The intersection of West Main Street and Highway 238, also known as the Bybee Corner, has been converted to an all-way stop to reduce crashes at the junction.
Six T-bone or head-on crashes were documented at the site in 2016, according to an Oregon Department of Transportation report, and all but one required ambulance transport, some with serious injuries.
“We've really struggled with this intersection lately," said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming. "Obviously we've seen crashes here. We've heard from people who have been involved in those crashes that they just didn't see the car coming, or they thought that the car coming was going to stop, or the car was going too fast and they misjudged, so a lot of this is just driver perception."
The all-way stop is a temporary fix until funding for a roundabout at the site is locked down.
"Any movement as you come into the intersection, whether it's from West Main, coming in from Central Point (or) Jacksonville, you have to stop before you proceed," Leaming said.
Road crews got started on the intersection updates Monday, with plans to be done by the end of the day. Crews had been waiting about six weeks for a break in the weather to get started, Leaming said. The project cost was not immediately available, but Leaming said it's less than $10,000.
The 238-West Main junction has been the focus of safety improvements since 2006, according to the ODOT report. During that year, crews realigned the intersection to give drivers better visibility. They also installed left and right turn lanes from West Main.
"The intersection fell off of our 'hot list,' if you will, for crashes," Leaming said. "Since then, it's started to creep up."
There were 23 crashes at the intersection from 2007 to 2011, most involving drivers taking a left turn from West Main onto 238, or left from 238 onto West Main. In 2012, crews added a dedicated right-turn lane for drivers turning onto West Main, along with a concrete median. Crashes continued to occur, with 21 crashes documented between 2012 and 2015.
Franklin Corbin, a Medford resident who frequently drives through the intersection, was involved in a crash at the turnoff in 2010, with family and extended family also enduring crashes there. Some of those accidents required long periods of physical therapy, and, in Corbin's case, resulted in a totaled vehicle. Because of this, Corbin requested crash data from ODOT. The data didn't account for the number of near misses, which can't be documented.
"That was our concern," Corbin said. "Every time I'd go through this intersection — four or five times a day — I would see near crashes, and I'd see long skid marks that indicated near crashes. That was quite a concern, and that's when I brought that concern to ODOT and the Jackson County Roads Department."
ODOT mounted a camera and monitored the intersection for 24 hours, then invited Corbin back to review the footage, he said. Several near misses played back.
"It was amazing to see what was going on out here," Corbin said. "This is going to save lives."
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.