Would cable barriers make Highway 30 safer?

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — About half the crashes along a stretch of Highway 30 over the past 10 years were head-on crashes, including one near Scappoose on Wednesday that left a 65-year-old man dead.

“It’s a situation that I don’t think law enforcement has a chance,” said Greg Vansickle.

Vansickle knows it firsthand; his friend died in a Highway 30 crash in 2008.

“It was pretty earthshaking,” he said.

And Tuesday, the most recent deadly crash, Wayne Harvey McCormick of Scappoose died when a driver crossed the center median and hit him.

“I’ve seen a lot of death over the years here,” said one truck driver who makes this drive regularly.

Tuesday’s crash re-ignited calls for safety improvements along that stretch of road, including cable barriers down the center. But officials with the Oregon Department of Transportation said it’s just not as easy as putting up a few miles of cable.

The stretch of road under discussion is 70 miles long and the accidents are very spread out. In other words, the entire highway is a problem area. From Portland’s St. Johns Bridge to the Clatsop County line, there have been 1,882 crashes over the past decade.

Of those crashes, 42 were deadly. Of those deadly crashes, 20 were due to a driver crossing over the center median — exactly what happened Tuesday.

“I almost think they need a cable, just like on [Highway] 26,” said the truck driver.

ODOT reports cable barriers are most effective and more realistic where there is a short stretch of road with a high number of crashes.

Unlike Highway 26, where ODOT reports cable barriers have eliminated head-on crashes, Highway 30 crashes are spread out pretty evenly over a 70 mile stretch of road. And there are no 2- or 3-mile stretches worse than the rest.

“The problem with us,” said ODOT’s Kimberly Dinwiddie, “is the crashes are occurring throughout the entire 70 mile stretch.”

ODOT is adding more reflective lane striping and signs. The agency has plans to add “rumble strips” so drivers are alerted when leaving their lane. It also has designated a portion of the road as a safety corridor, meaning police can up the fines for speeding where “Double Fine” signs are posted.

As for the barriers, “It does affect people getting out of their businesses, people getting out of their homes,” said Dinwiddie. “And emergency [vehicles] can not get through the cable barrier as well. So we take placing any type of barrier in the roadway very seriously — and with all the crashes sprinkled through us, we’re going to use other measures to try to reduce the crashes.”

But for those like Vansickle, who lost a friend on this 70 miles of highway, it’s about saving those 20 lives lost this past decade due to center-median crossing: “I think that would probably stop a lot of the deaths we’re experiencing out here.”

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