'Do all we can to improve the safety of this section of Interstate 5'

ALBANY, Ore. - Oregon DOT planned to put out bids early next year seeking construction of cable barriers in the median of Interstate 5 between Salem and Albany.

But after 2 fatal crossover accidents, including a double-crossover crash Thursday that killed a woman and sent a semi careening into oncoming traffic, Governor John Kitzhaber and ODOT Director Matthew Garrett announced plans to fast track the project.

In Linn County alone from 2008 to 2013, there were 35 crossover crashes resulting in 43 injuries and 4 fatalities. Those numbers do not include the crash Thursday, which killed one person, injured another and closed all lanes of I-5 in both directions for hours.

"Extreme conditions call for extreme measures," said Garrett. "Safety has always been and will always be our top priority. We will work diligently with our construction partners to see this project completed as soon as humanly possible."

The projects have been in the required planning process for several years and are now at a stage where ODOT can contract for construction.

Traditionally, construction occurs when the weather is drier, but the use of an emergency procurement process will allow the department to complete the work sooner.

The department's goal is for construction to begin by mid-November.

"We will select a contractor based on past experience, price, and the ability of the contractor to complete the work quickly," Garrett said. "We are moving prudently but expeditiously to do all we can to improve the safety of this section of Interstate 5."

Cable barriers are a safety tool that minimizes the risk of crossover crashes. They do not prevent all crashes, ODOT said.

With the onset of winter driving conditions, ODOT reminds drivers to be prepared for bad weather, avoid distractions while driving, and drive at reasonable speeds and distances to ensure the greatest level of safety.

Tips for driving safely in differing weather are available on ODOT's website.

ODOT listed these advantages to cable barrier compared to concrete barrier:

  • Softer hit - lower energy impact, generally fewer injury crashes or less severe injury crashes.
  • Less expensive to purchase and install, allowing more coverage.
  • Easier to repair and restore to effectiveness after an impact.
  • Advantageous in snow because its open design prevents drifting snow along the roadway.
  • Requires little or no drainage modifications.

Cable barriers have "proven very effective in reducing the frequency and severity of crossover crashes," said Rick Little with ODOT. The barriers have "been found to stop vehicles from crossing over the median or slow them so the intensity of the crash is reduced."

The project will add cable median barriers to almost the entire length of I-5 in Linn County, north and south of Albany.

The project altogether is expected to cost $4 million in Marion County and $6 million for Linn and Lane counties.

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