Crashes highlight neighborhood safety concerns on Highway 99

Rogue River, Ore.– Two crashes in the same location – one of them fatal – just days apart on a section of Rogue River Highway south of Rogue River. Both accidents damaged the property of one woman, Teresa Rutherford, who is now wondering what can be done to make the area safer for her and the drivers.

The first crash on Thursday, knocked down her mailbox. The second on Sunday, portions of her fence.

“I thought to myself, maybe I’m jinxing this place, maybe this is something to tell me to move. I don’t know,” said Rutherford. “But no, I was just kinda concerned that – here it goes again.”

Neighbors living on this portion of Highway 99 near milepost 10 are no strangers to accidents. Rutherford believes one of the reasons is a speed limit increase from 45 mph to 55 mph for about a mile around a slight bend.

“Too many times people have gone, gotten so close, drifted over on [the other side of the road] and corrected themselves,” said Rutherford. “I just wish they would change the speed zone.”

Oregon Department of Transportation says there are enough incidents in that spot it’s worth looking at reducing speeds.

“There’s a process after crashes that we look at it. State police look at. Then our traffic section looks at it as well,” said Gary Leaming, ODOT public information officer. “Especially if there’s a pattern of crashes.”

Data collected from 2007 to 2016 shows there have been 13 crashes on that stretch of road. None of them in that time frame were fatal. However ODOT says speed isn’t the only issue.

“The struggle that we have with the speed zone reductions is you need to have the commensurate law enforcement presence to keep it down,” said Leaming.

He also remarked how, in many areas, guard rails aren’t an option because there isn’t enough space between the road and the river to install them properly. ODOT says it will be looking at other options that might be feasible if guardrails aren’t.

Until then, Rutherford has some other ideas.

“We were having the conversation wouldn’t it be nice to put speed bumps out here to really get them to slow down,” she said.

Right now, ODOT is working to collect all the data from 2017. Then it can look at developing plans for the area from there.

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