Oregon House OKs cable barriers for interstates

ODOT will have 6 years to install the cable barriers

A crash involving a commercial truck and boat blocked Interstate 5 south of Wilsonville, Ore., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (ODOT)
A crash involving a commercial truck and boat blocked Interstate 5 south of Wilsonville, Ore., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (ODOT)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — By an overwhelming 54-5 vote, the Oregon House of Representatives voted to require cable barriers in medians along some stretches of Oregon interstates.

In April, the Oregon Senate voted 28-1 in favor of Senate Bill 921. Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has been pushing for the plan since her husband, Steve Fritz, and Cary Fairchild were killed on I-5 near Salem last fall.

The bill, also called The Fritz-Fairchild Act, would give ODOT 6 years to finish building barriers along nearly 100 miles of Oregon interstate highway that is now unprotected and in prime territory for crossover crashes.

The barriers would be placed in the median if the space between opposing lanes of traffic is 100 feet wide or less.

“It was great to see the support on the floor and I was very glad that the bill passed,” Commissioner Fritz said.

Fritz’s husband was killed near Salem on his way to work, along with passenger Cary Fairchild, when a black pickup crossed the I-5 median and crashed head-on into them.

“People have been very kind to me and it’s helped people remember that politicians are people too and that we have families and people that we love,” Commissioner Fritz said. “People who we love that die.”

ODOT has since installed cable barriers where her husband was killed. Last month, they saved the life of 17-year-old Keizer student Chris Jenkins.

“But for the new media barrier, Chris would have likely slid into oncoming traffic,” Representative Julie Parrish said on House session tape. “He wrote Commissioner Fritz to express his gratitude that he’s still here with us today.”

But cable barriers don’t always work. Just this weekend, a truck rolled over the barriers into oncoming traffic near Salem, and larger vehicles — like trucks — won’t be held back by them either.

ODOT is targeting high-priority areas for installation at a cost of $20 million. The money will be spent if, and when, the governor signs the bill with Steve Fritz’s name into law.

“I’m sure he would be glad to know that other Portlanders and other Oregonians are going to be safer because of this bill,” Fritz said.

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