ODOT’s study of the I-5/OR 217 northbound ramp has found no structural issues that would lead to an increase in crashes. Our review of historical data shows speed too fast for conditions has played a role in almost two-thirds of all 82 reported crashes on the ramp in an 11.5-year time period, between the time it opened in June 2001 and the end of 2012. Average traffic volume grew from 24,080 a day in 2002 to 32,160 a day in 2012. That computes to more than 100 million vehicle trips across the ramp since it opened—or almost 1 million vehicle trips each month.
“We are taking even more steps to raise awareness that the advisory speed is 35 mph,” said Jason Tell, ODOT manager for the Portland area. “And wet roads require greater care when driving, especially on any ramp.”
What ODOT has done to study the issue
•ODOT bridge engineers examined the bridge joint near the beginning of the bridge in January 2014 as part of a routine bridge inspection performed every two years. After reports of new crashes this spring, ODOT inspectors again examined the joint. In both cases, they found the joint within specifications. The current condition of the joint has not noticeably changed since 2006.
•ODOT bridge engineers examined the structure itself—the piers and foundation, as well as the joints and deck. They found no issues of concern.
•ODOT crews performed a friction test on the deck of the bridge. The test showed some parts of the deck had greater friction than the last test in 2007 and some parts had less.
What ODOT is doing to reduce further crashes on the ramp
•ODOT plans to install an electronic warning sign at the start of the ramp by this fall. The sign will display an image of a skidding vehicle when laser sensors detect that rain, snow or ice has reduced road surface traction. Similar signs were installed last winter on the ramp at the north end of OR 217 where it joins U.S. 26 westbound.
•ODOT installed a lighted variable message sign at the start of the ramp in May in response to concerns about crashes, to remind travelers of the advisory speed. This sign will be removed when the electronic sign described above is installed.
•We installed large and bright 35 mph speed signs on both sides of the ramp. And we installed large chevrons (arrows) along the first curve of the ramp.
•As part of routine maintenance and in an abundance of caution, ODOT will seal the deck by mid-August.
•ODOT will record a camera feed documenting traffic patterns on the ramp when the roadway is wet. Speed can be determined from the images. ODOT generally does not record images from our cameras, but we will do so in this case, specifically to study ramp traffic patterns in wet weather.
Safety is a shared responsibility
“ODOT is committed to maintaining a safe and efficient highway system,” ODOT Region Manager Tell said. “And we also ask drivers to do their part: Please follow the advisory speed on all ramps.”