To the Editor,
Recently I witnessed a potential accident that haunts me still today. I was stopped at the light on Highway 395 waiting to turn East onto Elm Street. A flatbed semi and trailer was slowly turning East onto Elm Street. At the curb there were two girls, probably middle school age, waiting to cross Elm Street northward. One of the girls seemed engaged in texting. As the semi part of the truck combo passed, the girl texting stepped off the curb. The truck stopped and the other girl grabbed her texting friend and pulled her back. The truck then proceeded slowly with the rear tires missing the curb by inches. If the truck driver had not been so alert, I feel quite sure I would have witnessed the third fatality at this intersection in the past couple of years.
After the second fatality at the intersection of Highway 395 and Elm Street the children of the first fatality made an impassioned plea for the Oregon Department of Transportation to route trucks away from the Diagonal/Elm Street route to a designated truck route following Highway 730 and Highway 395. This route would increase travel only 4 miles. It would remove trucks from the Diagonal Road which is primarily residential and place them on the 730/395 route which is mostly commercial. It would also make it possible for children along the Diagonal Road to once again be able to use bicycle lane ODOT promised them when they improved the road and placed lanes along the route.
After the second fatality I spoke with an ODOT official about the likelihood of ODOT requiring trucks to use the 730/395 route. His response was they had spent a lot of money improving the intersection of Elm Street/Highway 395, and he doubted they would be interested in making this change. He did say that ODOT had been known to make changes if enough pressure was brought to bear.
After this conversation I wondered at what level of mortality would it take to have ODOT move the trucks off the Diagonal/Elm Street route to the Highway 730/395 route. We know that two deaths in the past couple of years have not done it. Would the death of a child have made any difference?