Plans for barriers on I-5 in place before fatal crash

Steven Fritz died Wednesday after 7-vehicle crash on I-5 in Salem

Dr. Steven Fritz, the husband of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, died in this crash on I-5 near Salem, Sept. 24, 2014 (OSP)
Dr. Steven Fritz, the husband of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, died in this crash on I-5 near Salem, Sept. 24, 2014 (OSP)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — While wet roadways likely played a part in a seven vehicle wreck that killed Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s husband on Wednesday, some were left wondering if a barrier on Interstate 5 could have prevented the accident.

“Today is a really tragic day for the city of Portland and for a community leader that we all love and value so much,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales while addressing the media Wednesday afternoon.

Steven Fritz died after being involved in a seven vehicle crash on I-5 in Salem during the morning commute. His passenger, 64-year-old Cary Marie Fairchild, was critically hurt and rushed to Salem Hospital. She remained in critical condition Wednesday evening.

Authorities said a pickup truck driving north on I-5 collided with a tanker trailer, causing it to cross the center lane and strike Steven Fritz’s car.

“I feel like everybody else. I think we need something between us and the other guy coming the other way,” said Jim Johnson, who drives on I-5 regularly.

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Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) spokesperson Lou Torres explained why the five mile stretch of road doesn’t have a barrier at this point.

“Well in 1994, when they widened the road, it was a major project through Salem. It was about 20 years ago. It was not an option; the cable barrier was not an option,” said Torres.

Since the cable was not an option, the state department installed an embankment with the goal of reducing accidents due to crossovers.

However, as the years have gone on, the department found that the embankment was not effective and started to add cable barriers.

“The cable barrier can reduce cross over crashes, but there are some drawbacks. Cable barriers – when you hit it – can also cause serious injury as well,” said Torres.

From Portland Road to Mission Street, the cable barriers have yet to be installed, but ODOT said they have plans to add them by next year.

“It’s too bad they couldn’t get that sooner because when things start happening like this, that’s when it needs to be done: now – not until another fatality,” said Deborah Guptill, who also regularly drives on I-5.

The department added that they had plans to add the barriers on I-5 in Salem and near Albany before the fatal accident.

Now family and friends of Steven Fritz mourn his loss, including his wife of 30 years and their three children.

Hales said a community vigil has been scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday at Terry Schrunk Park.

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