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After more than two decades, Hwy 20 to lose its ‘safety corridor’ designation

Highway 20
Chris Lehman
ODOT said the Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville bypass, which opened in 2016, has helped contribute to lower crash rates along a 12-mile section of U.S. Highway 20 near Toledo, OR. File photo taken in 2016.

Crash rates along U.S. Highway 20 in Lincoln County have fallen enough that ODOT has decided to remove the “safety corridor” designation.

In a so-called “safety corridor,” traffic patrols are increased and fines are doubled. It’s a targeted approach to reducing traffic crashes on troublesome stretches of highway.

The 12-mile section of U.S. 20 east of Toledo is one of the oldest such corridors in Oregon, having been established in 1999. As of Dec. 6, it will join a list of 17 other Safety Corridors in Oregon that have been decommissioned.

Some of those decommissioned corridors had only been in place for three or four years before crash rates improved to the point that ODOT decided to remove it. That wasn't the case for the section of U.S. 20 between Toledo and Chitwood.

“We looked at taking away the safety corridor before, and the crash rate had gone back up, which doesn’t typically happen," said ODOT spokesperson Angela Beers-Sydel. "And so we took some more measures, we worked with the communities, and now we feel like it’s time.”

Part of the safety corridor saw a major upgrade in 2016 with the opening of the new Pioneer Mountain bypass, which replaced a narrow, winding century-old section of the road. Other actions included updated warning signs and a public education campaign.

With the decommissioning of the corridor, traffic fines will no longer be doubled in the area. And the highway will no longer be the location of added state police patrols. The decision leaves just four remaining ODOT-designated safety corridors in Oregon, with two additional corridors designated by county governments in Lane and Marion Counties.

"Now that we've decommissioned this one, they'll be looking at other areas that might meet the criteria," said Beers-Sydel. "And we can put extra enforcement and extra signs and build awareness in those areas."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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