Safety of Busy Intersection Questioned

CORVALLIS, Ore. — After a car hit a bicyclist in a busy intersection last week, some travelers are questioning the road safety where Philomath Boulevard meets 15th Street in Corvallis.

Many drivers complain of the hill on the northern section of 15th street, saying that the visibility is poor when turning left.

“The left-hand turn is a little bit scary – not being able to see on-coming traffic with no left-hand turn signal,” said Andy Myers, a frequent driver and pedestrian through the intersection.

A bike path runs along Philomath Boulevard going west. Some cyclists say they have no problem using the crosswalks at the intersection, as long as they are going from east to west or vice versa.

“I cross the intersection at a crosswalk and a nice light. But the other direction – which I don’t go – doesn’t have that kind of simplicity to it,” said bicyclist John Lopez. “It doesn’t have a turning lane, it’s on a rise; it doesn’t have clearance. So I can see where it might be a problem for cyclists.”

Last week, Corvallis Police say a vehicle headed east-bound hit a bicyclist outside of the intersection, 21-year-old Jesse R. Davis. The driver was not cited, but Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis says Davis is in serious condition, and other pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers wonder about the safety of the intersection.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says if it were to install left-turn lanes on 15th Street, the City of Corvallis would first have to express interest. Then, ODOT would conduct several studies including looking at traffic flow and crash histories.

Rick Little, the spokesperson for ODOT, says from 2007-2011, the intersection saw no pedestrian or bicycle crashes. To add an additional lane, Little says ODOT would have to widen the roadway, which means acquiring surrounding property. Property acquisition, an additional traffic controller, pole, and traffic head would cost at least a half-million dollars according to Little.

“We would have to ask if the highway would function efficiently by adding in a left-turn lane,” said Little. “We have no indication from the crash statistics that it’s needed.”

The question remains – would it be worth the money?

Some pedestrians say they do not think the intersection is an issue. But others disagree.

“You can’t really tell what’s on the other side of the rise,” Lopez said. “Going northbound, it’s hard to see. It just is.”


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