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Safety improvements to Richardson Gap Road & Hwy 226 continue

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A dangerous stretch of highway near Scio just got safer, as one in a series of tweaks came online last week.

The Linn County Road Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation are focusing efforts on the intersection of Richardson Gap Road and Highway 226.

The latest improvements, made last week, include the installation of flashing yellow lights warning people of the dangers as they approach the intersection. In prior years, crews have also made the stop sign there larger than the standard size, 48 inches instead of 36.

“Our goal as a crew is to continue making the roads safer for all users. We leverage technology to make the roads safer and more efficient,” ODOT electrical crew member Billy Kelso said in a news release provided by the county last week. “We also encourage people to pay attention when they are driving, maybe drive like they are in a school zone.”

Other safety improvements at the intersection have already been completed over the years, including installing large stop bars (like speed bumps) at both ends of the approach, installing reflective strips atop the signs and installing an “Intersection ahead” sign.

The improvements have been made using a combination of state and county money. ODOT is responsible for improvements to the highway, while Linn County is on the hook for the county roads that intersect with it.

Still, there have been a number of collisions at the intersection throughout the years.

Three people were injured in September 2016 during a two-vehicle collision between a Chevy Tahoe and a Toyota 4Runner. The driver of the Tahoe had to be extricated from the vehicle.

In December 2014, two people were hospitalized after the driver of a Ford pickup failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with a Hyundai Accent.

There is another dangerous stretch of Richardson Gap Road east of Scio that’s near this one — the intersection with Fish Hatchery Drive. It was at that intersection that, in July 2018, then-Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa and her husband were injured in a collision when an oncoming vehicle failed to stop at the sign.

These incidents highlight why the changes have been made, as well as why more safety projects there have been tapped for the future, according to ODOT.

Future improvements include:

• Additional rumble strips on Richardson Gap Road leading to the highway.

• Installing road name plaques

• Replacing a weigh station sign.

• Relocating Highway 226 covered bridge signs.

Linn County Commissioner Sherri Sprenger, who was there during the latest installation and frequently drives along the stretch whenever she’s commuting to and from Lacomb, applauded the improvements.

“I’m very happy to see added safety measures on Richardson Gap,” Sprenger said in the press release. “This is a great reminder that we all have to focus on our driving more than running late, our phones, or anything else that divides our attention.  I appreciate ODOT’s quick response and Linn County Road Department’s efforts to do all they can to make our roads safer.”

Troy Shinn covers healthcare, natural resources and Linn County government. He can be reached at 541-812-6114 or troy.shinn@lee.net. He can be found on Twitter at @troydshinn. 

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