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Online forum planned on Highway 199 safety

ODOT photo The Oregon Department of Transportation wants public input on how to improve safety along Highway 199.
Highway to Oregon Coast has history of fatal crashes

The Oregon Department of Transportation is holding an online open house to share ideas about how to improve safety along Highway 199, a dangerous road Rogue Valley residents use to reach the Oregon Coast.

The virtual meeting is from 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1. Preregistration is required to view and comment on the virtual presentation. Register on the project website at www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=R3-P006.

Also known as Redwood Highway, Highway 199 is one of the state’s deadliest roads. People die as they try to navigate intersections and driveways along the highway, when they run off the road and crash into trees, and when they strike each other head-on.

“I think there’s a great interest in Redwood Highway. A lot of people have an opinion. A lot of people drive that road,” said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming.

Southern Oregon residents and tourists use Highway 199 to reach attractions such as majestic redwood groves, Oregon Caves National Monument and the coast.

For the rural communities that line the highway, the road serves as their main street. Others use the highway for commuting to and from work, school and home, and truckers haul goods along the route, Leaming said.

“It’s a highway of many different uses,” he said.

ODOT has been working with local residents, law enforcement, elected leaders and others to improve safety on the highway and raise awareness about its dangers.

More improvements are proposed along the highway from the Applegate River south of Grants Pass to the California border, except for the town of Cave Junction. A first draft of potential improvements is complete.

The virtual open house is the first of two opportunities for the public to learn about the project and comment on proposed improvements. A second meeting hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Leaming said ideas include improving intersections, adding turn lanes, creating rumble strips to alert drivers when they leave their lane, adding raised medians, building passing lanes, widening shoulders for pedestrians and bicyclists, removing trees and adding flashing beacons at points where people walk across the highway.

Leaming said ODOT can work on engineering fixes for some of the safety problems, but drivers also have to do their part to keep themselves and others safe.

“We can’t fix drunk driving. We can’t fix distracted driving. We can’t fix speeding. It’s a partnership with the driver. Don’t be distracted. Drive defensively. Follow the speed limit,” he said.

For those who can’t attend the virtual meeting Tuesday, a recording of the open house and presentation will be posted to the project website. The website will be open from Feb. 1-11 so people can review the proposed improvements and offer input, ODOT said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.