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Caution ahead: Bumps in the road

Highway 217 work leaves deep gouges in road that drivers say are a hazard


Drivers along Highway 217 for weeks have been stuck in a rut. Literally.

Road construction has left deep gouges in the pavement all along the busy highway between Beaverton and Tigard, forcing drivers to either swerve or get trapped by the grooves.

It’s a problem that Don Hamilton, a spokesman with the Oregon Department of Transportation, has been hearing a lot about.

Crews are working on a $9.2 million project to widen sections of the road for emergency responders and install a larger, stronger median between the northbound and southbound lanes.

Crews had to adjust the lanes on the highway to accommodate for the construction, Hamilton said.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cars work to avoid deep ruts along Highway 217 near Scholls Ferry Road. The gouges have frustrated drivers who say the ruts are unsafe. ODOT says it will fix the problem by mid-May

That work has caused a traffic hazard.

“We had to grind out a lane to move the lanes over two or three feet to get ready for the project,” he said. “But what we created is (the ruts) right about where the right wheels (of vehicles) would go. It has created some disruption.”

Close calls

The resulting grooves have caused headaches for the estimated 112,000 drivers who use the highway every day.

Hamilton said since construction began a few weeks ago, ODOT has received several calls from drivers and other concerned motorists.

“If you hit the ruts just right, it will jerk your wheel — not only giving you a mini-panic attack, but possibly causing you to over-correct and get in an accident,” said Mandy Collins, who lives near Washington Square mall and works in Northwest Beaverton.

She relies on the highway every day but wishes she could avoid it altogether while it remains under construction.

And she isn’t alone.

Tigard resident Jason Martin, 25, said he used to take Highway 217 every day to get to and from work in Beaverton. He no longer feels safe driving on the road.

“Some of the ruts are extremely scary,” he said. “They always make me feel like I don’t really have control over my car. I pretty much avoid (Highway) 217 altogether at this point — unless I have no other choice.”

According to Hamilton, there haven’t been any crashes on Highway 217 because of the ruts.

But last week, Hillary Gibbons came close to having one.

Gibbons was merging onto southbound Highway 217 from Pacific Highway, when one of her vehicle’s wheels slipped into one of the ruts.

“(It) hit into the rut hard enough that it jarred me toward the side wall,” she said.

Gibbons jerked the wheel, overcorrecting and sending her vehicle into the right-hand lane.

“Thankfully, during all the rush-hour traffic, no one was in the other lane (when) I over-corrected,” she said.

Should be resolved soon

Hamilton said ODOT officials understand the safety concerns, and crews are working as fast as they can to finish the work and fix the problem.

“Once we realized what was going on, and realized that this was a bigger problem than we had anticipated, we rejiggered the schedule so that we could shuffle everything back and out of the way of that stripe,” Hamilton said.

The situation should be resolved by mid-May, though restriping along the highway is expected to last into September, he added.

“We understand that some people have had some significant problems navigating this,” Hamilton said. “That’s why we’re trying to get this fixed as quickly as we can in the next week or two. We understand it’s not a perfect situation for traffic, and we are trying to get that finished so it’s not a problem.”

When the work is complete, crews will realign the striping back to its original position, he said. Any leftover grooves will be out of the path of car tires and will be filled when the road is re-paved later this summer.

For Collins, the gouges near Washington Square have made her think twice about taking the highway with her young children in the car.

She will take detours through Beaverton rather than take Highway 217, she said.

“That, or I avoid going to Beaverton altogether and head to the library and parks in the Tigard/Tualatin areas instead,” she said.

On the ground

The construction along Highway 217 is part of a larger paving project that will add some breathing room for emergency responders who have long complained of the often-congested highway.

Between now and September, Oregon Department of Transportation crews plan to repave much of the highway between Tualatin Valley Highway and Interstate 5 and install a taller median divider along the roadway.

“It’s really an interstate highway, but it didn’t start out like that when it was first built,” said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton. “That’s why we’re making these improvements.”

The higher median will reduce the risk of nighttime glare from oncoming traffic and strengthen the median should a crash occur.

“It’s a stronger product, which will make the road safer if there are crossover crashes,” Hamilton said. “We won’t get cars into a collision and spinning into an oncoming lane.”

Crews will widen the shoulder in three sections — southbound between Denney Road and Hall Boulevard in Beaverton, and both northbound and southbound between Scholls Ferry Road and Greenburg Road in Tigard — which will help emergency responders get to the scene of a crash more quickly.

Crews will also be able to clear crashes off the roadway faster, Hamilton said.

More electronic reader board signs will also be installed on and around the highway, including on Highway 99W, Highway 217, Barnes Road and Kruse Way in Lake Oswego.

Final completion of the work isn’t expected until next year.




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  • 21 Aug 2014

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