ODOT plans Hwy 99 revamp

The crosswalk north of Geer Avenue is among features which will be upgraded during the project.

Plans are in motion for an ODOT construction project scheduled for 2022 which will see the reconstruction of Highway 99 between Woodson Bridge and the Cottage Grove Connector overpass.

The project aims to make the section of OR 99 safer for not just drivers, but bicyclists and pedestrians as well.

Covering a little less than half a mile of roadway, the project is estimated cost around $6,300,000.

ODOT’s Region 2 Area 5 Manager Frannie Brindle delivered an update on the project to the Cottage Grove City Council on Aug. 23.

Brindle’s update included the project’s key features, ODOT’s protocol for public outreach and the tentative timeline for construction.

Improvement requirements to that portion of roadway were in part raised due to at least two pedestrian deaths there in the past seven years and the city’s Transportation System Plan identifying a need for better accommodation for all modes of travel, Bindle said.

Parts of the stretch must also be made ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

One of the most marked changes to the roadway will be the reduction from four lanes to three, with one lane in each direction and a center turn lane.

The infrastructure strategy is known as a “road diet” and has been shown to effectively reduce conflict points, particularly with left turns.

A “Safety and Operational Analysis of Four‐lane to Three‐lane Conversions” out of the Michigan Department of Transportation reported that the three-lane configuration crash rate was 46 percent lower than four-lane roads despite increasing the possibility for drivers to experience delays.

“Converting four-lane roads to three lanes ultimately reduces the amount of rear‐end and right-angle crashes, especially those involved with left‐turn vehicle movements attempting to access businesses or residences,” states the summary.

The study also states that this road diet can be a lower cost solution than reconstruction or expansion.

In considering safety, the crosswalk along the stretch has also been a topic of some public scrutiny. Currently, the crosswalk features a yellow, flashing pedestrian light and a provision of flags on each side for pedestrians to carry when crossing.

Local comments submitted to ODOT about the crosswalk raised some concerns about the current setup.

Fire Marshal Danny Solesbee pointed out that the current pedestrian lights are perpetually flashing, which decreases their effectiveness by desensitizing drivers to the warning.

“I have witnessed this right in front of me,” he said. “The lights should come on when a pedestrian turns on a light when they are ready to cross. It is like ‘crying wolf’ all the time, no one is paying attention anymore.”

Another comment by local developer Len Blackstone questioned whether the pedestrian crossing is one block too far north.

“When you’re coming off the connector and have traffic merging into connector traffic plus cars exiting the shopping center, there are a lot of distractions, which was probably the reason for the fatal accident years back,” he said. “The current flag carried by pedestrians and a flashing light would help. But, why not move the pedestrian crossing south one block and move the bus drop-off/pickup north?”

The ODOT project calls for the installation of a new Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), though it will maintain the crosswalk at its current location just north of Geer Avenue.

“In the center lane, we will construct a raised median that serves as a pedestrian refuge island that will provide a place for pedestrians to safely wait for a gap in the traffic to finish crossing the road,” states the plan. “When pedestrians want to cross OR 99, they will push the button to activate the RRFB and yellow LED lights will begin to flash to alert drivers that pedestrians are crossing. The RRFB will only flash when it has been activated by a pedestrian using the push button.”

The same RRFB system is currently used on Row River Road south of Jim Wright Way.

The project will also install a new traffic signal at the intersection of Hwy 99 and Woodson Place and will include a separate phase for crosswalks to help facilitate pedestrian crossings. This comes with new right- and left-hand turn-only lanes for southbound and northbound turning onto Woodson Bridge.

New sidewalks, six-foot-wide shoulders as bike lanes and upgrades to current ADA standards will also come with the project as well as repaving, restriping and improving the lighting of the roadway.

North of the connector, the project will construct a curb and sidewalk only on the west side of the highway.

“This addition enables Frontier Village, Juniper Park and the Riverside Apartments residents to walk safely to the shopping area,” said Bindle.

As the project is still in its design phase, a bid date is currently set for February next year. The goal is to start construction by spring and complete the project sometime in 2023, Bindle said.

“The design team continuously looks for accelerated construction strategies that will minimize the impact to surrounding businesses homes and motorists,” she said. “Construction will occur primarily in the daytime.”

Future public outreach will include an online open house this fall and a second open house in the spring, inviting area businesses and residents to stay abreast of the project’s progress.

The public can comment on the project, use the interactive map and stay up to date on the project by going to www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=20242.

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