EDDYVILLE, Ore. — Memorial Day Weekend is around the corner, and traffic will pick up on Highway 20 between the coast and Corvallis. But another fatal crash on Tuesday night is leaving drivers nervous about the notorious stretch of highway.
On Tuesday night, Oregon State Police say 66-year-old Gary Langstaff of Siletz passed a line of traffic on Highway 20 near milepost 23 by Eddyville. Troopers say when Langstaff went around a curve, he lost control, crossed the center line, and hit another car head-on. They say he died at the scene.
The Oregon Department of Transportation says between 1999 and mid-2013, there have been 349 crashes, 245 injuries, and 12 fatalities between mileposts 14-24 on Highway 20.
Drivers traveling through the 10-mile corridor say even if they know the road well, it still makes them nervous.
“It makes me feel a little uneasy,” said Waldport resident Connie Simms. “There are real sharp turns on an incline or going down, and they’re blind.”
Other drivers agree, saying the narrow and windy stretch is dangerous.
“I would never drive this road at night,” said Carol Perkins of Newport. “Not in a million years.”
For residents in the area – the sound of a siren is one they say is all too familiar.
“When we hear it, we kind of wonder about you know, who it was – a neighbor or somebody who lives in this area,” said Randy Dale, who lives in Eddyville right off of the highway.
ODOT says that safety is its number one priority – and it has been working since 2005 on a 5.5 mile highway realignment project that will bypass 10 miles of Highway 20. The $365.7 million project has hit some speed bumps because of landslide issues, but once it is done by the fall of 2016, ODOT says the new roadway will be straighter, wider, and safer.
“Any improvement is good,” Simms said. “I think any time you can save a life it will be good.”
In the meantime, Oregon State Police say they actually have fewer troopers patrolling the area along Highway 20 because of budget cuts. Within the last decade, the Newport OSP Office has gone from 11 active troopers to 5. Troopers say they are understaffed, and if they had more funds, they would be able to patrol the area more.