ODOT plans $11 million safety projects on I-84

Semi-trailers drive down Cabbage Hill on Interstate 84 in 2017 near the snow line east of Pendleton.

The Oregon Department of Transportation announced plans this week for a series of construction projects along Interstate 84 between Pendleton and La Grande to make the stretch of freeway safer for motorists.

The work is based on the Interstate 84 Corridor Management Plan, a study that looked at road safety between Boardman and Ontario. It determined a high need to reduce speed-related crashes, crash severity and distracted driving on the entire stretch of roadway, and to add better real-time information on weather and traffic.

The first phase includes $11 million worth of projects, including $4 million funded by the transportation bill passed at the end of the 2017 Legislative session. Work will begin in 2019 and is expected to conclude in 2020.

Projects include:

• More than a dozen new message boards mounted above the interstate. According to a press release from ODOT, some will be linked to sensors to display real time information, including temperature, presence of ice or fog, and chain requirements.

• Ten additional road and weather sensors.

• Nine miles of cable barrier between eastbound and westbound lanes along two stretches to prevent crossover crashes (roughly between mileposts 229 and 238 and mileposts 249 to 250.)

• Twenty LED lights along two miles of the downhill, westbound curves of Cabbage Hill east of Pendleton, with more lights added as funding allows. There will also be more than 12 miles of yellow reflective markers attached to guardrail in that area.

• A new road camera (westbound MP 247.4), snow zone sign (eastbound MP 220.6), and ramp gate (westbound Exit 224 at Poverty Flats).

• More than 10 miles of buried power line to support these enhancements and future upgrades.

• Twelve curve warning signs with flashing beacons in the Grande Ronde River Canyon west of La Grande.

A separate project will add a third lane for eastbound trucks in Ladd Canyon, east of La Grande, in the coming years. The stretch is closed often as trucks spin out and there is not enough room for traffic to get around disabled vehicles.

The corridor management plan has a list of goals it hopes to accomplish by 2025, including reducing serious and speed-related crashes by 20 percent and weather related crashes by 25 percent, communicating dangerous road conditions to all travelers within five minutes of the condition being recognized and preventing truck parking from spilling back onto freeways.

The study also notes that during the summer a key cause of severe crashes is speed, while in the winter a key cause is following too close.

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