Many are campaigning to have a 10-mile stretch of Highway 20 between Pioneer Mountain and Eddyville in Oregon reconstructed. The 10-mile stretch has a 60 percent higher crash rate than any other stretch of road statewide. In 1999, the stretch of highway was designated a “safety corridor.”
Nine people lost their lives on the 10-mile stretch from 1998 to 2007, the Register Guard reported.
“Over the past several decades, the state has completed several major improvements to the corridor: adding a couplet in Philomath that splits the highway into two one-way sections and realigning a stretch between Eddyville and Cline Hill in the late 1990s. But the road between mileposts 14 and 24, from Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville, has remained largely untouched,” the Register Guard reported.
The reason the highway has not yet been fully reconstructed comes down to money. The cost to reconstruct the road would be the most expensive highway project the state has seen since the roads were constructed in the 1950s, but that hasn’t stopped politicians from campaigning for change to the road.
[pullquote align=”right”]Highland Trucking driver Phil Robertson said, “It is a killer road. We cut right across into oncoming traffic when we use it.”[/pullquote]
Former Lincoln County Commissioner Don Lindly “made Highway 20 his biggest priority not long after he was first elected in 1990. He knew how dangerous the road was, how people attached bumper stickers to their cars that read ‘Pray for me; I drive Highway 20.’ But what turned Lindly into an unrelenting champion was one tragedy in particular,” the Register Guard reported.
On June 28, 1994, 17-year-old Jamie Osburn was traveling Highway 20 with a friend. At mile marker 18, the car Osburn was traveling in made the road’s 90-degree turn and hit a fuel tanker head-on. Osburn died on the scene.
The Register Guard reported that Commissioner Lindly didn’t know the teen who had died but said he didn’t want to read any more headlines about deaths on Highway 20, so he became a one-man lobbying machine. He made videos highlighting grisly photos from crash scenes and clipped articles about crashes and sent them to legislators.
In addition, Lindly formed a coalition with commissioners from Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties.
According to the Register Guard, the trucking lobby also joined forces with Lindly. “Georgia Pacific, whose Toledo mill is one of Lincoln County’s biggest employers — had a serious problem with Highway 20,” the paper reported.
“Two hundred trucks visit the mill on a daily basis,” said Edward Bortz, vice president of Georgia-Pacific and general manager of the mill, in the same video in which Lindly appeared. “That’s 400 trips across the highway, coming out to the mill.”
Highland Trucking driver Phil Robertson said, “It is a killer road. We cut right across into oncoming traffic when we use it.”
While the counties have been working hard to help the state find and save money for the project, the estimated $300 million it would take to reconstruct the road is still not in the state’s highway budget.