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ODOT deserves praise for expediting 140 work

The Oregon Department of Transportation takes plenty of criticism. Some of it is deserved, and some of it comes with being a big agency with a huge budget and big projects that affect everyone who drives a vehicle. So when ODOT does something right, it deserves credit.

The intersection of Highway 140 and Kershaw Road in White City — in fact, the whole stretch of 140 from Highway 62 past Kershaw — has been the scene of three dozen crashes since 2007, including one in December that claimed two lives. A motorcyclist died there last May as well. On Monday night, a 7-year-old girl was killed, not at the Kershaw intersection but a mile west, at Lakeview Drive.

Major improvements are in the works for that stretch of road. Foothill Road, which now connects to Corey Road and then Kershaw, will be extended to 140, and a highway-sized roundabout installed to eliminate the T-bone crashes that now happen too often at the Kershaw intersection, which will no longer allow traffic to cross the highway.

That $2.2 million project will take time, and won't happen until 2020. Meanwhile, something needs to be done right away to make the area safer for motorists.

ODOT has responded by planning immediate changes. Crews will install rumble strips, larger stop signs on Kershaw Road and a "headlights on for safety" corridor stretching roughly from Highway 62 to Meridian Road. New reflective striping and a narrower turn lane to slow traffic also are planned.

Because state highway crews will do the work rather than private contractors, no bidding process is required and the improvements can happen immediately. The work is expected to be complete by the end of February. That's supersonic speed for state highway work. In addition, the state has approved a speed limit reduction from 55 mph to 50 mph on 140, 700 feet on either side of Kershaw.

Ultimately, extending Foothill Road to connect directly with 140 will have the biggest impact on traffic conflicts now plaguing the Kershaw intersection. But for now, ODOT deserves credit for acting quickly and decisively to address a critical safety issue.