How many more people are going to have to die before ODOT installs a Jersey wall on Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond?
A Prineville couple in their 60s were killed yesterday afternoon when another vehicle swerved to avoid a pickup towing a trailer and veered across the highway into their traffic lane, hitting their car head-on. Daniel York, 63, was dead at the scene, and Madge York, 61, was DOA at St. Charles.
Head-ons are the most lethal type of collision, and they're precisely the kind that the Jersey wall (so called because it was first used on the New Jersey Turnpike) is great at preventing. The concrete barrier - typically about three feet high - is designed to stop a vehicle from crossing over into oncoming traffic and send it back into its own lane.
ODOT already has installed a Jersey wall along a stretch of 97 south of Bend near Lava Butte, making that formerly deadly section of highway a lot safer.
When you have large numbers of cars and trucks traveling at 60 or 70 miles an hour with nothing to separate them but lines of paint - not to mention the potential for snowy and/or icy conditions much of the year - tragedies like yesterday's are bound to happen.
According to its website, ODOT's Number One goal is to "improve safety." With a multibillion-dollar budget, ODOT seems to have plenty of money to tear up asphalt and put it down again all over the state. So why can't it spend a few bucks on a truly life-saving measure?
UPDATE: Peter Murphy, spokesman for ODOT's Central Oregon office, said the agency plans eventually to install barriers on 97, but there's no timetable for getting it done.
"Over time we do plan on having the stretch with barriers all the way from Bend to Redmond," he said. "We recognize that it needs to be done; it's just the matter of doing it when we have the resources to do it."