Hwy 217 on-ramp crashes continue, no joint repair set

ODOT to instead install warning sign near site of multiple crashes

The ramp from I-5 to Highway 217 in Tigard, May 28, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The ramp from I-5 to Highway 217 in Tigard, May 28, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

TIGARD, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Yet another motor vehicle accident Friday morning on the troubled Interstate-5/Highway 217 on ramp was cause for Tigard commuter headaches as it closed the right lane to traffic for 30 minutes.

Motorists who experienced some of the many crashes in recent months are calling for improvements to a bridge joint that ODOT says does not need to be fixed.

A man was unhurt when his car rolled on the ramp from I-5 to Highway 217, May 8, 2014 (ODOT)
A man was unhurt when his car rolled on the ramp from I-5 to Highway 217, May 8, 2014 (ODOT)

Although no major repairs are planned, Oregon Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Don Hamilton said there are plans to make the problem spot safer.

More than five accidents occurred in the exact same spot in May – in fact, four crashes took place on the day of May 8.

In that case, ODOT officials said the cause was a steel bridge joint a half-inch out of place, although as of June 27, the transportation authority is still not planning to fix the joint. However, a permanent electronic warning sign will be installed in the coming months.

Motorist Paul Coffee, whose rollover accident was one of four on the on ramp May 8, is one of several drivers who have filed tort claims against the state of Oregon alleging ODOT’s negligence led to their crashing.

“[It] sounds like they knew that there were problems there,” said Coffee.

Michael Coffee talks to KOIN 6 about his accident on the ramp from Interstate 5 to Highway 217, June 19, 2014. (KOIN 6)
Michael Coffee talks to KOIN 6 about his accident on the ramp from Interstate 5 to Highway 217, June 19, 2014. (KOIN 6)

Coffee said his troubles began when his vehicle hit the bridge joint in question.

“I hit the metal connector piece I guess, and started fishtailing,” he said May 8.

“I’m not an engineer, it just always felt like a tight corner to me,” he said.

Following the accidents, ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton said engineers planned to inspect the bridge’s joints.

“They’re [going to] be looking at the skew of the bridge, they’re [going to] be looking at the bridge joints,” he said in May.

ODOT even closed the bridge for an overnight inspection eight days later.

ODOT Public Information Section Manager Dave Thomson said the bridge joint is “noticeable,” but not necessarily a problem.

“The bump [is] definitely a bump, we know that, but we have no evidence that that has caused any crash in recent times,” he said Friday June 27.

Thompson said installing a warning sign and performing routine surface maintenance is in the near future, but a deck seal is not.

A deck seal would help with friction, he said. “But our friction tests did not show that friction was any sort of major issue in crashes,” Thompson said.

If drivers stay within the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour, the on-ramp is safe.

“We beg people to slow down to 35 miles an hour on that ramp,” he said.

Wrecks include rollovers, driving into the wall, losing control and fender benders.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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