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ODOT plans changes at dangerous intersection

Two people connected by a fatal crash at the intersection of North Foothill and Lone Pine roads are relieved their efforts to make the site safer for drivers have succeeded.

Charles Sugg, 67, died in an accident at the busy intersection while riding his motorcycle on Oct. 6, 2008. His widow, Doris Sugg, began a campaign to lower the speed limit at the crash site from 45 mph to 35 mph. She was joined by Robert Hamburg, the man who was driving the truck Charles Sugg collided with.

Doris Sugg received word from Jackson County officials Tuesday that the Oregon Department of Transportation had approved the request to lower the speed limit.

The city of Medford also will place new "Right Turn Only" signs on Lone Pine Road and the county will install tall flexible plastic tubes — similar to those placed on sections of Biddle Road — in the center line of Foothill Road at the intersection. The floppy "candlesticks" are intended to prevent northbound drivers on Foothill from making left turns onto Lone Pine Road, said Jackson County Engineer Mike Kuntz.

Hamburg and Charles Sugg were traveling in opposite directions on Foothill Road when both attempted to turn onto Lone Pine Road. Hamburg said the changes are needed to save lives.

"I think the greatest part is so many people are going to make it home," Hamburg said, "and they won't even know that they were spared."

Kuntz said he was relieved that state officials agreed the best solution would be to reduce the speed limit. He said a dropping curve limits sight lines as southbound traffic approaches the intersection, and drivers ignore the black-on-yellow signs suggesting drivers slow to 30 mph as they are simply "advisory in nature."

Sugg, who lives near the intersection, said the signs are meaningless.

The situation is further complicated by the intersection's shared jurisdiction. Half of the intersection is owned by the county, the other half by the city of Medford, Kuntz said.

The county had asked ODOT, which regulates speed limits, to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph from the bottom of the hill north of Lone Pine to 300 feet south of Lone Pine. The study results, expected to be completed by late February, came back a month ahead of schedule, and ODOT approved the county's request, Kuntz said.

The speed reduction will begin 350 feet north of McAndrews Road and extend to 150 feet north of Eucalyptus Drive. The signs should be in place in about a month, Kuntz said.

"I just cannot believe that it happened so fast," said Hamburg. "Doris told me last night. It is wonderful news."

Medford police have responded to 17 crashes at the intersection over the past five years, Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said, but the accident tally at the intersection may be even higher. The area's patrol and response is shared by Medford police, Jackson County sheriff's deputies and Oregon State Police, he said.

Kuntz said the changes will happen as quickly as possible, but the installation of the white plastic poles will require dry weather.

The changes will save lives, Doris Sugg said.

"Eventually the drivers who travel this section of road will forget about the changes," she said.

"They'll just drive on by and live."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.