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Since You Asked: Roadside 'whomps' had short lifespan

Leaving Jacksonville on Highway 238, there is a pronounced curve that goes off to the right. A while back, I had to queue up and wait for some construction work.

They were putting in large "whomps" along the white line on the right. I'm sure it was pretty durn expensive. A short time later, they were gone.

Obviously, they were put there to deter something that must have gone wrong. I'm wondering what transpired.

— Jean E., Jacksonville

Jean, we turned to the experts at the Oregon Department of Transportation, who constantly are assessing road conditions on highways in the valley.

According to ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming, the district traffic investigator had concerns about the sharp corner on Oregon 238, northeast of Jacksonville, because eastbound traffic from Jacksonville was cutting the corner, endangering pedestrians and cyclists on the shoulder.

Also, that curve has had a history of crashes due to excessive speed and distracted drivers. In 2001, a fatal crash occurred on the curve.

ODOT even set up a camera to see whether vehicles were straying off the road and going too fast.

Last fall, ODOT approved a pilot project to widen the fog line by 8 inches and install ceramic "turtle shells" — what you call "whomps" — to alert errant drivers. The whomps, er, turtle shells, cost $4 each and can be reused.

Despite the good intentions, cyclists complained to ODOT about the whomps, saying they posed more of a risk to riders than the traffic. The shells were installed on Oct. 10 and then removed Nov. 10, along with the raised reflectors.

Since then, ODOT has been looking at other options to alert drivers.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.