NOTE: The following article originally appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1993, edition of the Albany Democrat-Herald.
Highway 34 from the freeway to Corvallis was designated Monday as a state "traffic safety corridor."
Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Transportation said the designation means police will patrol the 16-mile stretch in greater concentrations, strictly enforcing speed limits and other traffic laws; new signs will be posted to warn drivers of potential hazards; and new lights, signals and speed limits may be considered.
The aim is to make the road safer to drive.
State police began talking about the designation a month ago after 16-year-old Bill Bowens of Shedd was killed at the intersection of Highway 34 and Oakville Road. Local residents have asked for a traffic signal at that intersection, but police and transportation officials believe the whole highway needs to be evaluated.
"Our statistics tell us that this road is below the statewide average for accidents," ODOT District Manager Ken Hilton said Monday. "But it's not the road it used to be. We should do something now before the statistics catch up with it."
OSP Lt. Chuck Hayes and Sgt. Ethan Wilson of the Albany patrol office met last week with ODOT officials and State Sen. Mae Yih, D-Albany, to work out details of the safety-corridor plan.
State police began the program Monday.
"We now have a designated Highway 34 patrol seven days a week," Hayes said. "We've had to reassign some personnel and patrol priorities, but this is a very high priority now."
Hayes and Hilton said signs have been ordered from Highway Division shops, and bigger "Speed Limit 55" signs already in stock are being set up this week.
At either end of the highway, at Interstate 5 and the Corvallis bypass, new signs will read, "Traffic Safety Corridor, Next 10 Miles," and "Lights on for Safety."
"Coming off I-5, there'll be one that simply says, 'This is not a freeway,'" Hilton said.
Warning signs and yellow flashing lights will be set up for drivers approaching intersections at Columbus Street, Riverside Drive, White Oak Drive and Colorado Lake Drive.
Drivers who are stopped for traffic violations will get along with a warning or ticket, read a brochure explaining the safety corridor.
Hayes said the state police will patrol the area by air when possible and will monitor speeds for comparison before, during and after the corridor project ends.
Hilton said ODOT will also look at any changes that might be needed in lighting at intersections. When the improvements on Highway 99E are complete, drivers will be encouraged to use that road in and out of Albany rather than Looney Lane, he said.
State police have asked ODOT to consider lowering the speed limit to 45 mph along the whole 10 miles or in segments that may be suggested. The decision would rest with the state Speed Control Board, Hayes said.
Hilton said ODOT is still considering a public request for a traffic signal at Oakville Road.
"We're extremely reluctant but we're not at the point where we say no way, never, forget it," he said.
"We've got to get driver behavior changed," Hilton said. "It's very obvious we've got a problem all the way from I-5 to Corvallis, not just at Oakville Road."
The Highway 34 safety corridor is the second to be set up in Oregon. The first was several years ago on Highway 62 between Medford and Eagle Point, where numerous fatal accidents had happened. The number of injury accidents has decreased dramatically and fatalities dropped to zero after the corridor was established, Hilton said.