will proceed through the red light after taking “due caution.”

I’m wondering when the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety will take up the issue?

Many cagers and law makers believe that motorcyclists are at fault in triggering traffic lights so, in the spirit of reporting both sides… the Oregon Motorcycle Manual and the TEAM Oregon Motorcycle Safety Program offer advice on how to position a motorcycle correctly at traffic stops so signaling devices will hopefully register it.

Photo courtesy of the internet.

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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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Watch For Motorcycles!

Many of you already know that May is motorcycle awareness month.

The self-appointed “wise men” and policy elites down in Salem, OR declared it (.PDF) – so it must be true!  They’ve also piled on and proclaimed it to be Transportation Safety Month, further relegating the motorcycle to the “end of the line” as they blah, blah, blah, espouse the virtues of raising awareness on motorcycle safety.  Why not pile on with farm tractor safety month and stop texting month too?!  Why limit the pile on?

The real story is that with warmer weather approaching motorcyclists are hungry to get out on the roads and this is a good opportunity to remind riders to realize that our fellow ‘cagers’ might have forgot over the long and wet winter that they share the roads with motorcycles and to ride defensively.

Speaking of riding defensively, did you know that Oregon back in 2005 was named by the NHTSA as having the top motorcycle safety program in the nation?  Either did I, yet it’s true.

And since I’m talking about defensive riding you might be interested to know what a couple of our poster child riders are up to – which serve to reinforce the public’s viewpoint of motorcyclists.  Let’s highlight Mr. Richard Boedigheimer (33) who showcases “driving safe” during motorcycle awareness month: He was pulled over on Oregon 22 west of Mill City after being clocked at 140 MPH.  He told the Marion County deputy that he was “just having fun” with his new girlfriend of one week who was a passenger at the time.  No word on the girlfriend status after the arrest.  Need more examples?  How about Mr. Nicholas Houck (20), who attempted to elude state police on a H-D motorcycle without a helmet at speeds exceeding 100 MPH.  First you draw attention to yourself for not wearing a helmet, in a state that requires it, then more troubling decide to elude. Mr. Houck also had a suspended license…

Notwithstanding the above poor judgment… the good news is the number of motorcycle crash fatalities in Oregon have dropped to their lowest level since 2004; the bad news is that 38 people lost their lives in motorcycle crashes in 2010 according to preliminary data from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

report released (.PDF) this week by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that nationwide motorcycle fatalities declined in 2010 by at least 2 percent. Based upon preliminary data, GHSA projects that motorcycle fatalities declined from 4,465 in 2009 to 4,376 or less in 2010. The projection is based upon data from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The decline comes on the heels of a dramatic 16 percent drop in 2009, which followed 11 straight years of steady increases in motorcycle deaths.

The new report—the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities in 2010—was completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. GHSA is projecting declines in approximately half of the states and for Oregon they are projected to be down 27 percent.  The Oregon GHSA Vice Chairman Troy Costales credits the state’s progress to a strong training program and a new law strengthening penalties for riders who do not have a motorcycle-specific license as well as working with motorcycle clubs, who are advocates for riding safe and sober.

The disturbing news which comes with deeper analysis of the data reveals that there are some areas for concern. First, 2010’s decrease of at least 2 percent is far less than 2009’s dramatic 16 percent decrease. Second, the 2010 decrease was concentrated in the early months of the year, with fatalities actually increasing by about 3 percent in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in 2009. Additionally, with the improving economy and surging gas prices, motorcycle travel is expected to increase, thus increasing exposure to risk. Finally, motorcycle helmet use dropped from 67 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2010.  In addition, motorcycle registrations continue to rise as the baby boom generation rediscovers riding a motorcycle.

In Oregon, the laws focus on safety and training.  The 2009 Oregon Legislature passed several motorcycle safety related laws in an effort to improve safety. In 2010, the penalty for riding without a motorcycle endorsement changed from a Class B (minimum $360) to a Class A (minimum $720) violation. Changes were also made to Oregon’s motorcycle training requirements, requiring new motorcycle riders to complete an ODOT-approved training course. The law has a five year phase-in period based on the age of the rider. As of January 2011, new riders age 30 and under must complete a basic or intermediate rider training course. Additional age groups will be phased-in each year until 2015 when all new riders must take training.

Oregon has made significant progress in motorcycle safety, but I’d argue that an awareness campaign once a year is not nearly enough.  Remember the rants and blog posts about those ODOT message boards?  No, I’m not bitter…

Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

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