ODOT runs into scenic roadblock with commission

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has hit a roadblock for installation of a concrete safety barrier along a hazardous section of Interstate 84.

After months of wrangling with Multnomah County and Columbia River Gorge Commission staffers, ODOT officials are seeking a higher authority to establish the ground rules for “visual subordinance” when it relates to safety concerns.

At issue is whether about 1,000 linear feet of jersey barriers along a westbound turnout near the Corbett interchange will interfere with a view of the Columbia River from motorists. According to ODOT records, the metal guardrail has been heavily dented by numerous accidents in the past few years, with one car even going into the river in the early 1990s. Because of the repeated damage, ODOT contends that the wooden support posts for the guardrail are unable to be seated properly and the cost to repair each incident is about $800.

“We want to try and prevent trucks from going off into the river and possibly spilling hazardous chemicals,” said John Osborn, ODOT manager for Multnomah and Columbia counties. “This may be somewhat of a ‘what if’ scenario but it would only take one time for a disaster to result.”

ODOT is seeking a solution to the impasse within the next month since the clock is winding down on the bidding process for the 2002 construction season and the $50,000 of federal funds for the job could be lost.

However, Martha Bennett, Gorge Commission executive director, said safety is of utmost concern to the bi-state agency, but needs to be balanced out to protect the scenic vistas along one of the key freeway viewing areas.

“No one would ever compromise public safety but ODOT has demonstrated in other areas that they can do both,” she said.

With tourism increasing along the Scenic Corridor, ODOT officials decided the answer to the continuing safety problem seemed simple: spend available funds to install durable 42-inch-high jersey barriers while a major repaving project was already underway. But what seemed a simple solution became complicated when the public agency began to encounter resistance from Multnomah County and Columbia River Gorge Commission planners. Osborn said the two agencies first protested that the solid barriers would not meet the “visually subordinate” requirements of the Scenic Area land-use plan. Then when ODOT researched and came up with 10-12 darker paint options to make the barriers blend in with surrounding vegetation that still was not deemed acceptable.

Bennett said her office has attempted unsuccessfully to set up a meeting with ODOT officials to review what other aesthetic alternatives might be available.

However, Charlie Sciscione, ODOT district manager, said a rock wall or less stable choice of barrier would be unlikely to pass federal collision standards.

“I don’t think a rock wall would be deemed safe along a freeway where trucks and cars are traveling in excess of 65 miles per hour,” Sciscione said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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