Electronic sign at crash-prone I-5/Oregon 217 flyover ramp will urge drivers to slow down

Crashes plague Interstate 5-Oregon 217 ramp in Lake Oswego A road joint that's gradually splitting apart on the flyover ramp connecting northbound Interstate 5 to Oregon 217 in Lake Oswego has likely contributed to several crashes in recent days, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Joseph Rose | The Oregonian/OregonLive By Joseph Rose | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian
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on May 09, 2014 at 4:13 PM, updated May 09, 2014 at 4:15 PM

Alarmed by a slew of crashes on a flyover ramp linking northbound Interstate 5 and Oregon 217 in recent days, the Oregon Department of Transportation said Friday that it will use a large electronic sign to urge motorists to slow down.

Don Hamilton, an ODOT spokesman, said the message board flashing “35 mph” in bright orange lights is only a temporary fix as crews continue to inspect the ramp for problems.

The flyover ramp carries about 51,000 vehicles a day.

On Thursday, after three traffic-jamming crashes within eight hours jammed up traffic, crews discovered a road joint that’s gradually splitting apart. In the past three weeks, there have been at least 11 crashes on the flyover, including two during Friday’s morning commute.

Hamilton said the agency doesn’t know how many of the vehicles slid out of control on the joint, which is slightly out of plumb. But speed, he said, “has definitely been a factor.”

Currently, only three small signs advise drivers to slow from 55 mph to 35 mph as they take the ramp from I-5 to Oregon 217. Its sharp, steep curve to the left can sneak up on motorists who fail to heed the warnings, causing some to lose control.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that the joint’s metal teeth have come out of plumb. It’s apparent from photos of the misaligned joint that crews have used grinding equipment in the past to deal with the metal teeth popping up.

“I’m not how it will be fixed this time,” Hamilton said.

ODOT crews will also conduct friction tests on the roadway, which was repaved just two summers ago.

Hamilton said another option is to install large yellow signs with flashing beacons like those that great motorists before the Terwilliger Curves.

-- Joseph Rose